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Section 404 of the Clean Water Act

National Guidance: Wetlands and Non-Point Source Control (1990)

Acknowledgments: Special recognition goes to the primary authors: Beverly Ethridge with the nonpoint source program in Region 4 (Water Division) and John Maxted with the wetlands program in Headquarters (Office of Wetlands Protection). Valuable assistance and advice was provided by the Regional nonpoint source and wetland program staffs.

Table of Contents

1. Executive Summary
3.1 General
3.2 Background - NPS and Wetland Programs
3.3 Funding
4.1 Wetlands as "Waters of the U.S."
4.2 Wetland Functions and Values
4.3 Water Quality Functions of Wetlands
4.4 Restoration, Enhancement and Creation
4.5 Monitoring
5.1 General
5.2 Technical Criteria for Developing Wetland Activities
5.3 Example Activities
7.1 NPS and Wetland Programs
7.2 Federal Agencies
Appendix - Definitions


This document was developed jointly by the Headquarters and Regional nonpoint source (NPS) and wetland programs within EPA. This coordinated effort was designed to achieve the primary objective of enhancing the integration of these two programs as they develop over the next several years. It is hoped that the States and EPA Regions will take advantage of the many opportunities that are available for these programs to assist each other in the management of their respective programs.

Wetlands, as "waters of the U.S.", are afforded protection under the many provisions of the Clean Water Act. Section 319 provides a framework for coordinating NPS pollution control and wetlands protection. Under Section 319, States identify NPS impacts to all "waters of the U.S.", including wetlands, while EPA funds activities to protect and restore wetlands that are themselves threatened or impaired by NPS pollution or that play a role in achieving NPS control objectives. In addition, the information collected under Section 319 can assist Federal and State wetland programs to protect and enhance the water quality functions of wetlands through permit reviews, Section 401 certification and other mechanisms.

Certain wetlands provide water quality functions that benefit other surface waters such as rivers, lakes, and estuaries. This document provides guidance on how State NPS programs can use the protection of existing wetlands and the restoration of previously lost or degraded wetlands to meet the water quality objectives of adjacent or downstream waterbodies. Given the extensive losses of wetlands that have occurred over the last several years, there are many opportunities for wetland restoration projects to help achieve NPS control objectives. In addition, the guidance encourages States to collect information and develop methodologies for improving their assessments of NPS impacts to wetlands. Finally, this document provides technical criteria for developing coordinated wetland/NPS activities. Specific examples are presented for projects that may be supported and funded by both the NPS and wetlands programs. The document thus provides a framework for coordinating program activities while giving the States flexibility in developing specific procedures and programs.

/S/ Martha Prothro, Director Office of Water Regulations and Standards

/S/ David G. Davis, Director Office of Wetlands Protection


The objective of this document is to provide information and guidance on the coordination of State and Federal NPS control and wetland programs and the implementation of activities that can benefit both programs. It describes several opportunities for the transfer of data and other information between these two programs. State NPS programs can direct the control of NPS discharges to wetlands and generate data and information on wetlands that provide water quality benefits. Wetland programs can provide data and information on wetlands to NPS programs and use the information generated from the NPS program to protect and restore wetlands through regulatory and non-regulatory actions.


2.1 General

Our understanding of the many benefits that wetlands provide to mankind and the environment has evolved rapidly over the last 20 to 30 years. During this time, programs have been developed to restore and protect wetland resources at the local, State, and Federal levels of government. Recently at the Federal level, the President of the United States established the goal of "no net loss" of wetlands, adapted from the National Wetlands Policy Forum recommendations (Conservation Foundation). Since all types of surface waters, including wetlands, are impacted by nonpoint source (NPS) pollution and since many wetlands help protect the water quality of other surface waters, the coordination of the wetlands and NPS control programs can help achieve this goal.

The objective of the Clean Water Act (CWA) is to "restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation's waters." Wetlands, along with rivers, lakes, and estuaries, are "waters of the U.S.", and a valuable natural resource to be protected from point and NPS pollution. Wetlands provide many functions and values. The wildlife support function is often the most easily recognized and appreciated. However, wetlands also provide functions that benefit adjacent or downstream waterbodies that are much less obvious. These include flood attenuation, erosion control and water quality benefits. The functions and values of the Nation's wetlands should be restored and maintained to meet the overall objectives of the Clean Water Act.

Nonpoint source pollution accounts for well over half of all impairments to water quality standards in rivers and lakes and an estimated 45 percent of impairment in estuaries (USEPA, 1986). Nonpoint source pollution from a wide range of activities, including agriculture (row crops, grazing etc.), forestry, poorly sited and maintained septic systems, resource extraction (e.g. mining), construction, urban runoff and hydrologic modifications, contaminates the Nation's surface and groundwater.

