Development in Wetlands

house on prairie

© Dr. John Jacob, TCWP

Permit Planning

The Galveston District covers 48 counties and 2 parishes in Texas and Louisiana.  The US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) makes the official determination whether a property has a wetland, known as a jurisdictional determination.  If USACE determines there are jurisdictional waters on your property, you will likely need either a nationwide permit, a regional general permit, a letter of permission, or a standard permit in order to develop in or place discharges into those waters of the US.

Many permittees utilize the services of an environmental consulting firm that is familiar with the USACE permitting process to develop their permit application. USACE maintains a list of these environmental consultants on their website.

USACE maintains construction guidance for specific project types which provides environmental guidance for projects.  Use of these guidelines in project development is expected to expedite the permit review process and may even result in the permit qualifying for a nationwide permit or other permit subject to an abbreviated review process.

USACE recommends entire project plans be coordinated with US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in the early phase of the planning process.

Wetland Delineation

In many cases, a wetland delineation, which clearly defines the boundaries between wetland and upland, is  required for a permit to fill, dredge, or drain wetlands. USACE can assist you in determining if a wetland delineation is necessary. A wetland delineation must be completed using the USACE  Wetland Delineation Manual (1987) specifications, as well as the regional supplements applicable to the region.  For the Galveston District, most areas will utilize the Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plain Region supplement, though inland areas may utilize the Great Plains Region supplement instead.  An appointment for a pre-application jurisdictional delineation verification and preliminary assessment of the permit application can be requested by calling USACE .

Environmental Impacts and Mitigation:

To the maximum extent practical for the owner and property, environmental impacts should be avoided.

For impacts that cannot be avoided, all measures to minimize the impact to the environment should be made. In cases involving substantial dredge or fill to wetlands, an alternative analysis may be required. Minimizing impacts can include restoration to original contours after the project, or use of best management practices (BMPs).

After all efforts to avoid and minimize impacts have been attempted, compensatory mitigation for temporary or permanent impacts may be required to compensate for lost functions and values. These compensatory mitigation plans should be developed and coordinated with USACE and various State and Federal agencies such as Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) or USFWS.

Many developers and companies completing Standard Permits utilize a mitigation bank for compensatory mitigation requirements, as it is the USACE’s preferred method for compensatory mitigation1. USACE will assist in determining how many credits are required to be purchased to replace lost function and value of impacted wetlands. For mitigation, the designated credits can be purchased from an approved mitigation bank. USACE maintains a website of active mitigation banks and available credits called Regulatory In-Lieu Fee and Bank Information Tracking System (RIBITS)Note that federal programs or programs utilizing federal funds for wetland conservation cannot be used for compensatory mitigation.

1.  40 CFR 230.93(b)(2)

Submitting Permits:

USACE permits can be submitted at the Galveston District Regulatory website.

  • If a project only involves minor wetland impacts (usually under 1/10 acre), an abbreviated permit process for a Nationwide (NWP) or a Regional General Permit (RGP) may be appropriate.
    • Projects using a Nationwide Permit must meet all general conditions and nationwide specific conditions.
    • Regional General Permits are similar, only they apply to a specific geographic area.
  • For projects with minor impacts that do not fit the NWP or RGP conditions, a slightly longer but still abbreviated permit process for a Letter of Permission (LOP) may be appropriate. It is similar to a NWP or RGP, but involves coordination and review by Federal and State Fish and Wildlife Agencies and a Public Interest Review.
  • For projects with substantial environmental impacts, the permit process will involve full review under Standard Permit (SP)



Comments are closed.