, Volume 18, Issue 2, pp 183-201

State wetlands and riparian area protection programs

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Abstract

The protection of wetlands and riparian areas has emerged as an important environmental planning issue. In the United States, several federal and state laws have been enacted to protect wetlands and riparian areas. Specifically, the federal Clean Water Act includes protection requirements in Sections 301 and 303 for state water quality standards, Section 401 for state certification of federal actions (projects, permits, and licenses), and Section 404 for dredge and fill permits. The Section 401 water quality state certification element has been called the “sleeping giant” of wetlands protection because it empowers state officials to veto or condition federally permitted or licensed activities that do not comply with state water quality standards. State officials have used this power infrequently. The purpose of this research was to analyze the effectiveness of state wetland and riparian programs. Contacts were established with officials in each state and in the national and regional offices of key federal agencies. Based on interviews and on a review of federal and state laws, state program effectiveness was analyzed. From this analysis, several problems and opportunities facing state wetland protection efforts are presented.