Recognizing the potential for continued or accelerated degradation of the nation's waters, Congress enacted the Clean Water Act in 1972. The Act’s chief objectives are to maintain and restore the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of waters of the United States. Section 404 of the Act authorizes the Secretary of the Army, acting through the Chief of Engineers, to issue permits for the discharge of dredged or fill material into waters of the United States, including wetlands.
To ensure compliance with Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, companies or landowners conducting activities in or around wetlands must know the area’s boundaries in order to obtain the proper permits for these activities, as well as to mitigate any impacts to wetland areas.
What classifies an area as a wetland?
For an area to be classified as a wetland, it must meet the following criteria:
- Over 50% of the dominant vegetation in the area must consist of hydrophytic species (species that have the ability to grow, effectively compete, and reproduce in wetland areas).
- Soils in the area must be classified as hydric, or they must possess characteristics that are associated with reducing soil conditions normally present in wetland areas.
- Wetland hydrology must be present. The area must be inundated or saturated to the surface at some time during the growing season of the dominant vegetation.
DESCO offers a variety of services to support projects with the potential to affect wetlands or waters of the U.S., including:
- Wetland delineations: DESCO's biologists perform wetland delineations that comply with the guidelines set forth by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). Our ecologists and biologists can conduct studies to determine if wetlands are present in a given area. We also identify and map the upland extent of each identified wetland area.
- Wetland function and value assessments: DESCO assesses wetland functions and values using a variety of accepted methodologies. Functional assessments are used by resource management agencies for impact assessment purposes and subsequent determination of mitigation requirements.
- Wetland permitting: DESCO assists with Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 404 Individual and Nationwide permit applications for work in or around wetlands and waters of the U.S. Our staff can compile the information necessary for agency review of project operations, as well as file the required permit documentation to allow a project to proceed.
- Wetland compliance monitoring: DESCO provides monitoring and oversight of projects conducted in wetland areas to ensure permit conditions are met.
- Wetland remediation/mitigation planning, design and construction: DESCO develops remediation/mitigation plans and designs remediation/mitigation projects to compensate for any permanent impacts to wetland areas as a result of project activities. Our biologists and ecologists make recommendations on how to repair impacted areas in the most cost-effective manner possible. We also develop off-site mitigation plans if an impacted area cannot be remediated.
- Remediation/mitigation success monitoring: Our biologists monitor the progress of wetland remediation and mitigation efforts, establishing and ensuring adherence to protocols designed to measure various success parameters.
- Wetland mitigation banking: Mitigation banks are wetland areas that landowners or sponsors have decided to restore, enhance, or create for preservation purposes, with the intent to sell credits to clients seeking to fulfill compensatory mitigation requirements. DESCO’s ecologists develop proposals for landowners or sponsors who wish to convert property into sites that can be used for compensatory mitigation (mitigation bank proposals), as well as take all steps necessary to gain agency approval. Our staff can also market mitigation credits to potential clients, record all mitigation bank transactions, conduct quarterly monitoring, and ensure that success criteria are met.