Jurisdictional Roadside Ditches

Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (CWA) mandates that state agencies and other entities perform compensatory mitigation when their activities impair jurisdictional waters. In the Commonwealth of Kentucky, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) is required to pay in-lieu fees or purchase stream mitigation credits when a roadside ditch is impaired or relocated as part of a road construction project. In-lieu fees and stream mitigation credits are costly, and ditches that have suffered degraded habitat and loss of hydrogeomorphic functionality are treated as total losses when they are impacted by construction and maintenance activities. This raises the question of whether the United States Corps of Engineers (USACE) would be receptive to alternative mitigation and monitoring practices that impose a less stringent financial burden on the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, but which still comply with CWA regulations. This report discusses methodologies used to evaluate the quality of instream and riparian habitat, Section 404 of the CWA and its implications for mitigation of lost or damaged jurisdictional ditches, and the strategies that have been used by other states to fulfill their Section 404 mitigation requirements. The authors highlight mitigation practices that depart from the norm and which place a less onerous financial burden on state transportation agencies. KYTC officials presented this report’s key findings to the USACE Louisville District Office in January 2015 in an effort to receive approval to experiment with novel restoration techniques. The USACE granted KYTC license to implement these techniques on a project-by-project basis. Before implementation on each project, the Cabinet must receive formal approval from USACE officials. Although this was not the blanket mandate that KYTC hoped for, it indicated the Louisville District is willing to study the effectiveness of alternative mitigation strategies. Despite the Cabinet’s request, USACE officials did not approve a plan to reduce post-restoration monitoring requirements. Kentucky Transportation Center (KTC) researchers suggested that KYTC perform exhaustive monitoring of the performance of completed projects that used alternative mitigation techniques. Having information on the short-, medium-, and long-term performance of these sites could – if the results are promising – pave the way to the wider adoption of alternative mitigation practices and could eventually reduce the level of post-restoration monitoring required by the USACE.

  • Record URL:
  • Corporate Authors:

    University of Kentucky, Lexington

    Kentucky Transportation Center
    College of Engineering, 176 Raymond Building
    Lexington, KY  United States  40506-0281

    Kentucky Transportation Cabinet

    200 Mero Street
    Frankfort, KY  United States  40622

    Federal Highway Administration

    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC  United States  20590
  • Authors:
    • McCormack, Sarah M
    • Van Dyke, Chris
    • Kreis, Doug
  • Publication Date: 2015-6


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Digital/other
  • Edition: Final Report
  • Features: Appendices; References; Tables;
  • Pagination: 74p

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01575126
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Report/Paper Numbers: KTC-15-08/SPR13-458-1F
  • Contract Numbers: SPR13-458
  • Created Date: Aug 25 2015 3:21PM