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  Wetlands

ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES

AGENCY ACTION PLANS

FOR INTERAGENCY WETLANDS POLICY ACT OF 1989

I. Purpose

This document is the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (Department) Agency Action Plan for the Interagency Wetlands Policy Act of1989. The purpose of an AAP is to articulate how the Act will be implemented in the context of an agency's policies and activities. This publication is intended to serve as a handbook regarding the Act for Department staff.

II. Background

The major federal regulatory tool for wetland protection is Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Under Section 404, it is necessary to secure a permit to discharge dredged or fill materials into waters of the United States, including most wetlands. However, the Section 404 program is not a comprehensive wetlands program in that many activities that may damage or destroy wetlands are not covered by the program. In addition, Section 404 mitigation requirements are not standardized and therefore may not achieve the no net loss goal. And finally, the State of Illinois is served by five U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Districts which results in five variants of the same program. These weaknesses in the federal program lead to support for passage of the Interagency Wetlands Policy Act of 1989.

III. Interagency Wetlands Policy Act of 1989

The Illinois Interagency Wetlands Policy Act of 1989 [20 ILCS 830 et seq.] is intended to ensure that there is no overall net loss of the State's existing wetland acres or their functional values resulting from State-supported activities. A "wetland" is defined by the Act as being "land that has a predominance of hydric soils (soils which are usually wet and where there is little or no free oxygen) and that is inundated or saturated at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances does support, a prevalence of hydrophytic vegetation (plants typically found in wet habitats) typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions." (20 ILCS 830/1-6)

Prior to European settlement, wetlands covered about 8.2 million acres of Illinois or about 23 percent of the land. (Havera 1985) The Act cites the loss of a significant portion of the State's original wetland acres and the associated loss of the many environmental, economic and social values that wetlands provide, as the basis for this "no net loss" goal. (20 ILCS 830/1-2)

Currently, about 3.5 percent (1.25 million acres) of the state land cover is classified as wetland. However, only 917,765 acres (approximately three-quarters) of the currently existing wetlands can be considered natural wetlands. These natural wetlands most closely represent what remains of the State's original wetlands. The other quarter of the wetland acres have been modified or created by dikes, impoundments, or excavation activities. Although all types of wetlands are protected by the Act, modified or artificial wetlands do not always provide the full range of values given by natural wetlands. (Suloway and Hubbell1994)

The Act charges State agencies with a further duty to "preserve, enhance and create wetlands where necessary to increase the quality and quantity of the State's wetland resource base." (20 ILCS 830/1-4) Areas which have been restored or created as the result of mitigation or planned construction projects, and which function as wetlands, are also defined as wetlands under the Act even when all three wetland parameters - hydric soils, wetland hydrology, and hydrophytic vegetation - are not present.

The Act applies to all State and State-funded activities with the exception of a few specific types of activities addressed in the Act and in the administrative rules which were promulgated to implement and administer it. An extensive discussion of what types of activities are exempted and non-exempted is presented in Chapter 4.

The Act established the Interagency Wetlands Committee to advise the Director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources(Director) in the administration of the Act. The coordination functions of the Committee are discussed in detail in Chapter 5. The Committee is chaired by the Director or an appointed representative, and is composed of directors or their representatives from the following State agencies: Capital Development Board, Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce and Community Affairs, Department of Transportation, Environmental Protection Agency, and the Historic Preservation Society.

In 1995 the Departments of Conservation, Energy and Natural Resources, and Mines and Minerals along with the Office of Water Resources, were merged to form the IDNR. See Appendix C for a Department organizational chart. The legislation which created the new Department provided for the old Departments of Mines and Minerals and Energy and Natural Resources to maintain their positions on the Committee when they became Offices within the Department.

The Act is to be implemented through a State Wetland Mitigation Policy and through Agency Action Plans. The State Wetland Mitigation Policy, as defined in Article III of the Act, requires preservation of wetlands as the primary objective. Where adverse wetland impacts are unavoidable, progressive levels of compensation based upon the level of impact to the existing wetland and the location of compensation wetlands are required. This topic is discussed further in Chapter 6.

Each agency which is represented on the Interagency Wetlands Committee is required to produce an Agency Action Plan and to update their plans every four years thereafter. State agencies who are not members of the Interagency Wetlands Committee may comply with the Act by developing a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Department that is consistent with the minimum requirements for Agency Action Plans or by developing an Agency Action Plan. The Act requires each Agency Action Plan or MOA to be reviewed and approved by the Department of Natural Resources before being submitted to the Governor.

IV. Overview of the IDNR AAP

Chapter 1 presents the components of the AAP mandated in the Act and administrative rules, and the duties of the lead Offices. The Act and the administrative rules [17 ADC§1090 et seq.] are reprinted in the Appendices A and B, respectively.

Chapter 2 presents a summary of Department management activities and policies regarding land acquisition and land use. The Department's mission is to promote an appreciation of the state's natural resources and to work with the people of Illinois to protect and manage those resources to ensure a high quality of life for present and future generations. Department programs address a wide scope of activities ranging from developing recreational facilities on public lands to protecting natural areas. The Department manages game and fish populations, while protecting endangered plant and animal species, and it regulates the state's mineral extraction industries and construction in public bodies of water. The Department is very active in the preservation, enhancement, and creation of wetlands in the state and is involved in numerous programs involving wetlands. A description of the Department programs involving wetlands is included in Appendix D.

