Environmental Specialties Group, Inc.
 

 

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As a full service environmental consulting firm, Environmental Specialties Group offers the following scope-of-services:

Wetland Determinations & Delineations

Environmental Regulatory Permitting

Wetland Mitigation Planning and Design

Endangered Species Habitat Assessments and Surveys

Stormwater BMP Inspections and Maintenance

Environmental Impact Reports

Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act Analysis

Perennial Stream Evaluations

Phase I / II Environmental Site Assessments

Professional Expert Testimony/Litigation Support

Avoidance & Minimization Strategy Planning

Environmental Inventories

Wetland Determinations & Delineations

     What is a wetland?       

Identifying environmentally sensitive areas is one of the first steps in land development. With regulatory wetland jurisdiction expanding into areas that, to the laymenís eye, appear to be upland areas capable of supporting development, it is imperative that experienced professionals trained in the identification of jurisdictional wetlands be contracted to properly evaluate the property in question. Regulatory compliance can be confusing, and the agencies involved can become confrontational. The best way to forestall any conflicts before they arise is to be represented by technically proficient professionals who understand the regulatory environment. ESGís unique understanding of the regulatory process and the policies involved can be the critical deciding factor that ultimately ensures the success of any given project.

Environmental Specialties Groupís wetland delineation and avoidance/minimization strategy planning services are a focused effort. Our extensive practical experience in the wetland arena allows us to be a powerful advocate for our clients during negotiations with local, state and federal regulatory agencies. By continuously producing technical work of the highest caliber, we strive to strengthen our already solid reputation among the various regulatory entities.

ESG specializes in wetland evaluation techniques developed by state and federal agencies to specifically streamline the permitting process. Potential wetlands undergo analysis for wetland soils, hydrology, and vegetation in accordance with state and federal regulatory methods.  Global Positioning Systems and Geographical Information Systems technology will be applied to produce highly accurate and detailed delineations.  Once resources are identified, ESG will assist in developing alternatives, identifying avoidance areas, and suggesting compensatory methods to offset impacts and streamline the overall process. The goal of the ESG wetland program is to assist clients in streamlining the process for achieving permits and a development ready site.
 

What is a wetland delineation?

To perform a wetland delineation means to identify, mark and locate boundaries of any water that is considered "Waters of the U.S.". These waters include streams (perennial, intermittent and ephemeral), lakes/ponds, rivers and wetlands.  These waters are regulated based upon the Clean Water Act.  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is responsible for their protection, and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has additional authority over wetlands.

A wetland delineation is intended to give a property owner the information needed to avoid impacting Waters of the U.S. or to allow for obtaining the proper permits for minimal impacts such as road crossings.

   A wetland /  upland diagram

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Environmental Regulatory Permitting

In general, environmental permitting processes and procedures are considered to be highly technical and complex. For example, the original permit process for jurisdictional wetlands was developed to be user friendly and readily accessible to anyone. Since 1972 when the Clean Water Act was adopted, however, the permitting process has evolved into its own industry that is no longer user friendly for even the simplest project. Today, the regulatory process has become a maze of rules and regulations, such as the Clean Water Act, the Rivers and Harbors Act, The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Endangered Species Act (and the state versions of each of these federal laws), and additional state requirements such as the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act.

Environmental Specialties Group has the unique insight which comes from being involved in the permitting process at the federal, state, and private sector levels; and insight about how these regulations were developed and why. In some cases, Environmental Specialties Group principals actually participated in the process of developing current regulations.

Given this background and experience-based knowledge, we are able to effectively maneuver through the various permit processes. Consequently, our permit applications and negotiations are focused and successful. More importantly, our knowledge of the system allows us to move projects through the permitting process quickly, avoiding unnecessary studies or adding time for unwarranted or insupportable regulatory reviews.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' own description of the permitting process demonstrates the complexity of the matter.  ESG understands the process thoroughly and can get our clients a permit in a timely manner.

    Permit Process

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Wetland Mitigation Planning and Design

      What is a wetland?

      National Wetlands Mitigation Action Plan

When there are no longer any opportunities to practicably avoid and/or minimize the impact that wetland areas have on land slated for development, then wetland mitigation or compensation is subsequently required. However, the re-creation or restoration of these environmentally sensitive habitats is an extremely complex and costly procedure. To that end, numerous innovative wetland replacement alternatives and/or mitigation options have been developed that satisfy regulatory requirements and reduce the overall project costs associated with the replacement of wetland areas. The wetland mitigation strategies developed by ESG promote innovative and cost-effective measures that produce inexpensive environmentally preferable sites that pose the fewest impacts on a projectís budget and schedule.

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Endangered Species Habitat Assessments and Surveys 

    The Federal Endangered Species Act

ESG has completed a number of threatened and endangered species habitat assessments and has biologists on staff who perform surveys specializing in plants, and reptiles and amphibians. We regularly provide habitat assessments for endangered species to determine the potential for the presence of the species. This habitat assessment is often used as critical information for the advisory agencies to decide if a full survey is required. We can also provide habitat restoration, mitigation, and management plans for rare, threatened, and endangered species.

