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Wetlands

How Do I Develop a Wetlands Regulatory Program?

Regulatory Programs

Wetlands regulatory and permit programs consist of key elements: a jurisdictional scope, a method to authorize impacts to aquatic resources and assess proposed authorizations,and a method of assuring compliance. State and tribal wetland and aquatic resource regulatory programs are defined by the authority under which they operate (i.e., Clean Water Act (CWA) §404, CWA §401, State or Tribal law) and how the program is implemented.

The effectiveness of a state or tribal regulatory program depends on clear definitions, guidelines and regulations, assignment of responsibilities and procedures that are applied consistently by program staff and understood by the public. This applies to all aspects of the program, but it is particularly important for compensation, compliance and enforcement as these are highly visible to the public and the regulated community. 

Goals and Benefits

The overarching goal of the federal CWA is to restore and maintain the physical, chemical and biological integrity of the nation's waters. A more specific federal goal is "No Net Loss" of wetlands in the CWA §404 regulatory program by first avoiding then minimizing and finally compensating for any impacts to aquatic resources caused by the discharge of dredge or fill material into waters of the U.S.

There are several benefits to states and tribes that take an active role in regulating impacts to aquatic resources:

  • A regulatory program allows states and tribes to manage aquatic resource protection and require restoration of acreage and function/condition to address their goals including an increase the number of acres and quality of wetlands. 
  • State and tribal regulatory programs can be more protective or more comprehensive than the federal program in various ways including adopting protective standards, covering all aquatic resources in the state, not just waters covered by the Clean Water Act, or utilizing other statutes and regulations such as smart growth requirements.
  • States and tribes can incorporate other land use regulations, goals and policies into their regulatory program and more effectively manage the resources on a watershed scale. 
  • Some regulatory program categories increase overall regulatory efficiency by reducing state/federal redundancy and provides for more effective allocation of state/tribal resources. 
  • State and tribal regulatory programs can increase integration and cooperation with state and federal resource programs to more effectively address a range of water related issues such as flood control and wellhead protection.

The main objectives of the Regulatory core element include:

  1. Clearly Define the Jurisdictional Scope of the Program
  2. Administer Regulatory Activities Efficiently and Consistently
  3. Evaluate Regulatory Activities to Ensure Environmental Results

More information on the elements of a Regulatory Program