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Minnesota GraphicWCA Stakeholder Advisory Committee

WCA Assessment Stakeholder Meeting Summary

1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
May 9, 2006

Rick Dahlman, DNR-Forestry
Mark Reed, St. Louis County
Dan Girolamo, BWSR
John Thompson, St. Louis County
Greg Bernu, Pine County
Roger Lake, Mn Association of Watershed Districts
Tom Martinson, Lake County
Dale Krystosek, BWSR
Jim Lemmerman, BWSR
Dan Helwig, PCA
Laurie Fairchild, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Keith Hanson, Mn Power
Lawrence Zdon, PCA
Ben Meyer, Wetland Professionals Association
Joe Martin, Mn Dept of Agriculture
Terry Weber, Mn Forest Resources Partnership
Nick Tiedeken, MnDOT
Steve Colvin, DNR-Ecological Services
Bruce Gerbig, DNR-Waters
Tom Baumann, DNR-Forestry
Sheila Vanney, Mn Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts
Kay Cook, BWSR
Fred Corrigan, Asphalt Ready-Mix Association of Mn
Perry Bollum, DNR-Enforcement
Dave Zumeta, Mn Forest Resources Council
Lisa Thorvig, PCA
Mary Mueller, Minnesotans for Wetlands
Janette Brimmer, Mn Center for Environmental Advocacy 

Call to Order.
Dave Weirens called the meeting to order at 1:10 pm and began with introductions. He referenced several handouts and mentioned the standard meeting format that will focus on the discussion items listed in the meeting summary document.

Forestry Exemption.
Weirens introduced Jim Lemmerman, BWSR Forester and Dale Krystosek, BWSR Senior Wetland Specialist.

Lemmerman provided a summary of the forestry exemption by saying two scenarios are common. The first scenario involves a temporary crossing. The rule does not require replacement if hydrology is not adversely affected and the project involves silvicultural activities. No drainage of public waters is permitted.

The second scenario involves permanent roads for silvicultural activities. This exemption is available only to those projects that do not impact hydrological or biological characteristics of the wetland. No drainage is allowed.

Lemmerman continued to discuss the exemptions by defining what silvicultural is so the proposed use is clear. Silviculture is the management of forest trees and includes the science of controlling the composition on a sustainable basis.

Lemmerman continued to discuss management plans for forested areas. Plan requirements include the installation of best management practices to control erosion and to provide fish passage. All state and federal requirements must be met.

Dale Krystosek added that this exemption has been used but the extent may be unknown. LGUs were raising questions so BWSR developed a guidance document that was approved by the BWSR Board on June 24th, 2004. The document provides a worksheet and examples of misuse to guide local WCA administrators.

Failure to comply with BMP's can be cause for enforcement. Guidance for violations includes the primary purpose of the road. If the road’s purpose changes less than 10 years after constructed, then “after the fact” replacement is required, and if more than 10 years, only replace additional impacts.

Discuss Options.
Krystosek outlined the following options: 1.) No change. 2.) Repeal. 3.) Incorporate some of the 2004 guidance document language into the Rule. Staff recommends no change

Tom Mings commented that the ACOE was consulted with in developing the guidance document. Dale concurred that Corps and Environmental Protection Agency staff contributed toward preparing this document. Federal and state guidance are very compatible.

John Thompson commented that people are seeking access via public land or easement. St. Louis County requires sequencing for WCA impacts. John also commented on the issue of changing the road’s intended use. He stated that often the existing forest road is the best access so other uses choose it also.

Laurie Fairchild asked two questions. First she asked for clarification between temporary and permanent road definitions. Does permanent mean long term and temporary means not long term? The second questions related to the definition of “minimized”.

Dave Zumeta asked if the northern counties find the guidance useful? What are the LGU comments? John added that it doesn’t work in zoning but any activity will be reported.

Janet Brimmer asked what happens to permanent roads when they get to the 10-year break point? Dan Helwig replied that guidance says to limit hydrologic and biological impacts.  Do we look for threatened and endangered species? Rick Dahlman said it’s in the guidance.

Rick Dahlman began a presentation on wetland crossings. DNR has monitored 315 harvest sites over the last three years that have documented 1099 wetlands. This has expanded to 27,911 wetland affected annually. 8000 sites have been harvested across all ownerships.

