The Swamp Stomp
Volume 13, Issue 49
The National Wetlands Inventory (NWI) is managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). This inventory is based upon an interpretation of what the FWS calls a wetland. The definition of a NWI wetland is defined by the 1979 document the Classification of Wetlands and Deepwater Habitats of the United States (Cowardin et al., 1979).
In September 2013 and update to Classification of Wetlands and Deepwater Habitats of the United States was released by Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC). The primary objective of the document was “to impose boundaries on natural ecosystems for the purposes of inventory, evaluation, and management.” The FGDC Wetlands Classification Standard (WCS) provides minimum requirements and guidelines for classification of both wetlands and deepwater habitats that are consistent with the FGDC Wetlands Mapping Standard (FGDC-STD-015-2009).
The FGDC Wetlands Classification Standard is intended for all Federal or federally-funded wetlands inventory mapping including those activities conducted by Federal agencies, states, and federally-recognized tribal entities, non-governmental organizations, universities, and others. Specifically, if Federal funding is used in support of wetlands inventory mapping activities, then use of this Standard is mandatory. The adoption of this Standard for all other wetlands inventory mapping efforts (non-federally funded) is strongly encouraged to maintain and expand wetlands data.
Now this may not sound like a big deal and perhaps it is not. However, you do have to remember that in the NWI definition of a wetland only one parameter (soils, vegetation, or hydrology) must be met to define an area as a wetland. This has not changed with the new edition. In fact there is a section that expands this concept that only one criteria could be used to define a wetland. What is a bit troubling is that the report, Connectivity of Streams and Wetlands to Downstream Waters released in September 2013 specifically states that the FWS NWI wetland definition was used in the development of the document. As you will recall the Connectivity document serves as the scientific basis for the new EPA wetlands rule that was recently leaked.
To add to the confusion there is a section in the new document that refers to exemptions.
1.2.1 Exemptions to the FGDC Wetlands Classification Standard
2. Mapping designed, or intended, to support legal, regulatory, or jurisdictional analyses by Federal, Tribal, state, and local regulatory agencies or to differentiate between regulatory and non-regulatory wetlands.
Now this does make sense in the context of the original intent of the NWI program. That intent was to assist FWS biologist in locating areas that may support various wildlife species of concern. That is the mission of FWS after all.
However, it would appear that there is a new intent for the NWI. Namely there appears to be an expansion over what would be considered a wetland. Normally we would dismiss the NWI as being inaccurate. Even the US Army Corps in its Wetland Delineation Manual Regional Supplements advises us not to use the NWI for delineation purposes.
So it begs the questions as to why this update was undertaken? They have not updated the maps to any great degree. The Corps does not use the NWI definition. However, it would appear that EPA does. Perhaps that is the reason. Perhaps using a 1979 definition in a 2013 rule is not cool. It would look a lot nicer to have that 2013 date on it.
Overall there is not much in the way of major changes between the old and new documents. There are further refinements including:
- Wetland/Deepwater boundary
- Growing Season (Plant die back as opposed to USDA temperatures)
- Geospatial Seam
- Nontidal Water Regimes
- Tidal Water Regimes
If you have a chance, spend a few minutes pursing the new document. I have put a copy on our server. It is not the easiest document to find.
Have a great week!
Volume 13, Issue 48
Each week we try to keep you updated on what are the new developments in wetlands rules, regulations and technologies. Sometimes this gets translated into some unhappy news. There have been a lot of this lately especially in light of the looming proposed EPA wetland rules.
But it is Thanksgiving this week and we do have a lot to be thankful for. Not the least that work in the wetlands field has been quite busy. The wetlands jobs market is still relatively strong thanks to the oil and gas business. To that end I thought it might be helpful to focus on the good rather than the bad as week look forward to that turkey dinner.
To start we need to agree what job market we are in. Wetland scientists are often listed under the overall category of environmental scientists or environmental engineers. I suppose this is fair, because many wetland scientists wear a number of hats in their jobs. It is not unusual for an environmental scientist to work on a wetland delineation one day, perform a phase one site assessment on another, and then do a little water sampling on yet another day. Wetland scientists can be quite multidisciplinary.
The good news is that the job market for environmental and wetland scientists is very robust. According to the Bureau for Labor Statistics, employment of environmental scientists is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through 2020. They estimate that the job rate growth is better than 22% per year. It is often hard to cleave out just the wetland scientist role from this statistic; however there are a couple of points that may help.
