Association of State Wetland Managers - Protecting the Nation's Wetlands.

View from the blog-o-sphereEPA Releases Strategic Plan for Protecting Drinking Water from Harmful Algal Blooms

By Joel Beauvais – EPA Connect – November 18, 2015
2015 brought a summer of green water, with many areas of the nation seeing a record year for the growth of harmful algal blooms (HABs) in rivers and lakes – including a 700-mile long bloom on the Ohio River and the largest bloom ever in Lake Erie. These HABs contain toxins that pose serious risks to our health and drinking water quality. EPA estimates that between 30 and 48 million people use drinking water from lakes and reservoirs that may be vulnerable to contamination by algal toxins. In 2014, the City of Toledo had to curtail drinking water use for three days as a result in Lake Erie, which supplies the city’s drinking water. For full blog post, click here.

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Wetlander's Pick of the PostsScience in Action – Restoring Fish Habitat in Urban Rivers

By Lynn Vaccaro – University of Michigan Water Center – November 18, 2015
Next spring, native fish, such as lake sturgeon, will have more places to spawn and safely incubate their eggs in the Detroit River. To compensate for historic habitat losses, Water Center specialists are helping to build a 4-acre fish spawning reef offshore from Wyandotte, Michigan. Although simple in concept, the planning and implementation of this restoration project has taken three years and the design draws upon many years of research. As the team facilitators, Water Center specialists help integrate the knowledge of biologists, engineers and stakeholders to ensure that restoration decisions are based on sound science while meeting management and other stakeholder needs. For full story, click here.

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by Brenda Zollitsch, Policy Analyst

A global decline in amphibians has been attributed to many different factors, including UV radiation, bacterial and fungal infections, and the most-cited culprit, habitat loss.  However, amphibian abundance and diversity may also be affected by chlorides (Petranka et al, 2013; Sadowski, 2002).  Multiple studies (both laboratory and field) have clearly linked salt concentration to harmful effects on the survival and/or reproduction of frogs and salamanders (Winston, Hunt, and frong111915blogPluer, 2012)[1].  According to Hill and Sadowski (2015), wetland chloride levels in most developed areas have already reached or exceed chronic water quality thresholds in the US and Canada.

The problem is much broader than amphibian impacts though.  A literature review conducted by researchers from the Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions finds that high salt concentrations impact vegetative communities by reducing native species abundance, richness, evenness and overall cover in wetlands (Maine Snow and Ice Control Best Practices Work Group, 2015).  Additionally, chloride contaminated surface or groundwater results in significant loss of wetland biodiversity as native plant communities are replaced by more salt-tolerant, opportunistic and/or invasive species such as narrow-leaf cattail, common reed and purple loosestrife (ibid).  This widespread replacement degrades critical nesting and breeding habitats for birds and other wildlife.

While agricultural sources of chloride (potassium fertilizer in areas of intensive crop production) and septic systems contribute to chloride concentrations, the primary source in most areas is plow111915deicing practices from snow and ice control operations (Hill and Sadowski, 2015).  To protect local wetlands, road salt applications near or immediately upstream of wetlands that have high conductivity levels should be as limited as possible (Karraker, Gibbs and Vonesh, 2008).

What Can Be Done?

Removal of chlorides from wetlands and other aquatic resources is challenging. It has been found to be both technically and financially unfeasible in many areas. Thus, the most effective way to reduce chloride impacts is to improve source control and eliminate overuse of road salt in winter maintenance activities (Maine Snow and Ice Control Best Practices Work Group, 2015; Winston, Hunt, and Pluer, 2012).  Here are three strategies to consider.

1)  Adopt Environmental Best Practices for Chloride Use Reduction

This week, I moderated a session on the connections between chlorides and stormwater at the 2015 Maine Stormwater Conference in Portland, Maine.   Maine struggles with chloride pollution in its urban impaired streams, with high conductivity readings in most, if not all of its listed streams.  The lessons learned are valuable for the management of chlorides in wetlands as well (Maine Snow and Ice Control Best Practices Work Group, 2015).  The session highlighted some of the regional efforts to reduce chloride input from winter maintenance operations.  Over the last several years, I have been the facilitator of a stakeholder-driven process to develop a voluntary best practices manual for reducing the environmental impacts of winter maintenance activities on Maine’s aquatic resources.

Maine’s efforts have resulted in the development of a set of groundtruthed administrative and operational voluntary best management practices developed collaboratively by municipal public works directors, Maine Department of Transportation, Maine Turnpike Authority, soil and water conservation districts, private consultants, Maine Department of Environmental Protection, and other stakeholders.  The voluntary BMPs include snow and ice control product selection, application process, equipment, storage, loading, washing, and location-specific BMPs, such as practices for parking lots, sidewalks and walkways.

