Volume 25, Number 8 ● April 18, 2017
Submerged Aquatic Vegetation Survey Window is Approaching
If you are undertaking a project that will impact tidal waters, you will likely be required to undertake surveys to document the presence or absence of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) within your project area. Example projects include boat piers/docks, marinas, and channel dredging operations.
What is Submerged Aquatic Vegetation?
Submerged aquatic vegetation refers to communities of plants that live beneath the water surface, often forming dense beds, that provide food and shelter for wildlife (such as fish and waterfowl), help to remove nutrients and sediments from the water column, and help to stabilize sediments while reducing wave energy and erosion. Two examples of SAV follow:
Why should a survey be done?
The Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) regulates nearly all the subaqueous areas (i.e., lands under the water) of Virginia (including all tidal waters). Thus, activities over, under, or on these areas require a permit from VMRC. According to Section I.C.3 of the VMRC Subaqueous Guidelines, "should a permitted project result in a loss or impact to submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV), compensatory mitigation may be required. This may include transplantation of SAV from the area of impact or planting of a new area." VMRC also regulates streams with drainage areas in excess of 5 square miles; note that SAV often occurs in large non-tidal streams!
In addition, Maryland regulates SAV as part of tidal wetlands under the Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR) 26.24. Thus, if you are undertaking work by the tidal Potomac or other tidal tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay, you need to know if your project will have the potential to impact SAV.
When can a survey be done?
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Chesapeake Bay Office's published guidelines recommend that field surveys be conducted during two windows: May 15 through June 15 and July 15 through September 15. These two windows allow surveyors to locate different species that may only be present during these timeframes.
Who can conduct these surveys?
The team at Wetland Studies and Solutions, Inc. (WSSI) has significant experience conducting SAV surveys. Contact us today to discuss how we can help meet your project needs!