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Avoid Delays, Mitigate Risk by Hiring a Wisconsin DNR Assured Wetland Delineator

by Theran Stautz 11. February 2015 04:00

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ assured wetland delineation program provides property owners and developers with several key benefits:  a high level of accuracy in delineating wetland boundaries for project planning purpose; cost and time savings for the property owner or developer; and enhanced protection of Wisconsin wetland boundaries based on highly accurate wetland delineations.

By hiring an assured wetland delineator, a property owner or developer can save up to 60 days of WDNR review time and $300 per 20 acres in review fees – a significant savings particularly when time is of the essence to get a project through the approval process and/or a large site is involved. These time and cost savings are possible since an assured wetland delineator is not required to obtain WDNR concurrence. Because of the program’s thorough review and rigorous approval process for assured wetland delineators, clients can be confident that their assured wetland delineation provides a high level of accuracy and is completed to WDNR standards. The WDNR’s high standards for assured wetland delineators and the level of effort that is provided reduces the likelihood of delays in state permit decisions. (It is important to note that assured wetland delineations still require the approval of the US Army Corps of Engineers.)

R.A. Smith National’s Heather Patti and myself (Theran Stautz) are two of just nine assured wetland delineators in Wisconsin. Heather has been in the program since 2009. I have been in the program since 2011. Combined, Heather and I have completed more than 100 assured wetland delineations.

Assured wetland delineators must have or meet the following requirements:

  • Bachelor’s or higher degree in natural sciences or resources
  • Completion of a 40-hour wetland delineation training course
  • > 5 Years of full-time professional experience performing wetland related services
  • Demonstrated proficiency in applying the 1987 COE Manual and Regional Supplements in wetland delineation report preparation
  • Continuing education coursework requirements
  • Submittal of all wetland reports to WDNR for periodic review of a select few
  • Completion of one field review annually

If you would like more information about R.A. Smith National’s ecological services, or are in need of wetland delineation services, please contact me in our Madison, Wis. office at 608-467-2685, ext. 3298 or or contact Heather Patti in our Brookfield, Wis. office at 262-317-3361 or








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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“Why Do I Need a Survey?”

by Steve Southwell 4. December 2014 11:20

“Why do I need a survey? This is a question that real estate attorneys often hear from their clients. The answer is that there are many reasons.

  • Legal descriptions that do not work mathematically.
  • Field monumentation that does not agree with the required legal description.
  • Flood plains, wetlands and other environmental issues that affect the use and value of a property.
  • Encroachments of improvements across the property boundary lines.
  • Easements that restrict where buildings and other improvements can be built.
  • Legal access from the property to a public street.

For these reasons and many others, attorneys know that a current land survey is an important part of the due diligence process in acquiring real estate. The items revealed on the survey may require resolution prior to the acquisition or the deal may fall through completely.

In presentations given to law firms, one of the standard examples of why a survey is needed is the million dollar manhole. A company purchased a large parcel and had big plans to improve it. Sometime after the sale, it was discovered that a large municipal sewer line ran through this property. Usually, an easement is recorded that then shows up in a title search as an exception to title. When the easement is plotted on a survey, it is easy to see where it is and how it affects the property. Unfortunately, no easement was recorded. A survey was prepared for this property. The easement was not shown on the survey because the title commitment did not list it in the exceptions.

So the buyer then sought a million dollars in damages for not being made aware of this problem prior to the purchase. The title company was off the hook because the easement was never recorded. However, the surveyor omitted showing the manhole on the survey. The field crew missed it during the data collection process. Since the surveyor is obligated to show all improvements and also all visible signs of a possible easement, they were held liable. It was an honest mistake, but the buyer ended up being compensated partly due to the fact that a survey was done. This example also illustrates how it is important for a survey firm that is chosen to perform the survey and have the insurance and resources necessary to cover a mistake.

We now have a newer example of an even larger loss. A waterfront home in Rhode Island was built on the wrong Lot. The $1.8 million house was built by a developer. Apparently, he was able to draw permits and construct the home without ever having a licensed surveyor involved. The developer went to sell the home in 2011. The buyer had a survey done and the error was discovered. The home was built on a public park. The land could not be sold to the developer due to deed restrictions. The developer lost every appeal including the Rhode Island Supreme Court. Now the house has to be removed.

A survey can be expensive, but the cost of not doing one can be far greater. Most of the time, no big problems are discovered on a survey, but as these examples illustrate, a loss can be huge.

The same guy that asks the attorney; “Why do I need a survey?” will be the same guy that asks “Why didn’t you protect me by ordering a survey?”

