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Water: Planning

Definitions/Contacts for FY 2009 National Water Program Guidance Measures - Subobjective: Increase Wetlands

Subobjective: Increase Wetlands

Measure Code: SP-21

Measure Language:Working with partners, achieve a net increase of acres of wetlands per year with additional focus on biological and functional measures and assessment of wetland condition.

Type of Measure: Target measure; Annually and cumulatively reported

Measure Contact:  Robert Wood, EPA Office of Wetlands, Oceans, and Watersheds
wood.robert@epa.gov | (202) 566-1822

Measure Definition

Terms and phrases: 

  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Wetland Status and Trends Report is produced by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and reports the quantity and type of wetlands in the conterminous United States. 
  • A probability sample isany method of sampling that utilizes some form of random selection to produce statistically-valid estimates of a population within a know level of error.

Methodology for computation of results: The National Status and Trends Report is developed and published every five years by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This is the only federal study that provides statistically valid estimates with a published standard error for all wetlands in the conterminous United States. Aerial imagery is the primary data source, and it is used with reliable collateral data such as topographic maps, coastal navigation charts, published soil surveys, published wetland maps, and state, local, or regional studies. A random number of sites are also field verified. All photography is cataloged, numbered, tagged, and traced in a database management system.

The study is based on a scientific probability sample of the surface area of the 48 coterminous States.  The study uses a stratified, simple random sampling design. Geographic information system software is used to organize the information of about 4,700 random sample plots.  For each plot, aerial imagery is interpreted and annotated in accordance with procedures published by the Fish and Wildlife Service. The results are compared with previous era imagery, and any changes recorded. The differences between the data sets are analyzed and a statistical estimate of the change is produced.  The last Wetland Status and Trends report (2005) provided the most recent and comprehensive estimates of the current gains and losses for different types of wetlands in the United States on public and private lands from calendar year 1998 to 2004. The report shows that overall gains in wetland acres exceeded overall losses from 1998 through 2004 (approximately 32,000 acres/yr).  EPA will continue to report this number annually until a more recent national figure is available.  The next report is scheduled for release in 2010 and will discuss trends in wetland acreage from 2005-2009.

Units: Acres per year 

Universe: n/a  

Baseline:2005 – 32,000 acres (Results are from the 2005 Wetland Status and Trends report)


Measure Code: SP-22

Measure Language: In partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, states, and tribes, achieve “no net loss” of wetlands each year under the Clean Water Act Section 404 regulatory program

Type of Measure: Target measure; Annually reported

Measure Contact:  Robert Wood, EPA Office of Wetlands, Oceans, and Watersheds
wood.robert@epa.gov | (202) 566-1822

Measure Definition

Terms and phrases: TheClean Water Action Section 404 Regulatory Program was established as a regulatory program for the disposal of dredged or fill materials in the waters and wetlands of the United States. This section is regulated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with EPA oversight.

Methodology for computation of results: Since 1989, the goal of the Clean Water Act Section 404 program has been no net loss of wetlands.  Historically, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has collected limited data on wetlands losses and gains in its Regulatory Analysis and Management System (RAMS) permit tracking database. The EPA and the Corps have acknowledged the need for improved 404 tracking. Between 2000-2002, the Corps developed a new national permit tracking database called ORM (Operation and maintenance business information link, Regulatory Module) to replace its existing database (RAMS). In July 2007, an upgraded version of ORM known as ORM2 was deployed in 37 of the Corps’ 39 districts. This should enable national reporting in 2009.  EPA, other federal and state agencies, as well as the public, will also have expanded access to data in ORM2 via a system of web-services and web-mapping tools. EPA’s interface with ORM2, DARTER, is currently under development and will provide EPA with the ability to access and manage the data available in ORM2 to help meet business needs in the Section 404 program.

