The effects of permitting decisions made under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act for which compensatory mitigation was required were examined. Information was compiled on permits issued in Oregon (January 1977–January 1987) and Washington (1980–1986). Data on the type of project permitted, wetland impacted, and mitigation project were collected and analyzed. The records of the Portland and Seattle District Offices of the US Army Corps of Engineers and of Environmental Protection Agency Region X were the primary sources of information.
The 58 permits issued during the years of concern in Oregon document impacts to 82 wetlands and the creation of 80. The total area of wetland impacted was 74 ha while 42 ha were created, resulting in a net loss of 32 ha or 43%. The 35 permits issued in Washington document impacts to 72 wetlands and the creation of 52. The total area of wetland impacted was 61 ha while 45 ha were created, resulting in a net loss of 16 ha or 26%. In both states, the number of permits requiring compensation increased with time. The area of the impacted and created wetlands tended to be ≤0.40 ha. Permitted activity occurred primarily west of the Cascade Mountains and in the vicinity of urban centers. Estuarine and palustrine wetlands were impacted and created most frequently. The wetland types created most often were not always the same as those impacted; therefore, local gains and losses of certain types occurred. In both states the greatest net loss in area was in freshwater marshes.
This study illustrates how Section 404 permit data might be used in managing a regional wetland resource. However, because the data readily available were either incomplete or of poor quality, the process of gathering information was very labor intensive. Since similar analyses would be useful to resource managers and scientists from other areas, development of an up-to-date standardized data base is recommended.