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Wayne County Preliminary Wetland Inventory Map

National Association of Counties Award to Wayne County for the Wetlands Preservation Fund

The National Association of Counties awarded the Achievement Award for 2000 to Wayne County for its Wetland Preservation Fund. The award said in part "In recognition of an innovative program that contributes to and enhances county government in the United States."

The following is the write-up for the award.


  1. Abstract of the Program

    Wayne County has created an innovative wetland program known as the Wetland Preservation Fund. This merges environmental restoration, wetland protection, passive recreation, outdoor education, and public participation while encouraging economic development. This program will facilitate a streamlined wetland permitting process within the County by providing wetland replacement at locations that were selected for their value to water quality, fish and wildlife, and restoration of the Rouge River. Wetlands created to date have been valuable outdoor classrooms, wildlife habitat, and filters of storm water runoff.

  2. The Problem and Need for the Program

    A common issue addressed by county government is balancing the importance of economic development with management and protection of natural resources. One common tool used to balance some of the adverse impacts of development is wetland mitigation. Wetland mitigation is the replacement of a wetland that is filled-in for development with a new wetland in another location. While wetland mitigation has been successful in many counties, studies have shown that some mitigation projects have been sited in inappropriate areas and/or have failed to develop into successful, thriving wetlands. Furthermore, the wetland permitting process in some states is lengthy, hindering implementation of valuable development projects.

    Wayne County has also made a commitment to restore the environmental quality of the Rouge River, a major urban river within the County. That commitment includes restoration of the river plus significant enhancements to fish and wildlife habitat. Successful re-introduction of fish and wildlife populations requires successful restoration of wetlands and riparian areas that once were common in the Rouge watershed. The County has identified areas along the riparian corridor of the Rouge River where the habitat should be restored for the use of fish and wildlife. These sites also provide opportunities for outdoor education, passive recreation, and water quality protection.

    The problem in the County was that there was a disjointed effort to protect wetlands, restore the river and facilitate economic development. Wetland fill permits were being issued requiring wetland replacement at locations that were not optimum for restoration of the river. In addition, outdoor education and passive recreation were rarely considered when considering wetland replacement. Further, the permit process for allowing wetland mitigation was cumbersome and lengthy, hindering economic development. There was a need for a program that streamlined the approval process for economic development, while directing resources for mitigation to areas of the County where maximum benefits for outdoor education, passive recreation, fish and wildlife habitat, and water quality improvement could be obtained.

  3. Description of the Program

    On June 4, 1998, the Wayne County Commission approved the recommendation of the County Executive to create the Wetlands Preservation Fund by ordinance. The stated purpose of the ordinance is to provide for the establishment of a County Wetland Mitigation Fund and Bank that will protect and enhance the wetland resources of the County while simultaneously enhancing economic development. The ordinance cited the need to facilitate public and private beneficial land development by providing a streamlined approach to off-site wetland mitigation plus the creation, restoration, preservation and enhancement of all wetlands within the county for the protection and encouragement of wildlife, water conservation, water purification and passive recreation.

    The wetland mitigation program at the County will function as an orderly replacement of the case by case wetland replacement program. Under the initial phase of this program the County will construct wetlands at locations in the floodplain of the Rouge River. These wetlands will provide for the stated goals of the program, namely, the restoration of fish and wildlife habitat, outdoor education, passive recreation, and restoration of the Rouge River. These new wetlands represent credits that the Fund may sell to applicants who may be required to replace wetlands. Once the new wetlands are established, applicants for wetland permits to the State of Michigan may reference the new wetlands in their application. If the State of Michigan approves the permit application to fill wetlands, then the applicant finalizes the purchase of wetland credits from the County.

    One of the County's first goals was to create a Wetland Bank where developers could go to "purchase" the wetland mitigation they required in the form of credits. A Wetlands Preservation Fund Executive Board was created to run the program and hold regular meetings. The Board consists of the County Department Directors involved in wetland issues plus the Chairman of the County Commission Committee charged with wetland issues. These meetings are open to the public and provide a forum for environmental community, development community and general public participation. As part of the creation of the Bank, the County, by its outside counsel, Seyburn, Kahn, and Ginn, entered into negotiations with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), the state wetland permitting authority, to develop the first Wetland Banking Agreement in the State of Michigan. Structuring the agreement was difficult because issues such as merging federal regulations with state rules, selecting viable wetland replacement sites, establishing meaningful performance standards and providing reasonable assurance that the program will succeed had to be considered. On October 20, 1999 the Wetland Banking Agreement was signed by MDEQ.

