Wetland Assessments

Things are not always as they appear, and that statement is especially true concerning wetlands. While you may picture a wetland as an area full of green plants and lots of water, the actual appearance of many wetlands is much more nuanced. 

You often need extensive training and expertise to accurately detect and identify a wetland area. Determining whether a wetland is present is critical before any building or construction project. Wetland assessment saves your company money and time, and it helps you avoid fines and penalties for noncompliance. 

ECS offers wetland assessment and delineation to keep your project in compliance with applicable regulations and evaluate the environmental impact of a construction plan. 

What Is a Wetland Assessment?

Compliance with wetland regulations and EPA’s Clean Water Act may significantly impact the overall feasibility, economics and schedule of a new or existing project. It may impact the completion of future phases of an existing project. Typically there are three stages involved in wetland regulations and compliance.

Things are not always as they appear, and that statement is especially true concerning wetlands. While you may picture a wetland as an area full of green plants and lots of water, the actual appearance of many wetlands is much more nuanced. 

You often need extensive training and expertise to accurately detect and identify a wetland area. Determining whether a wetland is present is critical before any building or construction project. Wetland assessment saves your company money and time, and it helps you avoid fines and penalties for noncompliance. 

ECS offers wetland assessment and delineation to keep your project in compliance with applicable regulations and evaluate the environmental impact of a construction plan. 

What Is a Wetland Assessment?

Compliance with wetland regulations and EPA’s Clean Water Act may significantly impact the overall feasibility, economics and schedule of a new or existing project. It may impact the completion of future phases of an existing project. Typically there are three stages involved in wetland regulations and compliance.

ECS tech

What Is a Wetland?

Wetlands are areas where water is either near or at the soil surface for some part of the year or where the water fully covers the soil at any point during the year. A wetland can be home to various species, including both terrestrial and aquatic plants and animals. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) divides wetlands into two categories — coastal and inland.

Coastal wetlands, also known as tidal wetlands, are located along the Alaskan, Gulf, Pacific and Atlantic coasts. They are connected to the country’s estuaries and often contain saltwater, as the freshwater from the rivers mixes with the saltwater from the sea or ocean. Because of the salinity of the water, most coastal wetlands are inhospitable environments for plant life, with some exceptions. 

Inland wetlands, sometimes known as nontidal wetlands, often form along the floodplains of streams and rivers. They may also exist in depressions next to ponds and lakes or low-lying areas where groundwater rises to the soil surface. In some cases, inland wetlands develop when rain saturates the soil. 

Since the water in an inland wetland is usually fresh, the areas are often lush with plant life. Examples include wooded swamps, wet meadows and marshes.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has identified three criteria an area must meet to be classified as a wetland. During a wetland assessment, an engineer will examine the following components:

Wetlands are areas where water is either near or at the soil surface for some part of the year or where the water fully covers the soil at any point during the year. A wetland can be home to various species, including both terrestrial and aquatic plants and animals. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) divides wetlands into two categories — coastal and inland.

Coastal wetlands, also known as tidal wetlands, are located along the Alaskan, Gulf, Pacific and Atlantic coasts. They are connected to the country’s estuaries and often contain saltwater, as the freshwater from the rivers mixes with the saltwater from the sea or ocean. Because of the salinity of the water, most coastal wetlands are inhospitable environments for plant life, with some exceptions. 

Inland wetlands, sometimes known as nontidal wetlands, often form along the floodplains of streams and rivers. They may also exist in depressions next to ponds and lakes or low-lying areas where groundwater rises to the soil surface. In some cases, inland wetlands develop when rain saturates the soil. 

Since the water in an inland wetland is usually fresh, the areas are often lush with plant life. Examples include wooded swamps, wet meadows and marshes.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has identified three criteria an area must meet to be classified as a wetland. During a wetland assessment, an engineer will examine the following components:

ECS tech

Hydrology

Hydrology concerns the presence of water on a site, and the timing and frequency with which the water covers the soil. To be a wetland, an area must be saturated with water during at least part of the growing season, from mid-April to mid-October. Many wetlands are seasonal and do not have signs of hydrology for some part of the year. 

During a wetland assessment, a scientist may use direct or indirect indicators of hydrology, depending on the season.

Hydric Soil

Periods of saturation, ponding or inundation with water change soil’s properties. Saturated or inundated soils are anaerobic in the top layers. Anaerobic soils are better suited for supporting the growth of hydrophytic vegetation. 

Hydrophytic Vegetation

This type of vegetation thrives in water or in water-saturated soil. The plants are adapted to the anaerobic conditions found in wetlands. During a wetland assessment, a scientist looks for the presence of hydrophytic vegetation. 

Hydrology

Hydrology concerns the presence of water on a site, and the timing and frequency with which the water covers the soil. To be a wetland, an area must be saturated with water during at least part of the growing season, from mid-April to mid-October. Many wetlands are seasonal and do not have signs of hydrology for some part of the year. 

During a wetland assessment, a scientist may use direct or indirect indicators of hydrology, depending on the season.

Hydric Soil

Periods of saturation, ponding or inundation with water change soil’s properties. Saturated or inundated soils are anaerobic in the top layers. Anaerobic soils are better suited for supporting the growth of hydrophytic vegetation. 

Hydrophytic Vegetation

This type of vegetation thrives in water or in water-saturated soil. The plants are adapted to the anaerobic conditions found in wetlands. During a wetland assessment, a scientist looks for the presence of hydrophytic vegetation. 