These BMPs are designed not only to reduce the amount of chlorides entering the aquatic environment but also maintain the commitment to public safety, level of service and reduce costs.  Most importantly, the guide emphasizes simple, and in some cases, small changes to the way operations look at chloride management.  Examples include developing and adapting level of service plans to ensure chloride application and timing is optimal, considering adoption of pre-wetting and pre-treatment practices (which have been shown to achieve vast cost savings as well as reduce chloride pollution), as well as the all-important practice of careful calibration, loading and storage practices.  At a statewide roundtable on the topic in Maine this past September, public works directors shared that these small changes have already saved thousands of dollars and made significant impacts on reducing salt use for a number of municipalities. For more information on BMPs, check out the list of resources at the end of this blog.

2)  Develop Chloride Application Certification Programs

New Hampshire has taken their adoption of best practices one step further and created a voluntary certification program for salt applicators in their state.  Certifications can be held by either private contractors or municipal operators.  The primary motivator for municipal staff is to learn how to achieve cost savings and improve environmental conditions (related to their stormwater management efforts).  However, the impetus for private contractors is liability protection.  Contractors that complete the certification, maintain the requirements for certification over time, and implement the best practices properly receive additional liability protections for slip and fall claims.  This has proven a win-win in the state, providing a lower risk work environment for small contractors and decreasing the impacts from chlorides to New Hampshire’s aquatic resources.   Other states, such as Maine, Nevada and Minnesota are also considering similar programs, based on the successes achieved in New Hampshire.

For more information about this program, check out the New Hampshire Green SnoPro certification program jointly managed by the NH Department of Environmental Services, New Hampshire Technology Transfer Center, and the University of New Hampshire here.

3)  Consider Impacts of Chlorides When Planning Wetland Restoration Projects

A third consideration related to chlorides and wetlands is the impact on wetland restoration activities.  Wetland restoration studies have shown that wetland restoration sites that receive high chloride concentrations in road salt runoff may develop plant assemblages that vary significantly from the target restoration species (Panno et al, 1999; Richburg et al, 2001; Miklovic and Galatowitsch, 2005).  With this in mind, both taking chlorides into account when selecting restoration sites and working with the local DOT/Municipality to ensure salt-reduction BMPs have been put in place to protect the area surrounding the restoration site is advisable.

Final Thoughts: Working to Achieve the Triple Bottom Line

While the problem of chloride impacts on wetland plants and animals, especially amphibians, is a significant and challenging saltblog111915one, there are source control techniques that can be implemented that have been shown to not only reduce chloride contributions to aquatic environments, but also maintain high levels of public safety/service, AND produce cost-savings.  With the possibility of achieving the triple bottom-line, I encourage you initiate a dialog with state and local officials to review your local snow and ice control operations and advocate for limiting the impact of chloride on your state/tribe/municipality’s wetlands.

Suggested Winter Maintenance Best Practice Resources:

Maine Environmental Best Practices Manual for Snow and Ice Control (2015)

Minnesota Winter Parking Lot and Sidewalk Maintenance Manual (2010)

Snow and Ice Control: Guidelines for Materials and Methods (National Cooperative Highway Research Program Report 526, Transportation Research Board of the National Academies, 2004)

Synthesis of Best Road Practices for Road Salt Management (Transportation Association of Canada)


Hill and Sadowski. (2015). Wetlands.  November: 1-11.

Karraker and Ruthig. (2009). Effect of road deicing salt on the susceptibility of amphibian embryos to infection by water molds.

Kraaker, Gibbs and Vonesh. (2008). Impacts of road deicing salt on the demography of vernal pool-breeding amphibians.  Ecological Applications. 18:724-734.

Maine Snow and Ice Control Best Practices Work Group. (2015). Maine Environmental Best Practices (BMP) Manual for Snow and Ice Control.

Petranka et al. (2013).  Effects of road salts on seasonal wetlands. Environmental Science and Technology.  35(18): 3640-3645.

Sadowski. (2002). The impacts of chloride concentrations on wetlands and amphibian distribution in the Toronto Region.  In B.D. Thraves (Eds): Prairie Perspectives: 144-162.

Winston, Hunt, and Pluer. (2012). Road salt and its effects on amphibians: A concern for North Carolina? North Carolina Department of Transportation technical Assistance No. TA-2012-05.

[1] According to Karraker and Ruthig (2009), because of their permeable skin, unprotected eggs (i.e. no shell), and aquatic larval stages, salamanders and other amphibians are intolerant to high levels of chloride in the wetlands and vernal pools they inhabit. For example, chloride concentration must be less than 945 – 1200 mg/L (depending on study) for salamander growth and survival. Additionally, 450 mg/L chloride appears to be the threshold at which half of salamander eggs become viable organisms in the laboratory (ibid).