The protection of wetlands and the abatement of NPS pollution are high priority EPA activities supported by Sections 404 and 319 of the CWA, respectively. The link between land and water that wetlands provide inexorably links these two programs together. As these programs evolve over the next several years, there will be many opportunities for the NPS and wetland programs to work together to achieve common goals.

This document presents a framework for the coordination of the wetlands and NPS programs. The NPS program can help to identify impacts to wetlands caused by NPS pollution and identify areas where wetlands protection and restoration will benefit water quality. Wetland programs, including the Federal Section 404 permit program, State Certification of Federal permits under Section 401 of the CWA, and State wetland permit programs, can help to protect and restore those wetlands that may provide water quality benefits through regulatory and non-regulatory actions. An important step in the coordination of these two programs involves the personal communication between the professionals within these two programs, both at the Federal and State levels of government. This document is designed to encourage this communication.

2.2 Background - NPS and Wetland Programs

Section 319 of the CWA is a comprehensive program designed to provide a framework for the diverse patchwork of Federal and State programs available to control NPS pollution. EPA's NPS program is administered by the Office of Water Regulations and Standards and is represented by personnel in Headquarters (NPS Control Branch) and the Regions (NPS coordinators).

Section 319(a) requires States to perform NPS assessments of navigable waters of the U.S.. This includes the identification of impaired and threatened waters and the activities causing impairment. Where the State fails to complete the assessment, EPA becomes responsible for completing the assessment. Section 319(b) requires States to develop management programs that identity controls and programs necessary to address impairments identified in State assessment reports. Both the NPS assessment reports and management programs are subject to EPA approval and oversight.

There is also a diverse collection of Federal, State, and local programs designed to manage the Nation's wetland resources. The Section 404 program, administered by the Corps of Engineers (COE) and EPA, regulates discharges of dredged or fill material into "waters of the U.S.". In addition, many States, particularly coastal States, have their own wetland regulatory programs. The wetland programs within EPA primarily carries out its responsibilities under Section 404 while promoting other regulatory and non-regulatory activities related to wetlands protection. EPA's wetland program is administered in Headquarters by the Office of Wetlands Protection (the Regulatory Activities Division and the Wetlands Strategies and State Programs Division) and in the Regions (Division Directors, wetland coordinators and staff).

2.3 Funding Sources

The activities suggested in this guidance for coordinating the NPS and wetland programs can be funded by private parties as well as through a variety of local, State, and Federal funding mechanisms. Under the NPS control program, Section 319(h) authorizes Federal grants to States with approved assessment reports and management programs. These grants assist the States in implementing the NPS controls identified in their management programs. State grants can only be used to fund activities contained in EPA approved management programs. The EPA Office of Water has developed interim guidance on the allocation (USEPA, 1989) and management (USEPA, 1989) of these funds in FY 1990. EPA plans to develop further guidance for future fiscal years.

Under the wetlands programs, Federal grants are available under Section 104(b)(3) for the development of State wetland programs. Funds are currently available in FY1990 and additional funds are proposed for future fiscal years. The EPA Office of Wetlands Protection has developed guidance for this grant program (USEPA, 1989). The guidance identifies the integration of wetlands into State and NPS control programs as a suggested activity; see section titled "Integration of Wetlands Into Traditional Water/Natural Resource Programs."

In addition to the funds available directly through the NPS and wetland programs, the Clean Water Act establishes several mechanisms for obtaining Federal funds for wetland/NPS control activities. The EPA Office of Municipal Pollution Control has developed guidance on the Federal funds available under Titles II, III, and VI of the CWA to support nonpoint source, groundwater and wetlands activities (USEPA, 1989)


3.1 Wetlands as "Waters of the U.S."

Most wetlands are "waters of the U.S." and afforded protection under the various provisions of the CWA. The Federal definition of "waters of the U.S." is contained in Federal regulations developed for the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (40 CFR Part 122.2) and the Section 404 program (40 CFR Parts 230.3. and 232.2). These regulations also include specific definitions of "wetlands." Section 319(a) of the Act requires States to identify waters within the States, including wetlands, that will not attain or maintain water quality standards or the goal and requirements of the CWA due to NPS pollution.