Three engineers monitoring habitat

Wetlands Assessment Process

Wetlands assessment is a process involving multiple stages and types of evaluation. It starts with a thorough review of the area. A scientist examines soil maps, photographs, topographic maps and floodplain maps to assess whether the plot’s conditions are conducive to the development of a wetland. The next step is to conduct a field assessment and note signs of the three wetland criteria. Finally, the scientist will delineate any detected wetlands to establish clear boundaries.  

Wetlands Assessment Process

Wetlands assessment is a process involving multiple stages and types of evaluation. It starts with a thorough review of the area. A scientist examines soil maps, photographs, topographic maps and floodplain maps to assess whether the plot’s conditions are conducive to the development of a wetland. The next step is to conduct a field assessment and note signs of the three wetland criteria. Finally, the scientist will delineate any detected wetlands to establish clear boundaries.  

1. Preliminary Wetland Assessments 

These are desktop reviews of available online literature and a brief site visit to assess whether a jurisdictional wetland or stream feature may be present onsite. These assessments are most valuable when performed during a feasibility study period or to determine the development potential of a parcel before extensive design occurs.

2. Wetland Delineations

These are field investigations based on applying the 1987 US Army Corps of Engineers Wetland Delineation Manual in conjunction with the applicable Regional Supplements. They provide the Waters of the US (including wetlands) boundaries based on professional judgment. Most jurisdictions generally require delineations to determine if impacts to wetlands or streams associated with a proposed development are anticipated.

Some of the wetland delineations ECS has performed include:

  • Wetland, Stream, Resource Protection Area Delineation – Volunteer Fire Station, Fairfax County, VA
  • Delineation and Confirmation of Large Quarry, Nottoway County, VA
  • Virginia Dept. of Transportation State-wide On-Call Wetland Delineation
  • Delineation of 1,800-acre Solar Field, Caroline County, MD

3. Jurisdictional Determinations

These involve submitting a request to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the State water quality division when applicable, for an onsite meeting to review the wetland delineation and confirm boundary accuracy, typically valid for five years. If desired during this meeting, ECS personnel will address preliminary permitting strategies for Wetland and Stream Permitting.

ECS draws on our many years of experience and knowledge of local, state and federal policies regarding wetland regulations and we have good working relationships with regulatory personnel. Please contact us to speak with one of our wetlands specialists for project-specific questions or guidance

1. Preliminary Wetland Assessments 

These are desktop reviews of available online literature and a brief site visit to assess whether a jurisdictional wetland or stream feature may be present onsite. These assessments are most valuable when performed during a feasibility study period or to determine the development potential of a parcel before extensive design occurs.

2. Wetland Delineations

These are field investigations based on applying the 1987 US Army Corps of Engineers Wetland Delineation Manual in conjunction with the applicable Regional Supplements. They provide the Waters of the US (including wetlands) boundaries based on professional judgment. Most jurisdictions generally require delineations to determine if impacts to wetlands or streams associated with a proposed development are anticipated.

Some of the wetland delineations ECS has performed include:

  • Wetland, Stream, Resource Protection Area Delineation – Volunteer Fire Station, Fairfax County, VA
  • Delineation and Confirmation of Large Quarry, Nottoway County, VA
  • Virginia Dept. of Transportation State-wide On-Call Wetland Delineation
  • Delineation of 1,800-acre Solar Field, Caroline County, MD

3. Jurisdictional Determinations

These involve submitting a request to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the State water quality division when applicable, for an onsite meeting to review the wetland delineation and confirm boundary accuracy, typically valid for five years. If desired during this meeting, ECS personnel will address preliminary permitting strategies for Wetland and Stream Permitting.

ECS draws on our many years of experience and knowledge of local, state and federal policies regarding wetland regulations and we have good working relationships with regulatory personnel. Please contact us to speak with one of our wetlands specialists for project-specific questions or guidance

ECS staff on jobsite

Why Are Wetland Assessments Important? 

In construction, what you do not know can hurt you. A wetland assessment, conducted at the start of a project, can save you considerable time and money. Following a review of the assessment results, you will have enough information to apply for any required permits, saving you the cost of noncompliance fines.

In some circumstances, the results of a wetland assessment can help you decide if you need to change course. It may be that building in a particular area is not financially feasible or that the impact of the project would be severe. You can then make adjustments, including finding a new place to build if necessary.

In construction, what you do not know can hurt you. A wetland assessment, conducted at the start of a project, can save you considerable time and money. Following a review of the assessment results, you will have enough information to apply for any required permits, saving you the cost of noncompliance fines.

In some circumstances, the results of a wetland assessment can help you decide if you need to change course. It may be that building in a particular area is not financially feasible or that the impact of the project would be severe. You can then make adjustments, including finding a new place to build if necessary.

ECS staff on jobsite
engineer collecting water sample

When to Use Wetland Assessment Services

If there is any chance your project may impact a wetland, you need to use wetland assessment services. Wetland assessment is a legal requirement if a wetland is located on the property you plan to develop or if your project may affect one of these protected zones.

When to Use Wetland Assessment Services

If there is any chance your project may impact a wetland, you need to use wetland assessment services. Wetland assessment is a legal requirement if a wetland is located on the property you plan to develop or if your project may affect one of these protected zones.

soil and lime cement design

Work With ECS for Wetland Assessments

ECS draws on our many years of experience and knowledge of local, state and federal policies regarding wetland regulations and we have good working relationships with regulatory personnel. Please contact us to speak with one of our wetlands specialists for project-specific questions or guidance.

Contact Us

ECS draws on our many years of experience and knowledge of local, state and federal policies regarding wetland regulations and we have good working relationships with regulatory personnel. Please contact us to speak with one of our wetlands specialists for project-specific questions or guidance.

Contact Us