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Water Quality/Wetlands

Recent Developments

Listed below are recent developments pertinent to water quality/wetlands from the past six months.  If you would like to suggest a recent development on this topic, please submit a short description to AASHTO (including any pertinent links) on the Share Info with AASHTO form.

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NCHRP Report Evaluates Nutrient Management and Source Control in Stormwater

A new report produced under the National Cooperative Highway Research Program focuses on nutrient management and source control for highway runoff. The report, Nutrient (Nitrogen/Phosphorous) Management and Source Control (NCHRP 25-25, Task 85), summarizes the characteristics of nutrients in highway runoff, current regulations and trends, and key research. The study finds that the primary sources of nutrients in highway runoff are atmospheric deposition, soil erosion, decomposing organic debris, animal waste, and fertilizer applications. Therefore, land use, vegetation, and soils within or near the right-of-way are likely the most important factors influencing nutrient concentrations in highway runoff. The report recommends a range of nutrient management strategies for DOTs. For more information, link to the report. (8-6-14)

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NOAA Report Finds an Increase in Nuisance Flooding in Coastal Cities

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has identified an increase in “nuisance flooding” in coastal cities around the country, with the majority being located on the East Coast. Nuisance flooding involves high water levels that close roads, overwhelm storm drains, and compromise infrastructure, and can be attributed to rising sea levels, according to the report, titled Sea Level Rise and Nuisance Flood Frequency Changes around the United States. Annapolis, Md., tops the list with a 925 percent increase in nuisance flooding as compared to the period from 1957 to1963. For more information, link to http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2014/20140728_nuisanceflooding.html. (7-28-14)

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NCHRP Guide Provides Pollution Control Strategies For Bridge Stormwater Runoff

A guide on the management of stormwater runoff from bridges has been issued by the Transportation Research Board under the National Cooperative Highway Research Program. The report, Bridge Stormwater Runoff Analysis and Treatment Options (NCHRP Report 778), details processes for identifying cost-effective pollution control strategies for stormwater runoff from highway bridges. It includes five spreadsheets for the evaluation of different stormwater retention and detention features. For more information, link to http://www.trb.org/Main/Blurbs/170652.aspx. (7-22-14)

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EPA Announces Grant Awards for 2013-2014 Urban Waters Projects

The Environmental Protection Agency has announced the awarding of $2.1 million to 37 organizations for the protection and restoration of urban waterways. The funding, issued through EPA’s Urban Waters Program, goes to projects in 17 states and Puerto Rico. The grants will fund efforts such as studies of pollution sources, water quality sampling, green infrastructure, and public education and engagement. The EPA’s Urban Waters Program is part of the multi-agency Urban Waters Federal Partnership working to reconnect communities with their waterways. For more information, link to http://www2.epa.gov/urbanwaters/urban-waters-small-grants. (7-17-14)

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EPA Issues Compendium of Stormwater Permitting Approaches

The Environmental Protection Agency has issued a compendium that lists examples of permitting approaches for municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4s). The compendium includes examples of permits that implement numeric post-construction performance and/or design standards, and permitting approaches to address impaired waters and total maximum daily loads. The compendium is intended to serve as a snapshot of permitting approaches and includes examples from transportation agencies. For more information, link to the compendium. (June 2014)

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FWS Report Shows Decline in Prairie Wetlands

A report from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found that wetlands in the Prairie Pothole Region declined by an estimated 74,340 acres between 1997 and 2009 – an average annual net loss of 6,200 acres. FWS Director Dan Ashe said the declines are due to threats from “extreme weather patterns, rising agricultural commodity prices and oil and gas development” and putting further pressure on the most valuable breeding area for ducks in the Americas. The U.S. portion of the Prairie Pothole Region includes parts of Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa. For more information, link to the Status and Trends of Prairie Wetlands Report. (6-30-14)

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TRB Releases Report On Reducing Dissolved Metals from Urban Stormwater Runoff

The Transportation Research Board’s National Cooperative Highway Research Program has released a report regarding the measurement and removal of dissolved metals from stormwater in highly urbanized areas. The report provides prototype best management practices to remove dissolved metals in stormwater runoff. In addition, the report describes standard protocols for the accurate measurement of dissolved metals in stormwater. For more information, link to the report. (5-12-14)

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Fish and Wildlife Service Announces Availability of Digital Wetland Maps and Data for Most of U.S.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has completed a major wetlands data set, which represents the culmination of a 35 year effort by the agency to map the nation’s wetlands. FWS describes the product as “an invaluable aid to landowners, developers, government planners and permitting authorities, conservation organizations and academic institutions in their collective efforts to ensure wetland conservation and inform economic development.” The product has created digital maps for all wetland areas in the lower 48 states, Hawaii and dependent territories. In addition, the effort has created digital wetland maps for 35 percent of Alaska’s wetlands. For more information, link to the press release or Wetlands Inventory Mapper. (5-1-14)

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Proposed EPA, Corps Rule Clarifies Federal Jurisdiction Over Waters, Wetlands