Wetlands are an increasingly important water resource category in State water quality management programs. For example, several States are using their authorities under Section 401 of the CWA to deny or modify Federal permits and licenses for wetland fill that impact water quality (USEPA, 1989). Some States have included specific reference to wetlands in their water quality standards (USEPA, 1989) and others are developing additional elements of standards for wetlands. Several States reported on the status of their wetland resources in their Section 305(b) reports (USEPA, 1990). Several States, particularly States with permit programs for wetland fill activities, regularly trace the spatial extent of their wetland resource and conduct other monitoring activities. The Section 319 program should be consistent with these other program activities by recognizing wetlands as a major water resource to be protected.

State NPS assessments identify waterbodies impacted by NPS pollution and are used to target control efforts. Generally, State NPS assessment efforts have been hampered by inadequate data designed specifically to address NPS impacts to surface waters. Data on NPS impacts to wetlands is particularly lacking. State assessments are dynamic documents, and States are encouraged to update and revise them as part of their required updating of Section 305(b) reports. State Section 319 programs should continue to improve assessments of NPS impacts to "waters of the U.S." including wetlands.

State management programs should also ensure that NPS control activities do not adversely impact the functions and values of wetlands. Recognizing wetlands as a resource to be protected within Section 319 programs ensures that activities to control NPS pollution also protect and restore the functions and values of wetlands.

3.2 Wetland Functions and Values

The many functions and values that wetlands provide are well documented in the literature (Fish and Wildlife Service, 1984) The major functions can be divided into six major groups as shown below.

  • Water Quality Protection*
  • Flood Storage and Conveyance*
  • Erosion Control*
  • Groundwater Recharge/Discharge*
  • Fish and Wildlife Habitat*
  • Natural Products
  • Recreation and Aesthetics*

(* water quality or NPS related functions)

State assessment reports should strive to assess the impacts of NPS pollution on these functions and values, while activities to control NPS pollution identified in State management programs should be designed to protec and restore these functions and values.

3.3. Water Quality Functions of Wetlands

Certain wetlands may provide water quality functions that benefit adjacent and downstream waters. These wetlands may include for example, headwater wetlands that are upstream of rivers, lakes, estuaries or riparian complexes, or fringe wetlands adjacent to such waterbodies. The protection and restoration of the water quality functions of these wetlands may be an important component of State assessment reports and management programs.

It is well documented in the literature that vegetated buffers or filter strips along stream corridors and riparian areas provide a NPS control function by stabilizing banks, trapping sediments and nutrients and reducing peak flows. By storing waters within the watershed, wetlands connected to rivers and streams support flows during dry weather conditions, and thus help to support fish and aquatic life uses. The water quality benefits of wetlands are also well documented in the scientific literature (US Army, Corps of Engineers, 1986).

3.4 Restoration, Enhancement and Creation

State NPS control programs provide an opportunity to create, restore, and enhance wetland resources to benefit water quality. At the same time, NPS controls should not, in and of themselves, adversely impact existing wetland functions and values. The terms creation, restoration, and enhancement are defined in the Appendix. The following discussion provides a consistent basis for managing the expansion of wetland areas within the context of NPS control programs.

Where NPS control activities involve wetlands, a determination should first be made of the current and historic condition of the area where the proposed activity is to take place. If the area is currently a wetland, activities could occur to enhance water quality functions provided that all other wetland functions are maintained and protected. For example, sedimentation basins for NPS control should not be constructed in existing wetlands since such activity would impair the wildlife functions of the existing wetland. Sedimentation basins should be constructed in upland areas to protect the existing wetlands and other surface waters. Such activities may require a permit under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. If the area was historically a wetland, activities should restore wetlands to their original condition and function. NPS control activities in such areas should not be limited to the restoration of water quality functions. Lastly, if the area is generally persistent upland (i.e., neither a wetland or historic wetland area), activities to create wetlands to benefit water quality should attempt to simulate all the functions of natural wetlands. However, such projects may focus on water quality as do their projects involving the construction of treatment systems for point source control.

EPA's Office of Research and Development (ORD) has completed a comprehensive evaluation of the success of past efforts to create and restore wetlands (USEPA, 1989). A wide range of experiences are summarized for different wetland types and geographic regions. The document provides several recommendations for program managers involved in the creation or restoration of wetlands.

The ORD document emphasizes the importance of adequate hydrology to support wetland creation projects. The restoration of wetlands in areas that historically contained wetlands and continue to provide sufficient hydrology have the greatest probability of success. Wetlands created in areas that have not historically contained wetlands and where their is insufficient hydrology have a high probability of failure. NPS control programs should focus first on wetland restoration projects.

