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Water: Coastal Zone Act Reauthorization Amendments

Wetlands Chapter Factsheet

What Is the Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Program?

Section 6217 of the Coastal Zone Act Reauthorization Amendments of 1990 (CZARA) requires coastal states (including Great Lakes states) with approved coastal zone management programs to address nonpoint pollution impacting or threatening coastal waters.  States must submit Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Programs for approval to both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)  and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Requirements for state programs are described in a document entitled "Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Program: Program Development and Approval Guidance" and are summarized in a separate fact sheet.

What Are Management Measures?

CZARA requires EPA, in consultation with NOAA and other federal agencies, to publish guidance specifying "management measures" to restore and protect coastal waters from specific categories of nonpoint source pollution. EPA has done so in a document entitled "Guidance Specifying Management Measures for Sources of Nonpoint Pollution in Coastal Waters." State Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Programs must provide for implementation of these measures or alternative management measures in conformity with these measures in the coastal management area generally. "Management measures" are defined by law to be economically achievable measures that reflect the best available technology for reducing pollutants. States may select from a wide range of practices or combinations of practices that will achieve the level of control specified in the management measure. Chapters 2-6 of the Guidance specify management measures that represent the most effective systems of practices to prevent or reduce coastal nonpoint source pollution from five specific categories of sources (agriculture, forestry, urban areas, marinas and recreational boating, and hydromodification). In chapter 7, management measures are specified that apply to a wide variety of sources, including the five categories of sources addressed in the preceding chapters, as well as to the protection and restoration of wetlands and riparian areas. This fact sheet summarizes the management measures specified in chapter 7.

What Are Some Activities that Lead to the Destruction of Wetlands and Riparian Areas?

Changes to hydrology, geochemistry, substrate, or species composition may impair the ability of a wetland or riparian area to function properly. Such alterations can affect the ability of the wetland or riparian area to act as a filter for excess sedimentation and nutrients, which can result in deteriorated surface water quality. The following are examples of typical activities that often cause such impairment: the drainage of wetlands for additional cropland, overgrazing, construction of highways, channelization of an adjoining waterway, deposition of dredged material, and excavation for ports and marinas.

Management Measures Summary

The Protection of Wetlands and Riparian Areas — The purpose of this management measure is to maintain the water quality benefits of wetlands and riparian areas and to ensure that they do not in turn become a source of nonpoint pollution due to degradation. Wetlands and riparian zones reduce nonpoint source pollution by filtering out of solution NPS-related contaminants such as phosphorus and nitrogen. The ability of wetlands and riparian zones to perform this function is determined by the vegetative composition, geochemistry, and faunal species composition. Any changes to these characteristics could affect filtering capacities.

The Restoration of Wetlands and Riparian Areas — This measure promotes the restoration of preexisting wetland and riparian areas where the restoration of such systems will have a significant nonpoint source pollution abatement unction. This measure is intended to address the increase in pollutant loadings that can result from degradation or destruction of wetlands and riparian areas. These areas are effective in removing several pollutants from stormwater, such as sediment, nitrogen, and phosphorus. Wetland and riparian areas also help to attenuate flows from higher-than-average storm events, thereby protecting downstream areas from impacts such as channel scour, streambank erosion, and fluctuations in temperature and chemical characteristics. This can be accomplished by reestablishing previous hydrologic dynamics, vegetation, and structural characteristics.

Engineered Vegetated Treatment Systems — The purpose of vegetated filter strips is to remove sediment and other pollutants from runoff and wastewater by filtration, deposition, infiltration, absorption, adsorption, decomposition, and volatilization, thereby reducing the amount of pollution entering adjacent waterbodies. The ability of a wetland to act as a sink for phosphorus and the ability to convert nitrate to nitrogen gas through denitrification are two examples of the important NPS pollution abatement functions performed by constructed wetlands. This measure promotes the development of artificial wetlands or vegetated treatment systems where these systems will serve a nonpoint source pollution abatement function.

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