State and County Wetland Programs

The ESD administers the state’s Wetland Conservation Act (WCA) program and all provisions of the Beltrami County Wetland Ordinance.  The ESD is responsible for making decisions on wetland applications. The Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) has overall statewide administrative responsibility for the law.  Technical questions concerning location, size, & type of wetland can be submitted to the Technical Evaluation Panel (TEP) which is comprised of technical representatives from the SWCD, ESD, and BWSR. 

Activities in wetlands may be regulated by the Minnesota Wetland Conservation Act of 1991 (WCA) and by other government entities & agencies. If you think you may be doing any activities – filling, draining, or excavating - inside or nearby an area that could be wetland call and we’ll schedule a time to come out BEFORE you begin work.

IMPORTANT: Application fees are TRIPLED for non-exempt activities in regulated wetlands and restoration may be required at the owner’s expense.  

It can be very difficult to properly identify wetlands.  Many people think of wetlands as swampy, marshy areas with open water, cattails, and lily pads.  Wetlands can take on many forms including grassy meadows, forested wetlands covered in trees and shrubs, and wet areas of cultivated farm fields.  Many wetlands are actually dry for most of the year with no standing water.   

A few examples of projects that could potentially impact wetlands include:

    - Filling a low area of a residential lot for a building or lawn
  • - Tiling wet areas of cultivated fields
  • - Digging a pond in a low area
  • - Cleaning out an old ditch or improving an existing ditch
  • - Adding fill for a crossing of a stream or wet swale
  • - Constructing a road in a low area to access high ground

  • There are several important facts to consider before you begin to plan your project.  A few of these are:

      - WCA regulates most of the state’s wetlands except MNDNR Public Water Wetlands
    • - If you are enrolled in the federal Farm Bill Program you should contact your local USDA Office.
    • - Wetland protection laws can regulate draining, filling, or excavating in or adjacent to wetlands when these activities directly or indirectly impact them.
    • - There are exemptions found in WCA and the county ordinance for impacts from certain activities that do not require replacement. 

If there is the potential for your project to impact a wetland it is important that you to contact the ESD Office before starting to:

    Find out if the land you intend to alter is a wetland.
    An area can be a wetland even if it does not appear wet on the surface.
  Determine whether the proposed activity could have a direct or indirect impact on a wetland.
Certain activities can have an impact on the hydrology of a wetland.
  Assure that any wetland impacts go through “sequencing” to determine whether proposed impacts can be avoided when possible, and properly replaced if not. 
The word “sequencing” is commonly used in wetland protection programs.  The applicant must demonstrate why the proposed wetland impact cannot be avoided.  The next step is to minimize the impact amount to wetland. Only then can a replacement plan application be submitted to the ESD for approval, approval with conditions or changes, or denial.


When no application is submitted the ESD may evaluate information provided by the landowner.  This does not constitute a decision by the county.  Your proposed work in wetland may be regulated by another agency or program even though you are not regulated by the county.

Program enforcement is primarily conducted by DNR conservation officers and may involve issuing Cease-and-Desist Orders (CDO’s) and/or wetland Restoration & Replacement Orders.  Wetland restoration & replacement orders prepared by the SWCD.

The orders are issued pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 103G.2372 and MN Rule part 8420.0900.  Restoration orders will typically state that the landowner/responsible party must restore of the wetland to its pre-altered condition.  Violation of an order is a misdemeanor and a deed restriction may be placed on the property by the MNDNR.  Orders state that the landowner/responsible party must:

  • - Restore the wetland in the manner required in the order by the stated deadline, or
  • - Submit a complete wetland replacement plan, exemption, or no-loss application to the ESD within 45 days of the receipt of the order. 

The enforcement authority will rescind the order when the landowner obtains approval for an after-the-fact replacement plan, exemption determination, or no-loss determination from the county.  If an after-the-fact application is not approved the landowner/responsible party must restore the wetland as specified in the order. Upon completion of the restoration work the landowner/responsible party must contact the SWCD and request that a Certificate of Satisfactory Completion be issued.  The SWCD can only certify the restoration when the wetland has been completely restored and is fully functional.


Protect Yourself from Potential Violations

It is recommended that you complete and submit the Landowner Statement and Contractor Responsibility for Work in Wetlands or Public Waters form to the ESD office prior to initiating any work. MN Statutes Sections 103G.2212 and 103G.241 stipulate that an agent or employee may not:

Drain, excavate, or fill a wetland, wholly or partially; OR
Construct, reconstruct, remove, or make any change in any reservoir, dam, or the course, current, or cross-section of any public water

UNLESS the agent or contractor has obtained a signed statement from the property owner stating that any permit or wetland replacement plan required for the work has been obtained, OR that a permit or replacement plan is not required.

This form is considered notification only and is not an application or authorization for any activities described in it.

More information about WCA and other reference materails from MN Board of Water & Soil Resources

Sequencing - Avoid, Minimize, and Replace (St. Louis County video)

Wetland Identification (St. Louis County video)

DNR Public Waters Permit Program

Clean Water Act Section 404

Wetland Delineation Reference Materials

Online Mapping. These maps are for general information ONLY and DO NOT accurately represent the type & location of all wetland resources in the county!  Please contact this office before doing any work that may done in or near a wetland