First, most wetland scientists are really wetland engineers. This may be a bit of a shock but it comes down to the definition of scientist versus engineer. A scientist is engaged in original research searching for answers to a question. An engineer uses the know science to solve an answer to a question using known data and procedures. An example of the difference is demonstrated by the US Army Corps of Engineers wetland manuals. Wetland scientists developed the manuals by conducting research. Wetland engineers use the procedures in the manuals to identify a piece of land as being a wetland or not. However, there is no original research going on.
To be fair there are circumstances that do require original research to identify a site as being a wetland. That is when we get to turn back into scientists. However, in the day to day practice of wetland studies, most of the work falls under the category of engineering. I suppose that is why the US Army Corps of ENGINEERS runs the program. It also explains why most of us work for engineering companies.
Before you get mad at me for this apparent treason in the scientist versus engineer war, please consider the following from the BLS.
Fewer opportunities for conservation scientists and foresters are expected in the Federal Government, partly due to budgetary constraints. Also, Federal land management agencies, such as the Forest Service, have de-emphasized their timber programs and increasingly focused on wildlife, recreation, and sustaining ecosystems, thereby increasing demand for other life and social scientists relative to foresters. However, a large number of foresters are expected to retire or leave the Government for other reasons, resulting in many job openings between 2000 and 2010. In addition, a small number of new jobs will result from the need for range and soil conservationists to provide technical assistance to owners of grazing land through the Natural Resource Conservation Service.
Employment of environmental scientists and hydrologists is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through 2020, while employment of geoscientists is expected to grow about as fast as the average. The need to replace environmental scientists and geoscientists who retire will result in many job openings over the next decade. Driving the growth of environmental scientists and geoscientists will be the continuing need for companies and organizations to comply with environmental laws and regulations, particularly those regarding groundwater contamination and flood control. However, oil company mergers and stagnant or declining government funding for research may affect the hiring of petroleum geologists and geoscientists involved in research. Instead, increased construction and exploration for oil and natural gas abroad may require geoscientists to work overseas and in the United States as areas are opened for exploration.
Consulting firms offer perhaps the most opportunities for an environmental scientist to gain employment. They help businesses and government agencies comply with environmental policy. There are two types of consulting firms: the larger multi-disciplinary engineering companies can have thousands of employees who work on large, long-term projects, while the smaller specialty consulting firms work more often with businesses and clients in the government and private sectors. Each of these has its pros and cons.
The BLS has published some additional statistics about the environmental engineer labor market.
In 2010 there were about 51,400 environmental engineers employed. That number is expected to rise to 62,700 by 2020. That means there is a need for 11,300 new employees in the job market. Bu comparison there is an expected 14% rise in all occupations and only 11% for other engineering disciplines. I suspect that given that the economy is stuck those numbers are optimistic. However, wetland work is still growing, especially in the oil and gas sector.
I started this post with the intent of relaying some happy news. Despite all the negative stuff in the news, work in the wetlands field is still thriving. For that we should give thanks and on that note:
Have a Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving!
Volume 13, Issue 47
Last week the draft Clean Water Act rules were leaked by House Science, Space and Technology Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas). “This could be the largest expansion of EPA regulatory authority ever,” he said in a statement. “If the draft rule is approved, it would allow the EPA to regulate virtually every body of water in the United States, including private and public lakes, ponds and streams.”
The draft rules direct EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to assert jurisdiction over all tributaries, regardless of size and flow, and all lakes, ponds and wetlands within a floodplain. The proposed rule is intended to reduce documentation requirements of areas that may have been questionable in the past. The intention is to establish firm rules that reduce the number of case-by-case studies that may have resulted in a water body being non-jurisdictional in the past.
The rules are based upon the September 2013 draft,”Connectivity of Streams and Wetlands to downstream Waters: A Review and Synthesis of the Scientific Evidence.” This document had been out for public comment up until November 6, 2013. Over 57,000 comments were submitted on it. A public hearing is scheduled for December 2013 in Washington, D.C.
Of main concern is, what are the regulatory implications of the “study?” Conveniently, we have put together several workshops to address this very topic. Now with this new leaked guidance we have a very clear picture of the plan.
