Issue 2.4 November 2014   
 A Newsletter for 
 Municipal Inland Wetlands Agencies 
   CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, Inland Water Resources Division
DEEP's Inland Wetlands Agency TrainingOnlineCourseEnding
The 2014 Online Course Closes December 15th
The DEEP's Municipal Inland Wetlands Agency Comprehensive Training Program consists of an online course offered through Central Connecticut State University (CCSU), and covers a range of legal, administrative, and scientific subjects relevant to municipal inland wetlands agency regulation.  The course is tailored for the new agency member or staff person, or those seeking a refresher of their roles and responsibilities under the Connecticut Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Act. 
The 2014 Municipal Inland Wetlands Agency Comprehensive Training Program must be completed by midnight December 15th in order to receive a certificate of program completion.  There are a number of individuals that have registered but have failed to start the course, or have started the course but have not yet finished it.  Please remember, in order to receive a 2014 certificate of program completion the entire 10 module online course, as well as the course exit evaluation, must be completed.  If an individual fails to complete all requirements by December 15th that individual will have to re-register for the training program in 2015. 
The Municipal Inland Wetlands Agency Comprehensive Training Program will shut down from December 16, 2014 to approximately March 30, 2015.  A 2015 inland wetlands agency training brochure, and voucher allowing one free registration in the 2015 comprehensive training program online course, will be mailed to each municipal inland wetlands agency in March. 
The Municipal Inland Wetlands Agency Comprehensive Training Program online course can be accessed through CCSU's website.  If you have technical problems while using the course, please contact the CCSU IT Help Desk at (860) 832-1720.  If you have misplaced your login information please contact Madelyn Sowinski, CCSU's Center for Public Policy and Social Research at

Wetlands in ConnecticutFloodplainSoils
Floodplain Soils
The Connecticut Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Act defines "wetlands" as land, including submerged land, which consists of any of the soil types designated as poorly drained, very poorly drained, alluvial, and floodplain by the National Cooperative Soils Survey, of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), of the United States Department of Agriculture.  The terms poorly drained and very poorly drained describe the drainage class of a soil.  Soil drainage class describes the frequency and duration of periods of soil saturation due to the water table.  The terms alluvial and floodplain do not describe soil drainage class, such terms describe the process by which these specific soils were formed.  Alluvial and floodplain soils are formed through the repeated flooding of rivers and streams.  When such rivers and streams are in flood flow stage, the flood waters spread out over the land adjacent to the rivers or streams.  The flood waters carry a significant amount of soil material which becomes deposited on the land when the flood waters recede.  Over time, this repeated process results in the development of floodplain soils.  A properly trained soil scientist will examine these soils for evidence of specific soil layers or horizons, and buried organic matter, that is indicative of floodplain soils.  Some floodplain soils may be poorly or very poorly drained soils, becoming saturated not only due to flood events but also due to the seasonally elevated water table.  Other floodplain soils may be well drained and very well drained, becoming flooded only once every few years, and not influenced by a seasonally high water table.  Regardless of drainage class, IN CONNECTICUT ALL FLOODPLAIN SOILS ARE WETLANDS, and as such fall within the regulatory jurisdiction of a municipal inland wetlands agency.  Damage due to flooding results in high repair costs and is a continual threat to life and property.  Regulating activities likely to impact or affect floodplain soils (wetlands under Connecticut law!) helps prevent future damage and preserves valuable open space.  

Vernal PoolsVernalPools
Winter Identification
The Connecticut Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Act defines "watercourses" to mean rivers, streams, brooks, waterways, lakes, ponds, marshes, swamps, bogs and all other bodies of water, natural or artificial, vernal or intermittent, public or private.  A vernal pool is one type of vernal watercourse which contains a specific ecology.  Vernal pools consist of a confined basin depression.  These depressions vary in size, can be manmade or natural, and occur across the landscape.  Vernal pools typically hold water during the spring and early summer, but can also fill with water during the fall.  The varying hydrological cycles of vernal pools prevent the establishment of permanent fish populations, and determine the biological community that is present.  Vernal pools provide important habitat for a high diversity of organisms including species with life cycles adapted specifically to them. 
The presence of standing water and obligate vernal pool-breeding species (organisms that breed almost solely in vernal pools) is easy to observe during the early spring.  Although more difficult, it is still possible to identify vernal pools in late spring through early summer.  But what if an application for a regulated activity comes before the inland wetlands agency in late summer through winter, how can a vernal pool be identified?  The exact identification of a vernal pool may not be able to occur during this timeframe.  The only sure way to tell if a pool, or a dried depression in the landscape, is in fact a vernal pool is to patiently wait for the spring time breeding season.  Adult amphibians, fairy shrimp, and egg masses will be present in the spring.  However, the likelihood that a vernal pool exists on the landscape can be assessed during late summer through winter based on a number of factors.  Look for the following features to help determine if an area should be revisited in the spring:
  • a basin depression with sparse herbaceous vegetation;
  • small patches of Marsh Fern and/or Royal Fern growing in the basin depression;
  • moss and/or algae draped on branches and logs in the basin depression;
  • dark grey water-stained leaves in the basin depression;
  • evidence that trees, growing within the depression, are shallowly rooted with their roots exposed at the ground surface and/or water marks on tree trunks;
  • woody plants growing on hummocks within the basin depression;
  • Fingernail clams; and
  • Caddisfly larvae cases found on the floor of the depression.

An inland wetlands agency should ask an applicant's expert questions to determine if a proper "off season" vernal pool assessment has been made.  Some possible questions to ask are:

  • What kind of training and experience in vernal pool identification, especially in the "off season" does the expert have?
  • Have any of the above "off season" vernal pool indicators been observed?
  • Have seasonally flooded wetlands or watercourses been observed on the property anytime during the year?
  • What were the weather conditions when the "off season" assessment was made? Was there snow cover?
  • What is the basis for the expert's conclusion that the property does/does not contain a vernal pool(s)?


The DEEP's Inland Wetlands Management Section conducted a workshop on vernal pool ecology and monitoring in October 2012.  Workshop handouts, PowerPoint presentations, and other information are available on the DEEP's website.


Article based on information presented during the October 2012 workshop by Hank J. Gruner, Vice President of Programs, the Connecticut Science Center; and Edward M. Pawlak, Owner, Connecticut Ecosystems LLC, Registered Soil Scientist and Certified Professional Wetland Scientist.

Inland Wetlands Agency DecisionsDecisionsInWriting
When Should They Be Made in Writing?
There are two occasions when a municipal inland wetlands agency MUST issue a decision in writing. 
  1. If a public hearing is held on an application because of a potential significant impact, a permit may not be issued until the agency has issued a decision in writing that a feasible and prudent alternative does not exist; and 
  2. If the agency denies a permit based on a finding of possible feasible and prudent alternatives, the agency shall proose the types of alternatives which the applicant may investigate.

It is good practice and always correct to issue ALL decisions in writing. 


The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer that is committed to complying with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Please contact us at 860-418-5910 or if you: have a disability and need a communication aid or service; have limited proficiency in English and may need information in another language; or if you wish to file an ADA or Title VI discrimination complaint. 
A Newsletter for Municipal Inland Wetlands Agencies is published by the Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection, Bureau of Water Protection and Land Reuse, Inland Water Resources Division, Wetlands Management Section.  Editor: Darcy Winther, (860) 424-3019.