Minnesota’s Wetland Conservation Act (WCA) is one of the most comprehensive wetland laws in the country. Since 1991, its purpose is to maintain and protect our wetlands. Anyone proposing to drain, fill, or excavate a wetland must:

  1. Avoid disturbing the wetland, if possible
  2. Minimize impact on wetland
  3. Replace lost wetland acres, functions and values resulting in a zero net-loss

Fortunately, you are not required to interpret the complex wetland act on your own. District staff are trained on the Wetland Conservation Act. They can assist you to plan and design a project, apply for permits and determine if you are eligible for cost-share funding. There are certain wetland activities that are exempt from the Act, and our staff can help you figure that out. If you are in violation and have been issued either a cease and desist order or a restoration order, staff can assist you with a plan to resolve the situation.

What is a wetland?

Wetlands are more than just swamps and marshes. Wetlands are defined by mostly wet soil that is saturated near the surface. They are generally covered with plants that thrive in wet conditions. There are sites that appear dry at times, and may even have some trees growing in them. Our staff can assist you to determine whether your site is considered a wetland.

Wetlands provide numerous benefits such as filtering pollutants out of surface and ground water, trapping sediments, protecting shoreline, recharging groundwater supplies and reducing the potential for flooding. They provide hunting and fishing areas, wildlife habitat and grow food items including wild rice and cranberries. To preserve these benefits Minnesota’s 10.62 million acres of wetlands are protected.

Do I need a permit?

Most projects in or near wetlands require a permit, although there are certain exemptions. Contact us prior to beginning your project to find out whether your activity is exempt or needs a permit. Both the landowner and their contractor are responsible that the work being done is allowed under WCA and that all necessary permits have been obtained. We don’t issue permits but you can contact us for assistance in obtaining them.

What is a cease and desist order?

If you did not obtain the proper permits or follow the permitted plan, a DNR or peace officer may issue you a “cease and desist order”. This is an order to stop further work on the project until a determination can be made on whether or not a wetlands violation occurred. If you continue work you could face a misdemeanor and criminal prosecution.

How do I correct a restoration order?

If it is determined that a wetland violation occurred, you will be issued a restoration order which will require you to restore the wetland back to the condition it was before alteration. District staff can assist you to determine a plan that will satisfy the restoration order.

Who regulates wetlands? Who should I contact for help?

Depending upon your property location the contact person may be someone at your city, township or the county. If your city or township is not listed in the directory, then St. Louis County Planning is responsible for administering WCA.

If you need technical assistance on your project, the North St. Louis SWCD or South St. Louis SWCD, can provide its expertise to you depending on your property location. We can assist with questions, wetland identification, wetland education and information, technical evaluation panel reviews, permit applications and/or preparing restoration plans. The technical evaluation panel is comprised of individuals from various agencies who participate based on the project plan and area affected. The panel provides a recommendation to the local government unit who governs your wetland property.

Minnesota’s Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) provides administrative oversight and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) enforce violations of Minnesota’s Wetlands Conservation Act.

Wetlands identified on the DNR inventory of protected waters and wetlands are regulated solely by the DNR. The US Army Corps of Engineers assists with Section 404 of the Federal Clean Water Act.

Any or all of these agencies may be involved in a wetlands project. We can help you sort it out.

Minnesota Wetlands Resources:

North St. Louis Soil and Water Conservation District

505 3rd St N, Ste A,
Virginia, MN 55792
Office Hours: 8:30 - 4 Monday-Friday and by appointment

Upcoming Board Meetings

Wednesday, June 12th at 10:30 a.m.
This meeting will be held in-person at the SWCD office. A link is available to join virtually by contacting Anita at least 2 hours prior to the meeting. The public is welcome to attend.

View Meeting Schedule »
Minnesota Clean Air and Water Legacy Amendment