The terms ‘wetland,’ ‘marsh,’ ‘bog’ and ‘swamp’ often evoke negative images of overgrown, wet, mosquito infested, apparently useless and untouchable regulated land that isn’t worth the property taxes paid for them.
However, contrary to this popular opinion, wetlands really are both useful and touchable. Wetlands are useful since, in addition to acting as a flourishing nursery and home for numerous creatures while providing recreational value and beauty for some, they perform several important functions everyone can appreciate, such as reducing the loss of food-producing soil, soaking excess stormwater like a sponge, slowing damaging floodwater velocity and improving water quality by filtering poisonous pollutants.
Wetlands are also touchable as DEP waives permit requirements for plowing, cultivating, seeding, grazing, vegetation cutting and crop harvesting activities. Farmers may also maintain existing field drainage systems without a permit, as long as the fields continue to be used for crop production.
Other work that may be accomplished in wetlands following acceptance of a General Permit (GP) application by the Bradford County Conservation District includes installing, operating and maintaining a) boat launching ramps up to 100’ long x 20’ wide through a GP-2, b) utility lines less than 36 inches in diameter if the wetland complex size is under 10 acres through a GP-5, c) agricultural crossings and ramps in wetlands located immediately adjacent to a stream that are also being crossed through a GP-6, d) permanent access roads impacting less than .1 acre and 100 feet of wetland length through a GP-7, e) temporary access roads impacting less than 200 feet of wetland length through a GP-8 and f) grassed and lined waterways, filter strips, terraces, diversions, waste storage facilities, springs and minor drainage activities associated with contour strips through a GP-9. (The proposed agricultural activities must be essential for the maintenance of existing ag. operations and may only be implemented as part of an approved conservation plan.)
Additionally, an individual who purchased a wetland area prior to Nov. 22, 1991 may build a home and associated facilities disturbing less than a half-acre on this area through a GP-15 approved by DEP.
Also, while difficult, it may be possible with proper justification to receive authorization through a Joint Permit from DEP to complete larger wetland disturbance projects such as a new pond or access driveway. If you’re proposing a project within a wetland, be aware that a professional wetland delineation report must be included with your permit application and, if your permanent impact will exceed 0.05 acres, then you must create new wetlands to replace the impacted area.
Attempting to excavate and fill wetland areas without a permit is not wise for DEP will likely make you restore the impacted area to original conditions and may fine you more than $10,000 for each day you fail to comply.
While obtaining a permit for larger wetland disturbances can be challenging, it is much less painful than bearing the potential wrath of DEP and other regulatory agencies.
If you’re anticipating a project that may impact wetlands, then you’re invited to contact our office at (570) 485-3144 for assistance. We would be glad to help you identify the presence of wetlands on your site as well as any necessary permits.
The Bradford County Conservation District is committed to helping people manage resources wisely. You can visit the Bradford County Conservation District at 200 Lake Rd in Wysox across from the Wysox Fire Hall. Contact us at (570) 485-3144 or visit our web page at www.bccdpa.com.