Emily Grossman Receives her Federal USFWS Collection Permit for Threatened and Endangered Species
Emily Grossman has received her individual U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Section 10 permit for freshwater mussels! Ms. Grossman has eight years of experience as a freshwater mussel biologist. Prior to working at EnviroScience, she was listed as an approved federally listed mussel surveyor under her previous employer’s permit. She is based out of St. Louis, Missouri, and has led or participated in mussel surveys in large rivers and small streams throughout the Mississippi and Ohio River basins and has worked with federal- and state-listed mussel species throughout the Midwest.
Ms. Grossman has developed and implemented study plans for mussel surveys for a variety of project types, including bridge construction/replacement, barge facilities, dredging, hydropower, and water intakes and outfalls. Ms. Grossman is an active member of the Freshwater Mollusk Conservation Society and a regular participant in Upper Mississippi River Conservation Committee/Mussel Coordination Team annual meetings. Her permit covers FWS/Region 2, 4, 5, and 6 (Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.)
EnviroScience maintains the largest in-house freshwater mussel capabilities in the U.S., with eight malacologists and staff of commercial and scientific divers for any sized project.
ES Wins ODOT Statewide Mitigation Credit Service Contract
EnviroScience was awarded a direct statewide mitigation contract by the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) to develop, create, and deliver natural resource mitigation in any form (e.g., wetlands, streams, endangered species) up to a value of $2 million. This important contract required the ability to perform 36 specific types of services in the categories of ecological surveys, waterway permitting, ecological assessments (QHEI, HHEI, IBI, ICI), NEPA, invasive species management, natural stream design, cultural resources, Endangered Species Act coordination, agency coordination, right of way, and real estate.
This award comes after EnviroScience successfully completed ODOT’s Indiana Bat Western Management Unit contract in 2020. For this contract, we delivered nearly 600 acres of federally and state endangered Indiana Bat habitat mitigation. We are currently working with ODOT for the Statewide Mitigation Credit Service to provide Inter-Agency Review Team (IRT)-approved Category 3 wetland mitigation credits.
EnviroScience Adds Drone Capabilities
EnviroScience uses small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS), also known as drones, to monitor, survey, and map site conditions before, during, and after construction. EnviroScience has multiple FAA-licensed sUAS pilots experienced in aerial photography and surveying techniques. High-resolution imagery and survey-grade elevation and horizontal positioning are used to survey site conditions using photogrammetry technology. We also use them for aerial photography and video monitoring.
With this technology, EnviroScience can also provide output files such as point clouds, orthomosaics, 3D mesh renderings, digital surface models (DSM), digital terrain models (DTM), and custom contour linework to merge seamlessly with traditionally obtained survey data and design and drafting software. These deliverables allow our clients to monitor their site conditions from the existing to post-construction monitoring stages and easily compare them. In addition, they can compare their current site conditions with historical aerial imagery on Google Earth using a KML output file. Our GNSS-enabled sUAS is coupled with an RTK base station for survey-grade positioning accuracy and operates in a fraction of the time of traditional survey methods.
As May 2021 comes to an end, I am closing a short, intense, and satisfying chapter in my professional life. This month marks the completion of two large wetland and stream restoration projects I have been working on with my team over the past year. Black Swamp Conservancy awarded the Ecological Restoration Team at EnviroScience, Inc. the St. Joseph River Confluence Restoration and the St. Joseph River Farm and Floodplain Restoration projects in the spring of 2020. My prime focus since the award has been to restore these sites. Both funded by Governor DeWine’s H2Ohio initiative, these projects focus on restoring wetlands and streams, improving habitat, reducing sedimentation and erosion, and decreasing nutrient pollution in the Western Lake Erie Basin. The end of May marked the final wetland plantings, and we are keen to watch these sites recover in the coming years.
We were excited as a company when Governor DeWine established the H2Ohio program, emphasizing wetland restoration as a critical component to addressing water quality issues within the western basin of Lake Erie. As biologists, we recognize the understated importance of wetlands on the landscape, not only as biodiversity hotspots and wildlife habitat, but for the critical ecosystem functions they serve, including flood control, erosion control, nutrient attenuation, and overall water quality improvement. When the Black Swamp Conservancy requested proposals for these projects, we immediately hopped in the car to visit the sites!
