Note: Most states have enacted laws and regulations to protect wetlands. In many cases, these rules are established to define the state's role in the "§404 permit/§401 certification process." This process involves the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and your state environmental agency. To learn more about the wetlands permitting process go to the CICA Wetlands Regulations/Permit page.
How Are Wetlands Activities Regulated by Alaska? The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, (COE) Alaska District, and EPA administers the Clean Water Act Section 404 Permitting Program. Over 80% of all actions subject to Section 404 are authorized by the COE via general permits. which authorize categories of activities to proceed without an individual permit application. General permits allow actions with minimal impacts to proceed with little if any administrative burden. This allows regulators and others to concentrate attention on activities with potential for significant impacts. At present, there are 36 nationwide general permits that authorize such activities as placement of out fall structures, road crossings, utility line backfill, boat ramps, farm buildings, and minor discharges. If an activity does have significant impacts it must undergo a more extensive regulatory review. At this point wetlands are regulated mainly through the 404 process. ADEC's goal is to provide a more scientific and regionally based, rapid assessment tool, through the HGM methodology. Wetlands found in coastal areas are protected under the Alaska Coastal Management Program. The Division of Governmental Coordination ensures that all state resource agencies that could be impacted by the proposed use of a coastal area find the applicant's proposal consistent with the Coastal Management Program. Wetlands are managed to assure adequate water flow, nutrients, and oxygen levels and avoid adverse effects on natural drainage patterns, the destruction of important habitat, and the discharge of toxic substances. Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) statutes and regulations regarding water quality are incorporated into the Alaska Coastal Management Program.
Mitigation Measures. he Corps mitigates wetland impacts whenever possible. Most mitigation in Alaska is achieved by avoiding or minimizing impacts, but on occasion compensatory mitigation is required. Compensatory mitigation, or requiring an applicant to replace affected wetlands as a condition of a permit, usually occurs only when the most fragile wetland acres are disturbed. In 1999, the Corps received requests for using 2,212 acres of wetlands and granted permits for 2,059, of which 638 acres required wetland mitigation. See: http://www.hq.usace.army.mil/cepa/releases/Alaska.htm.
Wetlands. State wetlands covers both freshwater and saltwater wetlands. Freshwater wetlands are "environments characterized by rooted vegetation which is partially submerged either continuously or periodically by surface freshwater with less than .5 parts per thousand salt content and not exceeding three meters in depth." Saltwater wetlands are coastal areas along sheltered shorelines characterized by halophilic hydrophytes and macroalgae extending from extreme low tide to an area above extreme high tide which is influenced by sea spray or tidally induced water table exchanges.
Regulated Wetland Activities. The placement of structures and the discharge of dredged and fill material into coastal waters must, at a minimum, meet the standards set in 33 C.F.R. 320-323.
Water Environment Federation. The WEF Web site provides access to a wetlands related technical discussion area, as well as publications and other information on wetlands.
Wetlands Regulation Center. The Wetlands Regulation Center Web site contains information on laws, policies and regulations concerning activities regulated under Sections 401 and 404 of the Clean Water Act.
Association of State Wetland Managers. The Association of State Wetland Managers Web site provides information on wetlands news and events, including new regulations/legislation, upcoming conferences and events, publications, and more.
Society of Wetland Scientists. The Society of Wetland Scientists Web site provides access to on-line scientific wetlands journals and a wetlands discussion forum, as well as information on upcoming wetlands conferences and events.
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