ASWM Projects

The Association provides an essential bridge between the federal government and the states and tribes to assist in understanding and implementing Clean Water Act (CWA) programs and guidance. These projects supplement the services that ASWM provides on a regular basis—such as Wetland Breaking NewsInsider’s Edition and weekly blog posts on the Compleat Wetlander—all with the goal of keeping members up-to-date on key wetland issues. As always, the Association works with its members throughout the U.S. in all 50 states. There are several projects underway and planned for 2013. Most recently, ASWM has launched a series of webinars for several major projects and collaborations, including the Wetland Mapping Consortium, the Natural Floodplain Functions Alliance, and the new Members' Wetland Webinar series. 

For ASWM's New Features & Publications 2013-2014 list, click here

The Association has developed extensive webpages on wetlands and climate change, the Gulf oil spill's impact on wetlands, the Clean Water Act, Rapanos, state wetland programs, such as 401 Cert, Section 404 Assumption, and wetland mapping. In 2012, it added a series of webpages on the Mississippi River & Wetlands, including links to analyses and news on hurricanes, drought and floodplains. It created a new page on Wetland Program Plans. ASWM communicates its message through multi-media, including WBN, regional workshops, webinars, the blog, and developed an online forum in fall 2012. Working with federal, state, tribal and nongovernmental partners, ASWM fosters collaborative relationships to further its mission to promote the inclusion of sound science into public policy. 

ASWM embarked on three major projects in 2012 that will address state wetland program strategies, stream identification & mitigation, and wetland restoration permitting. These projects continue in 2013. 

Developing Comprehensive Approaches to Wetland Program Development with States and Tribes

The goal of this project is to support the development of state and tribal wetland plans by assisting states and tribes in creating short, but comprehensive wetland plans that integrate the core element framework (CEF)  into a cohesive multi-year approach to building the capacity of states and tribes to achieve no net loss of wetlands.  EPA’s recently established ESTP initiative encourages states and tribes to develop wetland plans.  ASWM will assist states and tribes nationally by encouraging peer-to-peer sharing, identifying best practices for developing plans, and assisting states and tribes in identifying and overcoming institutional and programmatic barriers to integration of the four core elements in wetland plans. For more information as this project develops, see Wetland Program Plans

State Definitions, Jurisdiction and Mitigation Requirements for Ephemeral, Intermittent and Perennial Streams

States generally have adopted a broad definition of waters of the state.  However, to implement state water programs these definitions must be applied.  This is done by developing regulations and guidance, policy and science-based methods for asserting state jurisdiction and regulatory controls for alterations and discharges to state waters.  State approaches to delineating streams to assert jurisdiction and regulate them under Clean Water Act programs (including Section 402, 401 and 404) differ from state to state.  A number of states are exploring improved approaches to identifying headwaters and assessing their importance under state law.  In addition the 2008 Corps/EPA mitigation rule requires stream mitigation nationally for the first time and this means stream mitigation is beginning to occur in areas where it did not occur previously.

ASWM will identify and compare the various ways states address state jurisdiction, identification and protection of ephemeral, intermittent and perennial streams.  ASWM will document how states identify streams for regulatory purposes comparing the estimated extent of waters covered from state to state.  In addition ASWM will also describe methods for mitigating stream alteration and degradation under the state permitting programs and through conditioning of Section 404 program permits (using 401 certification) to identify best practices states can use to address gaps in federal Clean Water Act jurisdiction.  

Improving Wetland Restoration Permitting Success

Wetland restoration and enhancement of degraded wetlands receive considerable public funding.  Successful restoration projects are important to meeting the “no-net-loss” and “net gain” goals in wetlands policy set by the federal government and by many states. Not infrequently, however, these projects run into problems with state permitting programs because some restoration project sponsors, often government agencies or large nonprofit organizations, do not understand that restoration projects that manipulate and/or fill existing wetlands must comply with permitting requirements.  ASWM proposes to document current challenges, identify successful practices and identify how wetland restoration project managers and state wetland permitting agencies can work together successfully.  This will be accomplished by describing challenges nationwide and identifying solutions.

Water Quality Standards for Wetlands

Water quality standards for wetlands have proven a challenging topic over the years.  Under a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, ASWM is undertaking a project to identify best practices that can be used in the development of water quality standards for wetlands. To do this ASWM will gather information from the states about how wetland water quality standards are currently used in 401 certification and dredge and fill permitting programs, assessment reports, restoration activities and watershed plans, develop a report summarizing states’ application of wetland water quality standards and a list of best practices. ASWM will also work with a few states that are actively developing wetland water quality standards and assist them in applying best practices identified by ASWM. It will develop a strategy for adoption of wetland water quality standards that can be adapted by other states, and then publish related materials to help states and other groups on its website.