These projects are located on former agricultural land, entirely or partially within the 100-year floodplain of the St. Joseph River in Williams County, Ohio. The St. Joseph River originates in southwestern Michigan and flows through northwest Ohio joining the St. Mary’s River in Fort Wayne, Indiana, to form the Maumee River. The St. Joseph River drains approximately 694,400 acres of primarily agricultural land, with about 80% of the watershed in cropland, pasture, or forage. The Black Swamp Conservancy identified these projects because of their potential for hydrologic restoration and their proximity to higher-quality forested riparian habitat along the river.
This article will discuss the first project we completed with our teaming partner, RiverReach Construction: the St. Joseph River Wetland Conversion Project. This project is located at the confluence of the West Branch of the St. Joseph River and the river’s main stem. Before the restoration, the site consisted of a 19.5-acre agricultural field that was often too saturated to farm, and a 20-acre field of wet grassland enrolled in the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Conservation Reserve Program, both of which the Black Swamp Conservancy identified for wetland restoration. Hydric soils underlay approximately 33 acres of the restoration areas, and the entire site is within the 100-year floodplain of the St. Joseph River. A quick look at historical aerials indicated that this site is frequently saturated and inundated when river levels rise. Adjacent to these fields, the site consists of over 60 acres of high-quality forested floodplain wetlands.
Our team first visited the site in January 2020 to gather preliminary site data and refine our concept for the requested proposal. During this site visit, I was impressed by the site’s intact forested wetlands and hydrologic connectivity. I understood why this project had excellent restoration potential, even with existing modifications. The site contained a great deal of hydrologic connectivity, a predominance of hydrophytic plants, and hydric soils. From a wetland restoration perspective, this site is ideal for achieving the project goals with minimal disturbance by improving upon existing conditions.
After we were awarded the project, we held a kickoff meeting on Zoom in the early days of the pandemic shutdown, each calling in from our homes. I was nervous that the pandemic would set our aggressive schedule back with so many unknowns of the imminent future. The grant funding required that this project be completed by the end of May 2021. Luckily, we could return to the site in May 2020 to delineate the existing wetlands and collect survey data, both on the ground and with our drone. We used this information to further refine the restoration design and aid in any state or federal wetland permitting.
Typically the work we were proposing would require authorization from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Ohio EPA; however, because of recent changes to federal wetland regulations, the fields in agricultural production and the Conservation Reserve Program were exempt from permitting. Nevertheless, we did coordinate our wetland delineation and restoration design with both agencies. However, the regulatory changes enabled us to move forward without a wetland permit and meet the project deadlines given the other project components.
Going into the project, we were aware of a nearby historical record of the federally threatened Copperbelly Watersnake (Nerodia erythrogaster neglecta), and because of the site’s proximity to a large known population of the snake, we initiated coordination with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) regarding this species. EnviroScience herpetologists and the USFWS performed presence/absence surveys for this species before construction. Although we did not find any Copperbelly Watersnakes onsite, the fields were inundated with crayfish burrows where copperbellies hibernate near the water table in floodplain wetlands from October through April. Additionally, one of their common prey species—cricket frogs—breed onsite. Because of these factors, we were under a deadline to break ground in August and complete restoration work before the snake’s hibernation period.
As a final level of protection, we installed a snake exclusion fence around the restoration area and checked the fence daily prior to using heavy equipment. Although we did not find copperbellies at the site, the Eastern Garter Snake population was thriving there, so we moved this species offsite where construction activities would not affect them.
The construction component of this project was relatively straightforward; much of the work involved minor scraping of the site to achieve a suitable elevation for wetland development. We removed large concrete slabs previously used to stabilize the riverbanks and created natural inlets to allow the river to flood the fields during high water events to improve hydrologic connectivity. We restored an old oxbow wetland onsite and re-used the trees we cut for the inlets as woody habitat features in the restored wetlands. We hand-seeded the site with native seed mixes in October 2020 and returned this spring to plant live stakes, containerized shrubs and trees, and wetland plugs. The finished project restored approximately 19 acres, creating around 17 acres of wetland, and reforested approximately 11 acres.
Despite this year’s dry spring, the site is already functioning well to capture floodwater and retain it on the landscape. The wetlands in both fields show recovery, and we anticipate that during typical spring weather, the wetlands will capture more of those early spring floods and retain the water on the landscape. Our crews have seen a positive response from the wildlife as well. The birdlife is rich onsite, and we have observed Sandhill Cranes, Wood Ducks, Bald Eagles, and Woodcocks in or near the restored wetlands. The cacophony of breeding songbirds and amphibians is not lost on the casual visitor. Additionally, our pollinator specialist found a Brown-belted Bumblebee nest (Bombus griseocollis) with honey pots in the Conservation Reserve Program field.
