wetlands help

haines9(zone7 NJ)February 22, 2004

Here is my dilemma. I am interested in buying a new home from a builder in Gloucester County NJ. The house is already in the process of being built. Wetlands encompasses a big portion of my 1.6 acres around my home.I have been on the DEP webpage but all the legal interpretation is rather confusing. I was wondering if I could remove dead trees in the wetlands that have fallen over and are just laying on the ground? Secondly, there are areas of thick brush and vines entwined with trees approx. 12 feet from the corner of my home. Am I allowed to "normal property maintenance" this area of the wetlands? Thirdly, is the "buffer zone" 50 feet from the center of the very small stream that is in the wetland area?

Any info. you can provide will help considerably.

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naturenut_pa(z6 PA)

I don't know if the DEP rules vary much from PA to NJ. We purchased a home that was newly built here in PA, there are wetlands on either side of our house. Matter of fact, in these wetlands are the remains of 250+ year old springhouse and outhouse. I spoke with the DEP in Harrisburg, and was told that we could do whatever restoration we wanted...matter of fact, this friendly woman actually sounded excited talking about how nice it would look! You cannot take heavy equipment into this area and doze, or dig, etc. We did enlarge an existing pond using shovels (turned out that it was an old, old trash pit..boy, we got some great old bottles from there!)

Without knowing exactly what the rules are, here is our experience:
We use common sense..understanding the purpose of wetlands, that they are needed to capture freshwater that eventually settles into aquifers, instead of being funneled into runoff.
NO lawn chemicals or pesticides, etc., that might run into the wetland area. Heck, even without the wetlands, we wouldn't use them, anyway...and neither should anybody else.
When taking care of our woodlands, we make no distinction between the wetland and non-wetland area. I will occasionally take some standing deadwood and use it as firewood. Once a year, I will locate one or two undesirable trees (wolf, double leaders, etc.) and take them down to allow for more growth.
I spent all winter cutting and pulling honeysuckle that was killing the trees. The first week we lived here we ventured into the woods with saws and cut ALL poison ivy vines. I have also removed any and all Purple Loosestrife. With warmer weather, we have spent the last two days outside cutting down Multiflora Rose. These 2 plants are on just about every federal and state 'most wanted' list for non-native invasive species. I'm probably going to try to replace these with red twig dogwoods (available CHEAP from your local county conservation), and some other leafy plants that will provide good cover and forage for the critters.

Okay...I've rambled. I think the bottom line for deeded wetland is: don't do anything that would choke the waterway, nor anything that would cause it to drain.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2004 at 10:31PM
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Certainly, I would suggest talking to someone local as Naturenut did. If you don't get someone helpful the first time, call again. Most people are willing to work with you if you are willing to work with them (which I think you are, no criticism intended).

    Bookmark   February 25, 2004 at 8:57PM
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treebeard(z5 MA)

Don't try to enlighten yourself via a DEP website. They're darned near foreign language for most folks. In Massachusetts we have state laws regarding wetlands, as does NJ it appears. The laws are administered and enforced on the local level, meaning that every city and town has a 'Conservation Commission' to whom locals can go for advice and legal determinations of wetland lines and buffers. Perhaps NJ has the same thing. Look to your country or town level to see if administration is done at those levels. Those would be the folks to talk to, not the state level or the website. You can get lost and confused real easy there.

Until that time, it's probably best to consider the wetlands off-limits, and not do anything. In the states I'm familiar with, jurisdictional wetlands are just that, off-limits, and not something in which 'regular-maintenance' can or should be done except at your own peril with the law. (Of course, if your lot is off the beaten track, and no one can see you for miles, then...... I didn't say that. If your caught, the secretary will disavow any knowledge of your operations. Good luck Mr. Phelps. This tape will self destruct in 5 seconds....)

