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Resource Room

Clean Water Act-Related Services

CWA Section 402 National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES)

The NPDES program monitors the discharge of wastewater. The program requires monitoring of effluents as well as biological communities to fully understand and document baseline and post impact conditions utilizing a variety of sources. Aquatic Resources develops study plans for these types of surveys and performs the required field collections all by adhering to Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) provided by state and federal agencies.

Though significant effort goes into the planning and collection of effluent water samples for processing, the staff at Aquatic Resources expends even more effort on the collection and identification of macroinvertebrates and fish from the receiving streams of monitored discharges. In the early spring, Aquatic Resources biologists spend most of their time collecting benthic macroinvertebrate samples. The sample collections of macroinvertebrates are taken back to the lab at Aquatic Resources for identification by qualified taxonomists. Once identified, the community information collected in the sampling season will have the ability to provide insight to type and magnitude of impacts that have occurred in the watershed where organisms were collected. According to specified index periods, fish surveys are performed later in the year in larger water bodies to provide feedback on environmental integrity much as that provided by the benthic macroinvertebrates.

After these initial survey results are gathered, Aquatic Resources’ ecologists possess a unique proficiency in interpreting the source of potential biological community impacts. When necessitated, Aquatic Resources can develop scientifically-rigid statistical models that assigned specific environmental stressors to aquatic communities. These types of analyses are important when legally defensible information is required during permitting.

CWA Section 404 (Dredge & Fill)

Before dredging or placing fill into waters of the US, a Section 404 permit is required. To begin the Section 404 process, Aquatic Resources must fully understand the impacts associated with the proposed application. The first step in this process is field delineation. For stream delineations, regional guidance is followed to determine not only the extent of stream resources on a property but the type of stream according to permanency and physical attributes – this information determines the significance of mitigation required. For wetland delineations, initial determinations are performed using regional supplements to the 1987 US Army Corps of Engineers guidance that assess the soil, hydrologic conditions and prominence of hydrophytic plant life – these characteristics and the wetland’s proximity to flowing water determine its jurisdictional status and potential mitigation.

Following delineations, Aquatic Resources will then begin initial Jurisdictional Determinations utilizing the most recent guidance including the Preliminary and Approved Jurisdictional Determination forms also known as "Rapanos Guidance" to illustrate to the client any and all potential impacts made to the aquatic environment once the assessment is completed. Aquatic Resources works with the applicant on the required mitigation to offset any unavoidable impacts after a thorough evaluation of the alternatives analysis andavoidance & minimization has been completed.

The compensatory mitigation plan can vary in its components, but the experience of the multidiscipline Aquatic Resources staff will aid in the best possible solution to offset impacts. Though payments into "in-lieu fee" programs are common, on-site stream and wetland restoration remains one of the most significant ways to off-set direct aquatic impacts as a result of development or resource extraction. At Aquatic Resources, we make the most of best available technology to fully document and illustrate how each aspect of a restoration project will be implemented in the field to satisfy both client and regulatory expectations. One unique tool that Aquatic Resources utilizes in aquatic stream and wetland restoration is three-dimensional restoration design. The 3D technology makes it possible for agencies, applicants, as well as property owners to understand the design more easily, which can ultimately facilitate agency approvals.

To summarize all collected data and to provide background information on the project site, ARM will then prepare an Environmental Impacts Document (EID) to accompany the 404 permit application. Aquatic Resources’ staff experience with publishing in scientific journals ensure that these reports are clear representations of the project environment.

Occasionally, a more rigorous analysis of a propose project is required by the USACE. Cumulative Impacts Analysis (CIA) is a environmental determination utilizing the best technology to predict the environmental consequences of a proposed action within a watershed that considers the past, present, and reasonably foreseeable future impacts on the resource of concern. Aquatic Resources have direct experience with the process of developing and evaluating CIA documents specifically pertaining to the sections related to natural resources and the analyses of specific stressors.

In association with CIA analyses or with general ecological studies, Aquatic Resources possess very specialized services related to biological community analyses. When biological and environmental data are available, Aquatic Resources staff can provide stressor analyses using advanced multivariate statistical models to determine the primary sources of impacts to a community and therefore determine the significance of a proposed impact. If the collection of biological and environmental data is not feasible or readily available, ARM staff can utilize our extensive database of information with GIS data layers to predict water quality based solely on watershed landuse characteristics.

Endangered Species Act

For the same reason that landuse development requires surveys and permitting through the Clean Water Act as regulated through the USACE, those same actions invoke surveys and permitting in association with the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) takes the lead in administering this policy to prevent human induced species declines or extinctions through direct protection of a species or its critical habitat. Through correspondence with USACE or State agencies’ permitting processes, the USFWS will determine the need for surveys, and potential habitat enhancement plans following the utilization of a natural resource. Aquatic Resources’ trained biologists are well experienced with south-eastern endangered species surveys and routinely perform bat, fish, mussel and plant surveys. Commonly these surveys are performed in association with housing developments, road construction, utility expansions, and resource extraction.

Advanced Analysis

Determining the specific environmental conditions that influence the presence, absence or abundance of a species is an invaluable tool for population management. This technique is also very useful when determining the potential impacts of a proposed landscape alteration especially for reducing potential liability of an action. The determination of this information can be ascertained through a combination of different model analysis tools. Using available species data and simultaneously measured environmental variables, significant correlations can be extracting through multivariate statistical tests such as Principle Components Analysis (PCA), Canonical Correspondence Analysis (CCA), and Non-Metric Multidimensional Scaling (NMDS). Through these models, fluctuations in species trends are paired to statistically significant environmental factors, the ecological significance of which is determined by ARM experts.

Frequently, when information regarding a stream or other ecological system is needed for analysis, survey data is unavailable. These types of situations are ideal for Fuzzy Modeling. Fuzzy Modeling utilizes an ArcGIS platform to predict desired associations. Fuzzy Modeling is a combination of Fuzzy Membership (a statistical model that ranks values of physical indicators and correlates them to ideal values) and Fuzzy Overlay which takes multiple Memberships and overlays them to develop a visually predictive interface. Specific examples of this method would be to use conductivity and physical stream habitat to predict overall benthic community integrity.

ARIS Database (Aquatic Resources Information System)

Aquatic Resources takes pride in being highly organized and ready to answer questions the client or agencies may have at any point in time by any member of staff. The crux of this organization and resultant efficiency stems from a highly organized data information system. Aquatic Resources manages this organization through the utilization of a specialized database (ARIS) managed internally. The immense amount of information on each project is difficult to retain, but the database allows for easy access to such information with the click of the button. Many tasks such as the status of projects and their respective timelines are all located on one page. This way makes information readily available at all times.

Aquatic Resources has the ability to analyze any amount of water quality samples and can determine almost instantly if any parameters are in exceedence of water quality standards set forth by the NPDES program.

The most advanced process of the database is the ability to provide rapid data analyses or to prepare data to output to more advanced modeling programs. The ARM database can quickly calculate regional metrics for determining the quality of both fish and macroinvertebrates communities for any number of samples simultaneously. These processes in the database are consistent with Standard Operating Procedures and makes certain all potential error is removed. In this same manner, data is quickly prepared for various modeling procedures such as demographic and economic modeling, water quality analyses, and habitat/fuzzy modeling. Upon request from clients, the database can also be linked to GIS programs to provide any interactive mapping interface with water quality data.

Industry Update

Feb. 2010 Newsletter


KY Department of Water
KY Coal Association
KY Dept. of Fish and Wildlife