Wetlands and Watershed       Planning         Mike Gracz            Ecologist     Kenai Watershed Forum        Ph.D. Candi...
Overview• General Background• History  – Wetland Mapping to Predict Function• Applications  – Public Awareness: Avoidance ...
Watershed Planning         Strategy• Wetlands:   • Important Water Resource   • Valuable Ecosystem Services   • Permitting...
Alaska Watershed Planning       Differences• Wetlands:   • High Cover   • Relatively Pristine   • Peatlands
Overview• General Background• History  – Wetland Mapping to Predict Function• Applications  – Public Awareness: Avoidance ...
Map-Based Watershed-Level    Management Tool
NWI: Registration errors
NWI: Incomplete
NWI: Not predictiveof wetland function
A New ClassificationPredictive of Function
A New ClassificationPredictive of Function   Locally Relevant
A New ClassificationPredictive of Function    Locally Relevant  Wetland Management Tool
A New ClassificationPredictive of Function     Locally Relevant  Wetland Management ToolWatershed-level Assessments
Hydrology + Geomorphology =              Wetland Function          H+G∝W “First Principles” of wetland function           ...
ResultsCook Inlet Classification >          NWI >      (National Wetland Inventory)              LLWW    (Tiner 2003, 2011...
Overview• General Background• History  – Wetland Mapping to Predict Function• Applications  – Public Awareness: Avoidance ...
Wetland Management Strategies         • Avoid         • Minimize         • Mitigate
Overview• General Background• History  – Wetland Mapping to Predict Function• Applications  – Public Awareness: Avoidance ...
Coho Salmon Analysis                      Kenai R.Kasilof R.      Anadromous Waters Catalog (AWC)
Coho Salmon Analysis  New streams connected to AWC
Coho Salmon Analysis Connected Open-Water Wetlands
Coho Salmon Analysis Slikok Creek      Coal Creek          All Adjacent Wetlands
Coho Salmon Analysis                 All Wetlands
Sandhill Crane Nesting
Caribou Summer & Calving
Overview• General Background• History  – Wetland Mapping to Predict Function• Applications  – Public Awareness: Avoidance ...
Homer WetlandManagement Project  • Mapping  • Assessment  • General Permit?  • Local Ordinance?
Homer Wetland Management Strategies
Homer Wetland Management Strategies
Overview• General Background• History  – Wetland Mapping to Predict Function• Applications  – Public Awareness: Avoidance ...
Alaska is Different• High wetland cover• Peatlands• Functioning in “reference standard condition”
Alaska is Different• High wetland cover• Peatlands• Functioning in “reference standard condition”• Maintenance rather than...
Alaska is Different• High wetland cover• Peatlands• Functioning in “reference standard condition”• Maintenance rather than...
Alaska is Different• High wetland cover• Peatlands• Functioning in “reference standard condition”• Maintenance rather than...
Alaska is Different• Maintenance rather than restoration• Assessment not on disturbance gradient  •Assessment for mitigati...
Cook Inlet Wetland                Management Tool                                     Special Thanks:                     ...
Municipal Wetland Mapping by Mike Gracz
Municipal Wetland Mapping by Mike Gracz
Municipal Wetland Mapping by Mike Gracz
Municipal Wetland Mapping by Mike Gracz
Municipal Wetland Mapping by Mike Gracz
Municipal Wetland Mapping by Mike Gracz
Municipal Wetland Mapping by Mike Gracz
Municipal Wetland Mapping by Mike Gracz
Municipal Wetland Mapping by Mike Gracz
Municipal Wetland Mapping by Mike Gracz
Municipal Wetland Mapping by Mike Gracz
Municipal Wetland Mapping by Mike Gracz
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Municipal Wetland Mapping by Mike Gracz

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Community-Based Watershed Management Forum, March 2012, Juneau Alaska. Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition

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  • Background on wetlands in watershed planning History of the Kenai and MatSu wetland classification and mapping projects Applications of the mapping and classification: Increasing public awareness leading to avoidance of projects filling wetlands Habitat analysis Wetland Assessment in Homer Some lessons learned
  • In general wetland management is a critical part of watershed planning because wetlands are an important water resource providing services that society values, and because there is a formalized permitting process in place to encourage the implementation of best management practices.
