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.
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.
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.