Chesapeake Executive Council


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               Chesapeake Bay
               Wetlands Policy
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                     ,,fA 19107 f
         Agreement Commitment Report
                    December 1988

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   Chesapeake Bay
   Wetlands Policy
An Agreement Commitment Report from the
     Chesapeake Executive Council
                                 '. Protection Agenej
                                /matron Resource
                              .ji k-eet
                              .3, PA 19107
        Annapolis, Maryland
          December, 1988

                              ADOPTION  STATEMENT
       We, the undersigned, adopt the Chesapeake Bay Wetlands Policy, in fulfillment of
 Living Resources Commitment Number 5 of the 1987 Chesapeake Bay Agreement:

       "...by December 1988, to develop a Bay-wide policy for the protection
       of tidal and non-tidal wetlands."

       The Policy establishes an immediate goal of no net loss with a long-term goal of a
 "net resource gain".  The gain of wetland acreage and function over present day conditions
 serves as a means of recovering the values of wetlands already lost  over years of inadequate
 protection. These values include not only traditional habitat values for breeding, spawning,
 nesting and wintering of living resources but also benefits in water quality, flood protection,
 and the regional economy.

      The Policy addresses the protection  and restoration of both  tidal and non-tidal wet-
 lands through several elements, each with attendant policy goals and specific action items.
 The elements comprise a comprehensive wetland protection strategy addressing regulator)'
 and other management mechanisms required to improve current practices. These ele-
 ments address policies for managing direct and indirect wetland impacts through education
 and training activities, monitoring, research, private sector incentives, land acquisition,
 regulatory improvements, and mitigation practices.

      We recognize the values that wetlands provide to the overall health of the Bay and
 the quality of life afforded to the citizens of the area and therefore support the Policy goals
 outlined in this document. Further, we agree to commit the necessary funding and
resources to carry out the implementation of the Policy.

      We direct the Living Resources Subcommittee to prepare an annual report on the
status of these implementation programs and the effectiveness of the Policy goals in achiev-
ing protection and restoration of Chesapeake Bay wetlands.
 For the Commonwealth of Virginia

 For the State of Maryland

 For the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
 For the United States of America
 For the District of Columbia
 For the Chesapeake Bay Commission


      Wetlands within the Chesapeake Bay watershed lie within the transition areas
between better drained, rarely flooded uplands and permanently flooded deep waters of
streams, rivers, ponds, lakes and coastal embayments.  Two basic wetland types, coastal
and inland, occupy about three percent of the Chesapeake Bay drainage area or
approximately 1.2 million acres. Over 80 percent  of these wetlands are inland and the
remainder are coastal wetlands. Coastal wetlands consist largely of tidal marshes and
mud flats found along the margins of tidal rivers and saltwater embayments. These
areas are periodically flooded by salt or brackish water.  Inland wetlands within the
region are predominantly forested wetlands, followed by shrub and emergent wetlands,
most of which are nontidal or not affected by ocean-driven  tides.

      Wetlands are  of importance to the protection and maintenance of living resources
associated with the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem as  they provide essential breeding,
spawning, nesting and wintering habitats for a major portion of the region's fish and
wildlife, including migratory birds, endangered species and commercially and
recreationally important wildlife.

      Wetlands are  an important part of the cultural, ecological and economic  heritage
of the Chesapeake Bay region.   Wetlands play a vital and significant role  in maintaining
the quality  of life through material contributions to: the  water quality of the region; the
regional economy; food supply  and fish and wildlife resources.

      Wetlands protect the quality of surface waters through retarding the erosive
forces of moving water, trapping waterborne sediment and associated pollutants.
Wetlands also protect regional water supplies by facilitating the purification of surface
and groundwater resources.  Wetlands play a crucial role in maintaining critical base
flow to  surface waters through the gradual release of stored flood waters and
groundwater, particularly during periods of drought. Wetlands provide a natural means
of flood control and  storm damage protection through the absorption and storage of
water during high runoff periods and through the  reduction of flood crests,  thereby
protecting against the loss of life and  property.

      Chesapeake Bay Wetlands are recognized as some of the most important wetland
areas in the United States and  have received worldwide  recognition as "Wetlands of
International Importance Especially as Waterfowl  Habitat" under the 45 nation  Ramsar
Convention treaty.

      The Chesapeake Bay watershed experienced substantial losses of wetlands
between the mid-1950's and late 1970's. Annual losses averaged over 2,800 acres.  Tidal
marshes declined by  about nine percent, whereas  nontidal vegetated wetlands fell by six
percent. Wetland losses continue to occur as a result of anthropogenic impacts and
natural  causes.

