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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Army Corps of Engineers workers say the reassignment of the 19-year chief of the agency's Intermountain section after he clashed with Rep. Rob Bishop was a decision to "feed one of our own to the lions," and could undermine future enforcement activities.
Brooks Carter was moved into a new regional policy job in late July, amid a dispute with Bishop and the city of Perry over projects the corps said violated the Clean Water Act.
The corps said the move was part of a reorganization that had been months in the planning, but The Salt Lake Tribune said corps regulators saw it as politically motivated scapegoating after Brooks enforced the law.
The newspaper said there was an outpouring of e-mails to Army officers protesting the decision. The correspondence was obtained by the paper under the Freedom of Information Act.
"I am shocked and dismayed at this action. The justification eludes me," Grady McNure of the St. George field office wrote to Brig. Gen. Joseph Schroedel, commander of the corps division that covers the southwest United States. "After 31 years with the corps, I am at a loss today and very disappointed in my agency."
Perry has been trying for months to win approval from the corps to pave a road to a Wal-Mart and to build a new sewage lagoon. The corps said that the city's proposals would destroy wetlands used by migratory birds along Great Salt Lake.
The city and its advisers, Lone Goose Consultants, argued the road project would not harm federal wetlands and the water in the sewage lagoon could replace the bird habitat.
The Fish and Wildlife Service, Environmental Protection Agency and state Division of Wildlife Resources all disagreed, saying the sewage could actually harm the waterfowl.
Perry turned to Bishop, who, along with his staff, pressed the corps to permit the project.
An internal review by the corps said Carter's office had acted appropriately and actually had been too lenient.
However, in a conference call on July 21, corps staff was told that Carter was being reassigned to a policy position where he would have no regulatory authority.
His staff responded with numerous e-mails to Schroedel.
"I am shocked and ashamed that the only recourse to Lone Goose and Congressman Bishop's incessant (complaints) regarding the regulatory program and the Clean Water Act itself is to feed one of our own to the lions," wrote Anna Sutton, a project manager in the Utah office.
"Not only does the current plan have personal ramifications to our friend and supervisor, but the integrity of the Regulatory Program is at risk," wrote Susan Bachini Nall in an e-mail signed by the staff in the Grand Junction office.
"What assurances do we have that the corps leadership will support us on legally defensible permit actions?" asked Nancy Kang, a Utah regulator.
Andrew Rosenau, chief of the regulatory branch in Sacramento, said he regretted that the purpose for transferring Carter in a position where he can help improve the permitting process wasn't more clearly articulated.
Carter said in an e-mail to his staff that he personally had become too closely associated in applicants' eyes with the decisions made by the office.
In a recent interview, Carter said Bishop's intervention likely was partly behind the decision to move him out of the regulatory post, but he said it is impossible to say how much of a role it played, the newspaper said.
(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)