  • In Alaska some key differences arise because we have a high cover of peatlands in relatively pristine condition Each of these three characteristics: the high cover, that many are large peatlands, and that they are functioning in or near “reference standard condition” creates a unique wetland management environment. Together, these three characteristics make it difficult to adapt wetland assessment models employed elsewhere in the US.
  • That was the quick overview, now I’ll describe a brief history of the mapping project…
  • We wanted a wetland management tool in GIS so that we could see how all wetlands fit into their watersheds and how the watersheds fit into the landscape. We wanted this landscape-level tool because we were dissatisfied with reviewing projects on a site-by-site basis. Ultimately we wanted to be able to apply this tool to assess wetlands at the scale of the landscape, and build a GIS database that contained attributes for each wetland polygon describing functions or management strategies specific to the polygon. The National Wetlands Inventory has mapped much of the US, so we discussed building the tool on those maps, however it became clear that they would not suffice for three primary reasons:
  • The NWI maps on the Kenai were among the first in the nation, created in the late-1970’s and had numerous, non-systematic mapping errors. Jon Hall, who made the maps, was a part of the group discussing these management needs, and felt that it would be better to start over, rather than try to correct all of the errors. “We made every mapping error possible, except that we always used stable media…”
  • Another reason was that NWI missed many forested wetlands. The previous slide showed the NWI map, and this slide shows the new mapping, toggling back and forth you can see how much wetland area was missed…
  • A third reason for wanting a new map, was that NWI was meant to describe wetlands across the US, so it isn’t necessarily predictive of wetland functions. For example, 2/3 of AK’s wetlands are classified in the NWI category “PSS”, which includes alder thickets along streams, willows along slopes as well as shrubby peatlands; wetlands that clearly function differently.
  • So we needed a new classification, one which was predictive of wetland function…
  • tailored to local conditions...
  • to be used in a wetland management tool
  • that could ultimately be used to drive watershed-level wetland assessments. With a central goal of maintaining function across the landscape, rather than identifying restoration opportunities. Restoration is important, even in AK, and there are many opportunities, but it is much better to keep the system functioning, supporting salmon returns, for example, rather than to focus on a few restoration opportunities. We know that the system largely works, and also that restoration isn’t always successful.
  • To create this classification, we began with what the late Mark Brinson termed the “first principles” of wetland function, that hydrology and geomorphology are the “master variables” responsible for the variety of wetlands we observe, so some form of these two variables will probably be useful in defining a wetland classification predictive of wetland function. Not real first principles- rigorously tested equations predicting physical behavior, but a useful analogy.
  • Briefly, here is an example of what these ideas applied to the Cook Inlet Lowland landscape looks like for a specific geomorphological component, the Relict Glacial Lakebed. This landform covers the most wetland area in the Cook Inlet Basin, and consists of primary peat forming over lakes which drained following the retreat of formerly extensive Pleistocene glaciers. On most landforms, the variability of water levels was used as the hydrologic component in the classification. On this idealized cross-sectional diagram, areas to the left support a more stable water table close to the surface, and areas to the right support more seasonal variation in water levels.
  • We tested how well this classification groups wetlands with similar physical and biological characteristics, wetlands with similar characteristics probably function similarly. The classification outperformed both NWI and LLWW, an HGM classification developed for the glaciated NE US. These results lend confidence to using the new classification in landscape-level assessments to maintain wetland ecosystem services. So we achieved a goal of developing a map-able classification that could be reliably used in a management tool.
  • The classification has been mapped. This slide show a poster of the classification in the 300,000 acre “Greater MatSu Core Area”.
  • And this slide shows the current extent of the mapping, approximately 1.5 million acres…
  • Now that we have a map, we wanted to use it, and an effective use was to increase awareness of where wetlands are. Many wetlands are not obvious- For example, NWI missed a large number of forested wetlands. If NWI missed so many, what can we expect from a landowner? If we could increase the awareness of where wetlands are we would help landowners know before a project began. If landowners know beforehand they will either avoid the wetland, or be more likely to adopt some best management practices through compliance with the permitting process.
  • And avoidance is the best strategy. The three-step approach to permitting under the Clean Water Act defines avoidance as the first goal. After that, if no practicable alternative exits, then the act requires minimization of the amount of fill placed in a wetland; and finally, because the permitee is impacting resources held in common, the minimized fill should be mitigated for. “Minimization” is project-specific, so the real challenges are achieving increased avoidance and then to maintain function by use of properly-scaled mitigation, including compensatory mitigation.