Over the next two years, our team will monitor the project and perform invasive species management onsite. We are delighted to watch this site recover and establish itself. In addition to improving water quality in the Western Lake Erie Basin, my secret hope is that someday a Copperbelly Watersnake may find itself a happy home there.
Crayfish Surveys Now Available in Kentucky
Does your project in Kentucky require a crayfish survey? Already approved in West Virginia and Virginia, EnviroScience’s aquatic biologist Brian Carlson is now federally permitted to conduct presence/absence surveys for the threatened Big Sandy Crayfish (Cambarus callainus) within its current and historical range in the Commonwealth of Kentucky!
EnviroScience also recently renewed its prequalification with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet to provide botany, fisheries, macroinvertebrates, terrestrial zoology, water quality, and wetlands services for transportation projects throughout the state.
Contact Brian Carlson (BCarlson@EnviroScienceInc.com) at 800.940.4025
Freshwater Mussel Regulatory Updates
EnviroScience’s mussel survey season is well underway. Below are a few regulatory updates on freshwater mussels.
Round Hickorynut & Longsolid Proposed Listing
The Round Hickorynut (Obovaria subrotunda) and Longsolid (Fusconaia subrotunda) mussels will be listed by the USFWS as federally threatened in the near future. The proposed ruling also lists critical habitat for both species in several states, including AL, KY, PA, TN, VA, and WV for the Longsolid and AL, IN, KY, MS, OH, PA, TN, WV for the Round Hickorynut. The ruling will alter designations for some streams. The Purple Lilliput was considered for listing but was found not to be warranted at the time of the review.
The proposed listing of these species can complicate a project’s timeline since previous coordination with state and federal agencies may not cover a permittee once a species is federally listed. EnviroScience has the tools and experience needed to assist permittees through the consultation process. Early coordination is highly recommended to prevent project delays if a proposed-listed species is potentially present in a project area.
New York State Freshwater Mussel Survey Guidelines
In April 2021, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC) issued freshwater mussel survey guidelines for waterbody disturbance projects. Survey methods are similar to those required in OH and WV and apply to natural resource general permits and joint permit applications. The guidelines establish standardized survey methods; however, project sponsors should coordinate with the NYDEC before developing a mussel survey plan and collection license application. Early coordination is highly recommended for NY projects with potential mussel stream impacts.
We are back with the BiAnnual Little Cuyahoga River Clean Up!
Spring Cleanup: May 1, 2021 9:00 am to 12:00 pm
Mustill Store – Cascade Locks Park 57 West North Street, Akron, OH 44304
Our group of volunteers roll up their sleeves twice a year to help clean up litter along the Little Cuyahoga banks, restore a scenic stretch of the Towpath, and improve the water quality in the Cuyahoga Valley. During this event, volunteers have removed over 60 tons of debris so far since the event started.
• Give back to your community • Bring water boots & waders if possible • Dress for success; you may get wet • Gloves and bags provided • Bring a friend
KEEP OUR STREAMS CLEAN. This event is organized by the Cascade Locks Park Association and sponsored by EnviroScience, Inc.
The complexity of state and federal wetland and stream regulations can make developing near and in wetland and stream areas a frustrating and time-consuming process. EnviroScience can support you through the entire site development process, regardless of project size or location. We offer a wide range of services to fit almost any need while remaining cost-conscious. Our knowledgeable staff of wetland experts can identify, classify, and delineate all aquatic features on sites throughout the country. After the field review is completed, clients are provided with a detailed technical report of findings designed to satisfy all regulatory requirements and a digital map to supplement their engineering and planning objectives.
EnviroScience will guide you through the regulatory decision-making process and work with you to minimize impacts, helping you create a cost-effective design that meets your development goals. If impacts are unavoidable, EnviroScience has a team of wetland biologists with years of experience in wetland and stream permitting, including coordination with State Environmental Protection Agencies and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). Often when permitting for wetland and stream impacts, other ecological issues arise that require coordination with other agencies. EnviroScience can assist in most issues that arise during permitting, including threatened and endangered species coordination, habitat surveys, and presence/absence surveys due to our depth of staff. Additionally, EnviroScience can provide permittee responsible mitigation design for stream and wetland impacts if needed on larger projects.
