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

Salameander: EPA Watershed Planning Guide and Wetland Supplement – New Tools to Encourage Watershed Partnerships

The topic of watershed management is as complex and diverse as our nation’s watersheds themselves.   EPA recently released A QUICK GUIDE to Developing Watershed Plans to Restore and Protect Our Waters to provide an overview and update of its extensive Handbook for Developing Watershed Plans released in 2008. The new Quick Guide summarizes the primary steps in watershed planning, including required elements of approved EPA nonpoint source plans, in a format that provides an easy introduction to this vast topic.   Importantly, the Quick Guide also includes a “What’s New?” chapter that references climate change issues, assessment of ecosystem functions, use of green infrastructure, and most exciting from our perspective, a stand-alone wetland supplement produced by EPA Region 5.

The EPA Region 5 Supplement:  Incorporating Wetlands into Watershed Planning was officially released by Region 5 (Chicago) in February, 2013.   It includes introductory materials discussing the role of wetlands in a watershed context, and a chapter defining regulatory EPA Region 5 Wetlands Supplement: Incorporating Wetlands into Watershed Planningwetlands, wetland types and wetland classification – materials that will be especially useful to nonpoint source managers or others lacking training or expertise in wetland issues.

The remainder of the text is devoted to an introduction to watershed planning, wetland restoration, creation, and enhancement techniques, and case studies that demonstrate various approaches to wetland watershed planning.  The emphasis in case studies is on landscape level approaches using GIS tools to help define goals, opportunities, and priorities.

Nonpoint source managers and some other water quality professions will be familiar with the basic steps for watershed management, but this information may be new to some wetland managers.  On the other hand, wetland planning information references multiple wetland functions – including wildlife habitat, water quality, and flood attenuation – which can help to expand the perspective of watershed planners and link a variety of watershed stakeholders.

The supplement also introduces EPA’s three level wetland assessment framework for use in planning and evaluation.  It provides at least an overview of factors to be considered in site selection, design and construction, and long term management of wetland sites.  Performance factors based on wetland function are suggested.  Thus, the Supplement effectively bridges current gaps in understanding among a range of resource managers, local planners, and others.

As explained in the introduction to the handbook,

“The purpose of this Supplement is to encourage the inclusion of proactive wetland management into watershed plans because wetlands play an integral role in the healthy functioning of the watershed. This Supplement promotes using a watershed approach that not only protects existing freshwater wetlands but also maximizes opportunities to use restored, enhanced, and created freshwater wetlands to address watershed problems such as habitat loss, hydrological alteration, and water quality impairments. The primary audiences for the Supplement are members and staff of watershed organizations and local/state agencies.”

Wetland issues are also addressed in an on-line training module on Wetland Functions and Values – one of a number of modules available at EPA’s web-based Watershed Academy.  ASWM will highlight additional watershed materials that are under development as they are released.

Bandon Marsh, OregonFor a link to EPA’s Quick Guide to watershed planning, click here.

For a link to EPA Region 5 Supplement on Incorporating Wetlands into Watershed Planning, click here.

For a link to EPA’s Watershed Academy – Wetland Functions and Values module, click here.

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