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Federal Wetland Regulations

Click here to view full size picture The following information is from Living With Michigan's Wetlands: A Landowner's Guide, copyright 1996, Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council

The Federal Wetland Regulatory Program

The Federal government’s power to regulate discharges into the waters of the United States arises from authority conferred on Congress by the ”Commerce Clause“ contained in the U.S. Constitution. The phrase ”waters of the United States“ is broadly defined to include rivers, lakes, streams, ponds, and wetlands that are, or could be, used in interstate commerce. Since this criteria can be met if a particular wetland supports recreation activities, supports a commercial fishery, or provides habitat for any one of the more than 800 federally listed migratory birds, practically all wetlands in the country are considered ”waters of the United States.“

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is ultimately responsible for the administration of the Clean Water Act. In Michigan, the MDEQ and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) share the responsibility of administering and enforcing the federal wetlands regulatory program with oversight by the EPA. The wetland regulatory authority and responsibilities of the Corps are based on Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 (33 U.S.C. 403) and Section 404 of the Clean Waters Act of 1977 (33 U.S.C.1344). The Corps has the authority to bring enforcement actions, including criminal or civil actions, against violators of these laws. In addition, the EPA also has authority to enforce Section 404.



Rivers and Harbors Act
Clean Water Act
Farm Bill

Rivers and Harbors Act

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Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 (33 U.S.C. 403) regulates virtually all work in, over, and under waters listed as ”navigable waters of the United States.“ Some typical examples of projects requiring Section 10 permits include beach nourishment, boat ramps, breakwaters, dredging, filling, or discharging material (such as sand, gravel, or stone), groins and jetties, mooring buoys, piers (seasonal or permanent), placement of rock riprap for wave protection or streambank stabilization, boat hoists pilings, and construction of marina facilities. Section 10 waters include the Great Lakes, connecting waters, and those inland waters that have been designated as federally navigable (Lake Charlevoix, parts of St. Joseph River, etc).

Clean Water Act

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Section 404 of the Clean Water Act

The Section 404 program - the primarily federal program governing activities in wetlands - regulates the discharge of dredged or fill material into the waters of the United States (the definition of which includes wetlands) and is intended to minimize adverse impacts by preventing the unnecessary loss of wetlands and other sensitive aquatic areas. Filling and grading, mechanized land clearing, ditching or other excavation activity, property protection devices such as rock riprap, seawall, groins, and breakwaters, and piling installation all constitute discharges of dredged and/or fill material under the Corp’s regulatory authority.
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Farm Bill

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The Conservation Provisions of the Farm Bill

Food Security Act (Farm Bill) of 1985*, as amended, requires that landowners who receive U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) program benefits comply with wetland and highly erodible land requirements. Any person who plants an agricultural commodity on a wetland that was converted after December 23, 1985, or converts a wetland after November 28, 1990 is ineligible for USDA program benefits. Farmers who plant agricultural commodities on highly erodible land must do so according to an approved conservation plan.

*Since the publication of ”Living with Wetlands: A Landowner’s Guide,“ the Farm Bill has been amended. The 1996 Farm Bill makes several policy changes to existing provisions to give farmers more flexibility in complying with wetland conservation requirements.
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