Dahlman replied that all wetlands are listed by categories. There are 14000 crossing per year across some water body in the state. 548 crossings were looked at and only 31 had permanent fill. We have 95% confidence level with the data. 40 to 70 acres per year are impacted.

Ron Harnack asked how many impact sites per project?  Dahlman responded usually 1 but up to 3. The max has been 4 per project. Harnack continued what is the largest impact per site?  Dahlman responded 0.118 acres. Most are small.

Gerbig asked if it is assumed that BMP’s are in place? Dahlman replied that we look at approaches, crossing type and condition, blockage of flow, rutting and sedimentation.

Brimmer asked if fill means soil, corduroy or both? Dahlman answered soil.

Perry Bollum asked about the definition of “all ownership” and whom that included and how was it determined. Dalhman responded that DNR used satellite imagery and randomly selected sites. They remove clearings other than those for forestry and then secure landowner permission to access the site for inspection. The inspection is to verify storm damage or not and to assess impact.

Harnack asked how the monitoring was funded. Dahlman responded the DNR, Sustainable Forestry Resources Act of 1985, the Federal Clean Water Act and the Minnesota Forest Resources Council.

Bollum reported that the recent flights for enforcement are checking for BMP violations. Does forestry report BMP violations when they see them during field inspections? Dalhman responded yes, but only when there is a threat to human health and safety. Routine violations observed during inspections are not reported. We try to keep the doors open to landowners so they will allow for future access and field inspections.

Krystosek commented that normal enforcement flights are used to spot check for violations.

A question was asked about the logger education program. People need to take the training but it was noted that much of their work is in non-wetland areas. Dahlman added that suppliers must also show that they meet standards and guidelines.

Tom Tri inquired if anyone has quantified the acres of wetland where the functions have improved. Dahlman responded to say we like restoration projects, when they’re done. Harnack stated that restoration can be accomplished by eliminating shrub/scrub and then reforesting with tamarack or white cedar.

Weirens summarized this exemption does not appear to require change. Are there any other issues with this exemption? He mentioned the LGU comments and that the data is not volumous.

Brimmer asked if copies of Dahlman’s charts were available? Weirens offered to use his email list to send a copy.

Harnack asked when the next report is due and what years will it cover. The current data is for 2000-2002.  Dahlman responded the report will be out in 2007 or early 2008 and will cover 2004 –2006. We will compare the 2004-2006 data to the base data to see if change is evident.

Zumeta asked about the 3-year comparison. Did the 2002/2003 data include harvest done in 2002, 2001 and 2000 before the training? 2004, 2005 and 2006 data will be compared to early baseline to see if guidance and training has helped. Dahlman stated this data will be used to target training, and to redo guidelines in the future.

Wayne Brandt stated that certification programs have resulted in more monitoring. Expenditures and activities should be combined to get more compliance. Weirens redirected the discussion by commenting this topic is outside the scope of this meeting.

Helwig asked about the relationship between the LGU’s numbers reported and Dahlman’s data. Weirens stated there is no connection.

Thompson reiterated that zoning will pickup these cases when the applicant applies for a permit. Weirens commented the LGU data includes only official certifications. Data is not provided for those that operate without requesting an exemption.

Harnack added not much change is offered but we should consider the benefits of taking guidance and incorporating it into the Rule.

Brimmer asked if should we change the exemption or not? There is nothing wrong with the language. It might not hurt to nail down the guidance document. She is most worried about change in use, the 10-year time period, and where a new development uses a road installed under the forestry exemption.

Thompson added a couple of things. First, agencies are using ecological classification systems. We are picking up more wetlands. After 10 years, the project site is done eroding etc. If they expand the footprint to 8,000 square feet but go to 11,000 square feet, what is required?

Krystosek responded if more than 10 years, then 3,000 square feet must be mitigated and if less than10 years, 11,000 square feet times two is required. This creates a challenge for those required to document and enforce this changed use.

Brimmer offered maybe there is a case for no time limit. Less tracking will be required.

Bollum commented the DNR has not had a problem with the forest industry. The biggest problem is private landowners. This exemption is causing the most problems, usually trimming trees and driveways. He applauded St. Louis County for their efforts.

Brimmer asked if we should focus on a Rule change or other? Enforcement?

