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Q1. What are wetlands?
A. Wetlands are those
areas of land transitional between terrestrial and aquatic systems where
the water table is usually at or near the surface or the land is covered by shallow
water. Wetlands are specifically identified by using the 1987 Army Corps
of Engineers Wetlands Delineation Manual to identify wetland plants, wetland
soils, and wetland hydrology. More
information (MN Board of Water & Soil Resources)
Q2. So, there are no cattails, so it’s
not a wetland. Right?
A. Wrong. There are several
different types of wetlands that are not open water marshes. In St. Louis
County some of our most common wetlands are shrub and forested wetlands.
More info (DNR types of wetlands)
Q3. Is a wetland always wet?
A. No. See Q1 above.
There are several different types of wetlands. Some wetland types may
never have standing water, but water is near enough to the surface for
a long enough period of time to support wetland plants and create wetland
info (MN Board of Water & Soil Resources)
Q4. Do I have wetlands on my property?
A. We don’t know. We have access to National
Wetland Inventory (NWI) maps and aerial photography that can help agency
personnel or individuals get an idea if wetlands are present. But wetlands
need to be identified in the field. See Q1 above. From our experience,
the NWI maps almost always understate the area of wetland that actually
exists. More info (US Fish & Wildlife's National Wetland Inventory)
Q5. How do I know for sure where wetlands
are on my property?
A. If you are anticipating
a project that could impact wetlands, getting a wetland delineation for
the property in advance of applying for permits could save you a lot of problems
in the long run. A wetland delineation is report based on a field investigation completed for an
area of land that contains a map of wetland and upland areas plus data
sheets that document the presence or absence of wetland indicators. See
Q6. How do I get a wetland delineation?
A. A wetland delineation
is typically prepared by a private consultant that a landowner hires. Available wetland delineators may be found in the phone book. The SWCD
and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers maintain lists of contractors available
on the internet. More
info (pdf of consultant list, as of Sept 2012)
Q7. Are wetlands regulated and protected?
A. Yes. The Minnesota
Wetland Conservation Act (WCA) dictates that generally no person shall
drain, fill, or otherwise impact any type of wetland, or excavate in the
permanent or semi-permanently flooded areas of type 3, 4, or 5 wetlands
without first having a wetland replacement plan or other determination
approved by the local government unit. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
also regulates wetlands by implementing the Clean Water Act.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources regulates
some wetlands that are Public Waters. More
info (at MN Board of Soil & Water Resources forms and guidance) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers wetlands permiting
Q8. So what if a road, building or other
structure has to be built over wetlands? Does the WCA prevent all impacts
This project was funded in part under the Coastal Zone
Management Act, by NOAA’s Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management,
in cooperation with Minnesota’s Lake Superior Coastal Program
A. The Wetland Conservation
Act and federal wetland rules provide a process that allows some development
in wetlands, while avoiding and minimizing wetland impacts. Some wetland
impacts also require wetland mitigation or replacement wetlands so a no-net
loss of wetland quantity and quality is achieved. Almost any wetland impact
greater than 400 square feet requires prior approval. The Wetland Conservation
Act does have several exemptions that could apply to your project, meaning
in limited circumstances wetland impacts could occur without local government
approval. However, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also regulates wetlands
in Minnesota. There are no exemptions under the federal rules that allow
impacts greater than 400 sq. ft. without prior notice and approval. In
addition, some communities have their own wetland management plans that
regulate wetlands above the standards of the WCA
Q9. So a project will impact wetlands.
What do I do?
A. Early in your project
planning submit a Minnesota Local/State/Federal Application Forms for Water/Wetland Projects. Instructions are included with the application.
The application is submitted to the Local Government Unit (LGU) that has
jurisdiction over the wetland project, the DNR, and the Army Corps of
Engineers. The LGU is the county or city where the project is located.
Townships with their own zoning authority are not WCA LGUs. Contact the
SWCD if you are not sure where to send the application. Download applications (MN Board of Water & Soil Resources forms and guidance)or pick them up at the SWCD office in downtown Duluth. More
info (DNR's St. Louis County info page)
Q10. So it’s the Minnesota Wetland
Conservation Act, but I have to work with local government?
A. Yes. All WCA determinations
and approvals are made locally. All applications are sent to the Local
Government Unit, DNR and Army Corps of Engineers. Contact the SWCD for
help determining your WCA LGU.
Q11. I’ve heard I can fill in 10,000
square feet of wetland without approval. Is that true?
A. Not completely. A
project may be eligible for an exemption under the WCA; however exemptions
can be complicated and may only apply to certain types of wetlands in
certain locations. Plus, prior approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
is still needed even for WCA exemptions. More
info (MN Board of Water & Soil Resources forms and guidance)
Q12. So I got a culvert permit to put in
a driveway. Does that mean all wetland impacts are also approved?
A. No. A culvert permit
does not authorize the filling of wetlands. Also, a building permit from
zoning office does not authorize wetland impacts. Authorization for wetland
impacts comes only from the WCA LGU (St. Louis County or city where the
project is located) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. You must specifically
apply to impact wetlands.
Q13. What if I get a permit for a septic
system? Are wetland impacts automatically approved?
A. No. See Q12. It can
be confusing, but there are separate permit processes.
Q14. Can I dig a pond in a wetland?
A. Maybe. Excavation
in type 1, 2, 6, 7, 8 wetlands is not regulated by WCA, as long as the
excavation is not greater than 2 meters (6.6 feet), no draining of the
wetland occurs, and no spoils or excavated material is placed in a wetland.
However, in most instances, written authorization from the U.S. Army Corps
of Engineers is required for ponds constructed in wetlands. See Q9 above
for an application. More
info (DNR wetland types and technical specs)
Q15. I’m thinking about buying property.
How will I know if there will be wetland issues?
A. Make sure that you
inspect the property during the wettest time of the year. Ensure that
the property is suitable to whatever your potential plans may be. One could ask the seller
to produce an approved wetland delineation prior to closing on the property.
National Wetland Inventory maps and aerial photos could be reviewed. If
in doubt, ask the LGU, SWCD, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, or a qualified
consultant. See Q1-6 above.
Q16. Where can I get more information?
A. Contact us:
South St. Louis SWCD
215 North 1st Avenue East Room 301
Duluth, MN 55802
and Construction Sites
of Potential Wetland Restoration and Creation Sites
about WCA from the MN Board of Water and Soil Resources
Project and Permit Application Forms
Wetland Consultants for Southern St. Louis County
Army Corps of Engineers Consultant List