[Federal Register Volume 80, Number 214 (Thursday, November 5, 2015)]
[Notices]
[Pages 68536-68537]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2015-28266]


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ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

[EPA-HQ-OW-2015-0667; FRL-9936-59-OW]


National Wetland Condition Assessment 2011 Draft Report

AGENCY: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

ACTION: Notice.

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SUMMARY: This notice announces the availability of EPA's draft report 
on the National Wetland Condition Assessment (NWCA 2011) and opens a 
30-day public review and comment period on the draft report. The NWCA 
2011 is the first national assessment of the ecological condition of 
the nation's wetlands. The NWCA 2011 draft report describes the results 
of a nationwide

[[Page 68537]]

probabilistic survey of wetlands conducted in the spring and summer of 
2011 by EPA and its state and tribal partners. Results are based on 
ecological data collected at over 1,000 sites using standardized 
protocols and include estimates of wetland area in ``good,'' ``fair,'' 
and ``poor'' condition, nationally and by ecoregion, for a biological 
indicator based on plants and key wetland stressors. The report also 
provides information on the design and implementation of the scientific 
assessment, possible implications, and future actions. This report 
completes the first series of probability-based surveys conducted under 
EPA's National Aquatic Resource Surveys program.

DATES: Comments must be received on or before December 7, 2015.

ADDRESSES: Submit your comments, identified by Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-
2015-0667, to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the online instructions for submitting 
comments. Once submitted, comments cannot be edited or withdrawn. EPA 
may publish any comment received to its public docket. Do not submit 
electronically any information you consider to be Confidential Business 
Information (CBI) or other information whose disclosure is restricted 
by statute. Multimedia submissions (audio, video, etc.) must be 
accompanied by a written comment. The written comment is considered the 
official comment and should include discussion of all points you wish 
to make. EPA will generally not consider comments or comment contents 
located outside of the primary submission (i.e., on the web, cloud, or 
other file sharing system). For additional submission methods, the full 
EPA public comment policy, information about CBI or multimedia 
submissions, and general guidance on making effective comments, please 
visit http://www2.epa.gov/dockets/commenting-epa-dockets.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Gregg Serenbetz, Wetlands Division, 
Office of Water (4502T), Environmental Protection Agency, 1200 
Pennsylvania Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20460; telephone number: 202-
566-1253; email address: serenbetz.gregg@epa.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The National Wetland Condition Assessment 
2011: A Collaborative Survey of the Nation's Wetlands is the first 
report assessing the condition of the nation's wetlands and the fifth 
report in a series of National Aquatic Resource Surveys (NARS), a 
national-scale monitoring program designed to produce statistically-
valid assessments that answer critical questions about the condition of 
waters in the United States.
    The key goals of the NWCA are to (1) describe the ecological 
condition of the nation's wetlands and stressors commonly associated 
with poor condition; (2) collaborate with states and tribes in 
developing complementary monitoring tools, analytical approaches, and 
data management technology to aid wetland protection and restoration 
programs; and (3) advance the science of wetland monitoring and 
assessment to support wetland management needs. EPA began planning 
activities for the NWCA in 2006 and engaged with a broad group of 
stakeholders including state environmental and natural resource 
agencies, tribes, federal agencies, academia, and other organizations 
to help inform different aspects of the assessment.
    Both tidal and nontidal wetlands were targeted for sampling. To 
select wetland sites for sampling, EPA used the same digital map of 
wetland locations that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service uses in their 
Wetland Status and Trends program. While not a comprehensive map of all 
wetlands throughout the U.S., these mapped locations are used to 
statistically represent the extent of wetlands nationally. Sampling 
sites for the NWCA were randomly selected from this digital map and 
distributed based on the prevalence of wetlands across the U.S. using a 
survey design that ensures the results reflect the full range of 
wetlands in the target population. Each wetland site was sampled using 
standardized field protocols to collect ecological data on plants, 
soil, water chemistry, algae, and wetland stressors. The use of 
standardized field and laboratory protocols is another key feature of 
the NWCA and allows the data to be combined to produce a nationally 
consistent assessment. The results presented in the NWCA 2011 report 
are based on data from 1,138 wetland sites sampled during the spring 
and summer of 2011 in the conterminous U.S. (41 sites sampled in Alaska 
are not included in the national and regional results in the report). 
The NWCA 2011 report describes the ecological condition of wetlands 
nationally and in four ecoregions (Coastal Plains, Eastern Mountains 
and Upper Midwest, Interior Plains, and West) using a biological 
indicator of condition and several physical, chemical, and biological 
indicators of stress.
    This is the first time a national monitoring study of the 
ecological condition of wetlands has been conducted. Under the NARS 
program, studies have been completed for wadeable streams (2004), lakes 
(2007), rivers and streams (2008-2009), and coastal waters (2010). The 
release of the NWCA 2011 final report will complete the first full 
cycle of NARS reports. EPA and our partners plan to continue to assess 
each of these water body types on a five year rotating basis.
    This draft report has undergone external peer review. States and 
other stakeholders also reviewed and commented on the draft report. The 
purpose of this action is to solicit public comment on the draft report 
before finalizing it. EPA is seeking comment on the information 
contained in the draft report, the reasonableness of the conclusions, 
and the clarity with which the information is presented. The draft 
report and other supporting materials may also be viewed and downloaded 
from EPA's Web site at http://www2.epa.gov/national-aquatic-resource-surveys/national-wetland-condition-assessment.

    Dated: October 28, 2015.
Kenneth J. Kopocis,
Deputy Assistant Administrator, Office of Water.
[FR Doc. 2015-28266 Filed 11-4-15; 8:45 am]
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