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Wetlands

Wetland Regulations

In Oregon, wetlands are regulated through the authority of a handful of federal and state laws and, in some cases, city or county ordinances. If development activities involve earthwork (filling, excavating, ditching, grading, leveling, etc.) within a wetland, state, federal, and/or local permits may be required.  Because the regulations are very detailed and change periodically, it is important to contact the agency responsible for implementing the specific wetland regulatory program for more information. See the links below for State, Federal, and Local regulatory programs.

Eelgrass bed at Netarts Bay

Eelgrass bed at Netarts Bay (Heather Stout)

The Clean Water Act (CWA), under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the cornerstone of surface water quality protection in the United States. Section 404 of the Clean Water Act establishes a program to regulate the discharge of dredged or fill material into waters of the United States, including wetlands. Activities in waters of the United States regulated under this program include filling wetlands for development, water resource projects such as dams and levees, infrastructure development such as highways and airports, and mining projects. Section 404 requires that a permit be issued before dredged or fill material may be discharged into waters of the United States, unless the activity is exempt from Section 404 regulation (e.g., certain farming and forestry activities).

Sandy River Delta

Sandy River Delta (Bruce Taylor)

Federal Regulations

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) regulates wetlands under the jurisdiction of the Rivers and Harbors Act and Clean Water Act. For more information on this program, visit the ACE Portland District website.

The Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) implements the "swampbuster" or Wetland Conservation Provisions of the Federal Farm Bill to discourage the agricultural conversion of wetlands through a financial incentive program. For more information about this program, visit NRCS Wetland Conservation Provisions (Swampbuster) website.

Klamath Lake Agency Marsh

Klamath Lake Agency Marsh (Bruce Taylor)

State Regulations

The Oregon Department of State Lands (DSL) regulates wetlands under the state Removal-Fill Law, which was enacted in 1967 to protect public navigation, fishery and recreational uses of "waters of the state", which includes wetlands. Information on the state Removal-Fill Program can be found at the Oregon Department of State Lands (DSL) wetlands/waterways removal-fill website.

The DSL Wetlands Program implements the state Wetlands Conservation Act (1989), which promotes the protection, conservation and best use of wetland resources, their functions and values through the integration and close coordination of statewide planning goals, local comprehensive plans and state and federal regulatory programs. More information on can be found at DSL's wetland programs website.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) reviews federal permits and licenses affecting wetlands for compliance with Oregon's water-quality standards under section 401 of the Clean Water Act. For information on this regulatory program, visit DEQ's water quality website.

The Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) regulates wetlands on forest lands under the authority of the Forest Practices Act. For information on this program, visit ODFs private forests program website.

Local Regulations

County or city governments imay also adopt land use ordinances that regulate locally significant wetlands. These sites are identified through Oregon's Statewide Planning Goal 5 (Natural Resources, Scenic and Historic Areas, and Open Spaces and Goal 17 (Coastal Shorelines).

Specific ordinances will vary by county or city. Local government planning departments should be contacted for more information about their respective wetlands protections.

Source: Oregon Department of State Lands (2009)