When Is A Wetland Delineation Required? What Is Involved In A Wetland Delineation?
What Is A Wetland Delineation?
Delineation is the act of locating the wetland or watercourse’s boundary or border. It also entails describing the wetland or watercourse’s functions and values in terms of its physical location in the landscape.
Regulations at all levels of government use wetland delineation to determine a wetland’s presence (location) and physical boundaries (size).
A wetland delineation is an important step in the permitting process for development projects that may impact wetlands. The delineation process determines the boundaries of the wetland and identifies any areas that may be impacted by the proposed project.
It is also necessary to determine the boundaries of wetland areas before making a final decision about who has jurisdiction over the area.
This procedure determines which bodies of water within a project’s limits fit the definition of “Waters of the United States.”
Fish and Wildlife Service, the body responsible for assessing the impact on fish and wildlife of projects subject to Section 404, defines a wetland as having three characteristics:
- Hydrophytes, a type of plant that thrives only in or near water, can be found on the land at least occasionally.
- Hydric soil is the dominating subsoil, or layer, beneath the surface.
- For each year, a different non-soil substrate is used that is soaked or partially submerged in water at some point throughout its growing season.
For the most part, wetland habitats are areas of land where specific types of vegetation and animal life can thrive due to the soil type and long-term presence of water in or on the soil.
What Is Involved In A Wetland Delineation?
For a “simple” delineation, a trained specialist gathers and documents the wetland boundaries based on land-use maps, aerial photographs, topographic maps, soil surveys, and other information.
Additional information about the potential impact of the project may be needed for certain levels of federal or state approval.
Other types of delineations are more complex and require more work.
For those types of delineations, a qualified wetlands specialist must first survey the land, estimate the wetland area (often called “buffer”) using local knowledge and existing maps, and determine which wetland’s boundaries encompass all or most of the area being considered for a project.
The number of different types of wetland delineation varies, as do their specific requirements and standards.
When Is A Wetland Delineation Required?
Wetland delineation is necessary before beginning any construction or drainage work on a site where there is the potential for the wetland to be disrupted or negatively impact the project’s goals and outcomes.
A wetland delineation may be needed for land development permits, certain federal and state permits, potential buyers, sellers of real estate, and other purposes determined by state/federal law.
A wetland delineation is needed for Landowners and/or developers who are planning a project that may alter or fill a wetland and for Landowners and/or developers who are planning a project that may affect an area that is adjacent to a wetland.
A wetland delineation is needed by potential buyers who are planning to purchase land that is adjacent to a wetland. This boundary delineation should also include the wetland and its surrounding wetland buffers.
A wetland buffer is an area around a wetland if it does not contain water, which could interfere with activities or interfere with the hydrology of a wetland.
A wetland delineation is used for river/stream crossings, channel dredging, shoreline fill, stream bank stabilization and other projects that will impact the water or land surrounding a water source.
A wetland delineation is used for development of new subdivisions (maps), clearing of vegetation within the floodway, filling low-lying areas with non-soil substrate, stream channel relocation and other projects.
A wetland delineation is needed for those who are interested in building on a site that borders a wetland. This boundary delineation should also include the wetland and its surrounding wetland buffers.
A wetland delineation is needed for a public golf course, public park, or other similar property that will be located adjacent to a wetland. This is because each wetland property must be protected by the USACE and Corps districts.
A wetland delineation is needed for wetlands that are required to be mapped in accordance with Section 4007 of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA). SMCRA also defines which wetlands are not considered jurisdictional.
A wetland delineation is needed for developments that require a building/occupancy permit. This could include: residential, commercial, agricultural, industrial or state/federal agency construction or expansion.
A wetland delineation is used to determine the presence of a wetland on the property before making a final decision about who has jurisdiction over the area. This procedure establishes which bodies of water within a project’s limits fit the definition of “Waters of the United States.”
A wetland delineation is used to determine if a wetland will affect an area that is adjacent to a wetland. This boundary delineation should also include the wetland and its surrounding buffers.
It can also be needed by the general public to determine if they need to take any special precautions when entering a wetland.
A wetland delineation is needed by governmental agencies in order to determine data required for projects that impact wetlands.
A wetland delineation is needed for anyone who wants to build an access road beyond the normal project limits. This boundary delineation should also include the wetland and its surrounding buffers.
A wetland delineation is needed for state, county, and local agencies that are involved in land development activities including National Forest Planning and Development, Mountain Land Resources Division, State Fish and Game Commission and local soil and water conservation districts.
A wetland delineation is needed for an environmental biologist or botanist who needs to find out the boundaries of any wetland that may be impacted by a development project.
Wetland’s specialists can identify if a permit or other requirement applies. Determining if a wetland delineation is required may save time and money when determining if a permit or other requirement is necessary.
A wetland delineation may also be required for certain Federal (U.S.) or state permitting requirements, such as the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permit to discharge dredged sediment into waters of the United States, and the EPA Sanitary Discharge Permit.
When a water body has been identified as a “waters of the United States,” it must be delineated on all permits, leases, plans and maps to determine who has jurisdiction over that water body.
For example, if the delineated water body is determined to be a jurisdictional wetland and the landowner is a private individual, then the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) has jurisdiction.
