Wetlands "Wetlands" is the collective term for marshes, swamps, bogs, and similar areas. Wetlands are found in flat vegetated areas, in depressions on the landscape, and between water and dry land along the edges of streams, rivers, lakes, and coastlines. Wetland areas can be found in nearly every county and climatic zone in the United States. Inland wetlands receive water from precipitation, ground water and/or surface water. Coastal and estuarine wetlands receive water from precipitation, surface water, tides, and/or ground water. Surface water sources include runoff and stormwater.
Since the 1600s, more than half of the original wetlands in the lower 48 states have been destroyed. Twenty two states have lost at least 50 percent of
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Section 404 of the Clean Water Act establishes the federal authority to regulate activities in wetlands. Under Section 404, jointly administered by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the discharge of material into waters of the United States, including wetlands, requires a permit from the Corps based on regulations developed in conjunction with EPA (Section 404(b)(1) guidelines). Failure to obtain a permit or comply with the terms of a permit can result in civil and/or criminal penalties. Other federal regulations and guidelines have been issued which further the goal of wetlands protection and improved wetlands management. Many state and local governments have also enacted regulations and ordinances protecting wetlands.
One cause of wetland depletion are the construction of roads and bridges across wetlands since wetlands have low land value. It is often considered to be more cost effective to build roads or bridges across wetlands than around them (Winter 1988). Roads can impound a wetland, even if culverts are used. Such inadvertent impoundment and hydrologic alteration can change the functions of the wetland (Winter 1988). Road and bridge construction activities can increase sediment loading to wetlands (Mitsch and Gosselink 1993).