Definitions and Delineation


1) Scientific (Wetland Scientific)

Definition: (Hydric Soil) - Soil that is saturated, flooded or pounded long enough in growing season to develop anaerobic conditions in the upper part.


2) Legal: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service



Problems that arise between the three agencies:


1) Variability in flooding-How long is standing water there? Each agency has its own time limit

2) Margins Ecotone - riparian zones, shorelines between aquatic and terrestrial

3) Legal problems - when people want to change or modify the area. Which agency will have the authority to make a final decision, which will be allowed to build, which will supervise?

4) Hydrophytes- which ones are? Which ones are not? (obligate or facultative). Should Reed's list be the source?

5) Hydric and/or Hydrophytes - What happens when you only have two out of the three characteristics?

6) Types of wetlands - Not all wetlands are the same. Is it possible to have only one set of criteria? (several agencies)


Wetland History:

Up until the 1960's, government actually encouraged destruction. Do something useful with it! -Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Reclamation


1972: [EPA] Clean Water Act: water quality maintenance in waters of the US. After research it was determined that wetlands help eliminate polluted water. Polluted water went in and cleaner water came out.


1972: Coastal zone management act that had some legal responsibilities with the Dept. of Commerce and wetlands: Congress or courts involved in designating responsibilities among government agencies. They stabilized bays, sea grass beds.


1975: Supreme Court Case National Resource Defense Council Vs Calloway. Decided wetlands were included in navigable waters.


1985: U.S. vs. Riverside Bay View Homes jurisdictional wetlands are areas that are legally defined as protected areas by government agencies. Corps of Engineers responsibilities as far as protecting areas- responsibility for overseeing groundwater and its impact on wetland vegetation.


1985: Swamp Buster Act Part of the Food Safety Bill: any farms who developed land in a jurisdictional wetland could not participate in any government sponsorships such as insurance coverage, loans, or land grants.


1987: meeting of National Wetland Policy Forum - advisory board put together by President Reagan: make policies and regulations regarding wetlands. Conservative groups (mostly farmers and land developers) came out with radical policy of No Net Loss Policy after seeing scientific information about wetlands.

         Government should inventory all wetland and enforce that no more wetlands be destroyed.

         If a wetland must be destroyed then the destroyer must replace it either elsewhere or afterwards.


1988: President Bush added the No Net Loss Policy to his platform during his election campaign: did have executive directive in telling agencies that this is the way it should be.


President Clinton did the same- enhance and protect them. Agencies became more proactive. The EPA, USFWS, and the Corps of Engineers each created their own definition and put out handbooks on delineation's (setting boundaries for wetlands). Big Problem: the definitions did not match. Example: how often would lands have to be flooded to be considered a wetland? One said 7 days straight. Another said 12.5% of the year or 5% of the growing season. One

said 15 days out of the year. Example: how deep is the saturated zone? One said 30 cm, another 15 to 36 cm, and another said at the surface.


1989: Agencies got together to do one technical manual: they agreed upon all things. Took this to Congress and Congress did not accept. But, the manual had already been distributed anticipating Congress's approval; therefore people had already begun using as an informal manual.


1991: Tried to redo the manual but it got shot down again (mostly through special interest groups). Still had the federal policy of No Net Loss.



Tricky areas:


Private Property Issues: A great amount of the wetlands are part of this: brings up the "Takings Issue." Takings Issue is when the Government tells you what you can and cannot do on your own property.

Determining the value of the property = if the value of the property is lowered, the owners should be compensated (5th Amendment).


Lucas vs. S. Carolina: a tough case, a housing subdivision was ripped out by a storm. Went to get a new building permit but the state said that a permit could not be permitted because the laws had changed and that coastal area was now protected, therefore, not granting a new building permit. The owner said fine but pay me for the land. The state said no. Lucas took it to a local court; they said the state must pay him for land. The state and the Supreme Court decided he was a nuisance and decided to not give him the money. Point is that government should compensate you for the takings. Lots of problems with this: some tools to help make it easier for us:


1) Geo Information Systems (GIS): wetland inventories put out to help people know where these areas are


2) Global Positioning Systems (GPS): hand held computers, which tell you exactly where you are by latitude and longitude. Good for field work- delineate work with much greater accuracy.


Both help others with knowledge and better accuracy.

3) Hydrophyte list: basically everyone uses the same list by Reed in 1988: agreement of what types of plants are in wetlands. Reed broke it up into Obligate Wetland, Facultative Wetland, Facultative Upland Plants, and Obligate Upland Plants. Look at % of plants to see if you have a wetland, no more trying to define water depth and water saturation questions to make determination.


Jurisdictional Wetland: if wetland has an endangered species, even if the wetland is on private property the Federal Government has jurisdiction over it.


Another Problem:

Tucson in EPA region 9 (out of 10): Office in San Francisco problems arises between Tucson ideas and San Francisco ideas.

Army Corps has 36 regions: Tucson office in Los Angeles

U.S.F.W.S. has 7 regions: Tucson office in Albuquerque

USDA has an office in every county.