If the landowner is a state agency or public utility then that entity has jurisdiction and must apply for their own wetlands permit.
There are many parties involved with water rights:
- Owners of the water body
- Owners of the land around the water body
- Any entity using the water (i.e., public utility, industry, navigable river)
- State and/or federal regulatory agencies that have permit requirements for certain activities occurring in a jurisdictional wetland
- Landowners with property bordering a jurisdictional wetland etc.
Wetland Delineation Importance
The single most important reason for delineating jurisdictional wetlands is to ensure that the hydrology of a wetland is not disturbed by any activities that may affect the water or land around the wetland.
Waters of the U.S. must be delineated on all permits, leases, plans and maps to determine who has jurisdiction over that water body.
For each project involving jurisdictional wetlands, every decision made in regard to the project must consider where water bodies are located within the project’s limits to avoid delays in getting necessary permits and approvals for a project.
Delineating a jurisdictional wetland may save time and money when determining if a permit or other requirement is necessary.
For example, to determine if a permit or other requirement is necessary for a non-federal industrial facility, the water bodies should be delineated. There may be a need to do certain permits that will not require an EAD (Environmental Assessment and Determination) as long as the water bodies were delineated.
In addition, an EAD is required by federal agencies such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Army Corps of Engineers; U.S. Geological Survey; EPA, etc. for every project that affects a jurisdictional wetland.
To determine if a permit or other requirement is necessary, it is important to know who has jurisdiction over jurisdictional wetlands.
Depending on the activity, an EAD may not need to be done for the project if the water bodies were delineated properly and it is determined that there are no jurisdictional wetlands within the proposed project limits
Water delineation is needed when a wetland occurs in your area.
Whether you are a landowner, developer or a landowner interested in purchasing property with wetland buffers on it, the first step is to determine if the property you own or are thinking of purchasing has a wetland.
If it does, then you need to find out if your State Fish and Game Department, USACE or other agency has jurisdiction over the wetlands.
In most cases, the agencies responsible for regulating the project or property you are working with will provide you with a list of consultants who can assist you in your delineation.
A wetland delineation is needed for a determination before making a final decision about who has jurisdiction over the water body.
These boundaries are used to prevent jurisdictional wetlands from being filled by storm water or other activities and also to identify any relevant wetland mitigation projects that will be required by permit.
Wetland Delineation FAQs
What is a wetland delineation?
A wetland delineation is a process of identifying the boundaries of a wetland. This is often done for the purpose of assessing the wetland’s ecological value and developing management plans.
The delineation process usually begins with the collection of data about the wetland, including its location, size, and vegetation.
This data is then analyzed to identify the hydrological and ecological characteristics of the wetland.
How long does a wetland delineation take?
Wetland Delineations take approximately two weeks to complete and cost approximately $100 to create. Most surveys will begin working on your property within 24 hours of your request.
Is a wetland delineation required?
A wetland delineation is required if you are developing property, planning to build on your property or have wetlands on your property that may require special permitting.
How do I hire an environmental consultant?
Suppliers or soil and water conservation districts can usually provide a list of qualified consultants that have completed work in your area. It is always recommended to interview at least three or four consultants for your project.
Why is wetland delineation important?
A wetland delineation is important because the boundary delineation of a water body is used to determine if a wetland will affect an area that is adjacent to a wetland.
It can also be needed by the general public to determine if they need to take any special precautions when entering a wetland.
What are some examples of activities that may affect wetlands?
Some examples of activities that may affect wetlands include: building roads, construction, agriculture, and private development (i.e., cottages or vacation homes).
Who does wetland delineation?
Wetland delineation is done by volunteers, contractors, and other state and federal agencies.
Who owns wetlands?
Wetlands are owned by the public and are usually administered by the State Fish and Wildlife Department or the private landowner.
What is required for a wetland delineation?
A wetland delineation requires a fee to determine who has jurisdiction over certain jurisdictional water bodies. The contractor should provide you with a written statement of work that defines what will be included in your project (i.e., fieldwork, on-site inspections, and adjoining property).
How much does wetland delineation cost?
A wetland delineation generally costs between $100 and $300. The fee depends on the size of the property and the duration of the project.
What are some examples of wetlands that I may encounter while building?
Wetlands that may be encountered while building include: ponds, swamps, marshes, bogs, fens, and floodplains. These types of wetlands can be found in lowlands near streams or rivers or on higher land with good drainage characteristics.
What should I do if the delineation I receive from my contractor is different from what I expected?
If the delineation is different from what you expected, you can request a refund of up to 50% of your money back.
You may also contact your local soil and water conservation district for additional information about the process for requesting a refund
How do you get wetland delineation experience?
Students are tested in a nearby marsh while their teacher is on the other side of the world. A passing grade of at least 80 percent is required to become a Certified Wetland Delineator after completing the course. The course normally consists of 160 hours.
What is the difference between wetland delineation and mapping?
Mapping wetland boundaries involves creating a map that shows the location of all constructions, roads, and other structure that are located near wetlands.
The delineation is a document that shows the different jurisdictions over a wetland, who the landowner is, and what the values are of the wetland.