The Endangered Species Act of 1973 recognized that various species of fish, wildlife, and plants in the United States were in danger of extinction unless additional care was taken to preserve these species. As an outgrowth of the Act, agencies often undertake species surveys either as compliance for themselves or as part of their approval of federal activities and actions.
About a decade ago, the EPA took steps to encourage a watershed approach to better address water quality problems, focusing stakeholder efforts within watersheds to protect and restore aquatic resources and ecosystems. The watershed approach addresses pollution to our water resources while balancing the need for community growth and development.
Macroinvertebrates have long been used as indicators to assess water quality. A well-balanced and functioning biological community is one of the best indicators of a healthy stream. Benthic macroinvertebrates (bottom-dwelling organisms such as aquatic insects, crayfish, and worms) are often studied to determine water quality because of their high numbers, known pollution tolerances, and limited mobility.
The Clean Water Act was established to protect water resources in the United States. Regulations specified in Sections 401 and 404 of the Clean Water Act make it necessary to obtain permits prior to impacting wetlands and streams. Section 401 Water Quality Certification is administered by state water resource agencies, and the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is responsible for Section 404 permitting.
Stream restoration uses natural channel design techniques to improve impaired stream systems and their associated floodplains, creating self-sustaining, stable systems. A successfully designed wetland restoration project will function as a healthy, natural wetland system, providing water quality improvement, floodwater storage, aquatic and terrestrial species habitat, and biological productivity for many years to come.
Standards for Phase I and II Environmental Site Assessments (ESAs) have been established by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) to address the “All‐Appropriate‐Inquiry” (AAI) aspect to the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA). CERCLA contains policy and procedures for containing or removing hazardous substances that have been released, and provides guidance for clean-up of abandoned hazardous waste sites.
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) established national environmental policy for the protection, maintenance, and enhancement of the environment. NEPA was developed to prevent or eliminate environmental damage, encourage productive harmony between humans and their environment, protect human health and welfare, and support the understanding of important natural resources and ecological systems.
WATER QUALITY MONITORING
There are many ways to monitor water conditions: sampling the chemical condition of water to determine levels of key constituents such as dissolved oxygen, nutrients, metals, oils, and pesticides; monitoring physical conditions such as temperature, flow, sediments, and the erosion potential of stream banks; or conducting biological monitoring to determine the abundance and variety of aquatic plant and animal life.
As required by the Clean Water Act, the US Environmental Protection Agency has granted authority to each state to maintain a permitting program for stormwater discharges associated with construction activities. For example, a KPDES KYR10 Permit is required in Kentucky, an NPDES Stormwater General Permit is required in Tennessee, and a Rule 5 Permit for Stormwater Discharges is required in Indiana.