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Water: Wetlands

Starting to Think about Developing a State or Tribal Wetlands Program?


If you are a state or a tribe that is just starting to think about developing a wetlands program, the Core Element Framework is a good place to start. The program building activities listed in the Core Elements Framework are based on the collective knowledge of wetland specialists and the experience of state and tribes that have developed state or tribal wetland programs.

While the Core Elements Framework looks like many steps, each core element table is organized into three sections which generally correspond to stages of program development.

States and tribes that are just starting out should review the entire Core Elements Framework, but focus on "objective one" under each of the core elements tables. The program building activities listed under objective one tend to be relevant for programs that are in the earliest stages of development.

It is also important to view the Core Elements Framework as an activities list for a very comprehensive state or tribal program. Many states and tribes starting out may want to focus on one of the four core elements.

There are many other state and tribes to consult with that have had to evaluate when and how to develop a state or tribal wetland program. Many of those states are members of ASWM Exit EPA Disclaimer . Over the next year, we plan to enhance our technical assistance to states and tribes just starting to build wetland programs through peer-to-peer information exchange networks and targeted trainings.

Objective One for Monitoring and Assessment

Develop a monitoring and assessment strategy consistent with Elements of a State Water Monitoring and Assessment Program for Wetlands (EPA, 2006) that states and tribes can use to manage wetlands according to their objectives

Actions † Menu of Activities †
  1. Identify program decisions and long-term environmental outcome(s) that will benefit from a wetlands monitoring and assessment program
  • Document program's long-term environmental goals
  • Collaborate with water quality programs in a state/tribe
  • Identify how wetland data can be used to implement watershed planning
  1. Define wetlands monitoring objectives and strategies
  • Coordinate with most relevant partners, for example: federal, state, tribal, and local agencies, universities, regional and national work groups
  • Examine other sources for monitoring information within the state or tribe
  • Identify monitoring objectives
  • Define data needs and uses
  • Coordinate with your State/Tribe Water Quality Monitoring Program to identify shared goals and activities
  • Examine how to integrate wetlands monitoring strategy into existing water quality monitoring efforts as feasible
  • Document wetlands monitoring strategy
  1. Develop monitoring design, or an approach and rationale for site selection that best serves monitoring objectives (e.g., census, probabilistic survey, rotating basin)
  • Determine classification scheme in order to group the type, class, and size of wetlands
  • Describe site selection process
  • List universe of wetland resources from which sites could be selected if available
  • Determine which data are already available.
  1. d. Select a core set of indicators to represent wetland condition or a suite of functions
  • Identify indicators that are relevant for established monitoring objectives
  • Confirm indicators are scientifically defensible
  • Develop/select field method(s)
  • Add supplemental indicators if needs dictate and as resources allow

† EPA encourages states and tribes to follow "Actions" and "Activities" in Objectives 1 and 2 sequentially.

Full Monitoring and Assessment Chapter | PDF version (6 pp, 47K, About PDF)

Objective One for Regulation

Clearly Define the Jurisdictional Scope of the Program.

Actions Steps Program Categories
401 Certification SPGP/RGP Permits 404 Assumption* S/T Permit
a. Provide clear and comprehensive jurisdictional coverage of aquatic resources Adopt definition of waters of the State or Tribe at least as inclusive as CWA (S/T permit program does not need to be as comprehensive as CWA) X X X X
Delineate wetlands in a manner that is at least equivalent with the federal program (S/T permit program does not need to be as comprehensive as CWA) N/A X X X
Extend State/Tribal jurisdiction to aquatic resources that are not "waters of the US" (e.g., isolated wetlands) N/A O O O
Base all water related regulatory programs within State/Tribe on the same definition of waters of the State O O O O
b. Clearly identify a comprehensive scope of activities to be regulated Adopt clear definition of regulated activities that is as extensive as CWA(S/T permit program does not need to be as comprehensive as CWA) N/A X X X
Coordinate with other CWA or state aquatic regulatory programs to cover all impact types and methods (e.g., quality vs. quantity, point vs. nonpoint source pollution, classes of activities) X X X O
Extend State/Tribal jurisdiction to activities that are not regulated under the CWA (e.g. excavation or ditch maintenance) N/A N/A O O
c. Provide clear guidance to public on how to identify jurisdictional waters and activities Develop clear, publicly accessible guidance and / or training on how to identify waters of the State for wetlands, streams, and other waters O X X X
Develop clear, publicly accessible guidance on what activities in waters of the State require what authorizations N/A X X X
d. Evaluation Periodic review of state/tribal program to ensure all potentially regulated activities are addressed, and take appropriate programmatic action O X X O

*Completion of the CWA §404 actions in this table does not constitute CWA §404 assumption. The requirements for assumption can be found at Part 233: 404 State Program Regulations (PDF) (42 pp, 96K, About PDF).

Full Regulation Chapter | PDF version (12 pp, 149K, About PDF)

Objective One for Voluntary Restoration and Protection

Clearly and consistently define restoration and protection goals throughout state or tribal territory.

Key Actions Program Building Activities
  1. Establish goals that are consistent or compatible across relevant agencies
  • Coordinate with relevant agencies that outline restoration/protection goals and strategies and timeframes
  • Develop multi-agency body to coordinate restoration/ protection efforts
  • Gather information on wetland location, class and condition/functions
  • Set restoration goals based on agency objectives and available information.
  1. Consider watershed planning, wildlife habitat, and other objectives when selecting restoration/ protection sites
  • Identify rare, vulnerable, or important wetlands and prioritize for restoration/protection
  • Apply tools (GIS, color-infrared photography, mapping, modeling, field inspection of soil, vegetation, and hydrologic conditions) to identify and prioritize restorable wetlands,
  • Integrate restoration/protection efforts on a watershed or landscape scale, e.g., prioritize restoration sites within a watershed
  • Share priorities with other organizations involved in wetland protection and restoration, e.g., wildlife bureaus, agriculture/conservation agencies, land trusts, mitigation banks
  • Share priorities with other water quality protection programs,e.g., identify riparian restoration projects that would reduce sediment and nutrient loadings to streams and implement TMDLs
  1. Provide clear guidance on appropriate restoration and management techniques and success measures
  • Develop restoration and management guidance specific to wetland types and location (e.g. urban vs. rural)
  • Establish measures of restoration success, e.g., adopt functional and/or condition indicators and field methods.
  • Establish performance standards based on reference wetland site in a relatively undisturbed condition
  • Through guidance, encourage restoration outcomes that recreate natural self-sustaining systems and reduce the need for ongoing management*
  • Verify restoration techniques with site visits and adapt as necessary
  • Train restoration partners to use guidance techniques

Full Voluntary Restoration and Protection Chapter | PDF version (8 pp, 72K, About PDF)

Objective One for Water Quality Standards for Wetlands

Ensure that wetlands are treated as waters within state and tribal water quality programs

Actions Menu of Activities
  1. Adopt an appropriate definition of wetlands
  • Include wetlands in state/tribal legal definition of waters
  • Ensure legal definition of waters is at least as inclusive as the CWA definition
  • Remove any regulatory language excluding defined wetlands from water quality standards
  1. Ensure the appropriate wetlands definition is included in WQS
  • Include appropriate definition of wetlands in state/ tribal policy or regulations authorizing water quality standards program (e.g., wetland size, type, ownership)

Full Water Quality Standards for Wetlands Chapter | PDF version (9 pp, 199.4K, About PDF)


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