ORM2 is designed to provide improved tracking regarding: type of impacts (i.e., work type); type, quantity and location of aquatic resources impacted; type, quantity and location of aquatic resource mitigation; type and quantity of mitigation by method (i.e., restoration, creation, enhancement, or preservation); differentiating stream mitigation (in linear feet) from wetlands mitigation (in acres); spatial tracking via GIS enhancements for both impact and mitigation sites; functional losses (debits) at the impact site and functional gains at the mitigation site (credits) if assessment tool is available and applied;  and mitigation banks via the inclusion of a comprehensive module for tracking and managing mitigation banks known as the Regional Internet-based Bank Information Tracking System (RIBITS).

EPA will track and report on this measure each fiscal year by comparing the total acres of wetland impacts to the total acres or credits of compensatory mitigation.  Mitigation may occur as one of three types: 1) acre for acre replacement; 2) functional replacement; 3) use of a mitigation bank or in-lieu fee program.  

Units: Wetland acres  

Universe: n/a

Baseline: n/a 


Measure Code: WT- 1

Measure Language: Number of wetland acres restored and improved, under the President’s 2004 Earth Day Initiative. (cumulative)  

Type of Measure: Target measure; Cumulatively reported

Measure Contact:  Robert Wood, EPA Office of Wetlands, Oceans, and Watersheds
wood.robert@epa.gov | (202) 566-1822

Measure Definition

Terms and phrases: The President’s 2008 Earth Day Initiativeannounced a performance-based goal to restore, enhance, and protect at least three million wetland acres over the next five years. 

Methodology for computation of results: These acres may include those supported by the Wetland Five Star Restoration Grants, the National Estuary Program, Section 319 Nonpoint Source (NPS) Grants, Brownfield grants, or EPA’s Great Waterbody Programs.  This does not include enforcement or mitigation acres. This measure is shared with other offices including: EPA Office of Wetlands, Oceans, and Watersheds Divisions, EPA Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response (OSWER) Brownfields Office, EPA Gulf of Mexico Program Office, EPA Great Lakes National Program Office, and the Chesapeake Bay Program Office.  Results are reported at a national level and are cumulative. 

Units: Acres of wetlands restored and improved

Universe: Infinite (n/a)

Baseline: In 2006, EPA reported that 58,777 acres of wetland were restored and improved through the Five Star Restoration Grants, the National Estuary Program, Section 319 Nonpoint Source Grants, Brownfield Grants, and EPA Great Waterbody Programs.


Measure Code: WT-2 (a,b)

Measure Language: Number of States and Tribes that have built capacities in wetland monitoring, regulation, restoration, water quality standards, mitigation compliance, and partnership building.

Type of Measure: Indicator measure; Annually reported

Measure Contact:  Robert Wood, EPA Office of Wetlands, Oceans, and Watersheds
wood.robert@epa.gov | (202) 566-1822

Measure Definition

Terms and phrases:

  • Monitoring and assessment programs are defined as the establishment and operation of appropriate devices, methods, systems and procedures necessary to monitor, compile, and analyze data on the condition of wetlands in a state or tribe.
  • Wetland restoration is defined as the manipulation of a former or degraded wetland’s physical, chemical, or biological characteristics to return its natural functions.
  • Water quality standards define the goals for a water body by designating its highest attainable uses, setting criteria that reflect the current and evolving body of scientific information to protect those uses, and establishing provisions to protect water bodies from further degradation.
  • Wetlands regulatory programs generally consist of a few basic elements: a jurisdictional scope, a method to authorize impacts to aquatic resources and assess proposed authorizations, and a method of assuring compliance

Methodology for computation of results: EPA Regions should focus on efforts that would assist states and tribes to develop comprehensive wetlands programs that include wetland monitoring and assessment, regulation, restoration, water quality standards, mitigation compliance, and partnership building.  Regions will be asked to report at end of year, but not provide annual commitments.  EPA will be looking for substantial progress toward the state or tribe’s wetland program in three of the six elements during the last three years.

