The state Legislature recently passed a bill to make it easier for landowners to fill small, isolated wetlands in urban areas. The bill, authored by state Rep. Jim Steineke, was supported by business groups including CARW through WRA (see positon paper HERE) and many others. The Wetlands Bill, AB 547, was revised several times before both houses agreed on and passed a final version.
League of Wisconsin Municipalities was one of the groups supporting the bill and has published a comprehensive summary of the changes (below).
Wetland Permit Exemptions. Assembly Substitute Amendment 3 (the final version sent to the Governor) exempts from state permit requirements a discharge into a state wetland that occurs in an urban area (i.e., within an incorporated area, within 1.5 miles of an incorporated area, or town areas served by a sewer system) the discharge does not affect more than one acre of wetland per parcel; does not affect a rare and high quality wetland, and the development related to the discharge is done in compliance with any applicable storm water management zoning ordinance or storm water discharge permit.
Artificial wetlands. The substitute amendment exempts artificial wetlands from state permit requirements. “Artificial wetland” is defined in the substitute amendment to mean a landscape feature where hydrophitic vegetation may be present as a result of human modification to the landscape or hydrology and for which the DNR has no definitive evidence showing prior wetland or stream history that existed before August 1, 1991. This definition excludes wetlands that serve as a fish spawning area or a passage to a fish spawning area and wetlands created as a result of a mitigation program.
Wetland Mitigation. The substitute amendment requires the portion of impacts on state wetlands in urban areas that exceed 10,000 square feet per parcel to be mitigated. The substitute amendment specifies that, any off-site mitigation, including any mitigation conducted by a mitigation bank or under the in-lieu fee program, must be completed within the same compensation search area, as defined by DNR rule, as the discharge. The substitute amendment does not require mitigation for activities in artificial wetlands.
Preemption of Local Regulation The substitute amendment prohibits a local government from enacting an ordinance or adopting a resolution regulating a matter regulated by the wetland permitting exemptions and mitigation requirements created under the substitute amendment.
Wetland Identification, Confirmation, and Delineation. The substitute amendment creates a wetland confirmation for state regulated wetlands. Under this process, a person who owns or leases land may ask the DNR to provide a wetland confirmation, based on the DNR’s review of the wetland boundaries as delineated by a qualified third person and not based upon an on-site inspection by the DNR, of whether the DNR concurs with the delineation. The substitute amendment directs the DNR to concur with the delineation unless it determines that the location and boundaries of the state wetland identified in the delineation are not accurate, based on maps, aerial photographs, surveys, wetland delineations, or hydrophitic soil conditions. The DNR must provide this type of wetland confirmation no later than 15 days after receiving a request.
The substitute amendment modifies the length of time certain wetland identifications and wetland confirmations are effective. Specifically, the substitute amendment requires that wetland identifications and wetland confirmations remain effective for 15 years from the date provided by the DNR if all of the following apply:
- The wetland is a state wetland.
- The parcel of land is subject to a storm water management zoning ordinance or storm water discharge permit.
Under the substitute amendment, wetland identifications and wetland confirmations provided by the DNR for state wetlands on or after January 1, 2003 are effective for 15 years, instead of five years.
More Information. More details about the bill are included in a Legislative Council memo.
The enrolled bill as sent to the Governor can be viewed here.