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Wetlands Information

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Following the I-80 and Kestral/Bluebird Trail


Kestral & Bluebird Habitat

For more information on Wetlands, Contact the NDOR Environmental Permits Unit of the Planning & Project Development Division.

Wetland Mitigation Banking

Wetland Mitigation Banking is the development of wetland areas that are fairly large in size to replace wetlands destroyed by highway construction projects.


Those areas that are inundated or saturated by surface or ground water at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions. Wetlands generally include swamps, marshes, bogs, and similar areas.


When a filling or excavation activity occurs in a water of the United States.


Compensatory mitigation is the restoration, creation, enhancement, or in exceptional circumstances, preservation of wetlands and/or aquatic resources for the purpose of compensating for unavoidable adverse impacts which remain after all appropriate and practicable avoidance and minimization has been achieved.


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Wetlands FAQ'sWhy build wetland banks?The law requires the Department to replace all wetlands destroyed during highway construction. In the past this replacement usually occurred as small discontinuous wetlands along the project. This land was purchased or condemned and a replacement wetland constructed. These small isolated wetlands are not very functional and the cost has been high. Public opinion was not improved by the condemnation of these parcels.

How does NDOR conduct this wetland program?The Department seeks willing sellers of land that has the potential to be developed as wetlands. An appraisal is made, and if negotiations are successful, plans are developed and a wetland is constructed. Land is acquired for these bank sites through permanent easement or out-right purchase.

What is permanent easement?This is a legal instrument that assures the developed bank remains a functioning wetland, but leaves the ownership the same. The owner is responsible for some management and has the right to use the land, within the constraints of the easement. Usually the owner can use the site for hunting and other recreational activities. Fee hunting is not restricted. Most maintenance is the responsibility of the Department of Roads. The land remains on the tax rolls. The Department of Roads must have legal access to the site to monitor and carry out needed maintenance.

Can the owner sell the land if it has a permanent easement?Yes. The easement remains, however. The new owner assumes the same constraints as the original.

How many wetland banks does the Department need?State law restricts the acreage to 150% of a realistic 6-year need. For the current period this amounts to about 1,000 acres. Wetland banks are needed throughout the state, wherever the Department is building roadways that have wetland impacts.

When are these banks built?The best time of the year for wetland construction is mid to late summer. This is the season when Nebraska receives the least rainfall, and the sites are dry enough to allow earth moving.

What kind of property is suitable for wetland banking?Land that was once a wetland but has had the drainage altered. Land that is classified by the Natural Resources Conservation Service as Prior Converted (PC) or Farmed Wetland (FW) may be the best indicator of property with potential.

For more information on Wetlands, Contact the NDOR Environmental Permits Unit of the Planning & Project Development Division.

Kestral & Bluebird Habitat...I-80 Kestrel and Bluebird Trail

by Steve Duecker, PWS, NDOR Wetlands Biologist

Kestrels are small falcons about the size of a dove. They weigh from 3-5 oz. and are native to Nebraska. Cavities in trees and occasional nooks of buildings or cliffs are used for nesting. Their diet consists mainly of large insects and mice, although small birds are occasionally taken. Kestrels are very colorful falcons and one of the few raptors in which the male and female have different plumage color. The male Kestrels generally select and defend their nesting territory in early March.

In many areas of the country the only area left with habitat which the Kestrel can use for hunting is the highway ROW. Kestrels are frequently seen perched or hovering along the roadway hunting. It was found that Kestrels would use manmade nest boxes to replace lost nesting sites due to dead tree removal. Several states started placing nest boxes on the backs of highway signs. Nebraska Dept. of Roads (NDOR) in cooperation with the Sierra Club and The Audubon Society has done this on I-80 for several years. The nest boxes require yearly cleaning and monitoring to prevent European Starlings from using the box. Monitoring was done by the Sierra Club.

Due to declining use of the boxes and concerns for personnel safety the Sierra club decided to remove the boxes from I-80 and terminate the program. The NDOR felt that the program should continue in some fashion. Also at this time the NDOR was approached by Bluebirds Across Nebraska for permission to place bluebird boxes on I-80. After meeting with these groups and Nebraska Game & Parks Commission a plan was devised to place poles for Kestrel and Bluebird boxes at interchanges and rest areas on I-80 out of the main traffic flow. A design for a new type of tilting Kestrel pole was developed and then built by the Bluebirds group. This pole will allow boxes to be maintained and monitored without the use of a ladder. The nest boxes will be monitored by the Sierra Club and Bluebirds Across Nebraska.

The NDOR set 10 Kestrel poles in late January at selected sites on I-80 from Gretna to west of York. The Bluebirds group set the bluebird boxes and mounted the Kestrel nest boxes on the poles. After evaluating the nesting season another 10 Kestrel poles were placed on I-80 from Gretna to Grand Island. Informational displays are also being developed for the rest areas along this section of I-80.

I greatly appreciate the help of NDOR District 1,2 and 4 in getting the poles set. The continued help of the NDOR Arts & Graphics unit is instrumental in developing the information displays. Thanks are also due to Velta Didrichsons of the Wetlands Unit for creating the location map of the sites.

The following groups are partners in the I-80 Kestrel and Bluebird Trail:

Bluebirds Across Nebraska
Sierra Club
The Nebraska Environmental Trust
Nebraska Game & Parks Commission
Nebraska Department of Roads