Think Spring (& Wetlands)!

April 20, 2020

Does your project require a wetland delineation or wetland/waterway permit?

The growing season in Wisconsin is quickly drawing near! It’s time to start thinking about wetlands again. Our wetland ecologists at raSmith typically begin their field delineations in mid-April in southeastern Wisconsin, but it may be a week or two later in other parts of the state.

Signs that the growing season has begun include the emergence of herbaceous plants, early flowering plants, and bud burst on trees. Don’t hesitate; contact one of our wetland ecologists as soon as possible so that we may determine if your project area contains wetlands. Our wetland team includes two WDNR-assured delineators who are highly experienced in wetland delineation and are here to assist you. We are also highly experienced with wetland and waterway permitting and can help you navigate the process.

Updates on new and pending wetland and waterway regulations

Over the years, wetland and waterway regulations have changed many times. As such, the permitting process has evolved. At raSmith, we do more than field-delineate wetlands. Our forward-thinking approach to our work is to stay informed of and share the latest regulations that may impact our clients. Below is a summary of some of the most recent changes as well as those that are pending.

Federal Navigable Waters Protection Rule

Since the inception of the Clean Water Act in 1972, there have been many debates, lawsuits and subsequent changes to the definition of “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS). On January 23, 2020, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of the Army finalized the “Navigable Waters Protection Rule” to more clearly define a WOTUS. The rule is expected to be published in the Federal Register in the near future and is anticipated to become effective 60 days after publication.

The new rule aims to provide more explicit WOTUS definitions by creating four clear categories and providing clear exclusions for water features that have not been traditionally regulated. The categories include territorial seas and traditional navigable waters (TNWs); tributaries; lakes, ponds, and impoundments of jurisdictional waters; and adjacent wetlands. More information about this new rule can be found on the U.S. EPS fact sheet.

New Wisconsin Legislation (Wisconsin Act 59)

New legislation in Wisconsin includes the Wetlands Credit Bill (Senate Bill 169) signed into law (Wisconsin Act 59) by Governor Evers on November 25, 2019. The law requires wetland mitigation to be purchased at a wetland mitigation bank in the same watershed as wetland impacts, although the WDNR may use some discretion if it would better serve their natural resources goals. Previously, credits could be purchased anywhere in the state of Wisconsin regardless of where the wetland impact was located. Wetland mitigation is the requirement to restore wetlands as compensation for unavoidable wetland loss due to permitted projects. A wetland mitigation bank is a restored, enhanced, or created wetland whose purpose is to provide credits to offset unavoidable impacts to existing wetlands.

New Wisconsin Legislation (Act 157)

Wisconsin Act 157, signed into law by Governor Evers on March 3, 2020, provides $150,000 for flood mitigation demonstration projects in Ashland County. The goal is to demonstrate the benefits of hydrologic restoration to reduce flood risk so that such measures can be used in other flood-prone areas within Wisconsin in the future.

Pending Wisconsin Legislation (Senate Bill 631/Assembly Bill 701)

The floods of July 2019, as well as other major floods that have resulted in significant damage to infrastructure, have prompted the need for new Wisconsin legislation. Assembly Bill 701, which was passed on February 18, 2020, creates a hydrologic restoration advisory council and a streamlined general permit for hydrologic restoration. The passage of Companion Senate Bill 631 has been postponed at the time of this writing. Hydrologic restoration encouraged by this bill will reduce flood risks and damages, improve water quality, and benefit fish and wildlife habitats.

Contact Us

Our team of ecologists has helped numerous clients with hundreds of wetland delineations and other ecological projects over the past two decades. If you would like to know more about wetland/waterway regulations and how they may affect your project, please contact one of our senior wetland ecologists and WDNR-assured delineators — Tina Myers, (262) 317-3389 (Brookfield, Wisconsin office) or Theran Stautz, (608) 421-5317 (Madison, Wisconsin office).

About the Author

Tina Myers
Tina Myers is an ecologist and project manager in raSmith’s Brookfield, Wis., office. Her contributions to natural resources projects include 20 years of extensive experience in multi-disciplinary ecological work. She is recognized as a Professional Wetland Scientist (PWS) by the Society of Wetland Scientists and is a WDNR Professionally Assured Wetland Delineator.

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