Strengthening 401 Certification (with forthcoming publication)

In 30 states 401 certification under the Clean Water Act (CWA) is the program states rely on to condition or deny Section 404 dredge and fill permits. ASWM will be working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the states to provide current information on how state laws and regulations can be applied to conditioning federal permits. EPA recently published a new handbook titled, Clean Water Act Section 401 – Water Quality Certification and Water Quality Protection Tool for States and Tribes (PDF). This document in conjunction with other documents and activities will support state capacity building. This project has three parts:

  • 401 Certification Training: EPA has launched an Enhancing State and Tribal Programs Initiative (ESTP). One of the first areas they are addressing is 401 Certification. ASWM held a series of conference calls on successful strategies for implementing 401 certification programs. 
  • 401 Certification of Nationwide Permits 2010: ASWM established a 401 Certification Committee. This committee provides support and advice for the 401 Certification training project above. It will also provide leadership in coordinating activities related to reviewing and commenting on the next set of proposed nationwide permits and subsequent 401 Certification. Dave Davis from Virginia DEQ Office of Water and Wetlands is chair of this work group.
  • 401 Certification Case Studies: ASWM developed detailed summaries of 11 State 401 Certification programs to help foster a broader understanding of the different ways that states are implementing 401 Certification programs. These are available on the ASWM website

State In-Lieu Fee Programs

The Corps/EPA final mitigation rule published two years ago required a number of changes to In-Lieu Fee programs. It limited In-Lieu Fee program participants to states and nonprofit organizations and required that existing programs come into compliance with the rule by July 2010 or formally request an extension for up to three years to meet the new requirements. At this point, only a couple of In-Lieu Fee programs have formally met the requirements for the new rule. ASWM established an In-Lieu Fee work group for states and Corps district staff to encourage discussion, address questions and provide support to states working toward complying with the rule. Collis Adams from New Hampshire DES is chair of the In-Lieu Fee Work Group. 

Summary of State Wetland Permitting Fees

Every year ASWM receives questions from states looking for a comprehensive review of what states around the country charge for wetland permits. This is a complicated question because states differ in fee structure, type of permit, what the permits or services provide and whether there are combined permit fees. ASWM will partner with EPA Wetlands Division and the University of North Carolina’s Finance Center to gather and provide this information to states. The project will focus on state 404 and 401 certification permits. 

Wetland Mapping Project

  • Wetland Mapping Training: ASWM is also working with the U.S. FWS and other partners to develop an online training resource for wetland mapping that will be added to the U.S. FWS online training program and available to the public. The training will cover, “What is a Wetland?” the Cowardin classification system, the Wetlands Mapping Standard, which was formally adopted nationally by the Federal Geographic Data Committee in 2009, and “Getting Started Mapping Wetlands.” ASWM is also developing materials for those four topics that can be used in on-site training. For more information, contact Jane Awl at .
  • Wetland Mapping Consortium: Wetland mapping imagery, methods and applicationsare growing rapidly with lots of innovation and new products. As a result of ASWM’s activities in supporting the development of the federal Wetlands Mapping Standard, leading GIS and remote sensing experts from around the country asked ASWM to establish a Wetland Mapping Consortium (WMC). The WMC will improve wetland mapping tools, develop new ones and assist in supporting new wetland mapping efforts nationwide. It will also bring wetland program managers and mappers together.

    In cooperation with Virginia Tech University and other partners, ASWM has been facilitating development of the WMC. There is a webpage for the Wetland Mapping Consortium, linked on both the ASWM mapping page and the Virginia Tech website. For more information, contact Jane Awl at .

National Floodplain Policy

Wetlands are threatened not only by water quality problems, but also by water quantity (floods and drought). At the same time, wetlands can act as natural sponges when floods occur and as natural water reservoirs during drought. In addition natural floodplains and wetlands can stabilize streams, support wildlife and fisheries, provide recreational opportunities and deliver other important benefits. However, many national/state floodplain and natural hazard policies provide incentives for the destruction of floodplains and the wetlands contained within them. ASWM has been actively working with the Association of State Floodplain Managers and other partners to encourage the development of national and state policies that protect people and property by restoring natural floodplains and leveraging the ability of wetlands to reduce the severity of floods and store water. ASWM is participating in national listening sessions and forums on natural hazards and floodplain issues. ASWM is also a steering committee member of the recently formed Natural Floodplain Functions Alliance. For more information contact Jeanne Christie at .

State Programmatic General Permits

Approximately 20 states have State Programmatic General Permits (SPGPs) which have been negotiated with individual Corps Districts. SPGPs delegate authority to the states to issue CWA permits on behalf of the Corps. The states have asked ASWM to provide opportunities for states to compare notes and collaborate and improve the SPGP agreements to give the states more autonomy in decision-making. This project is underway.

Other Ongoing and Future Activities

The description above does not include all of the projects underway in 2011-2012. ASWM responds to requests for formal comments on issues related to wetland policy.  It will continue to develop new sections to better assist additional user groups, such as legislators, landowners, educators and concerned citizens, as well as wetland professionals. ASWM is also developing new tools, including webinars and an online forum.

These projects have been made possible by significant support from the McKnight Foundation, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Orchard Foundation and ASWM members.

See our 2011 Annual Report for an overview of recently completed and active grants.