So you have complied with your environmental management order, sampled in accordance with your coastal use permit, and think you’re done. But you’re not. The coastal use permit – regardless of whether general or site specific – requires that you revisit the site and provide photographs and other documentation of the site one year after you completed your sampling. It’s at this stage where thorough documentation is your friend.
Before starting any sampling, you are required to photograph the site. This is significant when others have sampled the site before you, particularly when others have cleared rights-of-way and traversed dense areas. The purpose of the initial documentations is so that the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (“LDNR”) knows the condition of the site immediately before you get your boots on the ground, especially when the earlier samplers cleared areas larger than what you will need.
While you sample, you need to continue documenting your site visit through photographs and plats establishing the dimensions of the rights-of-way you used. The LDNR requires that you submit this documentation following your site visit.
But your documentation duty does not end here. About one year after you have completed your sampling site visit, you must revisit the site and document the condition of the property after a full growing season. It’s at this time your earlier (very diligent) documentation comes in handy. As you document the site a year later, you want to make sure that you can clearly establish the areas that you affected. In some situations, other samplers have visited the site either before or after you and may not have followed the necessary protocols by clearing extensive areas or clearing areas in a more intrusive manner. So you must have the necessary documentation to differentiate between your visits and those of others.
While photographs and diagrams are required, letters to the LDNR narrating the condition of the site when you began your visit are also helpful. The LDNR then has a better understanding of what the site has been through and what to expect from you with regard to restoration. And any conversations with the LDNR regarding this should be followed up by an email or letter. The LDNR handles lots of permits, so there is no guarantee that the agent handling your permit will remember your conversations or even be overseeing the same area when it comes time to wrap things up.
In short, keep in mind that your coastal use permit includes post-testing obligations and that you may be on the hook for any damage that is visible a year after you visited the site. In order to make sure that you’re not held responsible for anyone else’s use, remember to do the following:
- Thoroughly document the site before you begin any testing or clear any areas for access;
- Thoroughly document the areas you visit or clear while you are testing or clearing; and
- Thoroughly document the site one year after you completed your testing.