    The Board initially identified land in eight (8) locations where approximately 18 acres of wetlands can be constructed and included in the Bank. The locations are all within the flood plain of the Rouge River and adjacent to a 17.5-mile parkway that provides access to a variety of recreational opportunities. An effort was made to select areas of flood plain that are currently marginal for recreation and to construct a wetland on a portion of that site while reshaping the remaining portion into desirable recreational land. The sites are individually relatively small to serve as test sites to permit the Board an opportunity to gauge the costs of construction and the marketability of the wetland credits. The net proceeds from sale of wetland credits earned by the construction of the new wetlands must be used to acquire new recreational property.

    The Board has retained environmental engineers to design the construction of the first of four wetland sites. The guidance given to the engineers, through Tilton & Associates, Inc. as wetlands consultant to the Board, was that the new wetland design must include innovative techniques or features. The new wetlands are meant to provide wildlife observation features, encourage a diversity of fish, wildlife and plant species (giving special attention to native species that are not present at the site). In addition, the wetlands should be living classrooms (biology, environmental sciences, chemistry, physics, creative writing, art, etc.) in conjunction with the local school systems. The final design of the initial wetland sites is complete and the County plans on advertising for construction bids in mid February 2000.

  4. Use of Technology

    The following technology were used to develop the Wetland Preservation Program: GIS, GPS, CAD, database software, and Web sites.

  5. The Cost of the Program

    The following costs were incurred by the County to establish the first phase:

    Wetland Preservation Fund Ordinance Development $ 65,000
    Wetland Preservation Fund Administration $ 35,000/yr.
    Wetland Site Selection and Planning $ 45,000

    The costs referenced above do not include expanding the program to include additional wetland areas.

    The estimated costs for wetland engineering and construction are expected to be $60,000 per acre. Monitoring and maintenance are expected to be $2,000 per acre per year.

  6. The Results and Success of the Program

    The results of the project can be measured at several levels. The very active public participation process during goal setting, selection of the sites, and designing the new wetlands enhanced communication between residents, State officials and County officials. Local educators from one high school participated in the design of wetlands to enhance the utility of the wetland as an outdoor classroom. One new wetland site in the program will be used by as many as 20 different teachers as a classroom for approximately 10 different courses. Resource agencies have been impressed with the process for selecting sites and are excited by the potential for restoring environmental quality along the river. Wetlands will now be replaced at locations where maximum benefits to water quality, flood protection, fish and wildlife habitat, passive recreation, and outdoor classrooms can be achieved.

    The benefits of the program are multiple. First, it is an example of how the state government, local government and citizens can work constructively towards a common goal. Second, it allows the restoration and conservation of important natural resources. Third, it optimizes the important benefits of wetlands by putting together a cohesive program for creating productive wetlands rather then creating wetlands in an uncoordinated, piecemeal fashion. Fourth, it is an example how once a program is created, it assures that citizens continue to be involved. Finally, both young and old citizens are encouraged to visit new wetlands in parks and learn about the important role wetlands play and benefits they provide to our society.

    Monitoring of wetlands created under the program have shown a number of significant benefits to the environment. Water quality has improved significantly. Wetlands are designed to remove 60-70% of sediment and pollutant. Wildlife and fish have increased in the wetland areas. As many as 50 species of birds and mammals have been reported in the area. Fish spawning has been reported and wading birds, which feed on fish species, have been observed feeding at the new wetland sites.

  7. Worthiness of an Award

    This program:

    • Offers a new service to all ages and consolidates separate programs into a new initiative;
    • Improves the administration of economic development and environmental protection;
    • Assures citizens an opportunity to participate in the design and location of wetlands and administration of the program;
    • Promotes intergovernmental cooperation between state wetland protection programs and county environmental protection programs.

    The program has increased cooperation between state and county environmental programs and has directed resources dedicated to habitat creation to areas of the County where maximum benefits have been achieved.

Last Updated: 8/27/01

Please address all comments and suggestions about the contents of this Web page to rougeweb@co.wayne.mi.us.

The Rouge River National Wet Weather Demonstration Project is funded, in part, by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Grants #XP995743-01, -02, -03, -04, -05, -06, -07 and C-264000-01.