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
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11/22/23  4:27 pm
Commenter: Robin Bedenbaugh, MS, PWD, VSWD

Strongly disagree with the majority of the proposed changes to the PWD certification regulations

I am providing the following comments on behalf of myself as a certified Virginia PWD but also as a Board member of the Virginia Association of Wetland Professionals where I have been serving as the Chair of the Wetland Delineator Certification Committee for the past 21 years.

I strongly disagree with the majority of the proposed changes.  I recognize that the recently passed Universal License Recognition legislation mandates that the number of years of experience that an applicant must show to demonstrate their experience be 3 years, while the current PWD certification requires 4 years of experience.  I strongly disagree that 3 years of experience is sufficient to demonstrate a PWD’s competency, but since we are required to be consistent with the ULR legislation’s number of years of experience, I see no recourse other than to change the number of years’ experience required for the PWD certification to lower it from 4 years to 3 years.  However, that is where the changes should end. 

The practice of wetland delineation is a unique discipline that requires expertise in three different fields of science (hydrology, soil science, and botany).  Additionally, it requires extensive knowledge in wetland regulation and wetland law.  These skills cannot be gained in three years without additional background education and training.  Now that the number of years of experience required must be reduced to 3 years, it becomes critical that the requirements for a degree in a natural or environmental science remain in place and the requirement for having taken a basic wetland delineation training course be left in the regulations.  This should not be viewed as being more restrictive on out of state applicants because college degrees in environmental sciences and wetland delineation training classes are widely available throughout the country.

The existing education, training, and supervision/references requirements were put in place to ensure high quality delineations with proper application of criteria in determining wetland jurisdictional 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 substandard work. The PWD program provides the public needing delineation services with a pool of qualified professionals, helping to reduce the risk and harms which can be caused by improper delineation work. Reducing the certification requirements for CPWDs 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 CPWD regulation are critical to assuring reliable and consistent identification of State Surface Waters and, with the exception of changing the number of years of experience required to 3 years to be consistent with the ULR legislation, should be maintained to the maximum extent possible in their current form.

Lastly, with recent changes to wetland regulation by the federal government, the Virginia DEQ must now step in and assert its jurisdiction of Surface Waters of the State.  Because the DEQ does not have the staff or budget to perform jurisdictional determinations in the field, the permitting of projects in Virginia was going to be very negatively impacted.  To allow permitting to proceed without unnecessary delays, the DEQ instituted a new State Surface Waters Delineator certification that requires that an individual obtain the PWD certification and have taken and passed a stream identification class.  Individuals who have obtained both are granted the new DEQ certification and delineations led or performed by those VSWD’s are assured 30-day review under the States PEEP system.  Delineation work performed by non-certified individuals will receive no assurances of timely permitting review.  The VSWD certification was based on the current knowledge, skills, and abilities that PWDs must possess.  If the PWD certification requirements are watered down significantly as proposed in the NOIRA, then it could jeopardize the VSWD certification, and permitting timelines in Virginia could be seriously impacted.

CommentID: 220704