      It is the intent of the Chesapeake Executive Council to set forth policies in this
document to guide the development and implementation of a comprehensive strategy for
the protection and management of all wetlands within the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

      The goal of the wetland protection and management strategy is to achieve a net
resource gain in wetland acreage and function over present conditions by:

      (1)    protecting  existing wetlands; and

      (2)    rehabilitating degraded wetlands, restoring former wetlands, and creating
             artificial wetlands.

      The policies set forth in this document are organized into four major focus areas,
each of which must be incorporated within a comprehensive strategy if that strategy is to
result in definitive progress toward the net resource gain goal.

      Within each of the  four focus areas, specific policy statements have been made to
guide the  development of  the comprehensive strategy.  Specific actions, associated with a
policy (or group  of policies), are considered fundamental to successful achievement of
the goal.  The signatories  are committed to seeking the necessary authority and funding
to carry out these actions,  including the enactment and improvement, in all jurisdictions,
of laws  and regulations to  protect nontidal wetlands.

      As a first step, implementation plans for each of the four focus areas will be
adopted by June 30,  1990. These four implementation plans, taken as an integrated
whole, will form the  comprehensive strategy for wetland protection and management.

      Tracking progress toward the net resource gain goal requires the establishment of
an effective means of monitoring wetland distribution by type, acreage, and function.
Furthermore, effective resource protection and management is predicated both on the
availability of information regarding wetland status and trends and the  ability to identify
and monitor specific wetland areas. This information base is critical to monitor the
overall program, direct and target resource protection and management actions, and
support essential research and education efforts.

      For the purposes of measuring the progress  toward a net resource gain in wetland
acreage, and  to develop a meaningful inventory to  guide wetland management, a
comprehensive description of the resource is required.  For such purposes, identification
should encompass the variety of conditions that typify wetland ecosystems.   This
inventory should be consistent with the identification approach used by the  U. S. Fish &
Wildlife Service, which has begun extensive wetland identification.

      Consequently, for the purpose of developing a Bay-wide inventory, identification
should be based on this description:
             Wetlands are lands transitional between terrestrial and
             aquatic systems where the water table is usually at or near
             the surface or the land is covered by shallow water.  For
             purposes of classification, wetlands must have one or more of
             the following three attributes:  (1) at least periodically, the
             land  supports predominantly hydrophytes; (2)  the substrate is
             predominantly undrained hydric soil; and (3) the substrate is
             non-soil and is saturated with water or covered by shallow
             water at some time during the growing season of each year.


      o      The signatories shall  collectively design and institute a wetland resource
             monitoring strategy which will provide for a continuing quantitative
             evaluation of wetland distribution and functional characteristics.


      Formulate and begin execution of a comprehensive inventory, mapping, and
monitoring plan which, at a minimum, includes:

      o      A cooperative, comprehensive mapping of all  wetland areas at a time
             interval  of not less than every ten years.

      o      A statistically valid status and trends analysis every five years.


o     A continuing cumulative impact assessment.

o     A monitoring program for existing wetlands sites of various types within
      selected physiographic regions to quantify functions and values and
      document changes occurring over time within these systems.

o     A monitoring program for invasive or exotic species and appropriate
      control methods.

o     A regional data base of permitted activities.

      Central to a strategy to achieve a net resource gain in wetland acreage and
function must be strong programs to hold the line by protecting existing functioning
wetlands.  The underlying principle behind this wetland protection is the need to  control
direct, indirect and cumulative impacts which result in losses of wetland acreage or
function.  Guided by this principle, various tools, including, but not limited to, regulation
and protection standards, incentives, and land acquisition, should be used to protect

      Impacts may result from direct and indirect alterations to a wetland, cumulative
alterations within the wetland, or from natural causes.  Controlling the type, extent,
intensity and duration of impacts which  alter wetlands will further  other efforts to
reduce nutrients in the Chesapeake Bay and restore and  protect its living resources.


      o      The signatories to  this agreement will use existing programs and develop
             new programs to limit permanent and irreversible, direct and indirect
             impacts to wetlands. Only in rare instances will losses of wetland acreage
             or function be allowed or  considered justifiable.

      o      The signatories to  this agreement will minimize indirect alterations  within
             the watershed which have  the potential to adversely impact wetlands.

      o      The signatories will implement management practices designed to reduce
             cumulative wetland losses.


      o      The signatories agree to incorporate the principle of wetlands protection
             and the management of other sensitive Chesapeake Bay living resource
             habitats into the various strategies, policies  and guidelines which will result
             from the  Population Growth and Development Commitments of the 1987
             Bay Agreement.

      o      To eliminate or minimize  indirect impacts to wetlands,  the signatories will
             coordinate permitting and management programs and the use of protective
             buffers and other techniques which serve to maintain important functional
             characteristics of wetlands.

      o      The signatories agree to develop a Bay-wide planning process for wetlands
             with the goal of protecting wetlands and associated resources through
             innovative land use controls.
Regulatory and Protection Standards

      Existing regulatory standards and other programs at the federal and state level do
not adequately protect existing wetlands from individual and cumulative losses in
acreage and function.