The creation of wetlands, even in areas that provide sufficient hydrology, can often involve considerable planning, design, engineering, and construction expense. On the other hand, the protection of wetlands that provide water quality functions may be a "low cost" NPS control by maintaining these areas as wetlands. Similarly, the restoration of wetlands may be a relatively "low cost" NPS control by allowing "natural" vegetation to be reestablished; e.g., establishment of filter strips or the plugging of drainage ditches. The Conservation Reserve provisions of the Food Security Act of 1985 (P.L. 99-198) is an example of a program that can provide extensive water quality benefits with limited engineering, design, and construction expense.

3.5 Monitoring

An effective monitoring program as part of NPS control programs is essential to track progress, develop and test technical procedures and promote public support and involvement. EPA guidance (USEPA, 1987) establishes monitoring as a high priority for the Section 319 program. The responsibility for monitoring within the context of wetlands and NPS control should be shared by both the wetland and water quality management (including NPS) programs.

States should continue to improve assessments of NPS impacts upon wetlands through their existing monitoring programs. Where a NPS activity is designed to protect wetlands or where the protection or restoration of wetlands is identified as a component of a NPS control program, monitoring should be conducted to ensure that the functions and values of wetlands are maintained and protected and that expected water quality improvements have resulted.

Monitoring within the context of wetlands and NPS control programs fall into three basic categories: (1) monitoring to identify NPS impacts to all wetlands, (2) monitoring of those wetlands that benefit water quality and how this wetland component is changing over time as a result of NPS control programs and (3) monitoring of waterbodies adjacent or downstream of wetlands and the correlation of water quality improvements in these waters to wetlands upstream within the watershed.

Monitoring of the quality of the Nation's wetland resource and potential NPS impacts is limited by the current scientific knowledge concerning indicators of wetland quality. For example, biological indicators of wetland quality have not been widely tested for wetlands and are generally not available. EPA National Guidance on the development of biological criteria (USEPA, 1990) provides the framework for the application of biological indicators to all waterbody types, including wetlands, and may in the long-term provide a sufficient basis for assessing NPS impacts to wetlands. However, in the near-term, surrogate measures of wetland quality may be used.

The spatial extent of the wetland resource may be a useful surrogate measure for assessing NPS impacts to wetlands (category #1 from above) and the effectiveness of controls designed to protect and restore wetlands that benefit water quality (category #2 from above). Since NPS activities can result in the physical loss of wetlands, through direct alterations (e.g., cultivation, ditching and drainage) or the discharge of NPS pollution (e.g., stormwater), tracking the spatial extent of the resource over time may identify nonpoint sources of pollution. Monitoring designed to evaluate the effectiveness of NPS controls involving the protection and restoration of wetlands may be focused either "on-the-ground" using available wetland delineation techniques based on soils, vegetation and hydrologic measurements or from a landscape perspective using available aerial photography and wetland map products.

In conjunction with spatial extent, the type and distribution of wetland vegetation may also be an effective surrogate measure of wetland quality. The use of wetland vegetation to identify nonpoint sources and monitor the effectiveness of controls should be seasonable timed and consider annual climatic variations. Many of the wetlands that provide water quality functions are dominated by emergent vegetation that changes with the seasons. In addition, annual variations in rainfall may effect the spatial extent of wetland vegetation. Monitoring activities designed to assess changes in wetlands vegetation over time should consider seasonal changes in vegetation and annual fluctuations in rainfall.

Where wetland protection and restoration activities are designed to benefit other surface waters (category #3 from above), several alternatives are available for monitoring. Biological measurements, such as macro invertebrate and fish diversity indexes, have shown promise for monitoring stream quality (Plafkin-USEPA, 1989). These indexes may be useful in assessing improvements in stream quality due to NPS controls, including wetlands protection and restoration activities. In addition, traditional water quality monitoring of chemical parameters, including suspended solids, nutrients, metals and organics, may be used to assess improvements in water quality as NPS controls are implemented. Efforts to correlate water quality improvements with wetland protection and restoration activities upstream or within the watershed can help to document the effectiveness of such activities.


4.1 General

States can receive Section 319 grant awards only for activities and projects contained in approved portions of their NPS management programs. Some States have included wetlands related activities in their management programs. However, most NPS programs have not taken full advantage of the wetland/NPS relationships discussed in this document. In these cases, States should consider the following two options.

First, State management programs that identify broad subject areas, geographic regions, and specifically named waterbodies or watersheds could include wetland related activities. For example, the protection and restoration of wetlands could be integrated into a comprehensive management program that includes the establishment or maintenance of riparian areas, filter strips, grassed waterways or vegetated corridors to help protect adjacent and downstream waters from NPS pollution.