The leaked rules are over 320 pages long. I guess when you base it upon a 331 page scientific study you have the need to be verbose. The primary purpose of the rules is to define what a “waters of the US” is. This is the proposed definition (Page 9).
- All waters which are currently used, were used in the past, or may be susceptible to use in interstate or foreign commence, including all waters which are subject to the ebb and flow of the tide;
- All interstate waters, including wetlands;
- The territorial seas;
- All impoundments of waters otherwise defined as waters of the United States under this definition;
- All tributaries of waters identified in paragraphs (1) through (3) of this section;
- All waters, including wetlands, adjacent to a water identified in paragraphs (1) through (5) of this section; and
- On a case-specific basis, “other waters”, including wetlands, provided that those waters alone, or in combination with other similarly situated waters, including wetlands, located in the same region, have a significant nexus to a water identified in paragraphs (1) through (3) of this section.
There are a couple of key terms are worth mentioning.
Significant nexus: means more than speculative or insubstantial effect that a water, including wetlands , either alone or in combination with other similarly situated waters in the region, has on the chemical, physical or biological integrity of a water.
Wetlands: Oh wait they must have forgotten this one. There are a many references to the standard definition, “those areas that are inundated or saturated by surface or groundwater at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions. Wetlands generally include swamps, marshes, bogs and similar areas.”
However, there is no specific technical reference as to what the appropriate technical procedure is to figure this out. One might have thought they would make reference to the US Army Corps of Engineers Manuals and Regional Supplements. Perhaps it is in there somewhere. I did find one reference to these that pertains to when a ditch may be jurisdictional. One would think that given the 300 plus pages of this definition of waters of the US and the many references to wetlands there might be a description of what exactly a wetland is.
What is troubling is that the Connectivity of Streams and Wetlands to downstream Waters study that is included in this document as an appendix does answer the wetlands definition question. The study uses the old US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) technical definition that a wetland has to have either hydric soils, hydrphytic vegetation, or wetland hydrology. Note the “or” condition. The Army Corps manuals have theses as an “and” condition. So which is it? Should we use the FWS definition which would arguably identify more areas as wetlands and is included by Appendix or the Army’s Corps definition that is never mentioned? But, perhaps I missed it.
To help you better understand the rather expansive implications of these rules, we have a number of workshops being put on in various parts of the country. Please consider joining us for a day and get caught up with the latest developments in this evolving story.
Have a great week!
Volume 13, Issue 46
One of the biggest questions I get about the New US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Regional Supplements is whether there has been an increase in what we call wetlands. The 1987 ACE Wetlands Manual did not account of many of the new soil and hydrology interpretations of indicators. In addition the expansion of the vegetation analysis for one test to as many as four has increased the opportunity for an area to have wetlands vegetation.
From my observations the new Regional Supplements do increase the area of what we call wetlands.
However, the USACE had maintained that these areas should have been called wetlands in the first place and therefore there has been no major increase in the area under their jurisdiction. In fact the principal behind the supplements was to regionalize them so as to ensure that local wetland nuances would be recognized. It was not envisioned that there would be a significant change in the area defined as a wetlands as a result of the new manuals.
In Prince George County, Virginia there is a proposed highway expansion project (Route 460) in development. In 2008 a wetland delineation study was undertaken by Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). The study has determined that there would be 129 acres of wetland impacted by the new roadway project. However, on September 30, 2013, U.S. Mobility Partners, the contractor working with the VDOT submitted a wetlands permit request to the USACE. The proposed impacts to wetlands from the roadway project are now 479 acres.
So why is VDOT increasing its impact to wetlands fourfold?
One would think that they are building four times as much roadway. However, this is not the case. In fact there has been no change in the right-of-way since 2008.
According to VDOT, the higher wetland impact estimate was not due to a change in the scope of the 55-mile, tolled highway that is supposed to run parallel to the existing Route 460. It was because previous estimates were based on less accurate aerial images rather than on-the-ground analysis of affected land.
VDOT spokesperson, Tamera Rollison said taking aerial images was a nationally accepted practice when the draft environmental impact statement was being drawn up in 2005. VDOT also attributed the higher estimate on changing definitions of wetlands.
“As compared to 2005, larger areas now meet the criteria to be classified as wetlands,” Rollison wrote.
