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Protecting Class 1 Trout Streams in Wisconsin

by Eric Sturm 20. March 2017 12:03

Eric Sturm

Did you know that, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR), there are “5,289 miles of Class 1 trout streams in Wisconsin?” That’s a significant amount of trout stream waters that WDNR has classified as “high quality and having sufficient natural reproduction to sustain populations of wild trout, at or near carry capacity.”

While many Wisconsin trout streams have remained untouched, there are some streams that have been disturbed over the years for agricultural purposes and are now being restored. Because it is important to understand the original location of these streams before they can be reconstructed, WDNR works with a professional land surveyor such as R.A. Smith National to both identify the original location of the stream as well as stake the path for the reconstruction.

Scuppernog River

Our survey crews at R.A. Smith National recently provided construction staking and topographic surveying services to the WDNR for the reconstruction of 3,900 lineal feet of Bluff Creek Class 1 trout stream in Whitewater and previously provided the same services for 5,250 lineal feet of Scuppernong River Class 1 trout stream in Eagle.

Our survey crews identify where the stream was originally located (typically referencing historical photos), measure the existing elevation at each end of the section of stream to be reconstructed, collect topographic data every 50 feet along the stream’s path using GPS, and provide construction staking to identify exactly where the new stream should be constructed to most closely match the stream’s original location.

R.A. Smith National’s working partnership with the WDNR to restore Class 1 trout streams represents our organization’s commitment to the environment as a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Green Tier company.

Map of Scuppernog River

In order to identify where Scuppernog River was once located, and in an effort to restore this important trout stream, our land surveyors collected topographic data and measured existing stream elevations.

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Ecology | Surveying

New In-Lieu Fee Program for Wetland Compensatory Mitigation

by Tina Myers 10. December 2014 04:25

The WDNR made an announcement on Friday, November 21 that a new in-lieu fee program for wetland mitigation, also referred to as The Wisconsin Wetland Conservation Trust (WWCT), is now in effect and can be used as a type of compensatory mitigation for impacts to wetlands. The WDNR has been working on the creation of this new program for the last couple of years and the Final Instrument was finally signed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Interagency Review Team Compensatory, which legally establishes the program. 

Per the WDNR, this new in-lieu fee program “involves the restoration, establishment, enhancement and/or preservation of aquatic resources through funds paid to a government or non-profit natural resources management entity to satisfy compensatory mitigation requirements for permits. An in-lieu fee program sells credits to permittees whose legal obligation to provide compensatory mitigation is then transferred to the sponsor of the in-lieu fee program upon receipt of an associated credit fee.”

Under WI Act 118, mitigation became a requirement back in March 2012 for unavoidable adverse impacts approved under an Individual Permit (IP). This is typically required for impacts to wetlands 10,000 square feet or greater, but can also be required under certain circumstances when impacts are less than 10,000 square feet. Prior to the in-lieu fee program, applicants only had two choices for wetland compensatory mitigation: purchasing credits from privately owned wetland mitigation banks or permittee-responsible mitigation. 

The WDNR has indicated that the mitigation banking will still be preferred over the in-lieu fee option, but when mitigation bank credits are sparse or non-existent, the in-lieu fee option will be available as the next preferred option to receive credit purchases.

If you have any questions related to wetland mitigation, wetlands permitting, or wetland delineations, please contact one of RASN’s professional wetland ecologists: Tina Myers at (262) 317-3389 or Heather Patti at (262) 317-3361.

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What is a Farmed Wetland?

by Tina Myers 25. March 2014 10:00

Not all wetlands are as obvious as a stand of cattails in a concave depression. For wetland ecologists, farmed wetlands can be some of the most challenging areas to identify and delineate. Farmed wetlands are regulated by federal and state laws the same as any other wetland type, so it is important that they are delineated accurately. These types of wetlands often lack a natural plant community and soils can be frequently disturbed due to plowing, particularly during dry years.  Hydrology is often seasonal and these wetland areas can sustain a healthy crop during drier years.