Second, States may revise their assessment reports and management programs to specifically address wetlands. States are required to submit updated Section 305(b) reports every two years, and NPS information in those reports may serve as a basis to NPS assessments current. States may also revise their management programs through periodic updates. NPS program managers are encouraged to make wetland components more explicit in their NPS documentation to (1) ensure protection of wetlands from NPS pollution and to (2) identify those wetlands that may benefit water quality.

The management guidance for FY 1990 Section 319(h) grants identified priorities for the award of grants to States using the following criteria: (1) State Performance to Date, (2) Content of Work Programs and (3) Monitoring. Included in the "Contents of Work Programs" section, EPA has identified ten priority activities for the States to consider in preparing their grant proposals, and emphasizes six of these priority areas. For FY 1990, two of these six priorities address the link between wetlands and NPS control: (1) protection of sensitive and ecologically significant waters and (2) promotion of comprehensive watershed management approaches such as greenways, filter strips and wetland buffers.

The first priority, protecting sensitive and ecologically significant waters, recognizes the special importance of certain aquatic resources. One effective way to identify these special aquatic resources, including wetlands, is to identify those that have already received such a designation by government (Federal, State, and local) and private organizations. The public and governmental organizations have long recognized that certain aquatic resources demand special protection by virtue of their exceptional quality. The following list includes several instances where wetlands have played a significant role in the designation of special aquatic resources.

  • parks, wildlife management areas, refuges, wild and scenic rivers, and estuarine sanctuaries;
  • waters identified in State water quality standards as outstanding resources under Title III of the State's antidegradation policy;
  • priority wetlands identified by EPA or the Fish and Wildlife Service under the Emergency Wetlands Resources Act of 1986;
  • sites within joint venture project areas under the North American Waterfowl Management Plan;
  • wetlands identified in plans developed by Federal land management agencies; e.g., National Forest Management Plans;
  • sites under the Ramsar (Iran) Treaty on Wetlands of International Importance;
  • biosphere reserve sites identified as parts of the "Man and the Biosphere" Program sponsored by the Untied Nations;
  • natural heritage areas and other similar designations.

In identifying comprehensive watershed management approaches (e.g., greenways, filter strips and wetland buffers) as a second priority, the Agency also recognizes the value of wetlands and riparian areas that have not been given the types of special designations mentioned above. Those wetlands that are "connected" to other surface waters such as rivers, lakes and estuaries are particularly important in meeting water quality objectives and NPS control goals. The protection and restoration of these wetlands within a watershed can be an effective tool in protecting adjacent and downstream waterbodies, some of which may have the special resource designations mentioned above.

4.2 Technical Criteria for Developing Wetland Activities

The following is a list of wetland-related technical criteria that are met by well designed and comprehensive State NPS control programs. They provide a consistent basis for developing wetland related activities under the Section 319 program.

  • All aquatic resources (rivers, lakes, estuaries, and wetlands) are addressed in program activities, e.g., assessments, controls and monitoring.
  • Improvements of State capabilities to assess NPS impacts to wetlands is an ongoing activity.
  • NPS assessment and control efforts address sensitive and ecologically significant wetlands.
  • State management programs incorporate, where appropriate, the protection and restoration of wetlands that provide water quality benefits to adjacent or downstream waters; e.g., filter strips or grassed waterways in headwater areas and along water courses. These waters may include rivers, lakes, estuaries, and riparian areas.
  • NPS activities involving wetlands include a determination whether the project site presently contains wetland or historically contained wetlands. Where wetlands are present or were historically present, all wetland functions are protected and restored. Where wetlands are not present or historically present, projects may focus on water quality functions, but should also strive to achieve other wetland functions (e.g., wildlife habitat).
  • Wetland-related NPS activities focus on wetlands protection, restoration or creation, rather than on the alteration of existing wetlands. NPS controls do not impair existing wetlands. Existing wetlands are not altered to maximize water quality functions at the expense of other functions (e.g., conversion to sedimentation basins). Fill activities in wetlands are regulated under Section 404 of the CWA.
  • Attention is given to the creation of upland buffer areas, where necessary, to prevent NPS impairment of existing wetlands and other surface waters.
  • Existing wetlands are not identified as "BMPs" or "treatment systems".
  • Wetland restoration is preferred over wetland creation. Generally, the restoration of wetlands has a higher probability of success than the wetlands created in areas that have not historically contained wetlands. In addition, created wetlands are often more costly than activities that restore historic wetland areas.
  • Monitoring activities receive a high priority. State NPS and wetland programs work together to (1) assess impacts to critical wetlands, (2) measure success for projects involving the protection and restoration of wetland and (3) correlate water quality improvements in rivers, lakes and estuaries with wetlands protection and restoration activities upstream or within the watershed.
  • Spatial extent of wetlands (acreage) and the types and distribution of wetland vegetation are used in monitoring. Monitoring using wetland vegetation is seasonally timed and accounts for annual fluctuations in rainfall.