Wetlands created specifically for stormwater control or cleaning can usually be maintained, and an 'order of conditions' (or whatever it's called in NJ) will spell out quite specifically what can and what can not be done. Yours is probably a 'natural' wetlands, and the authorities are usually quite adamant about not touching them.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2004 at 3:22PM
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As spring is coming, this would be a good time to begin a survey of the area, trying to identify plants, birds, insects, fish etc. A local native plant, wetlands, or conservation group might be able to help here. Then you can better decide if the land can be rehabilitated or conserved. I think local state and federal departments might also help. Who knows - there might be some tax savings in preserving the wetland!

    Bookmark   February 26, 2004 at 4:01PM
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Jasper_Storm(z8 SnoCo,WA)

You might be asking for trouble if you do much more than cut down or remove anything that isn't a threat to your person or property. In fact, I've seen plenty of landowners have to buy and reinstall downed logs or snags.
If I were you I would (using hand tools) gradually cut back any weeds or vines and leave the trees, shrubs, and logs alone. You can improve the area using native plant material (not nursery cultivars) readily available at sales sponsered by your local conservation district or from plant nurseries that specialize in native plants. Educate yourself via guides to plants native to your region, not by some government department. You might even try going hiking and paying close attention to how plants grow in natural areas.

If you go in and blitz through your property in one weekend in an attempt to create "natural areas to my liking and on my terms" you may invite big trouble.

All this depends on how "environmentally aware" your local area/government is. If they are strict, be careful.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2004 at 8:29AM
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hello; plant surveys determining wetlands/seepage areas should be conducted throughout the year and transposed to topographic maps.Suggest obtaining a dated,notarized doc.on wetland policies from your local gov.(there may be more strict ammendments than state gov. positions)ask them to keep you updated...

    Bookmark   March 1, 2004 at 1:18AM
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In my area, which has many protected wetlands, the practice of aerial photography is being used regularly as a means by which to insure wetlands are not tampered with. We may own them and we may pay property taxes on them but that's where it seems our rights end most of the time. Addition of a path through a wetlands or the elimination of a fallen tree in my area has resulted in properties being tagged. Given that my neighbor's secluded property was recently tagged for just this reason, I could not in good conscience encourage anyone to do anything in a wetlands without contacting any and all appropriate parties and securing any and all necessary permits. Remember... this is the era of satellites. Given time stamped image overlays appear to be used quite effectively these days, gradually cutting back weeds or vines might not be in your best interests as the definition of weed is often arguable. A very scary thought that comes to mind would be that of possible wetlands mitigation. Mitigation may be deemed a viable remedy by the courts in the event a wetlands is deemed to have been disturbed. Mitigation around here usually involes the contribution of the fair market value of land to a mitigation bank that the government would use to purchase land to create or enlarge an existing wetlands. I am dealing with purple loosestrife, phragmites, and reed canary grass in and around my wetlands. Sadly, I came to the conculsion I did not want the liability exposure of tampering with anything in that area. I have contracted licensed and bonded professionals to address my concerns. I weighed my options of conserving money by doing it myself and felt that the "better safe than sorry" route was the best for me as it appears rules and regulations regarding wetlands are ever evolving. I guess I just realized how complex wetlands were and figured I could fill an entire case of cd's with what I didn't know about them so I deferred to professionals qualifed to handle the removal of the ickies from start to finish. Services were surprisingly affordable.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2004 at 3:15PM
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oakfolk(S.W. Wisconsin)

My experiance with the appropriate officials relating to wetlands is that they pay very little attention to what's happening unless they are forced to. Even when there has been major intentional harm they have given slaps on the wrist and just encouraged the offender to repair the damage. However, when I have asked for information regarding wetland restoration (removing noxious weeds and spreading native seed) I've gotten lots of encouragement and praise. I would suggest that anyone who is interested in wetlands to get out in them and learn as much as you can. Don't be afraid of the government. The vast majority of these people are just trying to slow the damage.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2004 at 9:22PM
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madspinner(z7 WA skagit)

Talk to someone local in your county. Rules vary. It might be worth your time and money to have a wetland survay done. I won't claim it isn't kind of pricy, but it is REALLY helpful in knowing what kind of wetlands you have, what leval of protection they have, and how big a protected buffer surrounds them. We had to have one done because we want to build a house on our 25 acres, about 10 acres of which are wetlands. An added bonus (again dependent on area) is that we now have to pay fewer taxes on our land as our wetlands are considered "unusable".

