Wetland Considerations When Developing Raw/Undeveloped Land

Wetlands can greatly restrict the development capability of a raw or undeveloped site. These natural or man-made features are regulated under Section 404 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972 amended by the Clean Water Act of 1977 (33 U.S.C. Section 1344). In New Jersey, the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) has “assumed” part of the Federal Authority. In 1987, the “Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act (13:9B-5) was promulgated and the Associated Rules (N.J.A.C. 7:7A) went into effect on June 10, 1988. For Tidal Wetlands in New Jersey and all wetlands in most other states, compliance with the Federal Program is required.

What does this mean to you? In many cases it can create significant restrictions on development of your site. Sometimes they can totally prohibit any meaningful development. As such, it is recommended to have a competent environmental consultant conduct a wetlands preliminary study on a property prior to purchase or selling. PEA first offered these preliminary studies and coined the term “Look/See” for them, in 1977 when the Federal Regulations were originally promulgated and we first started consulting.

Our particular process is as follows:

Initially, we collect as much information on the site as possible through the literature and available websites including aerials, soils maps and U.S.G.S. Maps. Then a site investigation is conducted, identifying the location and extent of the Wetlands and Streams and Lakes (State Open Waters) on the subject site, if any, and those on nearby adjacent sites. This is accomplished by utilizing the methodology detailed in the FEDERAL MANUAL FOR IDENTIFYING AND DELINEATING JURISDICTIONAL WETLANDS (1989).

In the case of New Jersey, the adjacent uplands or buffer (termed “transition areas” in New Jersey) are also regulated. Based on our field investigations and the information collected in the literature search and in our files, we determine the probable width of the transition area (varies from 0 to 150 feet for freshwater wetlands). TA’s from off-site wetlands can also encumber a site.

Finally, we prepare a letter/report discussing our methodology and findings. If Wetlands/State Open Waters are found to be present on-site or adjacent to it, we provide a markup of an available map or plan showing the approximate location and extent of Wetlands/State Open Waters. In this letter/report, we provide a regulatory analysis summary discussing the restrictions to development posed by the wetlands and transition areas. In addition, it will discuss what permits and approvals are available or will be necessary if specifics about your proposed project are provided to us.