Kim Baggett, acting regulatory chief for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers stated, “It [the changes in wetland criteria] is not intended to increase the number of wetlands we delineate. That should not have increased the number of wetland impacts for this project.”
Furthermore, Baggett said that wetland criteria would not have had an effect on the wetland estimate.
In a letter sent to the Federal Highway Administration, the Southern Environmental Law Center called on the federal agency to halt the project’s design. The SELC is a regional nonprofit that represents partner groups on environmental issues.
“The proposed new Route 460, if built, would to the best of our knowledge represent the largest destruction of wetlands ever permitted in Virginia under the Clean Water Act,” the SELC wrote in the letter.
Filling in and paving over wetlands destroys wildlife and bird habitat, degrades water quality, and would severely compromise the storm-prone area’s natural resistance to storms and flooding, the SELC said in a press release.
“VDOT jumped the gun by signing a contract before it had the permits for this project, and is putting taxpayers and the environment at risk. What is really needed is to pull the plug on an expensive, unnecessary highway with unprecedented wetlands impacts,” Trip Pollard, senior attorney with the SELC said in a press release.
So to sum this issue up it would appear that the use of the Regional Supplements may in fact increase the areas interpreted as wetlands. However, the USACE’s “no-change” position remains despite that rather strong empirical evidence that an increase has occurred.
The reference to the use of aerial images may be the culprit in this. I suspect that the National Wetlands Inventory (NWI) maps were used of the initial wetlands study. This is common practice amongst DOT’s and is a rather cheap way to inventory wetland impact. However, the problem remains that they are notoriously inaccurate for three very big reasons. The first is that the photos date from the 1970’s. Most of the aerial interpretation was done using high altitude low resolution photography. These were then traced by hand onto the USGS topographic maps at a scale of 1” = 2000’. At that scale a pencil line is 20 feet wide.
The second major issue is that the wetland definition used by NWI is dramatically different that the USACE’s regulatory definition. Ironically, NWI only requires one wetland feature (soil, vegetation or hydrology) to deem the site a wetland. One would think this would include more areas. But in this case it clearly does not.
The third problem with the use of the NWI is that it was never intended to be used as regulatory guidance. If it was, then a number of administrative procedures have not been followed and its use as a regulatory document could easily be challenged. The NWI was developed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) as an aid to identify land that may be desirable for habitat conservation. The NWI was and is today a refuge site search tool. It inventories land that may be ideal for USFWS to put into its refuge system. It was never meant as a regulatory tool.
Over the years I have been engaged to aid various DOT’s to identify wetland impacts along right-of-ways. The use of the NWI for this purpose is commonplace. There is a general belief that all things being equal, a roadway alternatives analysis of wetland impacts can be done using the NWI. It is understood that the impacts will vary from reality, but for the sake of an alternatives study it will produce the best ranking for the least amount of money. I am not sure that this is correct. After all what is the net cost to be four times off on your estimate? Perhaps if the DOT’s engaged a proper wetlands study rather than do it on the cheap they would not have the mess they now face.
By the way, this VDOT case is just one of many. The Raleigh, NC I-540 route has the same problem with decisions being made with little to no accurate information. These organizations will not pay for a detailed study until a decision is made on a selected alternative. This selection is based upon bad information and there is no way to really know if it is the least damaging alternative. The best alternative is chosen based upon a map made in the 1970’s using a different wetland definition by an organization that does not have a regulatory role. Perhaps you have heard this expression, “garbage in garbage out.”
Have a great week!
The Swamp Stomp
Vol. 13 Issue 45
I started to write this week’s newsletter over the weekend. I seem to find that to be the best time to do it. I would like to say that I write these weeks in advance, but alas that is not the case. Sometimes it is Tuesday morning.
This week I am going to focus on the jurisdictional wetlands connectivity issue. This is at the heart of the new EPA report and the focus of our winter workshops. This is a huge issue rivaling the release of the 1987 Wetlands Delineation Manual and the subsequent Regional Supplements. I hope you can make one of our workshops. We have one next week in Pittsburgh.
Last week two items of significance happened.
On Wednesday, US EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said that her agency has withdrawn the Clean Water Act guidance aimed at clarifying federal oversight of wetlands and isolated streams because the issue merited a public rulemaking process. This was done rather quietly and not officially announced. Ms. McCarthy’s position is that further clarification of the jurisdictional reach should be done as a rulemaking process rather than a guidance document. This resulted in the September notice on the EPA website that the rule making process has started.