      This is particularly the  situation for nontidal wetlands.  Some of these areas may
be difficult to identify, as surface water or saturated soils may not be evident throughout
the growing season.  The following characteristics reflect the features of vegetated
nontidal wetlands:

      o     Areas that are inundated or saturated by surface or groundwater.

      o     Areas where a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in
             saturated soil conditions exists.

      o     Areas where hydric soils are present as defined by the National Technical
             Committee for Hydric Soils.


      The signatories will, at a minimum, implement protection standards for those
areas and activities not adequately protected under federal law and programs. These
protection standards will address, but not be limited to:  enforcement, buffers, protection
of basic wetland functions, "best management practices," alternative actions, and
water-dependent uses.


      o     Review the effectiveness of existing regulatory programs and recommend
             corrective actions to honor the policy commitment and  monitor and revise
             such programs as necessary over time.

      o     Where not otherwise in place, develop a projected implementation
             schedule by June 1990 to establish protection standards which honor the
             policy commitment.

      o      Cooperatively develop a process to identify and protect wetland areas of
             special concern, and consider, where appropriate, the institution of
             procedures under Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act.

      o      Work toward the  development of  a single Bay-wide field manual for the
             delineation of vegetated nontidal wetlands.

      o      Develop a guidance document for the regulatory and protection standards.


      The Chesapeake Executive Council recognizes that regulatory programs alone
cannot be relied upon to achieve comprehensive protection of wetlands. Hence,
incentives aimed at the private  sector will be developed to complement  and reinforce
these regulatory programs. In addition, programmatic inconsistencies or incentives
within the state and federal government which directly or indirectly contribute to
wetland losses will be eliminated or reduced.


      o      The signatories will collectively develop and execute a range of private
             sector incentive programs which support wetland protection.

      o      Government sanctioned programs which are counterproductive to wetland
             protection will be eliminated whenever possible.


      Formulate and begin execution of an incentive policy implementation plan which,
at a minimum, includes:

      o      Identifying state and federal programs or policies which result in wetland
             losses and correcting program  deficiencies.

      o      Enhancing  existing incentive programs to encourage wetland protection.

      o      Creating new incentive programs to encourage wetland protection.

      o      Investigating the use of penalties or other disincentives to  reduce wetland

Land Acquisition

      The Chesapeake Executive Council recognizes the important role that acquisition
can play in a comprehensive wetlands protection program.  The council also recognizes
that limited funding requires a strategy for targeting the acquisition of wetlands for the
purpose of preserving the public's use and enjoyment of wetland resources.  Acquisition
may be necessary to protect significant  educational, scientific, or ecologic values, or
where wetlands provide some broader public use including maintaining open space and
providing recreation opportunities.


      o     The signatories will identify priority areas for wetland preservation.

      o     The signatories will provide for acquisition of lands for the purpose of
             protecting significant wetland values or the public's right to use and enjoy
             wetlands where such lands are a part of acquisition programs administered
             by public agencies.


      o     Develop a strategic plan for land acquisition which includes wetlands and
             appropriate adjacent uplands and aquatic areas as a part  of new or
             ongoing public acquisition programs.

                          AND  CREATING  WETLANDS
      The signatories will not attain a net resource gain in wetland acreage and
function by protecting existing wetlands alone. Efforts must be made to build the base
by rehabilitating degraded wetlands, restoring former wetlands, and creating productive
new artificial wetlands.  While mitigation will play a large  role here, incentives and land
acquisition are important and useful tools for building the  base of functioning wetlands.

      Mitigation is the sequential process of avoiding, minimizing, rectifying, reducing
over time, or compensating for wetlands losses. The sequence in which mitigation
procedures are considered and applied in practice is  crucial to realizing the signatories'
protection and management strategy.  The Chesapeake Executive Council recognizes
that compensatory mitigation (generally involving construction of replacement wetlands)
must not substitute for efforts to avoid or minimize losses or prejudice an agency
determination affecting wetlands.


      o      Mitigation will be included for any project conducted by or subject to
             review or approval by the signatories.

      o      Compensatory mitigation shall proceed from the  presumption that
             "in-kind, on-site" is the preferred solution.  Other solutions, including
             off-site and out-of-kind mitigation, will  only be allowed when acceptable to
             public/government agencies and performed in the context of watershed
             management planning or other specific objectives.

      o      The Signatories shall require that compensatory mitigation projects,
             incorporate public or private arrangements for long-term management.

      o      Compensation projects will generally be designed and evaluated
             cooperatively among project sponsors, the signatories, and appropriate
             public and private entities.

      o      Monitoring and evaluation of the success of compensatory mitigation
             replacement projects shall be  incorporated by the signatories as a
             fundamental part of the mitigation process.


      o     The federal signatory, in consultation with appropriate governmental
             agencies, will develop updated standards and criteria in compliance with
             the overall wetland protection goals and specific mitigation policies
             incorporating state-of-the-art technological, ecological and biological

       Since mitigation arises from the unavoidable loss of wetlands, it alone can not be
relied upon to build the base of functioning wetlands.  Incentives aimed at the private
sector  should be developed to encourage rehabilitation, restoration, and creation of


       The signatories will collectively develop and execute a range of private sector
incentive programs which encourage rehabilitation, restoration, and creation of wetlands.

