Minnesota Wetlands Conservation Act Glossary: Key Terms & Definitions for Developers and Consultants

Minnesota Wetlands Conservation Act Key Terms & Definitions

Avoidance: Measures taken to prevent impacts to wetlands, such as relocating a project or using alternative designs that do not impact wetlands.

Calcareous Fen: A rare and unique wetland characterized by a substrate of non-acidic peat and dependent on a constant supply of cold, oxygen-poor groundwater rich in calcium and magnesium bicarbonates. Defined in Minnesota Rules, part 8420.0935.

Compensatory Mitigation: The restoration, creation, enhancement, or preservation of wetlands to compensate for unavoidable adverse impacts to wetlands caused by a proposed project. Required under the Minnesota Wetland Conservation Act (WCA) when wetland impacts cannot be avoided or minimized.

Exemption: A provision in the WCA that allows certain activities to proceed without the need for wetland replacement, as long as they meet specific criteria outlined in the Act. Examples include certain agricultural activities, maintenance of existing drainage systems, and activities with minimal wetland impacts.

Hydrophytic Vegetation: Plant life growing in water or on a substrate that is at least periodically deficient in oxygen as a result of excessive water content. Used as one of the criteria for identifying and delineating wetlands.

Hydric Soil: A soil that is saturated, flooded, or ponded long enough during the growing season to develop anaerobic conditions in the upper part. Used as one of the criteria for identifying and delineating wetlands.

Local Government Unit (LGU): The local government body responsible for administering the WCA. LGUs can be counties, cities, towns, watershed management organizations, or soil and water conservation districts.

Minimization: Measures taken to reduce the adverse impact of a project on wetlands, such as decreasing the size or scope of the project or implementing best management practices to limit wetland disturbance.

Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR): The state agency responsible for overseeing the implementation of the WCA, providing technical assistance and oversight to LGUs, and administering the state wetland banking program.

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR): A state agency that plays a role in the implementation of the WCA, particularly in the regulation of calcareous fens and the identification of high-priority wetland areas for preservation.

Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA): A state agency responsible for protecting Minnesota's environment, including water quality. The MPCA oversees the Section 401 water quality certification process, which is often required in conjunction with the WCA for projects that impact wetlands.

No-Net-Loss: A policy goal of the WCA, which requires that wetland replacement must be of equal or greater public value compared to the wetlands lost due to a project.

Public Waters Wetlands: Wetlands designated as public waters under Minnesota Statutes, section 103G.005, subdivision 15a. These wetlands are generally larger, more permanent wetlands that are subject to additional regulations beyond the WCA.

Replacement Plan: A plan submitted by a project proposer outlining how they will replace wetlands lost or impacted by their project, in accordance with the requirements of the WCA.

Sequencing: The process of avoiding, minimizing, and mitigating wetland impacts, in that order. The WCA requires that project proposers follow this sequence when planning and implementing projects that may impact wetlands.

TEP (Technical Evaluation Panel): A panel of technical experts that provide wetland technical advice and recommendations to the LGU responsible for implementing the WCA. The TEP consists of a technical professional employee of the Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR), a technical professional employee of the local soil and water conservation district or districts, and a person with expertise in water resources management appointed by the local government unit.

Wetland: Lands transitional between terrestrial and aquatic systems where the water table is usually at or near the surface or the land is covered by shallow water. Defined in Minnesota Rules, part 8420.0111, subpart 72.

Wetland Banking: A system that allows wetland mitigation credits to be bought, sold, or traded. Wetland banks are restored or created wetlands that generate credits which can be purchased by project proposers to offset unavoidable wetland impacts.

Wetland Boundary: The point on the ground at which a wetland begins, typically identified by changes in vegetation, soils, and hydrology. Delineating wetland boundaries is a key step in determining the applicability and scope of the WCA for a given project.

Wetland Conservation Act (WCA): A Minnesota state law that regulates activities that result in the draining, filling, or excavation of wetlands. The goal of the WCA is to maintain and protect Minnesota's wetlands and the benefits they provide, while allowing for reasonable use of private property.

Wetland Delineation: The process of identifying and mapping the boundaries of a wetland using established technical criteria and procedures, such as those outlined in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Wetland Delineation Manual.

Wetland Functions and Values: The beneficial roles that wetlands play in the environment, such as providing habitat for wildlife, storing floodwater, recharging groundwater, and filtering pollutants. The WCA requires that wetland replacement account for the loss of wetland functions and values.

Wetland Hydrology: The presence of water at or near the surface of a wetland, either permanently or periodically. Wetland hydrology is one of the three key criteria used to identify and delineate wetlands, along with hydrophytic vegetation and hydric soils.

Wetland Impact: Any activity that adversely affects the function and value of a wetland, such as draining, filling, excavating, or altering its hydrology. The WCA regulates activities that impact wetlands and requires mitigation for unavoidable impacts.

Wetland Mitigation: The process of compensating for wetland impacts through restoration, creation, enhancement, or preservation of wetlands. The WCA requires mitigation for unavoidable wetland impacts to achieve the goal of no-net-loss of wetland quantity, quality, and biological diversity.

Wetland Type: A classification of wetlands based on their ecological characteristics, such as vegetation, soils, and hydrology. The WCA recognizes several wetland types, each with different functions, values, and levels of protection.

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A Note to Our Readers: We hope this guide is a valuable resource in helping you better understand the . However, it's not a substitute for professional advice and doesn't cover every scenario. Always consult with regulatory bodies and professionals for the most current advice and project-specific guidance.