“In addition to the release of this report, EPA, with the Army Corps of Engineers, has sent a draft rule to clarify the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act to the Office of Management and Budget for interagency review. This draft rule takes into consideration the current state-of-the-art peer reviewed science reflected in the draft science report. Any final regulatory action related to the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act in a rule making will be based on the final version of this scientific assessment, which will reflect EPA’s consideration of all comments received from the public and the independent peer review.”
The proposed rule is limited to clarifying current uncertainty concerning the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act that has arisen as an outgrowth of recent Supreme Court decisions; it does not propose changes to existing regulatory exemptions and exclusions, including those that apply to the agricultural sector that ensure the continuing production of food, fiber and fuel to the benefit of all Americans. Specifically, EPA and the Army Corps are interested in enhancing the ability of the CWA and USDA’s conservation programs to work in tandem to protect water quality and improve the environment by encouraging expanded participation in conservation programs by farmers and ranchers. It will do so by providing greater clarity on which waters are not subject to CWA jurisdiction and greater certainty on which activities do not require CWA permits.
Last Thursday the Pacific Legal Foundation issued a press release about the wetlands “rule making.”
“In developing their new rule, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers claim they’ll rely on EPA’s report on “connectivity” — i.e., on “connections” between water bodies that aren’t navigable and those that are. However, the rule-making is proceeding even though the connectivity report is still in the draft stage and under review. (Indeed, EPA’s Science Advisory Board won’t hold a hearing on the draft connectivity report until December, although a draft of the new rule has already been written and submitted to the Office of Management and Budget, but not yet been made available to the public.)”
In any event the December meeting is still on and the EPA is still accepting comments on the report. So far there are over 56 thousand comments.
One major concern with the guidance rule comes from the Senate Republicans. They argue that that because EPA didn’t publicly announce the withdrawal of the guidance, field staff may “look to the draft guidance and its dubious regulatory agenda when making jurisdictional determinations.”
I have a project right now caught up in this. We have a bunch of non-jurisdictional wetlands that now could easily be considered jurisdictional following the procedures outlined in the EPA’s report.
In other news, this past Friday President Obama issued another executive order that has a direct bearing on this and other wetlands issues. This Executive Order is a follow-up to the October 2011 National Action Plan: Priorities for Managing Freshwater Resources in a Changing Climate. In the order he has established a new council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience.
“Within 9 months of the date of this order and in coordination with the efforts described in section
2 of this order, the heads of the Departments of Defense, the Interior, and Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency, NOAA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Army Corps of Engineers, and other agencies as recommended by the Council established in section 6 of this order shall work with the Chair of CEQ and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to Complete an inventory and assessment of proposed and completed changes to their land and water related policies, programs, and regulations necessary to make the Nation’s watersheds, natural resources, and ecosystems, and the communities and economies that depend on them, more resilient in the face of a changing climate.”
Perhaps they could role both of these into the same rule making.
Please consider coming to one of our Connectivity Worships this winter. We will be discussing the implications, procedures and strategies that are associated with making jurisdictional determinations.
Have a great week!
The Swamp Stomp
Vol. 13 Issue 44
Superstorm Sandy – October 29, 2012 – One Year Ago
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced $162 million in funding for research and restoration projects to help protect the Atlantic Coast from future storms on October 24,2103. This announcement was made at New Jersey’s Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge This refuge’s 47,000 acres of wetlands absorbed much of Sandy’s energy and storm surge, and protected some communities in the storm’s path.
A list of the 45 projects covered by the funding, in states from Maine to North Carolina, can be seen online at
The projects that will get funding are consistent with the recommendations of a presidential task force charged with developing a strategy for rebuilding areas damaged by Sandy, Jewell said.
“What we witnessed during Hurricane Sandy was that our public lands and other natural areas are often the best defense against Mother Nature,” Jewell said in a statement before her visit.
The government is providing $15 million for salt marsh restoration along the New Jersey coast, including at Forsythe. It also allocated $4 million to help storm-proof the federal government’s Ohmsett oil spill research and test facility in Middletown.
Other restoration funding includes $25 million for the Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve south of Alexandria, Va., $20 million for a salt marsh ecosystem at Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Delaware, and $11 million for salt marshes at three locations on Long Island in New York.
