Working with wetlands on private property in Indiana may be one of the more complex issues you may have to face during property development. Federal and state wetland regulations are constantly changing due to shifts in law, court cases, and agency policy directives.
Here are some facts regarding wetland regulations in Indiana that may help you with your decision making:
- Most wetlands are currently regulated in Indiana by the US Army Corps
of Engineers (Corps) and/or the Indiana Department of Environmental
- A “wetland” is defined by federal standards which are based on hydrologic features, soil properties, and plant communities.
- “Isolated” wetlands, which are no longer regulated by the Corps due to a federal court case, are still currently subject to IDEM permitting requirements under state laws.
- Activities in wetlands which may trigger permitting requirements include: filling, grading, or mechanized land clearing.
- Permits to impact wetlands are typically not issued without appropriate compensatory mitigation.
- “Mitigation” means the creation of new wetlands to off-set the loss resulting from permitted impacts. Mitigation is typically required at a higher ratio based on the impacted wetland’s community type and functions. Replacement ratios generally range from 1:1 to 4:1.
- Regulatory agencies will often not issue permits without a significant demonstration that all attempts to avoid or minimize impacts to existing wetlands have been exhausted.
- The Corps also exercises federal regulatory jurisdiction over other “Waters of the United States”. These may include lakes, ponds, rivers, streams (intermittent and perennial) , and ditches. Any waterway with a defined channel (bed & bank) and an “Ordinary High Water Mark” may be subject to permit requirements.
- Regulatory agencies have the authority to stop work and/or issue penalties for un-permitted activities.
- Certain classes of permits exist to streamline the permitting requirements for some types of minimal impact activities.
- Certain exemptions for isolated wetlands exist, based on size and/or an assessed wetland quality, or “Class”.
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