ESG has a certified surveyor, Kory Steele, for Small Whorled Pogonia on staff.  Surveyor's list for Virginia (pdf)

Examples of Previous Species Habitat Assessments

Mabee's Salamander

State Threatened

 

 

Small Whorled Pogonia

Federally Threatened

 

 

Virginia Least Trillium

Species of Concern

 

Dismal Swamp Southeastern Shrew

State Threatened

 

                                    Red Turtlehead

                                     Under Review

 

Canebrake Rattlesnake

State Endangered

 

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Stormwater BMP Inspection and Maintenance Certification

 
Many municipalities require new developments to manage on-site stormwater through various stormwater treatment devices, known as BMPs.  Retention ponds, bioretention areas, stormwater wetlands, permeable pavement, and level spreaders are devices that are commonly used as BMPs. These devices must have annual maintenance to continue to function properly.  In addition to maintaining the effectiveness of stormwater BMPs and reducing the incidence of pests, proper inspection and maintenance is essential to avoid the health and safety threats inherent in BMP neglect.  All stormwater BMPs should be inspected on a regular basis for continued effectiveness and structural integrity.

ESG has a certified BMP inspector on staff to assist homeowners associations and businesses with complying with inspection requirements.  ESG's David Imburgia is listed on the North Carolina Cooperative Extension website, under certificate number 338.

    EPA's National Menu of Stormwater Best Management Practices

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Environmental Impact Reports

Regulatory agencies from time to time require extensive environmental documentation and reviews to ensure that environmental impacts are fully assessed and documented. These documents must consider all of the issues that may arise as a result of the increased noise, air pollution, and traffic created by the development of property. ESG has prepared numerous environmental assessments and formal environmental impact statements that are in full compliance with NEPA, as well as any other applicable regulatory requirements.

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Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act Analysis

    Chesapeake Bay Act and Local Assistance

Since its enactment in 1988, this legislation has significantly changed the development process. Delineation of Resource Protection Areas (RPA) and Resource Management Areas (RMA) is now a pre-development requirement for many localities since they impose a 100 foot buffer around perennial waters. ESG has completed hundreds of RPA and RMA delineations and has experience with local wetlands boards.

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Perennial Stream Evaluations

Perennial streams carry flowing water continuously throughout the year, regardless of weather conditions. The streambed of these systems lies below the groundwater table and is fed by groundwater sources. These systems also receive input from stormwater runoff. Only periods of hydrologic drought, where the water table recedes below the streambed, will cause the channel to be dry. The biology of these systems includes organisms whose life cycles require a fully aquatic environment for a year or more.

Stream identification and mapping is being used by state and local governments to facilitate the protection of aquatic resources. A methodology has been developed for the identification of streams that focuses on the geomorphologic, hydrologic, and biologic characteristics of streams to determine where a perennial stream originates.  Many local governments have become interested in creating maps that accurately characterize and locate streams within their jurisdictions to identify potentially sensitive aquatic areas and establish buffer zones. 

ESG has a certified perennial stream evaluator on staff that can quickly determine the extent of streams that may have an RPA associated with them.

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Phase I / II Environmental Site Assessments

Phase I Environmental Site Assessments and Commercial Transaction Screening Reports have become as routine and necessary in the real estate industry as appraisals and title searches. Environmental Specialties Group can conduct and prepare comprehensive assessment reports that are representative of the true environmental conditions found on-site. All preliminary environmental investigations performed by ESG are conducted in accordance with the most recent updates to the ASTM Standards governing work of this nature.

When potential areas of environmental concern (AECs) are identified during preliminary investigations/evaluations, further testing to determine the extent of the environmental concern present within the identified AEC may be warranted. The activities generally associated with Phase II investigations include the design and implementation of soil and/or groundwater sampling programs, and the selection of the necessary laboratory analytical parameters. Based on the results of the investigations conducted, ESG will then prepare a report detailing any contamination identified and the potential costs associated with any alternative cleanup methods considered.

If during a routine Phase II investigation, contamination is discovered in levels that merit immediate action, ESG can coordinate remedial investigations that will provide more detailed information regarding the type and extent of contamination present. The performance of this remedial investigation will facilitate the preparation of a feasibility study which attempts to specifically address appropriate measures that may be implemented to treat, stabilize or contain contamination and/or wastes found in either soil or groundwater.

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Professional Expert Testimony/Litigation Support

Inevitably, conflicts between parties arise which can not be successfully resolved. To that end, Environmental Specialties Group offers professional expert testimony/litigation support services for legal depositions and/or actual court testimony. The credentials and expertise maintained by the professionals employed by ESG are considered by many past clients to be both impeccable and readily defendable.

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Avoidance & Minimization Strategy Planning

      A PowerPoint presentation by the Army Corps

After impact avoidance and minimization efforts have been full employed, mitigation for impacts may be required. The key to success for any project involving impacts to ACOE/State jurisdictional areas is compensatory mitigation. ESG has extensive knowledge in mitigation planning, mitigation design, and mitigation monitoring for both streams and wetlands. We will analyze and propose several mitigation options to best fit the projectís needs and purposes. Whether your project requires purchase of credits or a custom plan, ESG can handle your mitigation needs.

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Environmental Inventories

ESG can conduct assessments of properties to identify environmental liabilities and determine if past or adjacent land uses have resulted in environmental compromise. Whether the goal is to purchase, refinance, redevelop, sell, or improve the value of commercial/industrial real estate, we conduct our environmental site assessments with a focus on proposed land use so that problems are not only discovered, but appropriate methods of cleanup can be identified and evaluated.

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© 2011 Environmental Specialties Group, Inc.

732 Thimble Shoals Boulevard, Building E, Suite 305         Newport News, VA 23606        T: (757) 599-7501