4.3 Example Activities

The following is a list of activities of suggested types of activities related to the protection and restoration of wetlands and the control of NPS pollution. These activities could be supported through the Section 319 grants and other NPS funding sources.

  • Statewide policies for the protection and restoration of wetlands as vegetated buffers to control NPS pollution.
  • The protection and restoration of wetlands as part of comprehensive NPS control programs focused on specific waterbodies, watersheds or riparian areas.
  • Coordination between the State NPS program and agriculture departments on activities related to the 1985 Farm Bill and the Conservation Reserve Program that restore wetlands and buffer strips along rivers, lakes and other waterbodies where necessary to address impacts of NPS pollution.
  • Coordination between Federal, State, and local river corridor and floodplain management programs, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Community Rating System and the National Park Service's river corridor management program, to create projects with multiple benefits; e.g., water quality, recreation and fish and wildlife habitat.
  • Assessments of existing wetlands impacted by NPS, those currently providing water quality benefits, and areas where wetlands restoration can help achieve NPS control objectives.
  • Use of existing and historic wetland maps (e.g., U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's National Wetlands Inventory maps), soil maps and other information sources to identify existing and historical wetland areas to assist in targeting wetlands protection and restoration activities.
  • BMP design manuals for filter strips address the protection and restoration of wetlands.
  • Monitoring to track wetland improvements where NPS control are being applied.
  • Where wetlands protection and restoration benefits adjacent or downstream waters, monitoring of the spatial extent of wetland vegetation and the correlating of these changes with biological and chemical improvements in the adjacent or downstream waters.
  • Demonstration projects on the restoration of wetlands to control NPS.
  • Public outreach materials that highlight the importance of certain wetlands in controlling NPS pollution.


State and Federal wetland programs, including EPA and the Corps of Engineers, can exert regulatory authority over certain activities that impact the water quality functions of surface waters, including wetlands. These include permitted activities under section 402 and 404 of the CWA and related State permit programs. In addition, Section 401 of the CWA gives the States the authority to evaluate the impacts that certain Federal activities may have on the water quality of the State. Wetland programs may also support a wide range of non-regulatory activities that can help to protect and restore wetlands. These activities supported by wetland programs can help to focus NPS control efforts on critically important wetlands (see Section 4.1) and to identify and protect wetlands that provide water quality functions that benefit other waterbodies. Information on these programs is available from the appropriate Federal or State administering agency.

The following is a sample list of possible activities directly managed or supported by State and Federal wetland programs that could benefit State NPS programs. This is not an all inclusive list, but is intended to illustrate the types of NPS control activities that can be directly supported by wetlands programs. Activities include both regulatory and non-regulatory approaches.

  • Advanced Identification (ADID) - ADID is a planning process established under the Section 404 program guidelines (40 CFR Part 230.80, dated December 1980). Under an ADID project, the Corps of Engineers and EPA jointly complete and assessment of the functions and values of the wetlands within a prescribed area. The ADID results in the identification of wetlands generally suitable and generally unsuitable for fill. In determining the suitability for discharge, the ADID process follows the procedures defined in the program guidelines, and includes the consideration of the water quality impacts. Wetlands identified as providing water quality functions could be designated as unsuitable for discharge as part of an ADID.
  • Special Area Management Plans (SAMPs) - SAMPs are another planning process that involves State and Federal wetland programs and may develop information on the water quality functions of wetlands. The Coastal Zone Management Improvement Act of 1980 provides grants to States to conduct plans (i.e, SAMPs) for natural resource protection (i.e., wetlands) and reasonable coastal-dependent economic growth. The COE and EPA are generally involved in SAMPs.
  • Section 404 permits - The individual Section 404 permit process takes into consideration the effects of a proposed discharge on the environmental functions of wetlands, including those related to water quality. In addition, the recently issued Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between EPA and the Corps of Engineers (COE) on Mitigation (USEPA/COE, 1990) states that mitigation for unavoidable wetland fills should be considered in relation to wetland functions; see Section III.B. of the MOA. Therefore, any water quality functions lost as a result of Section 404 permits are to be considered in mitigation decisions. Additional information on the consideration of water quality in Section 404 permit decisions included in the COE permit regulations (33 CFR Parts 320-330, dated November 13, 1986), the EPA Section 404 guidelines (40 CFR Part 230, dated December 24, 1980) and the mitigation MOA.
  • Nationwide general permits under Section 404 - Nationwide permits authorized by the COE permit regulations (33 CFR) Parts 330.5) generally do not require individual permits but are subject to general conditions and management practices. Information generated by NPS programs can be used by the COE and EPA to administering general permits in a manner that ensures that individual and cumulative impacts on wetland functions are minor.
  • The Nationwide #26 (N26) permits (40 CFR Part 330.5(a)(26)) are particularly relevant to water quality and NPS programs. N26 permits are applicable to discharges of up to 10 acres of dredged and fill material into headwaters wetlands and isolated wetlands. The applicant is required to provide a pre-discharge notification (PDN) of proposed discharges. Headwater wetlands provide important water quality functions. Information developed by NPS programs can assist wetland programs in the management of wetland losses permitted under N26.
  • Section 401 certification - States may establish management restrictions (e.g., limited use, time of use or type of activity) or best management practices (BMPs) to control NPS pollution as part of their 401 certification procedures. The State certification of Federal permit or license (e.g., Section 404 permit) may be conditioned on the installation of prescribed BMPs to control NPS. In addition, the State can deny certification of a Federal projects based upon inadequate design potential adverse impacts from the operation of proposed NPS controls.
  • Public education - Wetlands programs may develop public education materials that highlight the water quality benefits of certain wetlands.


