What does a landowner/operator need to know about wetland consultants and the SD NRCS?
There are several things landowner/operators need to know before hiring a private consultant. All of the following items must be completed:
- Be a USDA program participant.
- Have an active AD-1026 on file with the local Farm Service Agency (FSA) office.
- If an active AD-1026 is not on file then visit the local FSA office and sign and AD-1026.
- Indicate the activity to complete on the AD-1026. For example, new drainage, expand existing drainage, or maintenance.
- Verify whether or not a certified wetland determination exists for the field(s)/tract(s) where the work is to occur. The local NRCS office can answer this question.
- Verify whether or not a request for a wetland determination has already been made for the field(s)/tracts(s) where the work is to occur. The local NRCS office can answer this question.
- Obtain the services of a wetland consultant. The NRCS does not maintain a list of consultants. For your convenience a partial listing of consultants may be found at: http://www.sdcorn.org/page/Producers/sub/WetlandConsultants.
- Immediately notify the NRCS that a wetland consultant is hired.
- Complete the SD-ADS-6, Information Release Request form, from the local NRCS office.
Please be advised that the consultant DOES NOT certify the field/tract of land. The consultant collects data for an NRCS Agency Expert to assign an exemption label (i.e., PC, W, FW, etc.). The Agency Expert completes the certified wetland determination. The certified wetland determination will be sent certified mail from the NRCS or it can be hand delivered with a scheduled appointment with the Agency Expert assigned to your county.
If consultant data is incomplete, inaccurate, or exceeds the consultant's authority (as outlined within this Web site) then the SD NRCS will notify the consultant and landowner/operator.
Delays in wetland determinations from SD NRCS may result if data is incomplete, inaccurate, or exceeds the consultant's authority. Delays are possible if weather conditions such as snow cover or rain prevent field verification.
The purpose of this Web site is to provide entities wishing to perform wetland consultant services for USDA program participants a convenient information access portal. This portal is not all inclusive. Additional South Dakota (SD) NRCS Wetland Information may be found in Section I, State Guidance for Wetland Determinations Including State Offsite Methods, of the SD NRCS electronic Field Office Technical Guide (FOTG) at: http://efotg.sc.egov.usda.gov/treemenuFS.aspx. Weather station and rainfall related information can be found in the the three folders (Rainfall Data, Shapefiles, Maps) within the same FOTG site.
If you need additional information or have questions contact Kevin Luebke, Biologist, at (605) 352-1242.
- Consultants must be trained in the National Food Security Act Manual (NFSAM) wetland delineation process by reviewing and understanding the "Wetland Identification for FSA Purposes" training Modules 1 through 6.
- Wetland consultants should have documented wetland delineation field experience.
- Wetland consultants are required to self-certify ALL training and field experience. Wetland consultants must complete, sign, and date the Consultant Self-Certification document on this Web site and file with the original local NRCS office.
- Wetland consultants will use the most current version of the Federal wetland delineation procedures and the NRCS mapping conventions and SD specific forms (as listed on this Web site).
What is the SD NRCS Wetland Consultant Process?
The SD NRCS will process requests for certified wetland determinations in priority order according to the NFSAM state supplement. However, using a consultant does not automatically mean that a producer using a consultant will be serviced ahead of all other requests. The wetland delineation consultant process does not involve the Farm Service Agency (FSA) and consultants are to work with the local NRCS office, and Agency Expert.
1. The USDA program participant (producer) signs an AD-1026 at FSA and obtains the services of a consultant. The SD NRCS does not maintain a list of consultants or certify consultant’s capabilities.
2. The producer immediately notifies the NRCS, in writing, that they have obtained the services of a consultant and allows the NRCS to release producer information to the consultant as identified on form SD-ADS-6, Information Release Request. The form must be signed and dated in the presence of a USDA employee or Notary Public.
3. The consultant provides the local NRCS office with the original completed, signed, and dated Consultant Self-Certification document for their files. The local NRCS office will file the document with each applicable case file.
4. The consultant contacts the local NRCS office for information as needed (mainly pre-2002 FSA photography). The SD NRCS will not provide publicly available digital information (such as topographic mapping, National Wetland Inventory mapping, soils mapping, and post-2002 digital imagery) or USFWS easement information to consultants.
5. The consultant provides the local NRCS office with the consultant work products.
6. The NRCS Agency Expert reviews the consultant work products for quality and completeness prior to field verification.
7. If the packet (consultant work products) appears accurate then the Agency Expert will respond to said work products ahead of other producers on the waiting list that did not provide consultant products.
a. If the packet is complete, then the local NRCS office conducts a detailed review of the work products and conducts the field visit to all of the sites.
b. If the packet (work products) is not complete or is of questionable quality, then the Agency Expert informs the consultant of the work product deficiencies. The SD NRCS will not correct or complete the consultant’s work. The local NRCS office would then move on to the next person on the list and the consultant would need to remedy the deficiencies before the Agency Expert would look at the project again.
8. If and/or when the work products are acceptable to the NRCS the Agency Expert then issues the certified determination (CWD) with the standard NRCS appeal process.
How will the NRCS Handle Consultant Work?
- The NRCS must field verify the work products completed by consultants.
- The NRCS can use consultants’ wetland delineations and other work products to complete a certified wetland determination.
- When a consultant’s delineation or other work products are used to complete a certified wetland determination, the NRCS will document on the NRCS-CPA-26 that the work was completed by a consultant and list the consultant’s name.
- All information gathered by the consultant will be filed with the certified wetland determination in the local NRCS office.
What Tasks Can Wetland Consultants Perform and Provide to the NRCS?
1) Wetland Delineation Pre-Planning and Office Work.
2) Wetland Delineation Fieldwork - Soils
3) Wetland Delineation Fieldwork - Plants
4) Wetland Delineation Fieldwork - Hydrology
5) Scope and Effect Evaluation
- Items to survey include: wetland edge; wetland bottom; wetland control point; ditch top width; ditch bottom width; sediment in ditch at control point; culvert invert elevation; road ditch invert elevation (at edge nearest wetland); and road ditch slope direction. Complete the SD-LTP-14.
- Field verification of tile depth, diameter, material, and location/extent. Tile must be uncovered by the producer. Complete the SD-LTP-15.
6) Wetland Conservation Compliance Findings
- Enter field data into appropriate digital forms
- Record producer meeting notes on digital CPA-6, Assistance Notes
- Provide a summary/Interpretation as needed
- Provide a digital and printed map of the wetland boundaries and drainage features.
- Provide the wetland boundaries and drainage features as geospatial data in a shapefile or layer format compatible with ESRI ArcGIS.
What are the Tasks Wetland Consultants MAY NOT Perform?
1) The actual “Certification” of the wetland determination (which means completing, signing, and dating the NRCS-026e), assignment of the NFSAM exemption or label, and production of the associated map must be completed by NRCS personnel.
2) The determination of setback distances for new or expanded drainage must be completed by NRCS personnel.
What is the NRCS General Policy When Working With Consultants?
While NRCS personnel are field verifying the consultants work products, consultants shall not impede the process by “disputing” whether or not wetland criteria are being met. Harassment of NRCS personnel by consultants will not be tolerated. Inform the USDA participant if consultants become belligerent, use profane language, or in any way intimidate NRCS personnel. If the situation does not improve, inform the USDA participant that the NRCS may discontinue service as per General Manual 360.420 Subpart U, which states in part: If an NRCS employee in the performance of his/her official duty is assaulted, resisted, impeded, intimidated or interfered with, it could result in suspension of NRCS services to that customer.