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On March 24, the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) released a Public Notice for proposed changes to the National Wetland Plant List (NWPL). The USACE is proposing wetland rating changes or additions to 27 species and 48 regional ratings (some species were reviewed in multiple regions). The public has the opportunity to comment on the proposed changes. Comments must be submitted on or before May 24, 2021. Click here to read the entire Public Notice. https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2021-03-24/pdf/2021-05989.pdf

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Photo credit: The Ohio State University Archives
As Women’s History Month draws to a close, the Stream + Wetlands Foundation (S+W) would like to recognize the many accomplishments of women in science throughout the years. From the discovery of radiation to the invention of Kevlar and sending us to the moon, women from around the world have played a significant and often overlooked role. We would like to take this opportunity to recognize one such trailblazer who came from right here in Ohio and her work from more than 100 years ago continues to help us still today.

Frederica Marie “Freda” Detmers (1867-1934) was a Buckeye, through and through. She received her bachelor’s degree in 1887 and in 1891 she received the first master’s degree presented by the Department of Botany that was based on research with plant pathogens from The Ohio State University (OSU). In 1889, Freda became the first woman to hold a research position for the Ohio Agricultural Experiment Station (OAES), a position she held until 1892. She went on to teach science and German at North High School in Columbus from 1893 to 1906.She returned to OSU in 1906 as an instructor in the Department of Botany. Freda earned her Ph.D. in 1912 (the second doctoral degree granted by OSU’s Department of Botany), became an assistant professor and ultimately returned to OAES in 1918, becoming an assistant botanist. Eventually, she left Ohio in 1927 to become the curator of the University of Southern California herbarium.

In March 1930, she was injured in a fall during a botanical collecting trip in southern California. She later died in 1934 at the age of 67.

A true pioneer, she was credited with many firsts including:
• Her masters thesis on rust fungi of Ohio was the first in the field of plant pathology at OSU.
• She was the first scientist with a Ph.D. hired on the Wooster campus with responsibilities in the area of plant pathology.
• She was the first woman in Ohio to hold a position entirely devoted to botanical research.

During her life, Dr. Detmers published at least 28 technical papers and articles including her Ph.D. dissertation, An Ecological Study of Buckeye Lake: A Contribution to the Phytogeography of Ohio, which is a comprehensive study combining data from floristic, ecological and other viewpoints – the first such study to combine these topics into one presentation. Through her life’s work, we were left with a better understanding of our state’s ecology, particularly of the Buckeye Lake region. Her dissertation included a compilation of historical records that provides great insight into the plant community that formerly existed in this area. These details will help S+W develop an ecologically appropriate habitat restoration plan for its project located within the former Bloody Run Swamp.

The Bloody Run Swamp was a large marsh located in Union Township of Licking County, a couple miles northwest of present-day Buckeye Lake. In 2019, S+W acquired an 82-acre parcel located within the footprint of the former 600+/- acre marsh. Restoration of this small part of the former Bloody Run Swamp will take place over the next few years. Please look for updates and additional historical details of this important habitat restoration project going forward.

We would like to give a special thank you to The Ohio State University Archives for their permission to use these images of Dr. Detmers.
Photo credit: The Ohio State University Archives

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Photo credit: Dr. Lara Roketenetz, University of Akron Field Station

Outdoor learning and access to nature provides positive benefits for people of all ages. Most of these programs are provided by nature centers, outdoor-science schools, parks and zoos. However, the COVID-19 pandemic is threatening the survival of programs that provide outdoor environmental and science education as well. 

Stream + Wetlands Foundation (S+W) Board of Trustees has recently made a three-year commitment to support the environmental education program at the University of Akron Field Station at Bath Nature Preserve. Established in 1998, the mission of The University of Akron Field Station (UAFS) is to serve the needs of the people of northeastern Ohio through research, education, and service that promotes a better understanding of our relationship with the natural environment. 

“We are pleased to help support the work of Dr. Roketenetz and the UAFS at Bath Nature Preserve,” said S+W President Vince Messerly. “Outdoor learning experiences, particularly ones that promote the importance of wetlands, engage students and encourage positive attitudes about our environment.” 

