In Michigan, a “wetland” is a regulated area and is specifically defined in Part 303 of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act (NREPA). According to this law, a wetland is “land characterized by the presence of water at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances does support, wetland vegetation or aquatic life, and is commonly referred to as a bog, swamp, or marsh.” Whether an area meets this definition is obvious in some cases and can be determined by inspection. In other cases, a wetland evaluation by an expert is necessary.
If your property contains a regulated wetland, you must apply for and receive a permit before beginning certain activities, such as:
- Depositing or allowing the placement of fill material in a wetland
- Dredging, removal, or allowing the removal of soil or minerals from a wetland
- Constructing, operating or maintaining any development in a wetland
- Draining surface water from a wetland.
In an effort to streamline the permitting process, a joint state and federal permit process has been developed between the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) for projects which are proposed in wetland areas that are subject to both state and federal jurisdiction.
An expedited wetlands permitting process (general permit) exists for those sites where only minor activities are proposed (for example – construction of small ponds, small boardwalks and platforms, fences, driveways, etc.).
It is important to understand that local governments may also regulate wetlands by ordinance. These local regulations may impose conditions that are beyond those contained in the joint state and federal permit. If you need assistance with wetlands permitting issues or have received violations from one or more regulatory agencies, please give us a call.