The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently announced a national effort to assess the health of the nation’s wetlands.
The National Wetlands Condition Assessment (NWCA) is a collaboration between EPA and its state, tribal, and federal partners representing the first-ever national field survey on the health of the nation’s wetlands. More than 1,000 sites across the country, including wetlands just south Hilmar near Great Valley Grasslands State Park, are being surveyed to assess indicators of wetland health, including water quality and flow, vegetation and soils. NCWA sampling will include 42 locations in California during the next two months.
The NCWA is part of the Clean Water Act.
“Wetlands filter pollution, and protect communities from flooding while providing habitat for fish, fowl and flora,” said Alexis Strauss, EPA’s water division director for the Pacific Southwest. “The draft Clean Water Act guidance will reaffirm our intent to protect these vital and vanishing resources to the fullest extent of the law, while providing greater clarity to the regulated public.”
Between 80 and 95 percent of California’s original wetlands and stream-side (“riparian”) habitats have been destroyed or modified.
For nearly 40 years, the Clean Water Act has been the basis of the EPA’s effort to ensure that Americans have clean and healthy waters. The draft guidance, part of the Obama administration's national clean water framework, implements recent Supreme Court decisions addressing what types of waters could be subject to traditional CWA protections. The framework outlines a series of actions across federal agencies to ensure the integrity of the waters Americans rely on every day for drinking, swimming, and fishing, and that support farming, recreation, tourism and economic growth.
The National Wetland Condition Assessment survey was designed by EPA’s Office of Research and Development and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It will use a probability-based model to estimate the health of aquatic resources consistently nation-wide to ensure that the results can be compared across the country.
Used along with similar surveys on the nation’s coastal waters, wadeable streams, rivers and lakes, the NWCA results are expected to better protect, maintain and restore the nation’s water quality and vanishing aquatic habitat.
The NCWA is expected to be completed in 2013 with a final report and peer review.
To contact Jonathan McCorkell, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.