Wetland Regulation in Minnesota - Video

Three sets of wetland law apply in Minnesota. First is the MN Wetland Conservation Act which applies to all wetlands. It is administered by local units of government (cities, counties, townships, watershed organization Second are DNR rules which apply only to larger, generally open water, “public waters.” Third is the Army Corps of Engineers rules which apply to “navigable waters of the US” which can include smaller wetlands that seem “un-navigable” in common language. All apply regardless of whether the property is private or public. Permitting of all three sets of rules is generally coordinated through a single process.

On this web page, we focus mostly on the MN Wetland Conservation Act.It’s purpose is to achieve no net loss of Minnesota's wetlands and the benefits they provide. Minnesota Rule 8420.0105 defines the scope of activities that are regulated by WCA. It requires that people obtain Local Government Unit approval for activities that cause wetland impacts and requires the replacement of the impacted wetlands. Wetland impacts include draining or filling any wetland, and excavating within certain types of wetlands. The following excavation activities are regulated by WCA, regardless of wetland type.

Excavations: In type 3,4, and 5 wetlands. Draining: Wetland excavations that drain wetland areas.
Filling: Wetland excavations that place fill or deposit spoil within a wetland area, even temporarily.
Conversion to non-wetland: Wetland excavations that exceed 2 meters of typical water depth.

General Overview of Regulations

Wetland Regulations in MN

  • Administration +
    WCA is administered through WCA Local Government Units (LGUs). WCA LGUs may consist of cities, counties, townships, watershed management organizations, watershed management districts, or soil and water conservation districts. The Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) provides state-wide oversight, Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs) provide technical guidance, and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) enforces WCA. The official directory of LGUs.
  • No Loss & Exemptions +
    Minnesota Rules 8420.0410 to 8420.0420 identifies activities that result in no permanent loss of wetlands and activities that are exempt from wetland replacement. Landowners may apply to their WCA LGU for an official decision determining if a proposed activity would result in no-loss of wetlands, or is exempt from the wetland replacement requirements of WCA. No-loss and exempt activities must still be conducted in compliance with all other applicable federal, state, and local requirements.
  • Sequencing +
    Minnesota Rule 8420.0520 states that LGUs must not approve a wetland replacement plan unless the applicant has demonstrated that the proposed wetland impacts comply with the following principles in descending order of priority: 1. Avoid direct or indirect impacts that may destroy or diminish the wetland. 2. Minimize wetland impacts by limiting the degree or magnitude of the wetland activity. 3. Rectify wetland impacts by repairing, rehabilitating, or restoring the affected wetland. 4. Reduce or eliminate impacts over time by operating the project in a manner that preserves/maintains the wetland. 5. Replace unavoidable wetland impacts by restoring wetlands or creating wetlands of equal or greater public value.
  • Wetland Replacement +
    WCA requires the replacement of the lost public value caused by unavoidable wetland impacts that comply with the special considerations of Minnesota Rule 8420.0515 and the sequencing requirements of Minnesota Rule 8420.0520. While wetland replacement ratios may vary, in Anoka County, wetlands are often replaced at a 2:1 ratio. In general, WCA requires that wetland replacement be sited as close to the wetland impact as possible. Wetland replacement consists of the following, Project-specific Wetland Replacement consists of implementing an LGU approved wetland replacement action that is eligible for credit under Minnesota Rule 5420.0526. In general, actions that replace the most public value (e.g., restoring a completely drained or filled wetland) are eligible for the most replacement credit.A summary of current maximum credit ratios.

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  • Enforcement +
    Persons impacting wetlands without LGU approval are subject to enforcement by a DNR Conservation Officer. DNR Conservation Officers issue Cease and Desist Orders (CDOs) when there is probable cause that a wetland is being impacted in violation of WCA. Once a CDO has been issued, all activity within the wetland must cease until either approval from the LGU has been obtained, or compliance with a WCA Restoration/Replacement Order has been obtained. Violation of a DNR Cease and Desist Order or a WCA Restoration/Replacement Order is a misdemeanor. Local DNR Conservation Officer contact information may be found here
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