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Wetlander's Pick of the Posts Sustainable food management: a win for water

By Luke Wolfgang – EPA’s Healthy Water Blog – November 12, 2015
The recent announcement of a national food wastereduction goal to cut food waste in half by 2030 has great promise for not only getting more of the bounty of our food supply to those in need, but also reducing methane generated in landfills. But did you know that reducing food waste – in 2013, estimated at 35 million tons in the US – also helps reduce water consumption and promote healthy waters? EPA helps universities, grocery stores, sports stadiums, hospitals, and prisons divert food waste from landfills through the Food Recovery Challenge (FRC). For full blog post, click here.

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View from the blog-o-sphereSportsmen Win a Clean-Water Victory, Bu the Fight Isn’t Over

By Bob Marshall – Field & Stream – The Conservationist Blog – November 5, 2015
Few recent conservation battles have been better at showing sportsmen just what they can still accomplish, and who their true friends are in Congress, than the fight over the clean water rule. This week was another example. On Tuesday the Senate effectively killed the cynically titled “Federal Water Quality Protection Act”, S.1140. The only thing this act would have protected was the continued loss of protection for 20 million acres of wetlands critical to fish and wildlife – including most waterfowl nesting grounds and cold-water trout streams – not to mention human health. For full blog post, click here.

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By Jeanne Christie

On Thursday, November 5, 2015 EPA published a Federal Register notice announcing a 30 day public comment period for the draft report, National Wetland Condition Assessment (NWCA) 2011: A Collaborative Survey of the Nation’s Wetlands. The Federal Register Notice and link to the report can be found here. And the report: The National Wetland Condition Assessment Draft for Public Review and Comment can be found here. Comments are due December 7.

nationalwetlandcondition111215This is the first-ever report on the health of the Nation’s wetlands.  The data was collected in 2011 by states, federal agencies and others from 1,179 wetland sites across the United States. At each site crews sampled vegetation, soils, hydrology, algae, water chemistry and possible stressors. Because this was the first study ever conducted on this scale, it has taken considerable time to collect, process, and analyze the data.  The National Wetland Condition Assessment Report is part of an ongoing project by EPA, states, and other partners to evaluate the ecological condition of the Nation’s waters.  Those who follow wetland policy may wonder how it relates to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Status and Trends reports.  The FWS reports have documented losses and gains in wetlands acres.  This report examines the ecological condition (i.e. health) of wetlands that persist.  It describes the distribution of wetlands in “good,” “fair,” and “poor,” condition nationally, and by ecoregion.

The FWS Status and Trends report has influenced federal and state policies with respect to stemming ongoing losses of the Nation’s wetlands.   The National Wetland Condition Report will provide insights into priorities for management and stewardship of these important aquatic resources so that we as a nation can continue to benefit from the many ecosystem services wetlands provide.

It is important to recognize that like the FWS status and trends, this is a national report and the findings may not reflect what is happening within the area of a single state because the number of sites sampled in a single state is generally too small to be ‘statistically significant’ i.e., the sample size is too small to be reliable.

statesunder111215There were some state wetland programs where there was both the interest and the financial resources available to do an intensification study and sample additional sites within a state to be able to gather enough information to evaluate wetland health. These states will be able to provide additional information to their citizens and policy makers in their states about the health of the state’s wetlands. In addition, many states have ongoing wetland monitoring programs that can provide further information on ecological wetland health within a state’s boundaries.

When the final report is published next year, there are likely to be questions raised by Governor’s offices and Legislatures about what the report means to their state. At least that has often been the experience with previous FWS status and trends reports and other aquatic surveys of the health of lakes, rivers, and coastlines.  In anticipation of those questions, ASWM has developed a set of outreach templates for states and tribes to use to publicize the final National Wetland Condition Assessment report and tailor that outreach to an individual state.

ASWM’s NWCA communications guidance and templates include:

nwcatemplate111215ASWM NWCA Communications Guidance for States and Tribes

ASWM NWCA Template Factsheet [Word]

ASWM NWCA Template Administrative Briefing [Word]

ASWM NWCA Template Legislative Brief [Word]

ASWM NWCA Draft Potential Tweets [Word]

ASWM NWCA Press Kit Guidance

Since is often takes 2-4 months for review and approval of outreach and communication materials within a state, ASWM hopes states and tribes will consider working on communications plans in the near future. These materials are also available to other groups who would like to share information about the final report.

ASWM will be providing an additional factsheet on the final report itself, but will only after the report is finalized. If you have any questions, seek technical assistance working with the templates or would like additional information, please visit the template webpage for contact information.

The completion of the first ever report on the health of the Nation’s wetlands is a significant achievement. To all the people around the country who worked so hard to make it possible – Thank you!