Chapters 3 and 4 provide important policy direction and Department staff are requested to read them carefully.

Chapter 3 provides a description of how to perform an alternatives analysis and reviews the sequencing requirements of the Act. The best way to meet the no net loss goal is to integrate the concepts of impact avoidance and impact minimization during the early planning stages of a project. Department staff should be aware of what resources, including wetlands, are present on the lands they manage. If you need help understanding or complying with any of the provisions contained in the Act or Administrative Rules, a list of contacts is provided in Appendix E.

Alternatives analysis involves the evaluation of several different options for achieving the goals of your project. This is best accomplished at the project development stage. Alternatives analysis is not intended to be used "after the fact" to support a preferred course of action or project design. Section 17 ADC§1909.60 of the administrative rules for the Act states that sponsors of projects which will have adverse wetland impacts must demonstrate that the activity: 1) is water dependent and has no other practicable alternative; or is not water dependent and that the alternative designs and alternative sites are not available; and 2)minimizes alteration or impairment of the wetland and its associated buffer area.

Since the Department is charged with the implementation of the Act, our policy is to exercise great care in formulating alternatives for IDNR actions. Department staff will fully evaluate and document alternatives to meet the spirit and intent of this requirement of the ACT. Further , the Department will take all possible steps to avoid or minimize adverse impacts to existing wetlands. If you need assistance in performing an alternatives analysis for your project, contact either the Office of Realty and Environmental Planning (217) 785-5500 or the Wetland Program Administrator in the Office of Resource Conservation (217)785-8287.

Chapter 4 provides guidance to all Department staff on tools available to help determine if a wetland is present at a proposed project site and on determining whether a proposed activity is exempt from the Act or if it requires review. Department policy regarding "programmatic actions" has also been explained. The goal of the chapter is to provide consistent direction on how to comply with the Act within the context of day-to-day Departmental activities.

The chapter provides a list of exempted and non-exempted activities as identified in the Act and the administrative rules, along with examples. The examples used have been compiled from the experiences of people within the Department and are meant to illustrate typical or, or in some cases, especially problematic situations. The examples are NOT meant to be inclusive; that is, don't assume that these are the only examples of each activity being discussed.

Although most maintenance and repair activities are exempt from the Act, please be sure to read Figure 4.1 "What constitutes repair or maintenance?" on page 24 for further classification. If there is any doubt whether your project is exempt, assume that it should be submitted for review under the Act.

Chapter 5 discusses the coordination mechanisms and processes which are required by the Act. The first section describes wetlands-specific coordination mechanisms, including the Interagency Wetlands Committee, the Governor's Natural Resources Coordination Council, and the Illinois Wetlands Conservation Strategy.

The second section of Chapter 5 gives a brief overview of the Department's Comprehensive Environmental Review Process (CERP) and outlines CERP procedures. The guidelines for CERP are included in Appendix F. Departmental compliance with the Act has been greatly simplified by utilizing the existing CERP Program. The second section also explains that the review procedure for the Act is integrated with the review procedures for projects covered by the Illinois Endangered Species Protection Act and the Illinois Natural Areas Inventory Consultation Process. The Division of Natural Resource Review and Coordination has developed an expedited review process for certain technical assistance programs. Please refer to Figure 5.1 on page 39 for more information.

The third section of Chapter 5 outlines the Department's coordination regarding the Act with entities outside the Department, including the Historic Preservation Agency Cultural Resources Program, the federal Corps of Engineers Section 404 Program, the Illinois Department of Agricultural Prime Farmland Program, and the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program.

Chapter 6 explains the key implementation programs and policies related to the Act. Departmental policies regarding wetland impact determinations, wetland compensation plans, wetland compensation accounts (mitigation banks), and monitoring and performance standards are discussed.

Chapter 7 provides Department staff with resources and procedures for obtaining technical assistance they may need to comply with the Act. A variety of technical assistance is available to Offices and Divisions, both from within the Department and, in certain cases, from outside consultants.

V. Conclusion

The Department is the agency charged with implementing the Interagency Wetlands Policy Act of 1989. With the broad range of land management activities in which the Department participates and responsibility for more than 400,000 acres of the public lands in Illinois, it is important that the Department follow both the letter and the intent of the Act. The Act was written to provide consistent standard to evaluate project impacts for ALL projects and ALL agencies. The Department policy will be to adhere to the highest standard for our actions which are governed by the Act. Every effort will be made to avoid adverse wetlands impacts associated with Department projects. Department staff will thoroughly evaluate all alternatives which would reduce adverse impacts to a wetland. In the rare cases where an adverse wetland impact cannot be avoided, Department policy will be to take all possible measures to minimize the adverse impact and to compensate for the loss. Opportunities for increasing the quantity and quality of the State's wetlands should be considered for all projects authorized or funded by the Department and such opportunities should be implemented whenever possible.

 [Introduction | Represented Agencies | Agency Action Plans | Interagency Wetlands Policy Act of 1989 | Administrative Rules ]

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