EPA and COE Announce Intentions on Controversial WOTUS Rule

On March 6, 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced their intent to rescind or revise the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rulemaking from 2015.  The Rule has been languishing in federal court since the day it was put in place, and as a result, never went into effect.  The EPA and Corps may decide to rescind the rule or publish a new rule for review and comment, so stay tuned!

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Nationwide Permit Update
Norfolk District Regional Conditions Issued

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On March 20, 2017, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Norfolk District released the final Nationwide Permit (NWP) Regional Conditions. Several noteworthy changes have been made since the draft regional conditions were issued on January 24, 2017 and are addressed in further detail below. The associated 2017 NWPs took effect on March 19th. Also note that in Virginia, the Clean Water Act Section 401 water quality certification (WQC) and the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) consistency determination for the 2017 NWPs are still pending.

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Nationwide Permit Update:
Baltimore District Regional Conditions and Suspensions Issued

On March 20, 2017, the Baltimore District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released their Final Regional Conditions and Suspensions for the 2017 Nationwide Permits (NWPs).  One noteworthy change has been made since the draft regional conditions were issued on January 6, 2017, and is addressed in further detail below.  The associated 2017 NWPs took effect on March 19th.  In Maryland, 38 of 52 NWPs were suspended and one was partially suspended because they are replaced by the Maryland State Programmatic General Permit–5 (MDSPGP-5) .  In the District of Columbia, five of the NWPs were suspended; however, no significant changes occurred to the reissued NWPs.  Furthermore, in Maryland and the District of Columbia, the Clean Water Act Section 401 Water Quality Certification (WQC) and the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) consistency determination for the 2017 NWPs are finalized.  

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Dendroarcheological Study Confirms Date of Suspected Revolutionary War-Era Ship

Michael Smith (WSSI) and Michael Worthington (Oxford Tree-Ring Laboratory) sampling a ship timber.

Michael Smith (WSSI) and Michael Worthington (Oxford Tree-Ring Laboratory) sampling a ship timber.

In late 2015, Wetland Studies and Solutions, Inc. (WSSI) archeologists discovered remnants of one of the earliest historic buildings in Alexandria, Virginia, a circa 1755 public warehouse, during their excavations along the Potomac River waterfront. Carr City Centers had contracted with WSSI to provide archeological investigations at the Hotel Indigo site in order to comply with the city historic preservation ordinance. WSSI’s excavations also uncovered the remnants of a late-18th century ship, a bulkhead wharf, and a large wooden box privy in the sandy soil a few feet away. The wooden elements of all of the features were surprisingly well preserved, due in part to the anaerobic conditions beneath the Potomac River water table.

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"Bee” Updated! Virginia Range for Rusty Patched Bumble Bee Revised

Rusty Patched Bumble Bee; photo courtesy of xerces.org

Rusty Patched Bumble Bee; photo courtesy of xerces.org

On January 10, 2017, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) issued their Final Rule listing the rusty patched bumble bee (Bombus affinis) as endangered.  At the time of the listing, the Virginia Field Office of the USFWS indicated that the current range of the rusty patched bumble bee included Fauquier, Montgomery, Page, and Rockingham Counties.  The field office has since revised this to include ONLY Fauquier County in the current range.  The Fish and Wildlife Service delayed the original effective date, thus this listing will go into effect on March 21, 2017.  See our Field Notes Article regarding the listing for more details.

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Swamp Pink Surveys Help Avoid Costly Project Delays

Photo from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

With spring almost here, Wetland Studies and Solutions, Inc. (WSSI) is diving into another season of swamp pink (Helonias bullata) surveys. The swamp pink is found in forested wetlands in central Virginia and in eastern Maryland. The field survey "window" for swamp pink is open from April 15 to September 30. So schedule now and avoid critical delays in obtaining your wetlands permit, or other federal actions that require Endangered Species Act compliance.

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Bats: Time of Year Restrictions Around the Corner

It’s that time of year when bats are starting to emerge from their winter roosts, beginning their migrations and breeding seasons.  If your project intends to clear trees in the spring and summer months, you need to make sure you have planned ahead.  Time of year restrictions go into effect on tree clearing for certain projects near hibernacula (e.g., caves) and known maternity roost trees.  Read on to make sure you’ve done your due diligence!

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Hibernating northern long-eared bat. Photo courtesy of Al Hicks New York DEC

Hibernating northern long-eared bat. Photo courtesy of Al Hicks New York DEC


7th Annual Reston Kids' Trout Fishing Day is a Great Success!

Anglers along Snakeden Branch in 2016, seven years after restoration

On March 18th, 224 kids, with parents and siblings in tow, braved streambanks still covered in snow for the 7th Annual Reston Kids' Trout Fishing Day in Reston, Virginia. The event, sponsored by Wetland Studies and Solutions, Inc. (WSSI), Reston Association, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Northern Virginia Trout Unlimited, and the Wildlife Foundation of Virginia, provided a venue for children ages 2-12 to spend a day outdoors and, for some, the opportunity to catch their first fish.

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2017 Dam Safety Grants

The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) has announced that dam owners and local governments can apply for $1.2 million in grants from the Virginia Dam Safety, Flood Prevention, and Protection Assistance Fund. For existing state regulated dams that are owned by local governments or private entities, 50% matching grants will be available to help offset engineering costs associated with dam safety improvements. Applications are due March 31.

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WSSI engineer inspecting a dam.

WSSI engineer inspecting a dam.


2017 Virginia Legislation Summary

The Virginia General Assembly closed its 2017 Session on February 25, having passed four bills relevant to water quality management. Stormwater program changes, stormwater management alternatives, balancing nutrient caps with economic development, and professional licensure requirements were addressed in this year’s 30-day session.

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Free Concrete Paving Design Assistance Available

The Virginia Ready Mixed Concrete Association (VRMCA) is offering free detailed paving design recommendations, including CAD jointing plans, to designers and specifiers who are considering concrete in their projects.

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Pervious concrete at WSSI’s Gold LEED-certified headquarters

Pervious concrete at WSSI’s Gold LEED-certified headquarters