Bollum replied that he is not sure about always falling back on enforcement. First, we have to find it and then do something with it once found. For example someone puts a road in under the silvicultural exemption and water backs up onto the neighbor causing problems. We check the height of the water and whether or not there are enough culverts and were they raised. This puts the onus on the DNR to prove the past.

Krystosek agreed. Parcels are bought and improved. The improvement frequently involves an impact. This is not a legitimate use of the forestry exemption.

The Stakeholders identified the following options:  

1)      Study to identify the extent of exemption misuse.

2)      Put guidance in the Rule.

3)      Time Period?

4)      LGU contact – non-industry landowner education and enforcement issue.

However, the discussion indicated that, overall, the exemption works well. Instead of changes: more enforcement, identify barriers, strive to make more effective and provide state funding for restorations.

Industrial activities were compared with private activities. One of the reasons we have good data is due to the fact that it is impossible to hide actual change or land use change. Enforcement is difficult but this is why we have Conservation Officers.

The idea of all exemptions going into the LGU office will overwhelm WCA administrators. Weirens asked do we require LGU contact across all exemptions or pick and choose depending on what’s going on?

Harnack stated that we do not need to create more work than is needed. A system is in place to allow monitoring. We don’t want to ask for it if they will stack it in the corner.

Brimmer mentioned that she is hearing that this exemption works across the board. We have an issue with private landowners. This is an enforcement problem and an educational issue. 

Brandt commented that a lot of data is presented on exemption use but nothing from the other side. Krystosek commented that we have had a few problem areas but have worked with LGU staff to resolve them. Some staff moved on, but it took eight years.

Thompson reminded the group that zoning will catch a lot of these as permits are needed. Krystosek added that the forestry exemption is a huge workload issue. LGU may grant but BWSR can still appeal.

Zumeta suggested the whole issue is amenable to research. Forestry industry versus development pressures should not be resolved via changing the silvicultural exemption.

Helwig mentioned the wetland monitoring and assessment program that will be undertaking random plots every three years. A subset can be examined to determine why change is occurring. Is there a loophole or lack of enforcement?

Brimmer commented the plots take too long. A lot of people are moving north and it will take money to show what is not working versus what is working.

Harnack asked the group if there are specific problems with the exemption. None were mentioned. Fairchild agrees that the exemption does not need to change but asked how do we get the data?

Weirens responded the data will come from LGU’s reporting total exemptions used and total acres impacted. We will have to deal with politics as well.

Greensweig commented on the need for balance. Should we audit or conduct random studies? What is the cost to mitigate? 40 acres of impact is small so the legislature should appropriate money to bank the impacts rather than having LGUs run them down. It would be a better use of funds.

Mary Mueller stated that those people who are doing it right are ok. Those that are not, fall back to enforcement.

Krystosek added that one full time LGU staff person could keep busy monitoring the private development activity alone. Thompson commented some LGUs are strapped for cash. He asked, can we look at the existing data to measure the problem? Thompson continued, we are spending a lot of money for data already available. There is no economy of scale.

Fairchild asked can we get this data from zoning?  Krystosek mentioned during the LGU survey he went sat down with two counties. Becker County had knowledge of 90% of exemptions and Beltrami County, without local zoning has 50%.

Fairchild stated that it is good with some counties but not others. The variance between Dahlman’s data and LGU data is troubling her.

Keith Hanson shared that many of the North East Minnesota wetlands are on public lands. When developing data we need to look at land ownership. Brimmer commented you can assume public land is all OK, but 4 wheelers are tearing up state recreational areas.

Hanson commented that these numbers are the lowest on the sheet. We are looking for too much detail for this topic. Weirens stated that BWSR’s desire is to have better data and we will not single out forestry. We need better data from LGUs but how much work is it for them to collect useful data? We ask for numbers but provide no money to some LGUs while others give us good data and do collect administrative funding.

Fairchild commented that we should make it more attractive to LGU’s to collect good data. If we make monitoring work we too could compare base data to three years of new data. We need to convince them that we are using the data and report back to them.

Brimmer stood up for forestry wetland enforcement. We can’t just say we need more! Weirens replied that we have a big state and few people to cover enforcement. Mueller added enforcement belongs to overall category but we should also increase funding for enforcement.

Harnack asked, so is the consensus of the group for no change? Brimmer commented we do not need to change the statute, only the guidance. Add a time limit.

Weirens asked for closing comments.

The meeting was adjourned at 3:30 pm.

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