“For the last five years, we have had the pleasure of hosting more than 4,000 students from northeast Ohio on field trips to the University of Akron Field Station, as well as conducting classroom visits for an additional 4,500 students so that they can learn about nature, biomimicry, wetlands and conservation,” says Field Station Manager Lara Roketenetz, Ph.D. ”This generous and sustained support from S+W will allow us to continue to offer these important environmental education experiences to our local schools at no charge.”

S+W’s contribution will help the University of Akron Foundation develop an outdoor learning center at the Bath Nature Preserve and provide continuing support for environmental education programs for urban and rural K-12 students in the region.

“This (gift) removes a very real financial hardship and burden for many of our partner school districts, which might otherwise prevent their learners from having access to quality nature-based experiential learning,” Roketenetz continued. “We are very grateful for the S+W donation and can’t wait to continue our important work!”

Situated on the 411-acre Bath Nature Preserve, the UAFS is located between Cleveland Akron/Canton. The facility is among the largest terrestrial ecology field stations in Ohio.

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On March 4, the Ohio EPA finalized the 401 Water Quality Certifications (WQC) and Response to Comments for the 2021 Nationwide Permits published by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the Federal Register on Jan. 13, 2021. The 2021 Nationwide Permits are effective from March 15, 2021 through March 15, 2026. The final version, issued by the Army Corps, only included Nationwide Permits for 16 activities. The other 40 Nationwide Permits will remain under the 2017 conditions until their expiration on March 18, 2022. For more information, visit the Ohio EPA website here.

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Up to five scholarships of $5,000 each will be awarded.

The scholarship fund is held and managed by the Fairfield County Foundation (FCF), a 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to enhancing the quality of life and economic viability of the Fairfield County community. Applications and a letter of interest need to be submitted through the FCF website by March 12, 2021.Scholarships are for the 2021-2022 academic year.

Requirements:

  • Applicant must be a resident of Ohio AND an undergraduate or graduate student currently attending a college or university in Ohio.
  • Applicant must have completed at least one year towards an associates or bachelor’s degree in engineering, biological or ecological science.
  • Applicant must have a minimum cumulative grade point average of 2.5.
  • Applicants working towards a degree that will facilitate a career in native habitat restoration engineering/ecology will be given highest priority. 

After the deadline, Stream + Wetlands will review the applications and make selections for scholarship recipients. Notification of scholarship recipients will take place in April and May.

Applications are due by 11:59 p.m. on Friday, March 12, 2021.

Questions? Please feel free to contact Megan N. Garber at Stream + Wetlands about the scholarship or submittal requirements.

For questions regarding the Fairfield County Foundation or the scholarship process, contact Abby King.

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Indiana Senate Bill 389, a controversial bill to strip state protections of isolated wetlands, passed the Indiana Senate on Monday, Feb. 1 with a vote of 29-19. The bill eliminates all state isolated wetlands permitting requirements from the law. Wetlands that meet the Waters of the United States criteria will still be regulated under the Clean Water Act (sections 401 and 404).

Read more about how the passage of SB389 will affect the state’s wetlands.

SB 389 will now head to the Indiana House of Representatives for its first reading. To voice your support or opposition to the bill, reach out to your state senator.

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Immediately upon his inauguration on Jan. 20, President Biden signed 17 Executive Orders (EOs), some of which reversed decisions made by the Trump administration while others delayed the implementation of pending regulatory changes. While these EOs target a response to COVID-19, financial relief for Americans, human rights, immigration and ethics, three EOs targeted issues with regard to our environment, including the pending Nationwide Permits as well as the previously adopted Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule. Below is a summary of these orders:

Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis

This Executive Order establishes the Biden administration’s commitment to immediately work to confront both the causes and impacts of climate change by implementing policy guided by science. The order rolls back many actions taken by the previous administration to loosen environmental standards and protections that may be inconsistent with Biden’s articulated policy.

Specific actions targeted for review include Waters of the United States (now called Navigable Waters Protection Rule) which went into effect on June 22, 2020 and the 2021 Final Nationwide Permits (NWP) which expire on March 18, 2022.

Modernizing Regulatory Review

This Executive Order directs the Director of the OMB to begin evaluating the processes and principles that govern regulatory review to ensure swift and effective federal action. The goal is to produce a set of recommendations for improving and modernizing regulatory review. This EO states that recommendations should consider ways that the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) can play proactive role in partnering with agencies to undertake regulatory initiatives.

