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FAQ Regarding 

These are some commonly asked questions regarding wetland developments in Minnesota.

What are Wetlands?

Wetlands are 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. 


If there are no cattails, is it a wetland?

There are several different types of wetlands that are not open water marshes. In northern Minnesota, some of our most common wetlands are shrub and forested wetlands. 


Is a wetland always wet?

No. 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 hydric soils.


Do I have wetlands on my property?

We have access to National Wetland Inventory (NWI) maps, aerial photography and other sources that can help staff get an idea if wetlands may be present. Wetlands need to be identified in the field. From our experience, the NWI often understate the area of wetland that actually exists. 


How do I know for sure if I have wetlands on property?

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 a 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. 


How do I get a wetland delineation?

A wetland delineation is typically prepared by a private consultant that a landowner hires. Give us a call!


Are wetlands regulated and protected? 

Yes. The 1991 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.


So what if a road, building or other structure has to be built over wetlands? Does the WCA prevent all impacts to wetlands?

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. 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. 


So a project will impact wetlands. What do I do?

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. 


So I need to follow the Minnesota Wetland Conservation Act, but do I have to work with local government?

Yes. All WCA determinations and approvals are made locally. All applications are sent to the Local Government Unit (City/County Planning Department), DNR, and Army Corps of Engineers. 


I’ve heard I can fill 10,000 square feet without approval. Is that true?

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, jurisdiction, proximity to public waters, and certain locations. Plus, prior approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is still needed even for WCA exemptions.


So I got a culvert permit to put in a driveway. Does that mean all wetland impacts are also approved?

No. A culvert permit does not authorize the filling of wetlands. Also, a building permit from a township zoning office does not authorize wetland impacts. Authorization for wetland impacts comes only from the WCA LGU (County or city where the project is located) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. You must specifically apply to impact wetlands.


I’m thinking about buying property. How will I know if there will be wetland issues?

Make sure that you inspect the property during the wettest time of the year (May/June). 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. 

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