New Wetland Individual Permit Is Now Available
By Tom Larson
On July 1, 2012, Wisconsin’s new individual permit requirements for wetland disturbing activities went into effect. These new requirements were enacted as part of a wetlands regulatory reform law (2011 Wisconsin Act 118), which was approved by Wisconsin lawmakers in February. One of NAIOP-WI’s top legislative priorities, Act 118 revises the individual permit requirements by requiring the DNR to consider mitigation at the early stages of the permit process and to look holistically at the environmental impacts of projects that could impact wetlands.
Individual Permit Process
An individual permit is required for any wetland disturbing project that does not meet the general permit eligibility standards. (A project is eligible for a general permit where 10,000 square feet (0.23 acres) or less of a wetland is disturbed, and the other requirements set forth in the permit are met.) The process for obtaining a new individual permit requires applicants to follow four steps:
Step 1 – Meet with the local DNR Water Management Specialist before applying for an individual permit. This meeting is intended to provide the permit applicant and the DNR staff and preliminary scope of alternatives that the applicant must consider. The DNR encourages permit applicants to invite U.S. Army Corps of Engineers staff to attend this meeting so that the applicant can make sure the proposed project will comply with both state and federal wetland permitting requirements. To help permit applicants adequately prepare for this meeting, the DNR has created a Pre-Application Meeting Checklist, which is available on the DNR’s website at http://dnr.wi.gov/waterways/shoreline_habitat/wetland_IP/wetland_pre_application_checklist.pdf.
Step 2 – Prepare the individual permit application, which is available on the DNR’s website at http://dnr.wi.gov/waterways/shoreline_habitat/wetland_IP/Wetland_IP.pdf. The application requires the permit applicant to submit various items including: project drawings/plans and narrative description of the project and its impact on the wetland; maps of the project site that include soil surveys, wetland survey maps, topographic maps, and recent aerial photographs; photographs of the project site; and wetland boundary information. In addition to the permit application materials, an application fee of $800 must be submitted.
Step 3 – All application materials must be sent to the DNR regional office responsible for processing permits for the area in which the project is located. For a list of specific DNR regional offices, please visit the DNR’s website at http://dnr.wi.gov/waterways/about_us/county_contacts.html.
Step 4 – Provide additional information upon request. The permit process will not officially begin until all requested information is submitted to the DNR.
Moreover, the new law will make Wisconsin’s general permitting standards more consistent with federal regulations, and will likely result in a net increase in overall wetlands in the state.
As indicated above, Act 118 also makes a few significant changes to the wetland general permitting process aimed to making Wisconsin law more consistent with federal law. Under current federal law, a streamlined permit process is for minor activities that are considered to have a minimal impact on wetlands, based upon the type of wetland and the size of the wetland disturbance (10,000 square feet or less). Prior to Act 118, state law did not provide for a similar general permit.
On July 5, 2012, the DNR published a draft general permit that is available for public comments. A public hearing will be held on the draft general permit on July 31st in Madison, with the final version of the general permit to be available in mid to late August. The draft general permit can be reviewed at http://dnr.wi.gov/waterways/shoreline_habitat/wetland_GP/July_5_draft_Wetlands_WDNR-GP1-2012_Comm_Resid_Indus.pdf.
For additional information on the new changes to Wisconsin’s wetlands laws, please contact Tom Larson (firstname.lastname@example.org) at (608) 240-8254.