Units: [Number of states (WT-2a)]; [Number of tribes (WT-2b)]

Universe: [WT-2a - 50 states]; [WT-2b – 579 tribes]

Baseline: [WT-2a – 21 states]; [WT-2b – 5 tribes (2006)]


Measure Code: WT-3

Measure Language: Percent of Clean Water Act Section 404 standard permits, upon which EPA coordinated with the permitting authority (i.e., Corps or State), where a final permit decision in the current fiscal year documents requirements for greater environmental protection* than originally proposed.

Type of Measure: Indicator measure; Annually reported

Measure Contact:  Robert Wood, EPA Office of Wetlands, Oceans, and Watersheds
wood.robert@epa.gov | (202) 566-1822

Measure Definition

Terms and phrases:

  • ORM 2.0: OMBIL (Operation and maintenance business information link) Regulatory Module. Database used by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer to track permitting activities under the CWA Section 404 regulatory program.
  • DARTER: Data and Aquatic Resource Tracking for Effective Regulation.  EPA interface for accessing records and commenting on proposed permits in the ORM 2.0 database. 

Methodology for computation of results: Data for reporting under this measure is available in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ORM 2.0 Database.  EPA Regions should use the EPA interface (DARTER) for ORM 2.0 to access this data.

* For purposes of this measure, “requirements for greater environmental protection” are counted under this measure when EPA can document that its recommendations for improvement provided in one or more of the following issue areas were incorporated into the final permit decision:

  1. Demonstration of adequate impact avoidance, including:
    1. Determination of water dependency;
    2. Characterization of basic project purpose; 
    3. Determination of range of practicable alternatives;
    4. Evaluation of direct, secondary and cumulative impacts for practicable alternatives;
    5. Identification of LEDPA (Least Environmentally Damaging Practicable Alternative);
    6. Compliance with WQS (Water Quality Standards), MPRSA (Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act), ESA (Endangered Species Act) and/or toxic effluent standards;
    7. Evaluation of potential for significant degradation;
  2. Demonstration of adequate impact minimization;
  3. Determination of adequate compensation.

Units: Final permit decisions with documented environmental improvements, as defined above.

Universe: 100% of all final CWA (Clean Water Act) section 404 standard permits in current fiscal where EPA coordinated with the permitting authority year.

Baseline: n/a


Measure Code: WT-4

Measure Language: Number of states measuring baseline wetland condition - with plans to assess trends in wetland condition - as defined through condition indicators and assessments. (cumulative)

Type of Measure: Target measure; Cumulatively reported

Measure Contact:  Robert Wood, EPA Office of Wetlands, Oceans, and Watersheds
wood.robert@epa.gov | (202) 566-1822

Measure Definition

Terms and phrases: 3- Level Wetland Monitoring Approach: EPA has defined three levels of wetland assessment.  Level 1 or Landscape Assessment relies on GIS data and aerial photography to infer wetland quality based on surrounding land use.  Level 2, also known as Rapid Assessment, relies on relative simple field observations to produce a general assessment of wetland quality during a 2-4 hour field visit.  Level 3 or Intensive Site Assessment involves comprehensive monitoring protocols, including the use of biological indicators, ground water wells, and laboratory analyses.

Methodology for computation of results: By 2013, a state will document within an Integrated Water Quality Monitoring Report (IMR) the baseline condition of at least one wetland type for the entire state or all wetlands in one major river basin.  States may use either Level 1, 2, or 3 methods or the combined 3-Level approach. Regions need to make a determination and report on whether the state is making progress and “on track” to meeting this measure by FY 2013.  Examples of activities indicating the state is “on track” include, but are not limited to:

  • building technical and financial capacity to conduct an “intensification study” as part of the 2011 National Wetland Condition Assessment;
  • developing or adapting wetland assessment tools for use in the state;
  • monitoring activity is underway for wetland type(s)/watershed(s) stated in strategy or goals; and,
  • developing a monitoring strategy with one goal of evaluating baseline wetland condition.

Units: Number of states

Universe: 50 states

Baseline: 11 states (2005)


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