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Investigation for Wetland Determination


Real Estate developers often want to build on land near streams and lakes and they usually will need a permit that includes a wetland determination of the subject property.Service Environmental Engineering (SEE) performs the required wetland determination by performing a public document review and a site evaluation.

Public Document Review

A Phase I Wetland Review includes a study of all available public information concerning the subject site and significant surrounding areas. This includes the subject site wetland status, surface water/drainage characteristics and general scientific review of supporting data from the state, county and local agencies.

Service Environmental Engineering will send FOIAs to agencies for information with regards to wetland designations. This includes federal, state and local maps that delineated flood plain limits, the wetland inventories and soil surveys as well as federal topographic maps that delineate cultural information, slope and vegetative data. This research includes a clarification of the status of the storm water run-off drainage by the county drain commission.

Site Investigation

The site investigation includes one or more site walkovers to establish the general vegetative types, to review indicator vegetative and animal species and distributions, to identify soil type characteristics and to estimate the degree of soil saturation. The investigation can include determinations of water levels as viewed in dug trenches, pits, borings or monitoring wells on a quarterly basis through the seasons.

The site investigation targets areas with soil listed as Hydric soil per a State of Michigan 1993 list, wetlands noted on state or federal maps, certain vegetation types and subsurface saturation as criteria for a wetland designation.

Service Environmental Engineering identifies the dominant species at selected sites on the property in three main plant groups including trees, shrubs (and vines), and herbs (ground cover). Criteria for a wetland definition are land areas that have hydrologic characteristics that support wetland plant species. Wetland determination is defined by having 50% or more of Obligate Wetland, Facultative Wetland and Facultative indicator species per the Corps of Engineers Wetland Delineation Manual (1987). These terms relate to the amounts of wetland plant species. Endangered and protected plant and animal species are identified and taken into account.

Additionally, Service Environmental Engineering examines subsurface conditions to 16 inches below the ground level (BGL) to examine water saturation at the frost level. The moisture content variation through this shallow zone is a significant characteristic for the wetland determination.


The summary report of the study will be completed in a timely manner and will include preliminary recommendations, if pertinent, for land use planning.

The public domain information from federal, state and local wetland inventory maps, federal flood plain maps, US Department of Agriculture (USDA) soil survey maps and the list of Hydric soils of Michigan (1993) are summarized as the basis for further investigation if needed. SEE notes areas that are exempt from a wetland determination such as agricultural land.

Reports by Service Environmental Engineering provide information from the site data that includes dominant plant species assemblages with greater or equal to 50% wetland (Obligate Wetland to Facultative indicator) species based on the determination of the relative dominance with each area of the site and ground water within a foot of the ground surface. Information must be compared with the most recent annual precipitation records for the study area and soil as documented in the USDA Soil Survey and listed in the USDA list of Hydric Soils of Michigan.

The Wetland Specialist at Service Environmental Engineering will the discribe the dominant plant species assemblages, the soil and saturated conditions noted in the shallow pits or borings, drainage evidence and other pertinent indictors. Any endangered or protected species are reported. These data are reported according to the recommendations for a wetland designation described in the Corps of Engineers Wetland Delineation, 1987 Manual and the Michigan DEQ Wetland Determination Manual Draft for Field Testing , to satisfy vegetative, soil type and hydrology criteria for wetland classification and to address the State of Michigan, 1980, Geomare-Anderson Wetland Protection Act 203, Public Acts of 1979.

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