All natural and artificial tributaries and wetlands that are adjacent to or near larger downstream waters would be subject to federal Clean Water Act protections under a joint proposed rule announced by the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The proposal also would allow the EPA and corps to seek comment on a case-by-case basis on whether the aggregate effect of geographically isolated wetlands and other waters that “significantly” affect the physical, biological and chemical integrity of federally protected downstream waters are jurisdictional. The proposed rule is intended to reduce the confusion and complexity about where the Clean Water Act applies following multiple U.S. Supreme Court decisions. For more information, link to the Clean Water Act Jurisdiction Rule. (3-25-14)

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EPA Issues Final Effluent Guideline Standards for Construction and Development

The Environmental Protection Agency has issued final effluent guidelines rule for the construction and development industry. The new effluent limits emphasize best practices to manage erosion and stabilize soils at construction sites. The rule specifies that compliance could be “infeasible” in certain cases when site-specific conditions pose “technically impossible or cost-prohibitive” hurdles. According to EPA, the rule would give permitting authorities the discretion and permit holders the flexibility to address site-specific factors when dealing with minimizing exposure of materials to rain and stormwater at construction sites. For more information, link to the final rule. (3-6-14)

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EPA Updates Stormwater Calculator to Factor in Climate Change Impacts

The Environmental Protection Agency released an updated version of its tool for calculating annual stormwater runoff for different locations across the U.S. The updated National Stormwater Calculator will allow local governments to consider how runoff may vary based on both historical weather and potential future climate. Previously based on local soil conditions, slope, land cover and historical rainfall records, the tool now includes future climate change scenarios from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to factor in changes in seasonal precipitation levels, the effects of more frequent high-intensity storms and changes in evaporation rates. For more information, link to EPA Releases Climate Assessment Update to National Stormwater Calculator. (1-30-14)

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EPA Issues Updated Framework for Implementing CWA Section 303(d)

The Environmental Protection Agency has released a final “vision plan” for the nation's water quality restoration program that will, starting in 2016, give states the option of prioritizing protection of healthy waters for the first time alongside restoration of impaired waters. The plan was developed jointly by EPA and the Association of Clean Water Administrators. The purpose of the plan is to improve how states identify and assess impaired waters and write total maximum daily load plans to restore those waters, as required under Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act. It will for the first time address protection of healthy waters. For more information, link to the plan website. (12-11-13)

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EPA Report Analyzes Economic Benefits of Green Infrastructure

The Environmental Protection Agency has released a report that can help towns, cities, and counties use cost-benefit analysis to show that green infrastructure practices can capture stormwater at a lower cost than constructing traditional storm drains. The report compiles information and best practices from 13 communities to show the economic benefits of green infrastructure. The report looks at such techniques as permeable pavement, grassy swales, and urban wetlands. For more information, link to Case Studies Analyzing the Economic Benefits of Low Impact Development and Green Infrastructure. (11-1-13)

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EPA Releases National Green Infrastructure Strategy

The Environmental Protection Agency released its latest green infrastructure strategic agenda, which describes the past and potential future uses of green infrastructure to manage urban stormwater. EPA published the agenda to increase practitioners’ ability to evaluate green infrastructure’s role and its benefits. EPA categorized the strategy’s approaches into five major focus areas: federal coordination, Clean Water Act regulatory support, research and information exchange, funding and financing and capacity building. The latest strategy builds on earlier versions released in 2008 and 2011. For more information, link to Green Infrastructure Strategic Agenda. (10-21-13)

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Study Evaluates Use of Permeable Shoulders for Highway Runoff

An evaluation of the use of permeable pavements for stormwater management on highway shoulders is provided in a study conducted under the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP 25-25, Task 82). The study finds that careful consideration of design features and construction techniques are necessary to ensure success when using permeable pavement on shoulders. It describes permeable pavement technologies, criteria for using permeable materials on highway shoulders, and design and construction considerations. It also provides maintenance guidelines as well as future research needs. For more information, link to the report and related decision support tool. (10-7-13)

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EPA Releases Report on Sensitivity of Watersheds to Climate Change, Urban Development

The Environmental Protection Agency has released report on the results of computer modeling to evaluate the effects of various climate change and urban development scenarios on 20 large watersheds. The simulations were performed using the Soil Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) and Hydrologic Simulation Program―FORTRAN (HSPF). The report discusses the results in regard to context-dependent relationships between water resources, land use, and climate. Water quality and streamflow results are discussed. In addition, the report discusses the methodological challenges of existing tools and data sets. For more information, link to Watershed Modeling to Assess the Sensitivity of Streamflow, Nutrient, and Sediment Loads to Potential Climate Change and Urban Development in 20 U.S. Watersheds. (9-26-13)

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NCHRP Synthesis Explores Mitigation Techniques for Chloride Roadway Deicers

The National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) has released a synthesis discussing strategies used by transportation agencies to mitigate environmental harm caused by chloride roadway deicers during winter maintenance operations. The synthesis identifies several types of proactive and reactive mitigation strategies, such as salt management plans, innovative snow fences, infiltration trenches and filter strips. Information presented in the synthesis was obtained after surveying state and provincial departments of transportation and through a comprehensive literature review. For more information, link to NCHRP Synthesis 449: Strategies to Mitigate the Impacts of Chloride Roadway Deicers on the Natural Environment. (9-17-13)

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