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Wetland Monitoring

 

Monitoring crew in the field
WSDOT wetland monitoring crew


Monitoring WSDOT Wetland Mitigation Sites

State and federal regulatory agencies typically require monitoring for 10 or more years to insure that a mitigation site starts off well, and replaces the lost functions and wetland area. Agencies require objectives and performance standards in the mitigation report that specify how the mitigation site should look and function at the end of the monitoring period. Construction and subsequent management of mitigation sites is the responsibility of the WSDOT region or mode. In order to provide objectivity and consistent expertise, WSDOT has developed a Monitoring Team based in the HQ office to evaluate how each site is doing each year compared to its performance standards. Each year, the monitoring team develops a monitoring plan designed to collect data to evaluate the performance standards for each site.


Starting to Monitor a Mitigation Site 

Region mitigation staff should notify the Monitoring Team before or during construction so that the Monitoring Manager can plan for the work load for the following field season. Some mitigation sites require pre-construction monitoring. This is also important if any hydrology monitoring is required, because the best time for observations is often March/April, before the first summer monitoring.

As construction of mitigation sites is completed, WSDOT Regions provide key pieces of information to the Monitoring Team before monitoring begins. This information includes:

  • Final Mitigation Report (and any revisions) 
  • As-Built Plans 
  • Permits (and addenda) 
  • Right-of-Way Plan 
  • Fence/Gate Access 
  • Critical Safety Information 
  • Spatial Information for Original Design polygons (delineation of existing on-site wetlands)
  • Site Protection Plan for cultural resources

WSDOT wetland mitigation site managers coordinate with the Monitoring Team to schedule a site visit (usually in February to April) before any monitoring activities. Someone familiar with the site answers questions about site boundaries, zone boundaries, performance standards, and problems encountered during construction. Safe site access and on-site safety are important topics during this visit. 

Monitoring Approach and Methods

For sites with current year performance standards (typically years 1, 3, 5, 7, and 10), a sampling plan is developed to guide collection of quantitative data.  Sites without current year performance standards (typically years 2, 4, 6, 8, and 9), are evaluated qualitatively for the upcoming performance standards.

A specific monitoring  plan is developed each year based on each site's performance criteria and current development. WSDOT wetland monitoring methods (pdf 98 kb) are used to collect data on factors specific to each site's performance criteria. These may include vegetation, wildlife, benthic-macroinvertebrates, soil, and water. A photographic record is compiled for each site.

Wetland Monitoring Internship

WSDOT monitoring staff are assisted in the field by students in the Wetland Monitoring Internship each summer.

Coordinating with Region Site Managers 

To promote adaptive site management, site managers coordinate with the Monitoring Team in the following ways.

  1. Coordinate Schedules: In spring, the Monitoring Manager sends the proposed summer fieldwork schedule to site managers. They coordinate so that management and monitoring activities do not to interfere with each other. For example, weed-spraying activities should not be conducted just before the Monitoring Team visit.
  2. Provide Management Activities: Site managers document management activities to the Monitoring Team. This information is provided to include in the annual monitoring report and aids in the adaptive site management process because the Monitoring Team can provide feedback on the effectiveness of those activities.
  3. Feedback: The Monitoring Team will report any emerging problems to the site manager as soon as possible. For example, if the Monitoring Team sees invasive weed species, then they will notify the site manager so that weed control can take place before the weeds proliferate.

Annual Wetland Monitoring Reports 

After field work, quantitative data goes through a quality check process and reports for sites with are written. The Wetland Monitoring Reports are sent to those on the Monitoring Report Distribution List provided by the site managers.

A report is not published for those sites that do not have performance standards that apply to the current monitoring year.  A feedback e-mail is sent to site managers.

When does WSDOT stop monitoring a wetland mitigation site?

At the end of the specified monitoring period, when monitoring staff document that the required wetland area has been provided and the performance standards have been met we request concurrence from regulators that we have met our permit obligations.  Qualitative monitoring continues until WSDOT receives a release from further monitoring or a notification that the permit obligations have been completed.

What are WSDOT’s long-term responsibilities for mitigation sites?

Most of WSDOT’s mitigation reports prior to 2008 state that the mitigation site is owned by WSDOT, and will remain in state ownership in perpetuity. In some cases WSDOT has other interest in a mitigation site (easement, partnership). In other cases, WSDOT conveys ownership and remaining obligations to a non-profit land stewardship organization after our permit obligations have been met. For the remaining mitigation sites, the long-term obligation is either transferred to the Maintenance Division, or managed by Environmental Division remediation crews.

For mitigation sites permitted after 2008, the federal rule (pdf 568 kb) requires that funding for long-term management be specified and documented prior to issuing the permit.