A survey can protect a buyer from many problems. When the new owner wants to sell or refinance, the survey is very valuable. It is usually not expensive to update it in the future. Selecting a survey firm that is stable, has a good reputation and will be around in the future adds value to the survey as well.              





Navigating Through Work Zones

by Benjie Hayek 13. August 2014 04:11

Road construction is in full swing and it seems everywhere you look there’s a sea of orange barrels, lanes closures and heavy equipment. There are currently 26 Wisconsin Department of Transportation projects spread over the interstates, major highways, freeways and rural state roadways in the southeastern region of the state alone. Major reconstruction projects span miles of roadway and you should know some helpful tips to successfully navigate these work zones.

#1. Pre-plan your travel. 

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation has developed Construction 511 for up-to-date construction information. 

Here you can check out:

  • Real-time travel information including closures, incidents, travel times and more
  • Project news including schedules, updates, maps and project publications
  • Project images and videos
  • Resource information, business toolkits, transportation options and FAQs

#2. Safely enter and leave a work zone.

  • Read and obey the advanced warning signs, especially when travel lanes are reduced
  • Do not wait until the last second to move over for a lane closure – most accidents happen at this point
  • Do not speed – (fines double in work zones!)
  • Follow posted detour routes and signs
  • Watch for construction vehicles entering and leaving work zones
  • Be focused, patient and courteous
  • Do not speed when you see the “End Construction” sign

Just remember, road construction is only an inconvenience for a little while, whereas the new bridges, interchanges and roadway enhancements will last a long time to come. Drive safe and informed!


Funding Infiltration & Inflow (I & I) Reduction on Private Property

by Chris Stamborski 23. July 2014 03:44

Private property is a major source of infiltration/inflow (I & I) entering into dedicated wastewater or sanitary sewer systems. Various efforts are underway in Wisconsin, and nationwide, to not only identify these sources, but develop remedies to reduce the amount of flow entering these systems. An important aspect of these efforts is providing financial assistance to local government for investigation and installation of best management practices. This article will explore some of the ways in which this type of work is either currently being funded, or may be funded, in the future.

In southeast Wisconsin, the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) developed a program in 2011 titled “2010-2020 Private Property Inflow and Infiltration Reduction Program.” The program is focused on developing and implementing remedies for I & I from private property sources to reduce the amount of flow that must be stored, conveyed and treated by MMSD.

The MMSD has $62 million budgeted for communities within the district over the 10-year period of the program. Each community is allocated funds based on their proportionate share of billings to the MMSD.  Each community may spend up to 20% of their allocation on investigative activities, with the balance of the funds going towards the implementation of a project. It is important to understand that the actual amount allocated and dispersed to eligible communities is dependent each year on the District’s annual budgeting process and inter-municipal agreements set up prior to the start of any defined project. 

The following tasks (to be completed on private property only) are eligible under MMSD’s program.

  • Disconnection of foundation drains from sanitary sewer
  • Installation of sump pumps related to above foundation drain disconnection
  • Replacement of deteriorated lateral sewers
  • Rehabilitation of deteriorated lateral sewers (i.e. CIPP lining, etc.)
  • Complete disconnection of laterals
  • Installation of privately owned storm laterals to convey stormwater
  • Inspection/investigation costs (i.e. dye testing, CCTV and flow monitoring)
  • Professional services--planning/design, preparation of bidding documents, direct project management
  • Construction inspection costs
  • Public education and outreach

Upon adoption of rule revisions anticipated in spring of 2015, the Clean Water Fund will be another resource for financial assistance for Wisconsin local units of government and sanitary districts for lateral lining work on private property. Lateral lining work on private property is considered an eligible activity under the Clean Water Fund if certain legal requirements are met. If a local unit of government or sanitary district and the homeowner(s) enters into a “limited scope maintenance easement,” the local government is allowed to assume legal rights to reline the private lateral, and thereby, be eligible for Clean Water Fund assistance. The financial assistance would be in the form of a reduced interest loan, or in the case of a municipality meeting financial hardship criteria, a grant.

R.A. Smith National has provided assistance to 22 local governments in Wisconsin, including several utility districts, with either a limited, or comprehensive, sanitary sewer evaluation study (SSES). We serve many of our clients on an ongoing basis as they have repeatedly contracted with R.A. Smith National for a continuum of services.

More Information
Visit our SSES web page to find out more about our SSES services. For more information or to discuss a project need, contact Chris Stamborski, P.E., assistant director of municipal services, at 262-317-3337.

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