1/20/23: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), as part of an interagency effort with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service, is announcing the availability of the draft changes to the 2022 NWPL and its web address to solicit public comments. The public now has the opportunity to comment on the proposed changes to wetland indicator status ratings for two plant species in the Arid West region. The Federal Register Notice (FRN) for the 2022 NWPL update can be found here: 2023-01026. The public comment period ends on 21 March 2023.
The two species and their draft 2022 wetland ratings by region, as well as the FRN, can also be viewed at the NWPL homepage, https://wetland-plants.sec.usace.army.mil/, under “2022 NWPL Update Information.” A link to provide general or species-specific comments is also available at this location. Users are encouraged to submit literature citations, herbaria records, experiential references, monitoring data, and other relevant information. Specific knowledge of, or studies related to, individual species are particularly helpful. Commenters should use their regional botanical and ecological expertise, field observations, reviews of the most recent indicator status information, appropriate botanical literature, floras, herbarium specimens with notation of habitat and associated species, habit data, relevant studies, and historic list information. Providing ratings without supporting documentation or information is not recommended. All submitted comments and information will be compiled and sent to the National Panel for their consideration.
USACE is also seeking comments regarding the NWPL update process and a proposed change to update the NWPL every three years, rather than the present every two years. Detailed information on the update process, protocol, and technical issues can be found in the following documents (available on the “NWPL Publications” web page referenced above):
- Lichvar, Robert W. and Minkin, Paul. Concepts and Procedures for Updating the National Wetland Plant List. Sept 2008. ERDC/CRREL TN-08-3
- Lichvar, Robert W. and Gillrich, Jennifer J. Final Protocol for Assigning Wetland Indicator Status Ratings during National Wetland Plant List Update. Sept 2011. ERDC/CRREL TN-11-1
USACE administers the NWPL for the United States and its territories. The NWPL provides plant species indicator status ratings, which are used in determining whether the hydrophytic vegetation factor is met when conducting wetland delineations under the Clean Water Act and wetland determinations under the Wetland Conservation Provisions of the Food Security Act. Other applications of the NWPL include wetland restoration, establishment, and enhancement projects. Additions or deletions to the NWPL represent new records, range extensions, nomenclatural and taxonomic changes, and newly proposed species. The latest review process began in 2022 and included review by Regional Panels and the National Panel.
1/3/23: On December 30, 2022, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of the Army (the agencies) announced a final rule establishing a durable definition of “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) to reduce uncertainty from changing regulatory definitions, protect people’s health, and support economic opportunity. The final rule restores essential water protections that were in place prior to 2015 under the Clean Water Act for traditional navigable waters, the territorial seas, interstate waters, as well as upstream water resources that significantly affect those waters. As a result, this action will strengthen fundamental protections for waters that are sources of drinking water while supporting agriculture, local economies, and downstream communities.
More information, including fact sheets and the link to the finalized rule published in the Federal Register on 18 January 2023, is available at EPA’s “Waters of the United States” website.
12/2/22: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and EPA (the Agencies) jointly announce the availability of the Interim Draft of the National Ordinary High Water Mark Field Delineation Manual for Rivers and Streams (National OHWM Manual) and its accompanying data sheet. The Interim Draft National OHWM Manual provides draft technical guidance for identifying and delineating the OHWM using a scientifically supported, rapid framework. The Agencies are requesting comments and feedback from the public and practitioners on the Interim Draft of the National OHWM Manual via the public notice linked below. Following the public comment period and additional field testing, comments and feedback received from the public and practitioners will be utilized to further refine the Interim Draft of the National OHWM Manual for clarity, consistency, and technical accuracy. The one-year testing and comment period ends on December 1, 2023. A final version of the National OHWM Manual is anticipated to be published during 2024.
During the period while the OHWM Manual is an interim draft, OHWM identification and/or delineation for official USACE Regulatory purposes should continue in accordance with the applicable OHWM definition in the Federal regulations, Regulatory Guidance Letter 05-05, and any applicable USACE district policies. However, USACE Regulatory staff are encouraged to test the Interim Draft of the National OHWM Manual and provide comments and feedback by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
02/17/22: In conjunction with the reissuance of 40 existing nationwide permits (NWPs) and 1 new NWP, the South Pacific Division commander has approved the final regional conditions for the States of California and Arizona. These 41 NWPs and the associated regional conditions will go into effect on February 25, 2022 and will expire on March 14 2026. Further information is provided in the Los Angeles District’s Special Public Notices for California and Arizona.
01/5/22: Information on the Navigable Waters Protection Rule vacatur is provided at: https://www.usace.army.mil/Media/Announcements/Article/2888988/5-january-2022-navigable-waters-protection-rule-vacatur/.