In Massachusetts, more than $10 million is being provided for the Muddy Creek Wetland, Parkers Tidal and Round Hill Salt Marsh restoration projects.
“What we witnessed during Hurricane Sandy was that our public lands and other natural areas are often the best defense against Mother Nature,” Jewell said. “By stabilizing marshes and beaches, restoring wetlands, and improving the resiliency of coastal areas, we not only create opportunities for people to connect with nature and support jobs through increased outdoor recreation, but we can also provide an effective buffer that protects local communities from powerful storm surges and devastating floods when a storm like Sandy hits.”
With more than 47,000 acres of wetlands spanning from Brick Township to the suburbs of Atlantic City, Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge absorbed much of Sandy’s energy and storm surge, protecting some of the local communities in the path of the storm. Hurricane Sandy destroyed refuge roadways and dumped boats, fuel oil tanks, chemical drums and other debris across 22 miles of refuge lands. The natural buffer provided by the refuge’s marshes, beaches, and forests protected the refuge’s visitor center, headquarters and surrounding local communities from severe flood damage.
The funding announced provides $113 million for 25 on-the-ground projects to restore coastal marshes, wetlands and shoreline, create habitat connectivity, improve flood resilience and undertake other efforts to protect nearby areas from future storms. A total of $15 million will be spent to better protect communities along 60 miles of the New Jersey coast, including Forsythe, by restoring and enhancing salt marshes. An additional $4 million will be provided for infrastructure resiliency investments at the Ohmsett national oil spill response research and energy test facility in New Jersey.
Other examples include:
- $19.8 million to restore a highly damaged tidal salt marsh/barrier beach ecosystem within the former impounded wetland system on Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Delaware.
- $24.9 million to restore Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve south of Alexandria, Virginia, which is currently retreating six to eight feet a year.
- $11 million to restore natural functions in damaged and degraded salt marshes at Seatuck, Wertheim and Lido Beach National Wildlife Refuges on Long Island, New York.
An additional $45 million is being invested in assessments, modeling, coastal barrier mapping, and other projects to provide Federal, State, and local land managers and decision makers the information and tools they need to improve resiliency and prepare for future storms.
A Technical Review Panel of ten experts from eight Interior bureaus and the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration evaluated all 94 submitted projects totaling a requested $541 million. Using a framework developed by Interior’s Strategic Sciences Group, the panel scored each project within the Sandy impact area based on the ability to strengthen Federal assets and build coastal resilience to withstand future storms. Projects were selected based on their ability to provide measurable restoration outcomes and resilience benefits or useful data or management tools in a short time frame. A priority was given to projects that will employ youth and veterans.
Jewell also announced that the Department would issue a Request for Proposals on October 29 for an additional $100 million in grant funding under the Hurricane Sandy Coastal Resiliency Competitive Grant Program announced in August. States, local communities, non-profit organizations and other partners can compete for funding for innovative projects under the program, which is being administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
The Swamp Stomp
Vol. 13 Issue 43
Reps. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, and Chris Stewart, R-Utah, this past Friday (10/18/13) sent a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy expressing concern over the proposed draft rule, which they say would give the agency “unprecedented control over private property across the nation.”
What is interesting is that the “proposed rule” has not been disturbed to the public. It remains a secret internal draft under review by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
The only thing that that has been released to the public is a 331 page “review of scientific evidence” report. It is quite clear what the EPA’s intention is based upon this “study” and it is no wonder why there is so much concern about what the rule may be. I have actually read the entire report and have put together a one-day workshop on what the implications of the this “study” mean. It is a major expansion of what would be considered a waters of the US and you really should at the very least read the report or attend our workshop. This is a game changer. Think of it as “heath care” for streams and wetlands.
Fox News Home Page – Lead Story on Saturday, October 19, 2013
Fox News and the Hill have both published lead stories on this new rule this past weekend. It has also been picked up on the AP wire. Perhaps you saw something about this over the weekend on TV. It is that big of a story. If you recall I also published a Swamp Stomp post about this on September 21, 2013.
If you would like to attend our workshop we are offering three sessions as follows:
If you would like the short version of some of the implications of the “rule” this is from last Friday’s “The Hill.”
By Julian Hattem -
10/18/13 01:35 PM ET
Republican leaders of the House Science Committee are accusing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of rushing a rule to establish broad authority over streams and wetlands.