  • Chris Clough of the Kenai Borough has developed an interactive parcel data viewer served over the WWW and used by almost everyone, but especially realtors, developers and prospective landowners.. It is so widely used because it is the most accurate and up-to-date information available, it is updated nightly, so that realtors that used to visit the assessors office 3 times per week, now get all of their information online. Click on a parcel and receive information about the parcels assessed value, number of structures, name and address of the land owner, etc. So why mention this in conjunction with wetlands and watershed planning? Because this tool has resulted in the greatest success the wetland mapping project so far….
  • The wetland map is served up along with the parcel lines. Folks now know what to expect from the beginning, especially where wetlands are not obvious. Some high-profile projects in our area were delayed and incurred substantial cost-overruns because construction began without the knowledge of wetland conditions. I’ve had calls from out-of-state, where folks are viewing a parcel online and asking me what does it mean that the parcel is in a “Kettle” wetland? It’s a great opportunity to talk about wetlands and what they can expect, and has undoubtedly led to a large amount of avoidance. I wonder how many folks discover that the parcel of interest is in a wetland and move on without us ever knowing?
  • For example, this vacant 8.5 acre parcel might look like a good deal at an assessed value of $7000, but it is completely in a peatland. From the interactive viewer, the user can click on a wetland and receive links to …
  • A photo of the site if it was visited and….
  • Detailed descriptions of the type of wetland…
  • Including data from similar wetlands. The map, including hotlinks is also available for download as a GoogleEarth file at: cookinletwetlands.info.
  • The next application was to begin attaching attributes to wetland polygons by performing a few simple habitat analyses. We asked the question: Can we use the map and classification to identify wetlands important for certain types of habitat?
  • The first involved coho salmon. This slide shows the wetland polygons corresponding to one area of the Kenai and Kasilof Rivers, on the Kenai Peninsula. We began with the wetland polygons that corresponded to the streams listed as supporting coho salmon in the Sate’s Anadromous waters catalog..
  • The second step was to identify streams mapped as wetland polygons that flowed into AWC streams, a few small streams show up in this area. This mapping was used to help identify streams likely to also support coho, but were not in the AWC. Some have been trapped, and subsequently added to the AWC.
  • The next step was to identify wetlands with an open water component, adjacent to AWC polygons. Fish use these wetlands directly..
  • Then we identified all wetlands adjacent to AWC streams. We noticed that the headwaters of these two tributaries were in the same large peatland complex straddling a watershed divide, and that the peatland complex had a large are of wetland with open water that was nealr connected across the divide. We have trapped juvenile coho in stream reaches above where the reach emerges from under the peat- the stream has a long subterranean reach. The headwater connection shown here is of particular interest because many juveniles that were tagged in Slikok Creek, in the Kenai River system have returned as adults to Coal Creek, in the Kasilof River system. It is possible that the fish migrated across the divide, and reared in Coal Creek, and then returned to that stream. Of course other explanations are also possible…
  • This slide shows all of the wetlands in area.
  • Gleaning inf from the literature we also looked at which wetlands were likely to support good sandhill crane nesting habitat, shown in red…and ….
  • Which were important for caribou calving and summer habitat, shown in darker red…
  • The next application was to use the mapping to do a landscape-level wetland assessment for wetlands within the City of Homer.
  • The Homer project consisted of mapping wetlands using the Cook Inlet classification, then applying the classification and mapping to produce a wetland assessment. The eventual goals were to be either a general permit, or a local ordinance regulating wetland fill activities, or both.
  • After much discussion we decided to modify the assessment protocol in the Anchorage Wetland Management Plan primarily because this assessment had held up in court.
  • The assessment involved answering a number of assessment questions, such as these, for each wetland in Homer. This was accomplished through multi-day workshops involving many agency folks and experts poring over maps over a period of eight or so months. Some experts only attended portions of the workshops, others answered some question on their own time, using maps and information we provided, while others attended all of the workshops. These experts became extremely familiar with the Homer wetland landscape.
