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Impacts of section 404 permits requiring compensatory mitigation on wetlands in California (USA)

Abstract

We analyzed data from Section 404 permits issued in California from January 1971 through November 1987 that involved impacts to wetlands and required compensatory mitigation (wetland creation, restoration, or preservation). The purpose of this study was to determine patterns and trends in permitting activity and to document cumulative effects of associated management decisions on the California wetland resource. The 324 permits examined documented that 387 compensatory wetlands (1255.9 ha) were required as mitigation for impacts to 368 wetlands (1176.3 ha). The utility of the data on wetland area was limited, however, since 38.0% of the impacted wetlands and 41.6% of the compensatory wetlands lacked acreage data. The wetland type most frequently impacted (37.8% of impacted wetlands) and used in compensation (38.2% of compensatory wetlands) was palustrine forested wetlands. Estuarine intertidal emergent wetlands had the most area impacted (52.3%) and compensated (62.5%). The majority of the wetlands were small (less than or equal to 4.0 ha in size). Wildlife habitat was the most frequently listed function of impacted wetlands (90.7% of the permits) and objective of compensatory wetlands (83.3%). Endangered species were listed as affected in 20.4% of impacted and 21.0% of compensatory projects. The number of permits requiring compensatory mitigation and the number of impacted and compensatory wetlands increased from 1971 to 1986.

Documentation of the details of Section 404 permit decisions was inadequate for the permits we examined. Area information and specific locations of impacted and compensatory wetlands were lacking or of poor quality. Follow-up information was also inadequate. For example, project completion dates were specified in the permit for only 2.2% of compensatory wetlands. Furthermore, less than one-third (31.5%) of the permits required the compensatory wetland to be monitored by at least one site visit. We recommend improved documentation, regular reporting, and increased monitoring for better evaluation of the Section 404 permitting system.

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Holland, C.C., Kentula, M.E. Impacts of section 404 permits requiring compensatory mitigation on wetlands in California (USA). Wetlands Ecol Manage 2, 157–169 (1992). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00215322

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00215322

Keywords

  • California
  • Clean Water Act
  • compensatory mitigation
  • permitting
  • Section 404
  • wetlands