The Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers approved a final rule that they say will improve the system builders must follow to remediate harm to wetlands caused by construction. Environmentalists criticized the rule, announced on March 31, claiming the rule lacks scientific evidence to meet the agencies’ goals.

Benjamin Grumbles, EPA assistant administrator for water, says the rule, to take effect 60 days after publication in the Federal Register, sets a “hierarchy” among actions compensating for impact on wetlands. Top priority goes to use of mitigation banks, followed by payment of “in lieu” fees to organizations that restore wetlands and federal permit holders’ mitigation at or near an affected wetland or in the same watershed.