  • A final result was this map, adopted by the Homer City Council that ranked wetlands into three categories, High, Moderate and Low, based on their assessment scores. Wetlands in the moderate and high categories are subject to multi-agency review during the individual permitting process. Homer did not draft an ordinance, and decided against a General Permit. The city did not have the office space available for additional staff to administer an ordinance, and it felt as though the individual permitting process gave it more flexible control of proposed projects. There had been some dissatisfaction with projects that had proceeded under the old General Permit, but that the City did not approve of. Although no ordinance or general permit incorporating management strategies was formally adopted, the EPA member of the group used BMPs and strategies listed in the Anchorage Plan to develop specific strategies for Homer wetlands…
  • And presented these to the expert group. The expert group never voted on the strategies or formally recommended their adoption, but many members of the group liked them. They have been collected together on this poster, which has been widely distributed, both to developers and realtors, as well as agency personnel. Although these strategies are not formally adopted, they are relied upon by many for commenting on individual permits. If a developer is proposing a high-value project on one of these wetlands his project will have a high chance of success if he addresses these strategies on his permit application…
  • Strategies are relatively simple, such as this one for one of the wetland complexes in the City…
  • I’ll briefly talk about some of the primary lessons that we learned, and are still learning through this process…
  • The primary, most general lesson is no surprise: Alaska is different. The three key elements of that difference, at least in our regiion is that we have a high coverage of peatlands functioning in reference standard condition. Our primary concern is the maintence of current function, not the restoration of lost finction. Brinson writes that Natural variation is not measured by the HGM technique, a widely used technique elsewhere, and that HGM is meant to measure differences along a gradient of human disturbance. In the absence of this gradient HGM is not appropriate. We tried it, and it now sits on the shelf.
  • The primary, most general lesson is no surprise: Alaska is different. The three key elements of that difference, at least in our regiion is that we have a high coverage of peatlands functioning in reference standard condition. Our primary concern is the maintence of current function, not the restoration of lost finction. Brinson writes that Natural variation is not measured by the HGM technique, a widely used technique elsewhere, and that HGM is meant to measure differences along a gradient of human disturbance. In the absence of this gradient HGM is not appropriate. We tried it, and it now sits on the shelf.
  • The primary, most general lesson is no surprise: Alaska is different. The three key elements of that difference, at least in our regiion is that we have a high coverage of peatlands functioning in reference standard condition. Our primary concern is the maintence of current function, not the restoration of lost finction. Brinson writes that Natural variation is not measured by the HGM technique, a widely used technique elsewhere, and that HGM is meant to measure differences along a gradient of human disturbance. In the absence of this gradient HGM is not appropriate. We tried it, and it now sits on the shelf. That means that we need a new assessment approach that recognizes this goal, the biggest challenge is to define an appropriate approach.
  • The primary, most general lesson is no surprise: Alaska is different. The three key elements of that difference, at least in our region is that we have a high coverage of peatlands functioning in reference standard condition. Our primary concern is the maintence of current function, not the restoration of lost function. Brinson writes that Natural variation is not measured by the HGM technique, a widely used technique elsewhere, and that HGM is meant to measure differences along a gradient of human disturbance. In the absence of this gradient HGM is not appropriate. We tried it, and it now sits on the shelf. That means that we need a new assessment approach that recognizes this goal, the biggest challenge is to define an appropriate approach.
  • Maybe Alaska is not so different, because we found that, like anywhere local control of wetland management requires a significant commitment of resources, and also that the largest successes can emerge from unexpected sources. The parcel data viewer and the formulation of specific wetland management strategies in Homer were not part of the original project workplan, but have probably resulted in the largest positive outcomes.
  • THANK YOU!!!