6.1 NPS and Wetland Programs

Information on wetlands developed by Federal and State agencies support a broad range of regulatory and non-regulatory programs. Wetland program staff should provide this information on an ongoing basis to Federal and State NPS control program staff. As the State NPS control programs develop over the next several years under Section 319 and with the participation of wetland programs, information may be developed that could benefit Federal, State and local wetland protection programs. For example, wetland permit programs may use information collected as part of State Section 319 management programs to identify wetlands providing water quality benefits.

The coordination of wetlands protection with NPS control requires, in some instances, coordination between different organizations within EPA and at the State level. Where wetland program managers and NPS program managers are, organizationally, located in different agencies or in different parts of agencies, the linking of these two programs will require active communication and coordination.

6.2 Federal Agencies

The NPS assessment and management activities developed by the States should be coordinated with agencies that play significant roles in the national effort to control nonpoint source pollution (e.g., the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service and the U.S. Department of Interior's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as well as Federal land management agencies that have management responsibilities over Federal lands) The eight Federal land management agencies are listed below.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Forest Service; National Forests

U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI), Fish and Wildlife Service, National Wildlife Refuges

DOI, Bureau of Land Management (BLM); BLM lands

DOI, Bureau of Reclamation; water resource projects (e.g., dams and irrigation)

DOI, National Park Service; National Parks and historic landmarks

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; recreation lands

U.S. Department of Defense; bases and other military installations

U.S. Department of Energy; power plant lands

State Section 319 activities should endeavor to address NPS problems on Federal lands to complement their activities focused on State and private lands. This is particularly important in the West where there are extensive Federal lands.

The Secretary of the Department of the Interior (DOI) submitted to the U.S. Congress a report on the impact of all Federal programs on wetlands (USDOI, 1988). This report includes a wide range of activities including those involving the land management agencies listed above, the USDA NRCS's responsibilities under the Food Security Act of 1985, the Section 404 program administered jointly by EPA and the Corps of Engineers, Coastal Zone Management programs administered by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, wetlands related activities of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and others. This document may be helpful in coordinating NPS control activities related to wetlands with those of Federal agencies.

In addition to coordinating activities of common interest between the State and Federal agencies, Federal agencies have data and information that can be used to identify wetlands impacted by NPS pollution and identify wetlands that provide water quality benefits. For example, FWS's National Wetlands Inventory (NWI) program has developed detailed wetland maps of approximately 65 percent of the lower 48 States, and has digitized the information for 6 States. This information can augment information available from State wetland and coastal zone management programs for use in identifying wetlands impacted by NPS and those that provide water quality benefits. In addition, the NWI program and State wetland programs may also have information on historic wetland areas that can be used to direct wetland restoration activities to benefit water quality.


