What is a Wetland?
When most people think of wetlands, they think of swampy, marsh areas complete with ducks and cattails. While those areas are in fact wetlands, there are many other wetlands that look very different, and can be completely dry for the majority of the year. Some wetlands support trees and shrubs, while other wetlands may even be farmed.
A wetland is defined by three criteria: 1) It must have mostly hydric soils; 2) it must be generally inundated or saturated above or below the surface; and 3) It must support a prevalence of vegetation adapted to wet soil conditions.
Wetlands are extremely important resource that must be protected. Wetland benefits include water quality improvements, flood control, erosion control, wildlife habitat, recreation and carbon storage.
What is the Wetland Conservation Act?
In 1991, the Minnesota Legislature responded to growing concerns over the state’s wetland management processes by passing the Wetland Conservation Act (WCA). Considered to be one of the most comprehensive wetland laws in the country, the WCA ensures that we maintain and protect Minnesota’s wetlands and the benefits they provide.
Who Enforces the WCA?
Because local officials generally have a good grasp of community needs and values, the WCA gives administrative authority for the WCA to local governments. The local government that delegates this program in Isanti County (with the exception of the City of Isanti) is Isanti County Zoning.
At the State level, the Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) provides assistance and administrative oversight to the County while the MN DNR enforces wetland violations.
Do I need a Permit?
Although the WCA allows exemptions for certain activities, most projects will require a permit when working in or near wetlands. Play it safe- contact Isanti Count Zoning (763-689-8319) prior to beginning any project that involves work in or near a wetland (i.e. tiling, ditching, filing, draining, or excavating) to find out whether you activity is exempt or whether it will require a permit and replacement plan.
NOTICE: If you are a landowner that is filing a 1026 form with your local Farm Service Agency (FSA) or the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) office for wetland review regarding Swampbuster, you must also get a review and approval from Isanti County Zoning before you start your project so that your work is in compliance with the WCA.
Additionally, the wetlands on our property may also require permits from the Federal Army Corps of Engineers and/or the MN DNR. Contact these agencies before you begin your project.
How can the SWCD help?
Isanti SWCD provides wetland technical support to Isanti County (the County enforces the Wetland Conservation Act). The technical support provided to the County includes: Serving on the Isanti County Wetland Conservation Act Technical Evaluation Panel (TEP), inspecting violation sites and drafting restoration/replacement orders, certifying completion of restoration orders and advising landowners with respect to the law.
What is a Cease and Desist Order?
If you decide to move ahead with your project before obtaining the proper permits, a DNR Wetland Enforcement Officer, Conservation Officer, or other peace officer may issue a “cease and desist order” which is an order to stop any further work on the project in question until a determination can be made on whether or not a violation of the WCA has occurred. If it is determined that a violation of the act as occurred, a restoration order will be issued and you will be required to restore the wetland back to the pre-altered condition. Violating a cease and desist order is a misdemeanor and could result in criminal prosecution. It is the responsibility of both the landowner and the contractor hired by the landowner to be sure that the work being done is allowed under the WCA and that all necessary permits have been obtained. Contact Isanti County Zoning for assistance in obtaining the required forms and permits.
For more information on the WCA click here.