Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation
Board for Professional Soil Scientists, Wetland Professionals, and Geologists
Regulations Governing Certified Professional Wetland Delineators [18 VAC 145 ‑ 30]
Action General Review of Regulations Governing Certified Professional Wetland Delineators
Comment Period Ended on 12/8/2023
Previous Comment     Next Comment     Back to List of Comments
11/21/23  9:03 am
Commenter: Thaddeus Kraska, PWD, PWS, VSWD (Townes Site Engineering)

I Do Not Support proposed changes to PWD educational requirements for applicants.

I DO NOT SUPPORT the proposed changes to the regulations of Certified Professional Wetland Delineators (PWD) by the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation (DPOR).  

Virginia has one of the oldest, active wetland delineator certifications in the United States and the only such certification that requires proficiency in botany, soil science, and hydrology, as well as an understanding of Federal and Virginia regulations/methodologies.  Botany, soil science, and hydrology are in fact disciplines professionals can individually practice.  No other occupation requires such a diverse set of skills to understand the relationship between three distinct fields of study and apply them on a daily basis.

As such, education requirements to qualify for the exam should showcase the applicants’ base knowledge of the key aspects necessary to accurately conduct wetland delineations in accordance with the 87 Manual, regional supplements and subsequent guidance documents.  This is why currently there are minimum course hour requirements for PWD applicants.  A base level of education should be required to grasp the concepts and correctly identify features in the field under both normal and atypical circumstances.

In addition to undergraduate and associate degrees that provide a base line for scientists, 32-hour delineation courses are a staple of a wetland delineator’s development.  Outside of a “work setting”, these courses are typically run in regional settings, allowing students a first chance to test their skills, get a full grasp of both Routine and Comprehensive delineation methods, as well as exposure to some challenging field conditions. 

The existing education, training, and supervision/references requirements were put in place as they are essential to ensure high quality delineations with proper application of criteria in determining jurisdictional wetland boundaries.  Prior to the PWD certification, there were occurrences of delineations being performed in Virginia by unqualified individuals, resulting in permitting issues and lawsuits against both the regulatory authorities and the individuals performing delinquent work.  The PWD program provides the public needing delineation services with qualified professionals, helping to reduce the risk and harm which can be caused by improper delineation work.  Reducing the certification requirements for PWDs could negatively impact the quality of delineations and ultimately, wetland permits, compensatory mitigation, accurate/true engineering plans, and site development in the Commonwealth as a whole.  The current educational, training, and experiential components of the PWD regulation are critical to assuring reliable and consistent identification of State Surface Waters and should be maintained in their current form.

In light of the recent changes in federal regulation resulting from Supreme Court Decision in the Sackett Case, the U.S Army Corps of Engineers is limiting its jurisdiction to certain Waters of the U.S.  To keep wetland permitting moving forward at the state level, the VDEQ has begun implementing its new State Surface Waters Determination (SSWD) certification program, which requires that an SSWD have a PWD certification and a stream identification and assessment certification.  The proposed elimination of key educational requirements threatens to undermine the quality of state delineations and this new VDEQ program designed to capture wetland/stream systems that the federal government can no longer protect.

In conclusion, the PWD certification is necessary for the Commonwealth of Virginia because it protects the public from inadequate delineations, avoids costly errors in development, reduces permitting backlog for regulators, and ensures protection of wetland resources and the Virginia economy.  The integrity of this program is highly dependent on the qualifications of individuals that are certified as PWDs.  There are no other certification programs that can provide assurances of competency to perform this work.  

I urge DPOR to acknowledge the value of the PWD and recommend the retention of existing educational requirements for course hours, the 32-hour delineation course, mentorship, and oversight by existing PWDs of applicants and of the Virginia Professional Wetland Delineator Certification.

Thank you for your consideration of these comments.

Thaddeus Kraska, PWD, PWS, VSWD

Director of Environmental Services

Townes Site Engineering, PC


CommentID: 220673