Protecting Streams and Wetlands
Streams and wetlands are essential elements of the Bay Area’s natural heritage. They also work in many ways to protect and enhance water quality throughout our region.
- Streams and wetlands, and the water that flows through them, shape the landscape as they support the ecological processes all human, plant, and animal watershed residents depend on.
- Aquatic and terrestrial habitats associated with streams and wetlands provide critical habitat for diverse plant and animal communities.
- Vegetated riparian and wetland corridors protect and enhance water quality.
- Healthy stream and wetland systems store flood waters, provide flood control during large storm events, and recharge groundwater.
- The Water Board uses a “watershed approach” whenever possible. This means that we often consider the needs of an entire watershed when we work to improve the health of an ecosystem—rather than focusing on specific pollution problems or an isolated stream or species. Some important guidance and policy documents for watershed, stream, and wetlands protection and management are listed on our Resources Page
How does the Water Board protect streams and wetlands?
Water Board staff participate in numerous projects designed to protect streams and wetlands and promote healthy watersheds in the Bay Area
- We permit restoration and mitigation projects with authorities from the Clean Water Act Section 401 certification process and the State’s Porter Cologne authority . Learn about our region’s 401 Certification Program and learn about our region's 401 Certification Program.
Fact Sheet for Wetland and Riparian Projects(2006)
Appendix I: Invasive Non-Native Plants
Appendix II: Suggestions for Dept of Defense Sites
- We support the Wetland Tracker GIS database that provides free public access to information about the location, size, sponsors, habitats, contact persons, and status of wetland restoration, mitigation, creation, and enhancement projects in the Bay Area. Submittal of project details to the Wetland Tracker is required for 401 certification. Find out more here.
- We develop Total Maximum Daily Loads action plans to protect stream health and support clean water in impaired waters and watersheds. TMDLs are incorporated into the Water Quality Control Plan for the San Francisco Bay Basin, our master planning guide for water quality in our region.
- Stormwater runoff also affects stream and wetland health. In some cases it is a resource; in others stormwater runoff is the main source and cause of impairment or threat of impairment.
- With the North Coast Water Board and the State Water Resources Control Board, we are developing a Stream and Wetland Systems Protection Policy that will become part of the San Francisco Bay Area’s master planning document for water quality protection, the Basin Plan
- We assist with the development of wetland riparian assessment methods using tools such as benthic macro invertebrate assessments, California Rapid Assessment Method, Wetland Ecological Assessments (WEA), and other methods.
New! Use our spreadsheet tool to evaluate your project for 401 permit applicationWater Board staff have developed a rapid assessment tool to make it easier and faster to submit a clear and complete permit application under Clean Water Act sections 401-404. The rapid assessment checklist is provided in spreadsheet form where you can answer questions and even do a few calculations. Submit this form with the permit application and the permit staff will appreciate your efforts to provide the project information we need to quickly approve your application. The questions on the form can also guide any CEQA or project documents or reports you may also want to submit.
To learn more about some of the thousands of wetland and riparian restoration projects underway around the Bay or already completed, click here.
Links to Other Agency and Partner Sites
Our staff work closely with local, state, and federal agencies and environmental groups to develop plans and programs to support stream and wetland health.
- California Department of Fish and Game
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
- National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA)
- San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC)
- San Francisco Estuary Project
- Save the Bay
- San Francisco Baykeeper)
- Clean Water Action
- Communities for a Better Environment
- East Bay Regional Parks District
- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
- California Coastal Conservancy
- California Coastal Commission
- San Francisco Estuary Institute