Sand sifts through her fingers as a small clump of dirt attracts her attention. Standing in the marsh with a tall, hefty pair of boots and a ball cap to shade the sun, she studies it, looks in her sample book and decides, this is a hydric soil. Meet Amanda Heath, a regulator with the Charleston District, who has taken “playing in the dirt” to new heights.
The regulatory field includes a unique and diverse group of specialists including biologists, ecologists, botanists, engineers, environmental engineers, environmental protection specialists, geologists, physical scientists, and administrative support staff. They have an important role, responsible for protecting many of the nation’s aquatic environments including oceans, rivers, lakes, streams, ponds, and wetlands while balancing it with development.
It’s the role of this regulatory team to balance reasonable economic development with
environmental protection. Leading this important mission is Heath, who was recently selected as the new Regulatory Division chief.
From Maine, Heath discovered and caught the travel bug early. She went to California and earned a undergraduate degree in chemistry from Sonoma State University in 2002 and then travelled to New Mexico, where she received a master’s in chemistry from the University of New Mexico in 2008.
After her studies, she packed her bags once again and ended up as a chemist for the Alaska District’s engineering division. It’s there in the last frontier, where she discovered her future was in regulatory.
“I worked really hard learning all about regulatory from the ground up and was happy to be in a position where I could work in the field and also help the public,” said Heath, who made Alaska home for nine years.
Bags packed once again, she landed in Charleston.
Now five years with the Charleston District, Heath says the regulatory program here has been a rather dynamic one over the past few years with numerous regulation changes that has required more coordination with outside agencies and the public, not to mention internal training.
“The regulatory field is very challenging,” said Heath. “We represent the federal government and we’re telling people what they can do with their private land. It’s a difficult requirement for folks, but it’s due to laws that say water, whether the water is a wetland, a stream, or a harbor, is a public resource.
“It’s our job to help the public navigate these legal requirements,” she added.
In the 2022 fiscal year, the Charleston District’s Regulatory Division processed 1,515 regulatory permits, reviewed 1,457 jurisdictional determinations and over 860 other actions, including pre-application meetings.
One of her favorite aspects of the regulatory process is working with her team.
“I love my team,” she said beaming with pride.
Although she now works mostly behind a desk, any chance she gets, she goes to the field.
“Out in the field is where you can see and feel the environment,” she said, “and it helps the legislative words we read and interpret come to life.”