If you are unsure about the potential implications of wetlands or stream permitting on your site, EnviroScience also offers low-cost preliminary site assessments that can indicate problematic sites before land purchase.
Wetlands, streams, and other waters are regulated under the Clean Water Act because of their importance in flood control, erosion management, and pollution abatement. In addition to federal laws, wetlands are also regulated under state laws and, in some cases, local zoning ordinances. The length of time necessary to obtain wetland permits has increased in recent years, making wetland issues important to consider at the beginning of your site development process. Many types of wetlands are not readily apparent, as they may only contain standing water or saturated soils for a short period of the growing season. Our trained wetland scientists will examine your site for signs of hydric soils, hydrophytic vegetation, and wetland hydrology, all of which are necessary for an area to be classified as wetland. Our broad range of wetland services means that EnviroScience can customize our services for your specific project needs.
Wetland and Waterway Delineations
EnviroScience provides a wide range of wetland and stream services to clients in various industries such as engineering and design firms, development companies, legal firms, utility companies, public agencies, and private landowners. EnviroScience’s extensive team of wetland and stream delineators enables us to tackle even the largest projects and most challenging deadlines.
EnviroScience has performed wetland delineations on properties up to 6,000 plus acres and landscapes that vary from nearly pristine to severely disturbed. EnviroScience scientists are trained in the current wetland delineation methods (according to the 1987 USACE Delineation Manual and current Regional Supplements) and survey techniques using state-of-the-art Trimble® differential GPS units. GPS data collection allows EnviroScience to prepare wetland maps without the need and additional cost of traditional survey teams. The survey map and flagging of wetland boundaries provide a strong planning tool for any project involving land-use changes. We complete delineation reports to suit the client’s project-specific needs while complying with state and federal reporting requirements. Wetland maps are prepared using AutoCAD® or ArcGIS® software and are provided in digital format to ensure compatibility with construction drawings.
Wetland Permit & Water Quality Certification Applications
Permitting for wetland and stream impacts can be complex and varies from state-to-state. Permitting recommendations are often associated with proposed project activities, amount of proposed impact, and aquatic resource quality. Projects requiring unavoidable impacts to wetlands or streams may require USACE or state approval(s). EnviroScience can prepare and submit application packages for clients across the country. EnviroScience has experience with various permit applications, including Nationwide Permits, Individual 404, Individual 401 Water Quality Certification, State General, State Joint Application, Isolated Wetland, and Ephemeral Stream permit applications. Additionally, we can prepare state and local specialized permits for wetland and stream impacts and setback variances. We have particularly strong experience developing permit applications and coordinating with regulatory authorities under the applicability and stipulations of Nationwide Permit 29 for Residential Developments, Nationwide Permit 39 for Commercial and Institutional Developments, Nationwide Permit 3 for Maintenance, and Nationwide Permits 12 and 14, which involve utility line activities and linear transportation projects.
Additional Wetland-Related Services
Wetland Mitigation & Restoration
EnviroScience wetlands scientists consult with clients to identify strategies to avoid or minimize construction impacts. We develop project-specific mitigation plans that may include mitigation banking, in-lieu fee arrangements, and wetland creation. EnviroScience can complete turnkey wetland creation services, and our biologists stay involved after wetlands creation to ensure successful completion through regular ecological monitoring and submitting required reports to USACE.
Invasive Species Management
EnviroScience’s personnel are experienced botanists and biologists who are Ohio Department of Agriculture Certified Herbicide Applicators, skilled in plant identification. Our firm’s strength lies in our staff’s motivation to restore areas to their diverse native potential. This motivation drives our crew to go above and beyond, continually assessing the working conditions for new or alternative ways to complete the project. We specialize in woody vegetation management as our crews have logged hundreds of hours treating dense wooded areas or thickets. Management of woody invasive vegetation makes up 70% of our invasive work annually. The cornerstone of our vegetation management philosophy is to use as little herbicide as feasibly possible to accomplish project goals while taking special care to avoid damaging native plants. While this level of attention to detail is more costly in terms of labor hours, we believe we deliver a better level of quality to our clients than other firms.
Threatened and Endangered Bat Surveys and Conservation for Indiana and other Species
The Endangered Species Act (ESA) [16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.] became law in 1973 and provides guidance for the listing, conservation, and recovery of endangered and threatened species of plants and wildlife. Under the ESA, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) strives to protect and monitor the numbers and populations of listed species.
