Michigan Integrates Wetland Assessment into Watershed Protection
In 2007, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) received a Wetland Program Development Grant from the EPA to aid in their development of a tool to evaluate wetland functions on a watershed scale. MDEQ identified the need to develop such a tool to support watershed planning efforts, guide zoning decisions and help define wetland restoration priorities for resource managers. The tool would be used to assess wetland quantity and wetland functions to evaluate the impact that wetlands have on the watershed in its entirety.
The Landscape Level Watershed Functional Assessment tool (LLWFA) addresses both the monitoring and assessment and protection and voluntary restoration elements of the Core Elements Framework. It was built using work done by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service which aided hydrogeomorphic (HGM) descriptors to wetland polygons on National Wetlands Inventory (NWI) maps. Using the GIS data, wetland function, services, and types were able to be assessed. The tool also allows users to compare current wetland quantity and function with pre-settlement data to assess the change in both wetland extent and condition. The information can then be used to prioritize potential sites for wetland restoration or enhancement and to identify wetland areas to target for protection moving forward as part of their implementation strategy for achieving the goals of Michigan’s Monitoring and Assessment Strategy.
This tool has been well-received by wetlands and watershed planning groups. MDEQ staff has worked with several local watershed groups to help them use the tool to integrate wetland protection and restoration into their watershed plans. For example, this tool was used to provide wetland information for inclusion in the watershed plan for the Paw Paw River. After assessing the information developed using the LLWFA tool, the Paw Paw River watershed group developed a management implementation plan that includes targets for acres of wetlands to be protected and restored and includes acres of wetland stream bank to be protected. The Paw Paw River watershed plan is just one example of how this tool is being used to support watershed planning efforts that are tied to the Clean Water Act Section 319 program.
*The use of this tool has been included in the EPA Region 5 Wetland Supplement to EPA’s Handbook for Developing Watershed Plans. The LLWA tool has also been shared to support watershed plan development in other states including Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.*