Special Area Management Plan (SAMP)

What is a SAMP?

"Special Area Management Plans" (SAMPs) are broadly defined in the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) as "plans which provide for increased specificity in protecting significant natural resources, reasonable coastal-dependent economic growth, improved protection of life and property in hazardous areas, including those areas likely to be affected by land subsidence, sea level rise, or fluctuating water levels of the Great Lakes, and improved predictability in governmental decision making." A SAMP is simply a resource management tool in the form of a "plan" that some communities may choose to evolve into a more engaged program to assist in the wetland regulatory process.

Why Does Superior Have a SAMP?

Because of the prevalence of wetlands in the City of Superior, substantial new housing developments, commercial/industrial construction and highway projects unavoidably impact wetlands. Some development proposals generated controversies, delays, and raised the same questions of availability of upland sites and the need for compensatory mitigation. Lack of a comprehensive wetland plan hampered review of proposed developments, and the complex process of wetland regulatory permitting, the Superior Special Area Management Plan (SAMP) was created to assist in better balancing the community's needs for economic growth and development with its equally important responsibility to manage and preserve high quality wetlands.

History of SAMP in Superior:

The first City of Superior SAMP program began planning in 1992 and began implementation in 1996. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued Section 404 Wetland Regulatory General Permits and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources issued general concurrence on the federal permits by issuing Water Quality Certification. These permits were valid for 5 years and then were renewed for a second five-year term. Being valid for only 10 years, the life of the first SAMP ended in 2007. In 2008, the SAMP General Permits were reauthorized but under a much more comprehensive plan.

SAMP permits through the City’s program are not a shortcut to filling wetlands, except that the process is quicker. SAMP Permits still require wetland delineations and plant surveys, avoidance and minimization of wetland impacts where practicable, and a thorough evaluation of alternatives. The final approval for a SAMP permit is still granted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

How are SAMP Areas Determined?

The City Planning and Development Department is responsible for evaluation and integration of planning and development objectives into the SAMP program. All wetlands in the most developed areas of the City have been assessed for functional quality. Assessment included 5,579.3 acres of wetland and encompassed approximately 80 percent of the City.

Functional values assessed included those outlined in the Superior RAM. Only wetlands with significantly degraded functional values are considered eligible for permitting through SAMP General Permit process. Functional values that were assessed include:
  • Plant Habitat Integrity
  • Wildlife Habitat Integrity
  • Water Quality Integrity
  • Stormwater/Flood Attenuation
  • Hydrologic Integrity
  • Aesthetics, Recreation, Education, Cultural, Scientific Value

In the SAMP II proposal, overall wetland ranking was determined objectively using the following standards:

  • Wetlands ranked high in Plant Community Integrity were automatically excluded from SAMP II since this function is very difficult to recreate during mitigation efforts.
  • Wetlands ranked high in Wildlife Habitat Integrity were automatically excluded from SAMP II since this function is very difficult to recreate during mitigation efforts.
  • Additional wetlands ranked medium and low in the above categories were excluded due to their proximity to one or more special features as defined in the Superior RAM (such as inclusion in the Priority Wetland Areas designation, having known occurrence of state listed threatened or endangered plant species, being within the Shoreland-Wetland zoning district, being with a floodplain, etc.).
  • A total of 1097.5 acres were deemed eligible for consideration of general permitting under the SAMP II. Only 140 acres may be permitted under the program during the ten-year lifespan of the SAMP II.

Who Administers the SAMP Program?

The SAMP Technical Advisory Committee is comprised of representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and the City of Superior. The SAMP plans, themselves are carefully reviewed and approved by the various agencies and are put out on Public Notice, in accordance with federal and state laws.

Day-to-day administration of SAMP II Wetland Fill Permits is managed through the City of Superior Building Inspection Division of Public Works, reviewed by a wetland professional, the Environmental Regulatory Coordinator, and when considered "complete," are forwarded to local representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. SAMP permits are not issued without oversight and authorization by the regulatory representatives. Comment from all Technical Advisory Committee members/agencies is sought, as well as comment and review from the State Historic Preservation Office, State Bureau of Endangered Resources, and other parties as applicable, in accordance with federal agency coordination laws.

What Areas Does the SAMP Cover?

To see a map of wetlands in Superior and determine which ones are eligible for the City of Superior Special Area Management Plan (SAMP) program, visit http://douglascowi.wgxtreme.com/. Click on the Dept Maps tab (top left), then in the drop-down menu (top center) select Land Use/Zoning. This will update the layers in the legend on the left. In the legend, click OFF the zoning layers and click ON the SAMP wetlands layer. Then click on the label for the SAMP layer so that layer is highlighted in blue. Zoom in to the area of interest on the map. Using the Info tool from the toolbar at the top of the map, click on the wetlands within your project area. You will see a pop-up box with more info about each wetland. In the pop-up box there will be a field titled “sampiii_el” which indicates whether a wetland is eligible for SAMP permits or not. A value of Y means the wetland IS eligible for SAMP permitting, a value of N means the wetland is NOT eligible for SAMP permits (in that instance, a project would have to be permitted through the DNR wetland permit process, details at https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/wetlands/permits/).

Wetlands mapping as part of the City of Superior Special Area Management Plan is not the same as a wetland delineations and maps should not be interpreted as official wetland boundaries. The accuracy of the wetlands depicted on these maps is not confirmed and other wetlands may exist beyond those shown on the map. The City of Superior is not responsible for the accuracy of the information or interpretation of this map by the public. Please contact the Environmental Regulatory Manager with any questions regarding the presence/absence of wetlands on your property and/or the eligibility of projects affecting wetlands for the SAMP program. Programmatic changes in the SAMP may occur, affecting eligibility. The Environmental Regulatory Manager can help discuss project and permitting options.

What Authority Does the SAMP Have?

Unauthorized impacts to wetlands carry penalties at the Federal and State level. The City's SAMP program is adopted by ordinance (to view the ordinance, go to the municode and type "SAMP" in the search engine at the top of the page), and therefore covers "eligible" SAMP wetlands (shown in green on the maps). Part of the ordinance is acceptance of the state and federal Water Regulatory Permits that were issued to support the SAMP. A violation occurring in any wetland that would be eligible for a SAMP II Permit will require referral to federal and state wetland regulatory authorities for concurrent enforcement actions, requirements to restore wetlands affected without a permit, and/or fines for failure to restore unauthorized wetland impacts.