In my area they do not want you building, subverting, draining, dumping trash or cars, cutting down mature trees, running livestock, or otherwise damaging your wetlands or buffers. However, you can remove invasive plants, maintain paths, maintain any existing roads or buildings, grow plants as long as they are not invasive, remove recently fallen trees for firewood, and otherwise enjoy your property.

We have an old falling down barn in our wetland forest (don't ask me why, I didn't put it there! There isn't even a pasture there!) that we just got a permit to tear down. We are going to leave the concrete slab as a patio and put a stone barbacue and gazebo on the slab. They don't mind, as it will not impact the surroundings any more than they have been (slab is already there, don't need a permit for a gazebo). It will really be lovely when we are done, as there are two 3 tiered ponds that flow into a ditch and down to the river, and also a great view of our man made lake. All this was done by the previous owner, before all the current laws, of course. It will be a great entertainment area to appreciate the wildlife.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2004 at 10:37PM
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Try scrolling up some words -obligate hydrophytes or facultative wetlands plants.I was amazed at some of the information that came we are studying wetlands stuff you could just try to scroll www.WETLANDS .com There is a lot of info out there !!

    Bookmark   April 4, 2004 at 12:05AM
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The Army Corp of Eng is the big agency in charge of the wet lands. The city will come out and look at what you want to do but will let you know it is out of their juristiction. The army corp will come give you a claim number and then tell you no at a later date. My house was built in a portion of the wetlands that the city allowed the developer to drain. If they go in to far they pay the $2,000 + fine and just continue on. Everybody makes money but you are heavily restricted in land use and the fines are high. The developer gets to build, the city gets to collect those high real estate taxes and the animals live free. All at your expense. In essecence the wetlands are a wild life habitat to remain untouched. I have bear, deer, squirells, ducks, snakes, fox, coons,frogs, turtles, herons, and all sorts of beast and birds. The list goes on and on. The restriction is imposed for them. You see we live in their homes, NOT them in our homes. They have to live to. You can clean up and if you cut down trees you must leave the roots in the ground. I found that everybody does what they need and have to do. It is not a big topic of disscusion among my neighbors but everybody's place is nice and tidy and there is NO BRUSH ANYWHERE near their houses. Good luck and welcome to the wetlands there's no place like it. It has the power to seduce and before long it peacefully becomes heaven on earth.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2004 at 11:21PM
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my wetlands area is designated as such by the army corps of engineers .Can I create a pond and allow the water to drain over a dam?

    Bookmark   May 16, 2004 at 7:34PM
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treebeard(z5 MA)

If the Corps has direct and primary jurisdiction over the wetlands you speak of, even if on your property, the simple answer will be 'very likely not'. But...you'll never know unless ask. Now your task will be to find out who that is...

    Bookmark   May 17, 2004 at 6:39AM
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Sorry just getting back here. Answer is no. They will not allow or approve of any changes to the area. Natural preserve. Any changes can result in a humongus fine and possible jail time. Federal offense to redirect any waters. Only for us to look at and enjoy wildlife. I had them come to my house. He wrote up a case number and told me I could put some leaves down. After a few weeks of hearing nothing I followed up only to be told that he was sorry if he had mislead me there is nothing I can do.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2004 at 6:55PM
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joepyeweed(5b IL)

you can make changes to a wetland - but it needs to be permitted which involves a plan done by a professional engineer approved by the corp of engineers and other agencies including USFWS, local DNR, endangered species. the plan incorporates what you want to do along with mitigations to either offset changes you have made or improve the quality of existing wetlands.... as for removing logs and weeds - it depends upon why - if the weeds are invasive i am sure you could get a permit to remove those and replace them with an appropriate native wetland species... logs are part of the ecosystem and provide habitat and decaying matter that is an integral part of the wetland - i would not reccommend you remove those unless there is a specific problem....

    Bookmark   August 11, 2004 at 9:10AM
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