Ecosystem Solutions, Inc. provides wetland delineation services in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Wetland delineation is often the first and very important step in land planning and development.

"Land that's too thick to drink and too wet to plow." -Swamp Yankee wetland definition Delineator hanging "flagging tape"

Munsell color chart
Why is wetland delineation so important? Since wetlands are a regulated by the federal and many state governments (including all six New England states), delineation can have significant consequences for land conservation, economic development, water quality, wildlife, rare plant habitat, flood control and many other important issues. Anyone with an interest in purchasing and/or developing a piece of piece of property, from single-family houses to commercial developments, should know the locations of wetlands on that property. Unpermitted alterations of regulated wetland areas can result in expensive, time-consuming legal battles, fines, and the delay or loss of your development project.

But where does the dry land (or upland) stop and the wetland begin? This is an important question. Wetlands are considered a subset of "waters of the United States" (section 404 of the Clean Water Act) and are jointly defined by the US Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency (Federal Register 1982 and 1980) as:
"Those areas that are inundated or saturated by surface or ground water at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions. Wetlands generally include swamps, marshes, bogs, and similar areas."

A young Brandon Faneuf in a quaking bog in Northbridge, MA holding the pedicel of a pitcher plant (Sarracenia purpurea) and surrounded by leatherleaf (Chamaedaphne calyculata)
-photo courtesy of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

To simplify, this definition states that three wetland criteria must be present an area to be called a wetland. These include wetland vegetation, also known as hydrophytic (water-loving) vegetation; wetland soils, also known as hydric soils and wetland hydrology (the way water enters, is retained and released by a wetland). The presence of these criteria may be directly observed or inferred by examining indicators of the criteria. For example, water may not be standing two feet deep in the area at the time you look, but a water stain two feet up on the base of a tree is a strong indicator that water was present in the area some time in the past. The presence of water-stained trees, drift lines, buttressed tree trunks, and sediment deposits are some of the accepted indicators that an area has wetland hydrology.

Sphagnum moss (Sphagnum spp.)
Buttressed tree trunk

Wetland delineators at Ecosystem Solutions, Inc. use their skills and experience in field botany, soil science, hydrology and sampling procedures, as well as state and federally approved wetland delineation methods to determine and document the location of the wetland edge.

Examining plant morphology through a loupe for species identification

Included with delineating the wetland edge in the field, the result of the delineator's efforts includes a findings report, which is sent to the client, his or her engineer and/or land surveyor, and regulatory entity (if required). The report includes supporting data sheets, written descriptions, maps, and/or photographs. Also included in the findings report is a section dedicated to guiding a client to an informed decision about property development in relation to the wetlands on-site. The findings report may be submitted to either the respective Conservation Commission and/or the DEP in Massachusetts, to the Wetlands Permitting or Compliance Program at RIDEM, or to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for review and approval.

Ecosystem Solutions, Inc.
Ph: 401-741-3263Fax: 401-615-0421
PO Box 469, West Warwick, RI 02893