The wetland Conservation Act is implemented at the local level by the local government unit or “LGU”
The MN Board of Water & Soil Resources set administrative rules, provide training to LGUs, participate on technical evaluation panels, hear appeals from local government determinations, and assures proper implementation by LGUs.
What is Wetland Conservation Act (WCA)?
In 1991, the Minnesota Legislature responded to concerns over the state’s wetland management processes by passing the Wetland Conservation Act (WCA). Considered to be one of the most comprehensive wetland laws in the country, the Wetland Conservation Act ensures that we maintain and protect Minnesota’s wetlands and the benefits they provide.
Fillmore County is mandated to administer this state law at the county level. The law regulates, often prohibiting, the draining, filling or excavation of wetlands, these rules are in addition regulations of other agencies such as the Army Corps of Engineers, Farm Service Agency, etc. Permits are required for wetland activities in Benton County.
Wetland applications made to Fillmore County under the Minnesota WCA are reviewed by a technical evaluation panel or TEP. The TEP is a statutorily designated committee of wetland professionals from various state and local agencies. The individual members comment on proposed wetland projects resulting in a recommendation to Fillmore County.
How Does WCA Work?
The Wetland Conservation Act requires anyone proposing to drain, fill, or excavate a wetland to first, try to avoid disturbing the wetland; second, to try to minimize any impact on the wetland; and finally, to replace any lost wetland acres, functions, and values. Certain wetland activities are exempt from the act, allowing projects with minimal impact or projects located on land where certain pre-established land uses are present to proceed without regulation.
Do I Need a Permit?
Most projects will require a permit when working in or near wetlands. Contact Fillmore County prior to beginning your project.
What is a Cease-and-Desist Order?
If you decide to move ahead with your project without the proper permits, a DNR Wetland Enforcement Officer (WEO), Conservation Officer (CO) may issue a “cease and desist order” which is an order to stop work activity on the project in question until a determination can be made on whether or not a violation has occurred.
If it’s determined that a violation has occurred, a restoration order will be issued and you will be required to restore the wetland back to the pre-altered condition.
Violating a cease-and-desist order is a misdemeanor and could result in criminal prosecution. It is the responsibility of both the landowner and the contractor hired by the landowner to be sure that the work being done is allowed under the WCA and that all necessary permits have been obtained.
Who Regulates WCA and Who Should I Contact for Help?
Locally, the Fillmore County office is the local governmental unit (LGU) responsible for administering the WCA within the county. The Fillmore County Soil and Water Conservation District assists the County by providing the technical assistance in the form of wetland identification, technical evaluation panel (TEP), wetland education and information, permit applications and preparing restoration plans.
At the State level, the Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) provides administrative oversight while the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MN DNR) Conservation Officers enforce wetlands violations. NOTE: Wetlands that are identified on the DNR inventory of protected waters and wetlands are regulated solely by the DNR.
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