  1. National Wetlands Policy Forum, Conservation Foundation; "Protecting America's Wetlands: An Action Agenda"; November 15, 1988.
  2. EPA, Office of Water Regulations and Standards, "National Water Quality Inventor: 1986 Report to Congress".
  3. U.S. EPA, Office of Water Regulations and Standards; Memo from LaJuna Wilcher to Regional Water Division Directors; "Planning Targets for FY 1990 Nonpoint Source Program Implementation Grants", dated December 1, 1989.
  4. U.S. EPA, Office of Water Regulations and Standards; Memo from LaJuna Wilcher to Regional Water Division Directors; "Award and Management of FY 1990 Section 319(h) Grants", dated December 15, 1989.
  5. U.S. EPA, Office of Wetlands Protection; Memo from David Davis to Regional Division Directors; "Guidance on Implementing State Programs Grants Initiatives", dated December 8, 1989.
  6. U.S. EPA, Office of Municipal Pollution Control; "Funding of Nonpoint Source, Ground Water, Estuary, and Wetland Activities Under Title II, III, and VI of the Clean Water Act", April 1989.
  7. U.S. EPA Office of Wetlands Protection; "Wetlands and 401 Certification: Opportunities and Guidelines for States and Eligible Indian Tribes", April 1989.
  8. U.S. EPA, Office of Water Regulations and Standards and Office of Wetlands Protection; "Survey of State Water Quality Standards for Wetlands", August 1989 (rev. 12/89).
  9. U.S. EPA, Office of Water Regulations and Standards; "National Water Quality Inventory: 1988 Report to Congress", 1990.
  10. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; "An Overview of Major Wetland Functions and Values", FWS/OBS-84/18, Sept. 1984.
  11. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Waterways Experiment Station, Vicksburg, Mississippi; "Wetlands and Water Quality: A Regional Review of Recent Research in the United States on the Role of Freshwater and Saltwater Wetlands as Sources, Sinks, and Transformers of Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Various Heavy Metals", October 1986.
  12. U.S. EPA, Office of Research and Development; "Wetland Creation and Restoration: The Status of Science"; Vol. 1 (EPA 600/3-89/038a) and Vol. 2 (EPA 600/3-89/038b), October 1989.
  13. U.S. EPA, Office of Water Regulations and Standards; "Nonpoint Source Guidance", December 1987.
  14. U.S. EPA, Office of Water Regulations and Standards; "Biological Criteria: National Program Guidance", April 1990.
  15. Plafkin, J.L., U.S. EPA, Office of Water Regulations and Standards; "Rapid Bioassessment Protocols for Use in Streams and Rivers", EPA/444/4-89/001, May 1989.
  16. U.S. EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; "Memorandum of Agreement Between the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Army Concerning the Determination of Mitigation Under the Clean Water Act Section 404(b)(1) Guidelines, February 6, 1990.
  17. U.S. Department of the Interior; "The Impact of Federal Programs on Wetlands, Volume I: The Lower Mississippi Alluvial Plain and the Prairie Pothole Region"; October 1988.


Assessment Reports - Reports developed by the States to implement Section 319(a) of the Clean Water Act (CWA). These reports documents NPS impacts to State waters.

Creation - An activity bringing wetland into existence at a site where it did not formerly occur. Created wetlands are designed to meet a variety of human benefits including but not limited to, the treatment of water pollution discharges (e.g., municipal wastewater, stormwater, etc.) And the mitigation of wetland losses permitted under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act.

Enhancement - An activity increasing one or more natural or artificial wetland functions. For example, the removal of a point source discharge impacting a wetland.

Functions - The role wetlands serve which are a value to society or the environment.

Habitat - The environment occupied by individuals of a particular species, population or community.

Hydrology - The science dealing with the properties, distribution and circulation of water both on the surface and under the earth.

Management Programs - Programs developed by the States under Section 319(b) of the CWA that identify the NPS controls necessary to address State NPS problems, as identified in State NPS assessment reports.

Restoration - An activity returning a wetland from a disturbed or altered condition with lesser acreage or functions. For example, restoration might involve the plugging of a drainage ditch to restore the hydrology to an area that was a wetland before the installation of the drainage ditch.

Riparian - Areas next to or substantially influenced by water. These may include areas adjacent to rivers, lakes, or estuaries. These areas often include wetlands.

Upland - Any area that does not qualify as wetland because the associated hydrologic regime is not sufficiently wet to elicit development of vegetation, soils and/or hydrologic characteristics associated with wetlands, or is defined as open waters.

Waters of the U.S. - See Federal definition contained in Federal Regulations; 40 CFR Parts 122.2, 230.3, and 232.2.

Wetlands - Those areas that are inundated or saturated by surface or groundwater at a frequency and duration sufficient to support and that under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions. Wetland generally include swamps, marshes, bogs and similar areas. See Federal definition contained in Federal regulations; 40 CFR Parts 122.2, 230.3, and 232.2.

* Portions taken from: Kusler, Jon A.: "Proposed Guidelines for Wetland Restoration, Enhancement and Creation", Appendix to the Proceedings of the National Wetland Symposium titled "Mitigation of Impacts and Losses; Association of Wetland Managers, Inc.; October 8-10, 1986.