       Formulate and begin execution of an incentive policy implementation plan which,
at a minimum, includes:

       o     Enhancing existing incentive programs to encourage the rehabilitation,
             restoration and  creation of wetlands.

       o     Creating new incentive programs to encourage rehabilitation, restoration,
             and creation of wetlands.
Land Acquisition

       To further increase the net resource base beyond that achieved through
compensatory mitigation requirements, the signatories will develop acquisition plans
which support wetlands  rehabilitation, restoration and creation.


       o     The signatories will facilitate acquisition of lands for wetland
             rehabilitation, restoration, and creation projects beyond that achieved
             through compensatory mitigation.


o      Develop criteria for the identification of areas where rehabilitation,
       restoration and creation projects can be undertaken.

o      Develop a plan for the acquisition of land and property interests in areas
       where wetlands, rehabilitation, restoration and creation projects will be

      The ultimate success of the comprehensive strategy for wetlands protection and
management will depend on the depth and breadth of our vision. Research is essential
if we are to refine our knowledge of wetland values and improve our ability to protect
and manage these resources.  Education builds the necessary public support for resource
protection as well as ensuring the efficient implementation of wetland protection

      The Chesapeake Executive Council recognizes that wetland protection depends
upon public awareness of wetland values and management needs and upon landowner
support for protection policies.  Furthermore, appropriate technical training must be
made available to resource managers and to private sector interests who are charged
with implementing specific wetland protection practices.


      The signatories will develop and maintain on-going education and training
programs, technical assistance services,  and  wetland data base systems to improve our
understanding of wetland values, functions, management techniques, status, and trends.


      Formulate and begin execution of an education plan which, at a minimum,

      o     A current information program available to the public on the values of and
             need to protect wetlands.

      o     Development of a Bay-wide library system and data base for wetland

      o     Technical training programs for government representatives, consultants,
             land developers and interested parties in the areas of wetland
             identification, delineation, functional assessment, and mitigation practices.

      o      Development of technical assistance programs to support local government
             protection efforts, including mapping, management programs, model
             ordinances, etc.

      o      Development of wetland curricula for academic institutions.
Scientific Research

      The Chesapeake Executive Council is aware of the role which scientific research
plays in determining the effectiveness of current management practices as well as the
potential for using research findings to improve management techniques and the general
need for better understanding of how natural changes to wetlands may necessitate
appropriate management responses.


      o     The signatories to this agreement will, to the extent possible, facilitate  the
             undertaking of research projects which have the potential to improve
             wetland management.

      o     The signatories will evaluate and adjust their wetland management
             practices and regulatory standards such that they reflect principles
             validated through scientific research.


      The signatories will collectively update a prioritized listing and description of
those research projects which offer significant opportunities for improving wetland
management practices.  At a minimum, the research plan shall consider the following:

      o     Continued research of basic wetland structure and function.

      o     Research to quantify the relationship between upland, wetland, and aquatic
             natural processes including chemical, ecological, geomorphological and
             hydrological processes in various watersheds.

o     Evaluation of the potential individual and cumulative effects the following
      factors have upon wetlands including:

                   Current "best management practices" designed to reduce
                   nutrient and sediment loads to wetlands.

                   Alteration of the land/water interface.

                   Increased boating activity.

                   Shallow water dredging impacts on biologic and hydrologic
                   functions  of wetlands.

                   Structural shore erosion practices.

                   Stormwater management practices.

o     Evaluation of the design, effectiveness and success of artificial wetlands
      including those developed for:

                   Compensatory mitigation.

                   Wildlife and waterfowl  improvement projects.

                   Non-structural shore  erosion control.

                   Stormwater management.

                   Acid  mine drainage reduction.

                   Wastewater treatment.

o     Comparison of natural  and artificial wetlands.

o     Research on the potential mitigative  measures which could be used to
      counteract wetland losses due to acid rain, sediment starvation, sea level
      rise, and invasion of exotic species.

o     Studies investigating the feasibility  and effects of wetlands created for
      Stormwater management upon other wetland functions, particularly with
      regard to fish and wildlife habitat and trophic structure and support.