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Wetlander's Pick of the Posts Safety Necessitates a Retreat From the Waterfront

By Klaus H. Jacob – The New York Times – October 28, 2015
Beaches have been replenished, and boardwalks rebuilt. Some homes and structures have been restored, “wet-floodproofed,” or raised on pilings by owners who could afford it. Subway ventilation shafts have been re-engineered to minimize tunnel inundation, and sandbags are now stockpiled by Port Authority, the MTA and at the Indian Point nuclear site, to prevent floodwaters from seeping into critical systems. For full story, click here.

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View from the blog-o-sphereRestoring the Deschutes River, preserving the Oregon spotted frog

Deschutes River Conservancy Blog – October 26, 2015
We all know that rivers need water. Here, in the Deschutes Basin, we are fortunate to have an abundant supply of water from an extraordinary spring-fed river, but today the use of that water is a topic of intense discussion. The current use of Deschutes River water is based on a system set up over a century ago to provide water for agriculture. Public demands for water have expanded since then to include growing cities, recreation and ecological health. We must now find a way to sustain century-old irrigated agriculture while providing for important new economic uses of water as well. For full blog post, click here.

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For Peats Sake LogoBy Marla J. Stelk, Policy Analyst, ASWM

Thanksgiving is by far one of my favorite holidays. No need to stress over the perfect costume, no need to stress over presents. Just stick a turkey in the oven, let it cook all day and hang out with your family making yummy side dishes, playing board games, and watching football – now that’s more my speed. Here in Maine, lots of folks go out and hunt their own wild miller11515turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. I take the easy road and order a domesticated one from my favorite local farmer. But if I had the know-how, the equipment, and the time, I’d be up for hunting a wild turkey – and exploring their habitats which include wetlands, shaded woodlands, river bottoms, pastures and hayfields.

We have lots of wild turkeys in the Northeast and I have learned a lot about them since moving back to the region in 1999. When I lived in Massachusetts, we had a whole flock occupy the tree above our drive-way. I didn’t realize at the time how much waste a flock of turkeys can produce…my sister’s car which was parked under the tree was pitch black the next morning and smelled something terrible. Lesson learned – never park your car under a turkey tree.

sagdejev11515Wild turkeys are also prone to blocking entire roadways as they slowly parade their turkey clan to the other side. This happened to me on a road trip in New Hampshire one year when I came up to a line of cars just idling in the road. After sitting in my car on a 2 lane highway for more than 5 minutes, I got out to see what the hold-up was. Turns out it was a bunch of wild turkeys leisurely strolling across the road. So I got out of my car and scooted them all across to the other side – much to the amazement and applause of several other cars that were just sitting there. Lesson learned – some motorists aren’t much brighter than turkeys.

I was surprised to find out, then, that wild turkeys can actually run 15-18 miles per hour. I have seen them use their running skills as they take off to fly into a tree – in fact, we had a peg-legged female living in our backyard with her sisters a few years back that could amazingly run on one leg to take flight. They loved our white pines and the slice of Tannery Brook Preserve located behind our house. But they never seem interested in tapping into their speedy strength when crossing the road. Maybe they’re on to something there –reminding us to slow down perhaps?

Wild turkey populations in the United States plummeted after European colonization and bottomed out around the 1930s. This was primarily due to over-hunting and forest clearing for farms, homes and villages. By the 1920s, there were only 21 out of 39 states that still had wild turkey populations. By the 1950s, however, many states began extensive habitat restoration work and relocated wild turkeys to areas where they had disappeared. Fortunately, as I learned from my peg-legged friend, wild turkeys are very adaptive and so our nation’s effort to restore their populations was a success and they are now present in every state except Alaska. Their numbers have gone from around 320,000 in 1952, to around 1,845,000 by the mid-1970s. By 2013, the population was at about 7 million (prior to 1500, there were an estimated 10 million).

pahkala11515So for Peat’s Sake, when you sit down for your Thanksgiving turkey dinner, be sure to remember and give thanks for all the hard work and dedication of folks who are restoring and preserving critical habitat, such as wetlands. Our wild turkeys depend on it – and so do we.

Some interesting links with info about wild turkeys:

Wild Turkey(Meleagris gallopavo)

Bobwhites and Wild Turkeys

Eight Wild Facts About Wild Turkeys

Eastern Wildlife Turkey

What do turkeys eat?

Wild Turkeys Are Back, A Century After Severe Decline

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View from the blog-o-sphereRestoration Spotlight: Invasive plants got your goat?

By Scott Bosse – Chesapeake Bay News Blog – October 22, 2015
Invasive species, or plants and animals that have been introduced to an area, can cause harm when they establish themselves at the expense of native wildlife. These invaders pose a threat to native species by outcompeting them for resources like food and habitat that are necessary for survival. Often, these species expand their range and population numbers at such a rapid pace that landowners and wildlife managers struggle to contain their spread. For full blog post, click here.

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