Atypical Wetland Delineation

Travis Stuck

Davel Engineering & Environmental Case History

Our wetland specialist, Travis A. Stuck, Professional Wetland Scientist was surprised to encounter the vegetation considering the landscape position, it was well above the floodplain and on a non hydric soil mapping unit. However, after some investigation, he discovered that the soils did not appear typically indicative of wetland conditions. Using the standard protocol and simply following routine procedure with the Routine Wetland Delineation Data forms (standard procedure), and based on the findings of the given days of inspection early in the growing season, the area met wetland criteria. Basic procedures for wetland identification do have some inherent flaws which is beyond this discussion. This project required something above and beyond a "Routine Wetland Delineation."

After further research and application of Travis’s experience with hydrology and vegetation he decided to look further into the status of the area of concern. The dominant plant species were generally capable of persisting in both uplands and wetlands. One of the dominant plants was Scouring Rush which tends to inhabit sandy areas with frequent saturation. In addition he was tracking precipitation and noted that precipitation was above normal. We decided to install monitoring wells just before the growing season commenced in order to monitor the ground water to see if it actually does meet wetland hydrology criteria and in an attempt to confirm Travis’s theory of the groundwater regime. The groundwater hydrology study indicated that the majority of the area dominated by these “wetland plants” did not meet wetland hydrology requirements even considering the precipitation was above normal.

Because of Travis’s findings he immediately initiated an onsite meeting with DNR and USACOE staff. He and the DNR Wetland ID specialist met onsite several times. The DNR was also surprised by the groundwater levels in relation to the indicative wetland plants. It turns out that the indicator plant species (Scouring Rush) is a “wetland plant” that may occur in wetland/non-wetland areas, seems to be well adapted to areas with sandy soil, such as the location, and frequent but short-term saturation, which is exactly what we had at that location.

After much work and further review, the wetland was delineated significantly smaller than one with less experience and less effort may have concluded to be the wetland boundary. In short, the efforts and knowledge and experience, and willingness to cooperate and work with the regulatory staff closely, resulted in a project proceeding that in all likely-hood would have come to a sudden halt if not for the efforts by Travis and Davel Engineering & Environmental staff.