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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12/7/23  9:37 pm
Commenter: Avi Sareen, PWD - TNT Environmental, Inc.

Strong opposition to proposed changes

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).  

As a certified Professional Wetland Delineator, I am in unwaivering support of retaining the current regulatory framework for the PWD Certification. The applicable degree, semester hours, thorough 32 or 40-hour delineation training, proof of delineations within both the Eastern Mountains and Piedmont and Coastal Plain of Virginia, and references are extremely important items a wetland delineator must be able to provide in order to qualify to sit for the PWD exam. The PWD program was initially put in place to protect the public from incorrect delineations that led to lawsuits, issues with wetland permits, etc. Rolling back the requirements of this certification will lead to the same issues we faced prior to the implementation of the PWD certification. The current educational, training, and experiential components of the CPWD regulation are critical to assuring reliable and consistent identification of State Surface Waters and should be maintained in their current form. 

The variety of landscapes we encounter require a large base of professional knowledge, experience and exposure which cannot be obtained in 3 years. Because of this, I strongly disagree that 3 years of experience is sufficient to demonstrate a PWD’s competency.

The 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 1987 Manual, regional supplements and subsequent guidance documents.  These base requirements are tied to Virginia Water Protection Program Regulations - specifically 9VAC25-210-10 and 9VAC25-210-45.  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.

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.

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

CommentID: 220734