In a letter to the agency on Friday, Reps. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Chris Stewart (R-Utah) alleged that it is trying to initiate a “sweeping reinterpretation” of its jurisdiction in a potential new rule.
The regulation to expand the EPA’s oversight would give it “unprecedented control over private property across the nation,” they asserted.
In September, the EPA began the process of asserting that it can regulate streams, estuaries and other small bodies of water under authority granted by the Clean Water Act. The agency said that the new rule is necessary to clear up confusion caused by two recent Supreme Court cases.
The EPA said making sure that regulations protecting clean water apply to those smaller waters ends up protecting larger lakes and rivers downstream.
Republican lawmakers have attacked the move and accused the agency of making a broad power grab. They worry that the EPA’s science has not been thorough enough to warrant a new rule.
“In light of the significant implications this action would have on the economy, property rights, and state sovereignty, this process must be given more thought and deliberation to allow for important, statutorily-required, weighing of the scientific and technical underpinnings of the proposed regulatory changes,” Smith and Stewart wrote on Friday.
Smith is the chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, and Stewart leads its environment subcommittee.
The proposal is currently under review at the White House’s budget office, where most major rules are subjected to scrutiny before being unveiled to the public.
Once the proposal is released, the EPA will accept public comments and revise the regulation before finalizing it.
The lawmakers want the EPA to give a copy of the proposal to the agency’s science advisory board, which is made up of outside experts from academia and businesses, for a thorough review.
Releasing the proposal before the board has had a chance to look at it “would be to put the cart before the horse,” they claimed in their letter.
In a statement emailed to The Hill Friday afternoon, the EPA said that it has received the lawmakers’ letter and will review it.
The Swamp Stomp
Vol. 13 Issue 42
It is that time of year again when the trees explode with color. I thought it might be a nice diversion to get way from the government nonsense we often talk about and reflect on the beauty around us. This often reminds me of a sort of famous quote from the movie, Joe Versus the Volcano. In the movie Patrica Graynamore tells Joe, “My father says that almost the whole world is asleep. Everybody you know. Everybody you see. Everybody you talk to. He says that only a few people are awake, and they live in a state of constant, total amazement.”
I cannot tell you how true this is. The simple contemplation of a leaf could to take you a lifetime to fully understand. Even then I am sure we would only just be scratching the surface. So get outside and be amazed!
The leaves change color largely due to a reduction in the production of chlorophyll. Once this green pigment is gone the remaining colors stand out for awhile. I always thought it pretty amazing that these colors were there all the time. We just could not see them. It makes you wonder what else we might be missing.
Each tree species has its own color. However, disease temperature, latitude, elevation and amount of daylight all affect the colors. The timing of the peak colors vary as well. All of this leads to a wide array of colors.
Reds and Purples
The superstars of colors are the sugar maples of New England. Anthocyanins turn these trees red. These pigments are only found in about 10 percent of all trees in the temperate zones. Maples to the north and black gum to the south are the most common for the reds. Purple is also attributed to this same pigment and can be found in some of the ashes and sumacs. The anthocyanins are produced when the tree undergoes stress. We loose our hair and these trees turn red.
The yellow pigment is due to the presence of carotenoids. This pigment is found in many plants and is responsible for the orange in carrots. The pigment is there all year, but it masked by the green chlorophyll. There are a number of species that turn yellow. The champion is the quaking aspen. Its bright yellow is striking. Other species that turn yellow include: hickories, willows, birches, beeches, cherries, basswood, ginkgo, poplar, chestnut, elm. locust, sycamore and pecan.
Okay this is not the most dramatic color, but it adds a nice contrast to the others. When the chlorophyll decays we are left with brown. Sometimes tannins help make the leaves brown. Brown can also come form a mix of green and red pigments. Brown is a very underrated color. It can be quite complicated.
Most of the oaks turn brown at the end of the growing season. However, many species like the beech will hold onto its leaves and they eventually turn brown. There can be quite a variety of brown colors. From the light tan of the beech to the dark brown of the sycamore. Some of the magnolias turn a rich chocolate brown when there leaves die off.
The richness of color in the forest is spectacular to see. Get outside and enjoy this beautiful show.
“I tell you one thing, though. Wherever we go, whatever we do, we’re gonna take this luggage with us!”
Have an amazing week!