Section 7(a)(2) of the ESA states that each federal agency should ensure any action they authorize, fund, or carry out is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of a listed species or result in destruction nor adverse modification of designated critical habitat. A federal action includes approval of a permit or license and the activities resulting from such permit or license. The USFWS listed the Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis) as endangered on March 11, 1967.
White Nose Syndrome
White nose syndrome (WNS) is a disease that affects hibernating bats and is caused by the fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans. WNS was first observed in caves near Albany, NY, in the winter of 2007. This fungus causes bats to become more active during the winter months, causing them to burn the fat needed to survive the winter. This disease has killed more than 6 million bats across North America, primarily east of the Rocky Mountains. At some sites, 90-100% of hibernating bats have been lost to WNS at a single hibernaculum. To learn more visit
EnviroScience biologists are trained and fully permitted to conduct surveys for threatened and endangered bat species throughout their range. These survey techniques include summer and winter habitat assessments, presence/absence mist-net and acoustic detection surveys, radio telemetry tracking, harp trapping of hibernacula, and white-nose surveys. Our biologists are experienced with all aspects of Section 7 consultation, including compiling Indiana bat conservation plans (IBCP), habitat conservation plans (HCP), protection and enhancement plans, and biological opinions.
Indiana bat habitat conservation plans are developed to avoid or minimize potential adverse effects on Indiana bats. Where impacts are unavoidable, conservation measures are developed to offset the impacts on the species. These measures can consist of a combination of:
Erection of artificial roost structures
Permanent preservation of suitable Indiana bat habitat within or adjacent to the project
Creation of watering areas, wetlands, or ponds
Erecting artificial roosting structures, such as bat boxes, can provide immediate onsite roosting for Indiana bats returning from hibernation. EnviroScience biologists construct these boxes using methods researched with proven success and peer-reviewed science. Permitted EnviroScience biologists oversee the construction as well as installation of the bat boxes. Monitoring schedules are developed during the HCP process and determined by USFWS, and bats are typically monitored bi-annually for two years by permitted biologists. Monitoring allows biologists to determine occupancy and correct any inefficiencies.
The EnviroScience team includes state and federally permitted bat biologists experienced with threatened and endangered bats. Our biologists have over 25 years of combined experience performing bat surveys for state and federally listed species and helping clients comply with USFWS and state regulatory agencies. If your project is within the range of the Indiana bat and has a federal nexus, EnviroScience biologists will work with you to complete the appropriate survey for your project and assist with timely project approval and completion.
For more information or to discuss a site survey contact:
Threatened and Endangered Amphibian and Reptile Survey Season Begins!
Thaw is upon us! Have you started to hear the harbingers of spring? 🐸
Bird sounds are what many associate with the onset of spring. However, in early spring, just as the snows thaw, singing frogs and dancing salamanders send the message of seasonal change to come. Spring peepers, chorus frogs, and wood frogs are often who we Northeast Ohioans hear first. The following animation has been making the rounds on social media since its debut in 2020 and is an excellent representation of our northern amphibious friends’ phenology.
Phenology is the study of cyclic and seasonal natural phenomena, especially concerning climate and plant and animal life.
For EnviroScience, this also signals the beginning of the threatened and endangered turtle survey season. Many of our northern shelled-reptile inhabitants follow along with their amphibian counterparts and start to become active with the first thaw. Even sometimes basking on ice! The U.S. is home to a wide variety of freshwater turtles (approximately 18% of the world’s turtles). Some of these turtles are endangered or threatened due to illegal collection and trade. Habitat loss and wetland conversion also threaten most.
Out of Ohio’s twelve turtle species, two are listed as state-threatened (Spotted and Blanding’s) and may require agency coordination to complete your project or conduct conservation work. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been petitioned to federally list both species, and their status has been under review since 2015. Spotted and Blanding’s Turtles also have varying state protections across their ranges. Our experienced herpetologists have scientific collection permits and are experts at detecting them in their habitats.
March is an excellent time to check and make sure you are ready regarding coordination for amphibians and reptiles. Have you been holding off requesting a habitat survey? Now is the time to get this on the books so that if a presence survey is needed, it can be completed in the required window (often April/May). Don’t allow threatened and endangered species coordination to delay your warm-season work. Contact our herpetological experts today (Teal Richards-Dimitrie, TRichards-Dimitrie@EnviroScienceInc.com)