  • Municipal Wetland Mapping by Mike Gracz

    1. 1. Wetlands and Watershed Planning Mike Gracz Ecologist Kenai Watershed Forum Ph.D. Candidate University of Minnesota 235-2218 mike@kenaiwatershed.org cookinletwetlands.info
    2. 2. Overview• General Background• History – Wetland Mapping to Predict Function• Applications – Public Awareness: Avoidance of Fill Activity – Habitat Analyses – Wetland Assessment in Homer• Lessons Learned
    3. 3. Watershed Planning Strategy• Wetlands: • Important Water Resource • Valuable Ecosystem Services • Permitting Process
    4. 4. Alaska Watershed Planning Differences• Wetlands: • High Cover • Relatively Pristine • Peatlands
    5. 5. Overview• General Background• History – Wetland Mapping to Predict Function• Applications – Public Awareness: Avoidance of Fill Activity – Habitat Analyses – Homer Wetland Assessment• Lessons Learned
    6. 6. Map-Based Watershed-Level Management Tool
    7. 7. NWI: Registration errors
    8. 8. NWI: Incomplete
    9. 9. NWI: Not predictiveof wetland function
    10. 10. A New ClassificationPredictive of Function
    11. 11. A New ClassificationPredictive of Function Locally Relevant
    12. 12. A New ClassificationPredictive of Function Locally Relevant Wetland Management Tool
    13. 13. A New ClassificationPredictive of Function Locally Relevant Wetland Management ToolWatershed-level Assessments
    14. 14. Hydrology + Geomorphology = Wetland Function H+G∝W “First Principles” of wetland function (Brinson 1993, 1995)
    15. 15. ResultsCook Inlet Classification > NWI > (National Wetland Inventory) LLWW (Tiner 2003, 2011 version of HGM)
    16. 16. Overview• General Background• History – Wetland Mapping to Predict Function• Applications – Public Awareness: Avoidance of Fill Activity – Habitat Analyses – Homer Wetland Assessment• Lessons Learned
    17. 17. Wetland Management Strategies • Avoid • Minimize • Mitigate
    18. 18. Overview• General Background• History – Wetland Mapping to Predict Function• Applications – Public Awareness: Avoidance of Fill Activity – Habitat Analyses – Homer Wetland Assessment• Lessons Learned
    19. 19. Coho Salmon Analysis Kenai R.Kasilof R. Anadromous Waters Catalog (AWC)
    20. 20. Coho Salmon Analysis New streams connected to AWC
    21. 21. Coho Salmon Analysis Connected Open-Water Wetlands
    22. 22. Coho Salmon Analysis Slikok Creek Coal Creek All Adjacent Wetlands
    23. 23. Coho Salmon Analysis All Wetlands
    24. 24. Sandhill Crane Nesting
    25. 25. Caribou Summer & Calving
    26. 26. Overview• General Background• History – Wetland Mapping to Predict Function• Applications – Public Awareness: Avoidance of Fill Activity – Habitat Analyses – Homer Wetland Assessment• Lessons Learned
    27. 27. Homer WetlandManagement Project • Mapping • Assessment • General Permit? • Local Ordinance?
    28. 28. Homer Wetland Management Strategies
    29. 29. Homer Wetland Management Strategies
    30. 30. Overview• General Background• History – Wetland Mapping to Predict Function• Applications – Public Awareness: Avoidance of Fill Activity – Habitat Analyses – Homer Wetland Assessment• Lessons Learned
    31. 31. Alaska is Different• High wetland cover• Peatlands• Functioning in “reference standard condition”
    32. 32. Alaska is Different• High wetland cover• Peatlands• Functioning in “reference standard condition”• Maintenance rather than restoration of lost function
    33. 33. Alaska is Different• High wetland cover• Peatlands• Functioning in “reference standard condition”• Maintenance rather than restoration of lost function• Assessment not on disturbance gradient
    34. 34. Alaska is Different• High wetland cover• Peatlands• Functioning in “reference standard condition”• Maintenance rather than restoration of lost function• Assessment not on disturbance gradient • Assessment for mitigation = biggest challenge
    35. 35. Alaska is Different• Maintenance rather than restoration• Assessment not on disturbance gradient •Assessment for mitigation = biggest challengeMaybe not so different:• Local control requires commitment• Unexpected outcomes most effective
    36. 36. Cook Inlet Wetland Management Tool Special Thanks: Matt LaCroix Paul Glaser Field Crew: Technical Support: Phil North Karyn Noyes Chris Clough Funding: Robert Ruffner Mike MacMillian Bill HollowayUS Environmental Protection Agency Bill Rice Matt LaCroix Dan Regan US Army Corps of Engineers Mary Price Doug Van Patten Laura Shelton Claudette MacDonald Logan Sander Doug Van Patten US Fish and Wildlife Service David Wigglesworth Katy Rice Mike Mungoven Kenai River Center Karyn Noyes Tessa Hovland Stephanie Kobylarz University of Minnesota Jerry Tande Gayle Martin Karyn Noyes Doug Van Patten Mary Moffett John DeLapp Geoff Coble Lisa Rabbe Don Siegel Mike Gracz Valerie Ringold Birgit Hagedorn Richard Reger Susan Kleinmike@kenaiwatershed.org Andy Reeve Julie Engebretsen cookinletwetlands.info Frankie Barker Monica McTeague 907-235-2218 Mary Moffett

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