March 15, 2016

TO: All staff with NRCS Engineering Job Approval Authority (EJAA) and DATCP Conservation Engineering

Practitioner Certification for Vegetated Treatment Area, Code 635, and Waste Treatment, Code 629

SUBJECT: Co-approval by Area Engineer and holder of EJAA/Certification

The current criteria in NRCS Conservation Practice Standards (CPS), Vegetated Treatment Area (VTA), Code

635, and Waste Treatment, Code 629, states that the practice shall comply with all federal, tribal, state, and local

laws, rules, or regulations.

One federal law that has gained more attention lately is discharge to waters of the United States contained within

the Clean Water Act. Specifically, discharges of pollutants from runoff events resulting from a rainfall event up

to a 25-year, 24-hour duration are prohibited. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has performed

on-site investigations of livestock operations that are less than 1000 animal units following rainfall events that

were less than the 25-year, 24-hour storm. The owners have been cited for discharges to waters of the United

States by the EPA. The current CPS 635 provides criteria to minimize discharges of pollutants but not prevent

discharges to surface waters and flow channels that lead to surface waters. The EPA has advised Wisconsin DNR

that neither VTAs nor the NRCS design standards for VTAs will ensure the required “no discharge” level of

performance in order to meet federal CAPO requirements.

We are temporarily modifying the NRCS Engineering Job Approval Authority and DATCP Conservation

Engineering Practitioner Certification to require co-approval for the Planning and Design components of practice

codes 635 and 629. Effective the date of this memo, this restriction requires that all projects involving planning

or design work must be sent to NRCS Area Engineers or DATCP Engineers located at the NRCS Area Office for

their approval. These designated area staff will determine whether a project meets the “no discharge” standard

under federal law. We will be providing further guidance to them on needed documentation to verify “no

discharge.” We anticipate that we will revisit this approval authority following the revision of CPS 635 later this


This is not intended to impact compliance determinations made under chapter NR 151 and ATCP 50, Wisconsin

Administrative Code. County technicians and others may continue to make determinations regarding the

existence of a significant discharge from feed storage or direct runoff from a feedlot.

These actions are in the best interest of service to our clients and minimizing their risk of violations.


John R. Ramsden

NRCS State Conservation Engineer

Matthew Woodrow

DATCP Conservation Engineering Supervisor

  • View the pdf here.