Of Wetlands and Wal-Marts

One development at a time, Missouri has lost 87 percent of its wetlands. And that means more floods, more damage, more levees, more bucks. The story of one Supercenter and how progress comes at a price.

The store was built in accordance with every law on the book. The deed was done not by Wal-Mart but by the Lansing Corp,, in 1983, when Lansing acquired a permit from the Corps to prepare the wetland for commercial development. Besides the Corps, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Missouri Department of Conservation, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and the Missouri Clean Water Commission, among others, signed off on the permit. In addition, public notices about the proposed permit were sent to 400 individuals, agencies and groups.

"During the evaluation process, our review of direct and secondary effects resulting from the proposal disclosed no significant impairment of environmental values," the Corps' "statement of finding" explains, going on to list the factors considered: overall desires of the public; environmental impacts; and federal, state and local laws.

In the end, all agreed that if the developer created at least 5 new acres of wetland, the site could be filled in and used for commercial purposes, and that "on balance the total public interest should be best served by the issuance of a Department of Army permit for the proposed work.

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