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A wetland is defined as
an area of land covered all or part of the year with fresh or salt
water, and is the collective term for marshes, swamps, bogs, and
similar areas. The EPA estimates that more than one-third of the
United States' threatened and endangered species live only in
wetlands and nearly half use wetlands at some point in their lives.
By conserving wetlands,
local governments can improve the quality of drinking water
resources, reduce damage from flooding and erosion, and provide for
popular outdoor recreational activities. Wetlands improve drinking
water quality by intercepting surface water runoff and removing
nutrients, processing organic wastes, and reducing sediment before it
reaches open water. Water which leaves wetlands is thus substantially
cleaner than water which enters. Due to their unique vegetation and
topography, wetlands tend to act as giant sponges, absorbing,
storing, and slowly releasing water from runoff and other sources. As
a result, wetlands can lessen the severity of floods and accompanying
property damage from erosion. In addition, wetlands provide
opportunities for popular activities such as hiking, fishing,
hunting, and boating.
The EPA's major
role in wetland protection is funding state and federal agency
involvement in wetland research and protection especially in
biological assessment and monitoring techniques. The EPA also
develops rules to regulate municipal and industrial wastewater
discharge, stormwater discharge, and oversees the U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers regulating activities under Section
404 of the Clean Water Act.
Under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, the Army Corps of Engineers
has permitting authority over the discharge of dredged and fill
materials into "water of the US," including wetlands. EPA
develops and interprets environmental criteria used in evaluating
permit applications and has veto power over a permit granted by the
Corps. Most of EPA responsibilities are carried out by regional
offices as opposed to the national headquarters.
States play a
critical role in the protection and management of our Nation's
wetlands. Most states have increased their roles in wetlands
protection and management by adopting any of a number of wetlands
programs or tools. Components of comprehensive wetlands programs
which various states have adopted include:
- assuming the federal Clean
Water Act Section 404 permit program or obtaining
State Program General Permits from the Corps of Engineers
comprehensive State Wetland Conservation Plans which identify
strengths and needs in a state's program, and often develop the
framework for a state's wetlands program
narrative wetland water quality standards,
- applying the Clean
Water Act Section 401 Water Quality Certification program,
non-regulatory programs such as watershed/wetlands planning
initiatives, taxation programs, acquisition programs, and others,
wetlands considerations into other state water programs.
The resources below
provide information on various technical and financial assistance
available to local governments, as well as information on current
wetland regulatory and legislative initiatives, conferences, web
sites, and publications which can assist local governments in
benefiting from wetland conservation.
Wetlands Program. The EPA's major role in wetland
protection is funding state and federal agency involvement in wetland
research and protection especially in biological assessment and
monitoring techniques. The EPA also develops rules to regulate
municipal and industrial wastewater discharge, stormwater discharge,
and oversees the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regulating activities
under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act.
Pond/Wetland Management Guidebook
EPA just released a new guidebook that describes maintenance and inspection practices for existing wet ponds and wetlands. The guide includes checklists for use during construction and routine maintenance of ponds/wetlands, and also includes a home owner pond inspection checklist. Maintenance profile sheets describe how to address eight different common maintenance issues.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers The mission of the Corps of Engineers Regulatory Program is to protect the Nation's aquatic resources, while allowing reasonable development through fair, flexible and balanced permit decisions. The Corps evaluates permit applications for essentially all construction activities that occur in the Nation's waters, including wetlands.
Wetlands Information Tool (SWIFT).Most states have enacted laws and regulations to protect
wetlands. In many cases, these rules are established to define the
state's role in the §404 permit/§401 certification process.
However, some state laws have other impacts. For example, states may
adopt a definition of wetlands or regulated activities that are
different than the federal definitions. This could for example,
qualify an area as a wetland that does not meet the federal
definition. Use the SWIFT to find out more about your state's rules.
of State Wetland Managers. The Association of
State Wetland Managers Web site provides information on wetlands news
and events, including new regulations/legislation, upcoming
conferences and events, publications, and more.
of Wetland Scientists. The Society of Wetland
Scientists Web site provides access to on-line scientific wetlands
journals and a wetlands discussion forum, as well as information on
upcoming wetlands conferences and events.
for Constructed Treatment Wetlands: Providing for Water Quality and
Wildlife Habitat. The U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) has produced a publication entitled Guiding
Principles for Constructed Treatment Wetlands: Providing for Water
Quality and Wildlife Habitat. The publication provides local
officials with guidelines for many issues surrounding constructed
Protecting Natural Wetlands: A Guide to Stormwater Best Management Practices. This manual, produced by the U.S. EPA, is intended for use by anyone addressing potential impacts to wetlands from stormwater runoff, and it presents a wide range of planning approaches as well as specific BMPs that can be employed in a variety of situations.
Economic Value of Wetlands. This report
explores the role of western Washington State wetlands in flood
protection and suggests that economic valuation of wetlands' flood
protection services can provide a strong rationale for communities to
protect their remaining wetlands.
Fact Sheets. Produced by the Environmental
Protection Agency, this series of wetlands fact sheets covers a wide
variety of topics, such as economic benefits, wetlands mitigation
banking, the local role in wetlands protection, Section 404 of the
Clean Water Act, and more.
Databases and Tools
Education Links. Links to numerous non-EPA wetlands
State/Tribal/Local Wetlands Grant Program. Since
1990, this Federal grants program has supported State, Tribal, and
local efforts to protect wetlands by providing funds to enhance
existing programs or develop new programs.