WASHINGTON (Inman News Features) - Federal regulatory changes for wetlands development activities would reduce only slightly the amount of red tape confronting builders and developers, according to the NAHB. The regulatory changes to the Nationwide Permits program were announced by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The builders? group said the new permits largely mirror the existing ones and the program doesn?t provide the streamlined permitting process mandated by Congress under the Clean Water Act.

The new permits also perpetuate other errors within the program, according to the builders? group, which plans to go forward with a lawsuit over the permits that it filed against the Corps in 2000.

"NAHB is pleased that for the first time in the 25-year history of the program the Corps? changes will not add significant restrictions to the use of Nationwide Permits," said NAHB President Bruce Smith, a home builder from Walnut Creek, Calif. "However, we need considerable changes if we are to bring back the streamlined permitting process envisioned by Congress under the Clean Water Act. Our goal is to re-institute a lawful and efficient wetlands regulatory framework."

Nationwide Permits were introduced in the 1970s and were intended to be an efficient and effective mechanism for U.S. wetlands regulation, according to the NAHB. But the group said the wetlands program and the permits have become increasingly more stringent and complex and less useful for builders while adding few if any tangible environmental benefits.