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Manmade, moved, or maintained jurisdictional waters of the United States and/or waters of the state of California (regulated wetlands) often occur in the most unlikely places. As such, unsuspecting property owners may be lulled into a false sense of security with the notion that their improvement project is not subject to federal regulation by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and/or state regulation by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Sites that may, in fact, be regulated wetlands include:
- Ephemeral (temporary) wetlands are found in dips or hollows that lack a surface outlet, in areas with great variation in seasonal rainfall and evaporation. Ephemeral ponds may appear in winter and spring, drying out completely in the summer months or dry years.
- Engineered channels carry natural runoff that is regulated at the federal and state level. Wetlands can establish in unmaintained channels, which can impact the permitting process.
- Drainages that have been modified to make way for development still retain regulated wetland characteristics, despite appearing otherwise.
- Alluvial fans frequently contain channels carved out as a result of one large storm event but are not normally hydrologically active. Alluvial fans pose a unique challenge to delineation, as flow indicators occur throughout the fan but drainage courses are undefined.
Additionally, the presence of certain vegetation that is specially adapted for growth in saturated soil is a telltale sign of regulated wetlands.
For wetlands subject to regulation, the full scope of environmental requirements may be surprising. In addition to the site features described above, it is also important to note that projects in a public right-of-way are still subject to environmental regulation. Further, funds used to advance projects without consideration of wetlands regulations are ultimately at risk if initial environmental studies are not completed before or concurrent with engineering design and construction drawings.
Though permitting for projects near regulated wetlands can be a complex process that takes time, it can be even more time-consuming and expensive to conduct mitigation when impacts are not thoughtfully addressed early in the project design. Impacts to waters of the United States and California are often unavoidable, but surprise at environmental regulations is completely avoidable.
Dudek’s more than 60 biologists and permitting specialists have expertise with the various laws governing regulated wetlands. We understand the nuances of these complex regulations, including those relating to linear footage waivers and Nationwide Permit thresholds. We stay apprised of the latest developments and changes in environmental law and policy so that we can anticipate and mitigate regulatory issues more efficiently, helping you to successfully navigate the permitting process.
Our trusted agency relationships help quickly confirm wetland delineations with zero or minor modifications. Integrated mitigation planning by our in-house restoration team ensures continuity and cohesiveness from project development to completion.
For more information on wetlands permitting and delineation, contact us.