Category Archives: Uncategorized

Wetland Permitting

Wetland Regulation and the Section 404 Permit The Clean Water Act The Clean Water Act (CWA) is the primary mechanism used by the Federal Government to govern water pollution. In 1972, a set of amendments significantly reorganized and expanded the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (originally passed in 1948). At this time, the Act became commonly referred to as the Clean Water Act. It was significantly expanded in 1977 with the Clean Water Act of 1977 amendments. The goal of the CWA is to “restore and maintain the… Read More →

What are Waters of the US?

Current Definition of Waters of the US Since the passing of the Clean Water Act, the definition of the term “waters of the US” has been amended several times. The current definition of “waters of the US” is: Wetlands adjacent to waters (other than waters that are themselves wetlands) identified in paragraphs (a) through (f) of this definition. The territorial sea; and Tributaries of waters identified in paragraphs (a) through (d) of this definition; All impoundments of waters otherwise defined as waters of the United States under this… Read More →

Ephemeral Streams and Headwaters

Types of Seasonal Streams Almost 60% of streams in the US only flow seasonally or after storm events1. These are called intermittent streams and ephemeral streams, and are very important to the health of the downstream waters. They serve many of the same ecological roles as larger downstream sections. Wetlands are often associated with these stream systems. Intermittent streams are those where groundwater provides stream flow for part of the year. Runoff from rainfall supplements the stream flow, but intermittent streams may dry up part of the year…. Read More →

Prairies, Forests, and Uplands

Beyond the low lying bottomlands of the rivers and streams are the prairies, forests, and cultivated uplands of the upper Texas Gulf Coast. Prairies The Texas coastal plain was created over millions of years as meandering rivers shifted about the landscape depositing sediment and leaving many relic channels in their wake. This relatively flat clay plain is composed of rich poorly drained soils and is heavily vegetated. The clay plain causes much of the rainfall in the area to flow across the surface of the land and into… Read More →

Wetlands and Permitting

Wetlands of the Upper Texas Coast The upper Texas Coast is home to some of the most abundant and diverse wetlands in the world. Along the coast, tidal wetlands and interior barrier island wetlands protect our shorelines from erosion and are critical habitat to waterfowl and migrating birds. Along the major rivers, forested bottomland wetlands and swamps provide recreational and economic opportunities to area residents and landowners. Interior wetlands such as marshes, prairie potholes, and coastal flatwoods provide important habitat, food, and water to local wildlife, especially during… Read More →

Rivers and Streams of the Upper Texas Coast

Wetlands are found in the transition zone between land and water. Rivers and streams play an important role in many wetlands systems: many wetlands are replenished by periodic flooding of rivers and streams. Wetlands serve the rivers and streams by filtering pollutants from water, slowing the runoff of water during rain events, and preventing erosion. The well-being of Texas rivers and streams is linked to the protection of wetlands. Many rivers and streams are considered waters of the US by the Clean Water Act. Often, wetlands adjacent to… Read More →

Do I need a Wetland Permit?

Does My Property Have a Wetland? In general, wetlands are found where water naturally flows and accumulates: floodplains, stream headwaters, low lying spots, landscape depressions, and the fringe of ponds, streams, rivers, and coastlines. Even where wetlands are known, determining where the boundaries lie can be complex. Some wetlands exist due to saturation of the soil by groundwater and are difficult to identify. Others are dry part of the year so the extent of the visible wetland boundary can vary during high and low water volumes. The following… Read More →

Wetland Ecological Services

What are Wetland Ecological Services? Goods and services contributing to human well-being by an ecosystem are called ecosystem services. Wetland ecosystem services are those direct and indirect goods and services that wetlands provide just by existing within a dynamic community. Recently, efforts have been made to assign a dollar value to the ecological services provided to society by wetlands. What is the Value of a Wetland? One of the economically valuable roles wetlands play is pollutant filtration. As an example, a bottomland hardwood swamp in South Carolina was… Read More →

Texas Mitigation Banking

Mitigation Banks in Texas There are two types of mitigation banks in Texas: wetland and stream mitigation banks regulated by the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and species conservation banks regulated by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Both types of banks are permanently protected and exist to replace natural resource values that are lost at an offsite location to development activity. The values of the natural resources replaced at a bank are quantified as a “credit”, which can be sold to developers to offset natural… Read More →

Development in Wetlands

Permit Planning The Galveston District covers 48 counties and 2 parishes in Texas and Louisiana.  The US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) makes the official determination whether a property has a wetland, known as a jurisdictional determination.  If USACE determines there are jurisdictional waters on your property, you will likely need either a nationwide permit, a regional general permit, a letter of permission, or a standard permit in order to develop in or place discharges into those waters of the US. Many permittees utilize the services of an… Read More →

Wetland Types on the Upper Texas Coast

The following is a short summary of the major types of upper Texas Coastal Wetlands: Estuarine or Tidal Fringe Wetlands: vegetated marshes and unvegetated mud and sand flats found in open saltwater of bays and the Gulf, along the bay side of barrier islands, and a few miles inland along major river systems that drain into the Gulf. Home to wading birds, shorebirds, water fowl, American alligator, fish, snakes, turtles, frogs, muskrats, nutria, rabbits, bobcats, coyotes, raccoons, skunks, mink and river otters. The wetlands are threatened by land… Read More →

Forested Wetlands of the Piney Woods

The Piney Woods The Piney Woods ecoregion and its associated forested wetlands is made up of pine or mixed pine-hardwood forests interspersed with small farms and ranches. It occurs north of Houston and extends eastward to Louisiana and northward to Oklahoma and is higher in elevation that the Gulf Coast prairies and marshes. Its ridges and upland areas are dominated by loblolly, shortleaf, and occasionally longleaf pines while its bottomland areas contain hardwoods such as oak, sweetgum, and elm. Where the Piney Woods ecoregion and the upper Texas… Read More →

Change in Texas Land Use

Loss of Working Land in Texas According to Texas Land Trends, ninety-five percent of land in Texas is privately owned. Private farm, ranch, and forest land comprised 83% or 142 million acres of the state land base. Driven by population growth, working lands are rapidly being converted to non-agricultural uses. Texas leads the nation in loss of working land acreage: between 1982 and 2010, Texas lost 4.1 million acres of working lands to urban uses. Texas’ population grew by 500,000 new residents each year between 1997 and 2012…. Read More →

Status of Wetlands in Texas

Wetlands in the Conterminous US Wetlands are surveyed nationally on a 5-year cycle by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). The most recent survey estimated that the continental United States has around 110 million acres of wetlands. This showed a decline in the nation’s wetland acreage, with a net loss of 62,300 acres of wetlands. The greatest losses were experienced in freshwater wetlands on the Atlantic and Gulf coastal plain of the southeast United States, including coastal Texas. Wetlands in the Coastal Watersheds of the Conterminous US… Read More →

Coastal Prairie and Pothole Wetlands

The Gulf Coast Plain is characterized by prairies laced with bayous and rivers flowing toward the Gulf of Mexico. Along the coast, barrier islands and estuarine salt grass marshes protected the inland from storm damage and served as nurseries for birds, fish and crustaceans. Low-lying bottomland along rivers and bayous developed rare woodland ecosystems, while tallgrass prairies, pothole wetlands, and oak groves dominated upland areas. Prairie pothole wetlands once covered vast expanses (about 25% to 30%) of the Texas coastal prairie. These shallow dish-shaped depressions regularly dry out… Read More →