The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) released a new Hydrologic Restoration General Permit (HRGP) for public comment this month. The HRGP has been an important priority for the Wisconsin Wetlands Association because it improves the permitting process for hydrology-focused wetland restoration, floodplain reconnection, and channel improvement projects in Wisconsin.

The HRGP was required to be developed in 2021 Act 77, legislation WWA helped champion. The Act required development of a new general permit to authorize wetland, stream, and floodplain restoration and management activities that will result in a net improvement in hydrologic conditions, connections, and functions. WWA has been closely involved in the development of the HRGP over the course of the last two years.  We support the fresh approach taken in the HRGP because it elevates positive impacts. 

There is a great need for more hydrology-focused restoration across the state. Despite being graced with abundant water resources, many wetlands, rivers, and floodplains in Wisconsin are disconnected and degraded. This compromises their ability to deliver important benefits like storing and slowing flows, reducing soil loss and erosion, improving water quality, providing high-quality habitat for wildlife, and increasing recreational opportunities for people.

WWA is working on multiple fronts to improve the programs and policies that will help restore our waters, their natural functions, and the vast array of benefits they provide. Permitting tools are important in a restoration context because—for better or worse—the time and cost involved in securing regulatory approvals influences the types of projects that get put on the ground. The new HRGP will ensure that there is an efficient general permit process for restoring the connections and beneficial functions within and between our rivers, floodplains, and wetlands.

The HRGP is designed to be flexible and enable a variety of practices and approaches to achieve the required net improvements. Because of this, the burden is on applicants to demonstrate eligibility. The permit also contains important protections that allow the DNR to request more information or decide whether a project is more appropriate for an alternative permitting process.

WWA is excited for the HRGP to become available for wetland, stream, and floodplain activities that improve hydrology and restore the landscape’s natural abilities to address water-related challenges.

The WDNR will hold a public hearing on the HRGP and several other general permit renewals on January 24th at 3:00 pm and is accepting public comments until February 16th. Learn more about the HRGP here, including how to submit your comments to the WDNR.

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