As required by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR), wetland ecologists must first evaluate the potential for farmed wetlands by conducting off-site determinations using methods found in the 1998 USDA National Food Security Act Manual (Section 513.30c - Wisconsin Wetland Mapping Conventions). In addition to analyzing NRCS and WDNR wetland inventory maps, soils maps, topographic maps and spring aerial photography, annual crop slides obtained from the County Farm Service Agency (FSA) office are also reviewed. These aerial slides are typically taken during the month of July after crops have been planted. They are evaluated for “wetland signatures” and compared to historical climatological data to determine if antecedent conditions were considered “wet,” “normal” or “dry” prior to the dates of the aerial slides.    

Wetland signatures can appear on the aerial crop slides as distinctive black or white areas indicating the presence of surface water, as bare soil or mudflats indicating a drowned-out crop, as different shades of green indicating hydrophytic vegetation, as yellow indicating crop stress, or as patches of greener color in “dry” years. The signatures can also be seen as differences in color due to different planting dates or isolated areas not farmed within the rest of the field. Hydrology requirements are met if greater than 50% of the aerial slides show wetness signatures in a specific location. Once it has been determined where farmed wetlands are likely to occur, these areas are formally verified in the field following methods in the 1987 Corps Wetland Delineation Manual.  

If you have any questions related to farmed wetland determination/delineation procedures or if you need a wetland delineation conducted on your property, please contact one of R.A. Smith National’s professional wetland ecologists to assist you: Tina Myers (262) 317-3389 or Heather Patti (262) 317-3361.  

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Does Your Project Impact Wetlands? What WDNR Permits Do You Need?

by Tina Myers 5. February 2014 10:04

If you have a project that has the potential to impact wetlands, this brief update regarding WDNR General Permits (GPs) may interest you.  

The new state wetland regulatory process (effective July 1, 2012) allows for a more streamlined review process for projects that will cause only minimal adverse impacts affecting less than 10,000 square feet of wetland. 

Since the law took effect, the WDNR has created a number of General Permit (GP) categories, some of which are currently in place and others that will likely take effect sometime within the next year.  This is important because projects that did not previously fit into one of the newly developed GP categories would automatically have to go through the more lengthy Individual Permit (IP) process unless the applicant was willing to wait for the appropriate GP category to take effect.   

The four types of wetland disturbance GP categories that are now in place are:  Commercial, Residential, and Industrial Development; Municipal Highway Bridges, Arches, and Culverts; Recreational Development; and Utility Structures. Additional GP categories that we can expect to see finalized sometime this year include Municipal Development and Agricultural Development. In the future we can also anticipate GPs for Repair, Reconstruction or Maintenance of Existing Authorized Dam; Treatment or Disposal of Hazardous Waste; and Temporary Access and Dewatering.  

As with any project that requires a permit, the objective is to first avoid wetland impacts, then minimize those impacts that cannot be avoided to the greatest extent practicable. 

If you have any questions related to permitting or if you need a wetland delineation conducted on your property, please contact one of R.A. Smith National’s professional wetland ecologists to assist you:  Tina Myers (262) 317-3389 or Heather Patti (262) 317-3361. 

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Seasonal Wetlands Provide Critical Habitat for Wildlife

by Heather Patti 24. April 2013 07:25

Scattered across the Upper Midwest are thousands of small seasonally wet areas that may only be saturated or hold water from late fall to late spring or early summer. Seasonal wetlands (also known as “vernal ponds”) result from winter snowmelt and spring rains, and typically occur in depressional areas in woods and open fields. By mid-summer, most seasonal wetlands have dried out or are just barely moist. Some are almost indiscernible across the landscape.

Although many of these seasonal wetlands may be less than an acre or even a half-acre in size, they provide an important food source for migratory birds, waterfowl, breeding and feeding areas for amphibians and reptiles, and critical winter food supplies for turkey, deer and other birds and mammals.

There are many different types of seasonal wetlands including seasonally flooded basins, farmed depressions, hardwood swamps, springs and seeps, and lake plain prairies. If you are lucky enough to own any of these seasonal wetlands, you will notice they are used by a wide variety of wildlife.  Seasonal wetlands are gaining recognition as important habitats because of their unique role in the landscape, their valuable wetland function, and the critical habitat they provide for wildlife.

If you have any questions about seasonal wetlands, wetland delineation or the current wetland permitting process, the ecologists at R.A. Smith National can provide the assistance you need.  Please contact Heather Patti at (262) 317-3361 or Tina Myers at (262) 317-3389.

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