It can be tough to be a governmental scientist. An Army Corps of Engineer scientist was recently exonerated from the dread charge of “off-duty kayaking.” Heather Wylie disagreed with the Army Corps’ ruling that the LA River was not a river because it was not navigable. This is critical to the enforcement of the Clean Water Act, since it applies only to navigable waters. So Wylie kayaked the LA River to demonstrate that the river was in fact a river.
The Corps hit her with a 30-day suspension for “off-duty kayaking” and “circulating a news article via e-mail documenting Clean Water Act enforcement problems.” The second one at least makes sense, but how on earth can the Army Corps regulate its employees leisure time?
The Army Corps settled the case yesterday, and Wylie will not face a suspension. Unsurprisingly she’s leaving the Corps anyway to become an environmental lawyer.
And what of the poor polluted concrete-lined LA River? The EPA is taking over from the Army Corps, rendering the navigation question irrelevant. Idealistic reaction: Yay, this will help restore a much-abused urban river! Cynical reaction: Sure, the EPA makes everything better. The Simpsons warned us about EPA!
Thanks to Oceana for the Philly Inquirer article!