If you are developing a project in areas where wetlands may be located, here’s what you should be thinking about before you get started.
Know the Property
Gather relevant documents such as property descriptions, topographic maps, aerial photographs, zoning maps, floodplain maps, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Wetlands Inventory maps, wetland delineations, and local ordinances, aquifer maps, summaries, etc.
Use state wetlands and wildlife or endangered species maps to locate state-identified wetlands that are mapped on the property. Note that state and local wetlands may differ from federally regulated wetlands. This is because these agencies use different wetlands jurisdictional or delineation criteria.
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If wetland locations or boundaries must be determined more precisely, you may request delineation by the regional Corps offices, state offices, or local government agencies. Or you may choose a consultant to delineate the boundaries for you subject to state, local, and Corps jurisdiction.
Learn the Basics about Wetlands Regulations
Ask local government, state, and Corps staff to help determine which laws apply to your project. If the land is farmed or has been farmed in the past, contact the NRCS. The land may be a converted wetland, a farmed wetland, a prior converted wetland, or an abandoned converted wetland. Certain federal and state regulations are applicable to farmed wetlands, depending on the farming history.
Review federal, state, and local laws personally. Remember that local ordinances may vary from one municipality to another and may also differ from state and federal regulations. Local ordinances are usually stricter.
Evaluate your project to determine whether it involves permitted, conditional, or prohibited activities and whether and how it can be designed or mitigated to meet the standards.
Confirm your conclusions with local government, state, or Corps staff. A pre-application conference with local, state, or Corps is recommended, and can be arranged by contacting the appropriate regional regulatory office of the Corps, state, environmental agency, or local city or town hall.
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Modify Your Project Design or Location if Necessary
Make and use a checklist of laws, regulations, and guidelines that may affect your property.
Look for design alternatives that avoid wetlands. Minimize the project scope and its adverse impacts. What you can’t minimize, you should mitigate.
If the project design cannot be altered to comply with applicable regulations, try to change the location or investigate an alternative use for the property.
Complete Permit Applications
Remember that you may need permits from two or more regulatory agencies, and that each permit must be approved before you begin. Violation of these permit requirements is cause for enforcement actions by local, state, and/or federal authorities that may sue, impose fines, or require compensation.