Revocation of Certain Executive Orders Concerning Federal Regulation

This Executive Order directs the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and agency heads to rescind any orders, rules, regulations, etc. that impede the federal government’s ability to confront urgent challenges facing our nation including the COVID-19 pandemic, economic recovery, racial justice or climate change.

President Biden also issued a memorandum declaring a Regulatory Freeze Pending Review. This directive places a freeze on all new regulations put in motion by the previous administration to give his administration time to evaluate which ones it wants to move forward on. This minimum 60-day postponement on implementation of any rules that have not yet taken effect include the final 2021 NWPs which are set to expire on March 18, 2022. In addition, the Ohio EPA released a public notice of the draft of Section 401 Water Quality Certifications for the proposed 2020 NWPs on Dec. 16, 2020 with a comment period set to expire on Feb. 11, 2021. The pause outlined in this memorandum could affect any further movement on the NWPs.

The Stream + Wetlands team is currently reviewing these Executive Orders, will continue to monitor activities surrounding their impact and are available to discuss how they could affect your projects.

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Outdoor learning and access to nature provides positive benefits for children of all ages. Beyond reduction of stress and enhanced concentration, outdoor learning is a popular activity that can be easily adapted to adhere to current public health guidelines. Most of these programs are provided by nature centers, outdoor-science schools, parks and zoos.

The COVID-19 pandemic, however, is threatening the survival of programs that provide outdoor environmental and science education as well. An article by the University of California Berkeley points out that, because of significant revenue losses, nearly 63 percent of 1,000 outdoor-education programs for K-12 students are in danger of closing, with little chance of reopening. Additional information about COVID’s effects on environmental and outdoor education programs can be found by reading this Lawrence Hall of Science article.

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Nationwide Permits (NWPs) are necessary for work in streams, wetlands and other waters of the United States under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899. On Sept. 15, the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) posted a draft of their proposal to reissue and modify its existing NWPs in the Federal Register. This includes a proposal to issue five new NWPs. With these modifications, the USACE hopes to simplify and clarify the NWPs, reduce burdens on the regulated public, and continue to comply with the statutory requirement that these NWPs authorize only activities with no more than minimal individual and cumulative adverse environmental effects.

One of the proposed new NWP would authorize discharges of dredged or fill material into jurisdictional waters for the construction, expansion, and maintenance of water reuse and reclamation facilities.  Two of the other proposed NWPs would authorize certain categories of mariculture activities (i.e., seaweed and finfish mariculture) that are not authorized by NWP 48. Lastly, the USACE is also proposing to divide NWP12, which authorizes utility line activities, into two separate NWPs including:

  • Modify the current utility line NWP 12 to authorize only oil and natural gas pipeline activities.
  • Two proposed new NWPs would authorize activities associated with the construction, maintenance, repair, and removal of electric utility lines/telecommunication lines and utility lines that convey water, sewage, and other substances.

The comment period runs until November 16, 2020. The current version of the Nationwide Permits (2017) expire on March 28, 2021. S+W is currently reviewing the NWP for wetland and stream restoration projects as well as NWPs that may affect our clients. We are available to assist you and your organization as you review the new requirements of the 2021 NWPs. Feel free to contact us to further discuss the language and ramifications of these new proposed permits

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The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) and the Lake Erie and Aquatic Research Network (LEARN) have partnered on the H2Ohio’s wetland monitoring plan to assess the effectiveness and future role of implemented and planned wetland restoration projects. This collaboration will study different types of wetlands to determine which are the most cost-effective for mitigating nutrient runoff to Ohio waters, will track the effectiveness of wetland efforts and inform future wetland construction and maintenance.

LEARN researchers from universities across Ohio including Bowling Green State University, Heidelberg University, Kent State University, The Ohio State University, The University of Toledo and Wright State University will take samples from wetlands being currently constructed and planned in the near future. The monitoring plan hopes to address the question of whether restored wetlands can effectively mitigate nutrient pollution while, at the same time, provide benefits like wildlife habitat.

LEARN a group of field stations, scientific laboratories and diverse researchers within Ohio working together to promote collaborative research, education and networking to address the challenges and opportunities facing Ohio’s freshwater resources. For more information, read this press release on ODNR’s website.