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Waters & Wetlands Inventory Mapping

Transect Vision is the Leading Environmental Due Diligence Software for Waterways & Wetlands Mapping

The Importance of Waters and Wetlands Mapping for Site Selection

Waterways and wetlands are a key element our of natural world.  Waterways ('waters') include features like oceans, bays, rivers, streams, creeks, and canals. These can be wet year-round (perennial), wet seasonally (intermittent), or wet only after storm events (ephemeral). Wetlands are areas that are inundated or saturated by surface or ground water often enough to support a certain combination of hydric soils and hydric plants, though they may not be wet year round. Examples of wetlands include swamps, marshes, bogs, vernal pools, or mangrove forests.

Because there are federal and state laws that protect waterways and wetlands, and those laws often trigger lengthly permitting timelines, it is important to know as soon as possible if these features are present on your proposed project. 

There are two key federal datasets that tell us where waterways and wetlands could occur within a certain geographic area - these are the National Hydrography Dataset and the National Wetlands Inventory, respectively.  Read on to learn more about how you can best assess waterways and wetlands on your project.

What are the Federal Regulations that Protect Waters & Wetlands?

The Clean Water Act is the main federal law that protects waterways and wetlands in the U.S. The sections of the Act that most commonly affect development projects are as follows:

  1. Section 401 requires proposed projects to obtain state water quality certification prior to construction. Most states have blanket certifications that allow projects to go to construction without individual certification as long as certain pollutant thresholds are not exceeded.

  2. Section 402 applies to most new construction projects that will have land disturbance greater than one acre. Section 402 regulates potential water pollution caused by "point source" runoff locations like pipes, ditches, channels, tunnels, conduits, or containers that are usually found on active construction sites.

  3. Section 404 requires proposed construction projects to obtain a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) before any dredged or fill material may be placed into "jurisdictional" waters and wetlands.

Learn more about jurisdictional waters and the Clean Water Act here >>

What are the State Regulations that Protect Waters & Wetlands?

In addition to permitting requirements under Section 404 of Clean Water Act, 27 states have parallel or additional permitting authority for impacts to their state's waterways and wetlands. State permits are typically required in addition to federal Clean Water Act permitting, except in Michigan and New Jersey, where federal authority under the Clean Water Act Section 404 has been turned over completely to the state.

Looking for more? Learn about state and local permitting here >>

Wetland Mapping by Transect

How to Find Protected Waters & Wetlands Near Me

There are a several ways to identify waterways and wetlands, including using the National Wetlands Inventory map from USFWS or the National Hydrography Dataset map viewer from USGS. 

However, one of the easiest ways to identify wetlands is to use an environmental due diligence software like Transect.

Transect's Waters & Wetlands Map

Identifying wetlands on the National Wetland Inventory and National Hydrographic Dataset has never been easier. Transect’s environmental due diligence software evaluates your site and clearly identifies waterways and wetlands on your proposed site.

But environmental due diligence goes beyond wetland identification. Transect Vision also provides you with a multi-layer map of species of concern, protected areas, cultural resources, and infrastructure to consider.

See Transect for Yourself

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How To Get a Waters & Wetlands Permit 

Getting a waters or wetlands permit is usually not the most expensive part of a development project, but it can cost your project schedule months of delay if you aren't prepared. Follow the steps below to ensure that your project is ready to navigate wetlands permitting.

Phase I: Environmental Due Diligence
  1. As early as possible in your planning process, review waterways and wetlands maps to find out where they are in your project area (it's also prudent to review maps for protected species habitat, contours, protected areas, and other environmental constraints).

  2. Create a rough site plan or route, avoiding and minimizing the placement of fill or dredging in waters or wetlands.

  3. Research what permits are required in your state, so that the project schedule can be drafted.**
Phase II: Execution
  1. If you plan to impact waters or wetlands, contact a local wetlands specialist to delineate the extent of wetlands near the impact areas and document other important characteristics. This acreage amount will be important in deciding which permit is required, and if mitigation is necessary.

  2. Concurrent with the wetland delineation, you will also need to contact an archaeologist to look for any sensitive cultural sites at the water impact location (learn more about cultural resources here) and a biologist to survey the site for any protected species or their habitat that was identified as part of Step 1 (learn more about protected species here).

  3. Typically the same wetlands specialist that did the field delineation will also prepare the wetland permit application for you and coordinate with the applicable federal and state permitting agencies.

  4. After submittal, you can expect at least 1-2 rounds of comments from the agency, in addition to negotiations around mitigation, if impacts were great enough to require it.

  5. If there were any impacts to protected species or sensitive cultural sites, coordination with U.S. Fish and Wildlife and the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), respectively, will also occur concurrently with the wetlands permit review.

  6. If public review and comment is required for the permit, that will take place towards the end of the permitting timeline.

  7. Permit timelines vary, but eventually, you'll get your permit! (Fun fact: the USACE approves 99% of applications they receive)

  8. During construction and operation of your project, make sure to abide by any avoidance or conservation measures detailed in the permit.

**DID YOU KNOW? Transect Reports will map the waterways and wetlands on your project and populate a list of known regulations, required permits, and approximate permit timelines for your site, taking the guesswork out of your project planning.

Learn about Transect Reports here >>

Don't let your project get derailed...

Non-compliance with federal and state environmental laws can have serious consequences to your project. The potential risks to your project include project termination, delays, fines, civil and/or criminal penalties, notice of violation on the property title, or mitigation.

Use our Free Environmental Due Diligence Checklist to make sure your project runs on-time and on budget by knowing exactly what kind of environmental issues might affect your budget, footprint, or schedule.

Download Environmental Permitting Checklist

"I like Vision because I can use both it and the reports side by side to better support my siting process for solar farms. The Transect team even made custom layers from my KMZ files to use on Vision."

- Sofos Harbert


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