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Owning Land

Can I Build On My Wetlands?

February 23, 2024

Wetlands are areas of land that are either covered in water or have water close to the surface of the soil. They act as natural buffers against flooding, offer essential habitat for diverse wildlife, and contribute to water purification and carbon storage. Migratory birds often live in these areas, including ducks and geese, and wetlands even help filter our natural water resources.

Because of the impact that wetlands have on wildlife species and the ecosystem as a whole, there are many laws in place protecting these areas, which can make building on these lands a tricky business. Here’s what landowners need to know about building on wetlands!

Perform a Wetlands Delineation

Before considering any construction on wetlands, it’s important to understand exactly which sections of your property can be classified as wetlands. This is done through a process known as wetland delineation. A wetland delineation is a kind of land survey that identifies and maps the borders of wetlands on a property. Factors considered during this process are typically the presence of water, types of vegetation, and soil types/analysis. 

Wetland delineations are usually done by consulting firms so it’s best to get in contact with a local professional to have this service conducted before moving forward with your construction plans. Failing to properly identify the wetlands on your property could lead to significant delays or obstructions later on in the building process.

Check Regulations

Once you have a better understanding of the wetland areas on your property, it is crucial to check local regulations and obtain proper permits. In many cases, there are strict guidelines to follow, and you may need to demonstrate mitigation efforts to offset potential environmental impacts. Ignoring these regulations can result in legal consequences and significant harm to the delicate balance of the wetland ecosystem.

Similarly, it’s important to understand whether or not there are any conservation easements on your property. Since these easements are often established in perpetuity, you’ll need to make sure that there isn’t an existing agreement with the government preventing further construction or development of your wetlands.

Getting a Permit

The process of getting a permit also helps determine whether an area is safe for building, taking into consideration the wetness of the land, its borders, and the impact that building would have on surrounding areas. Materials that are used to dredge and fill wetlands can release harmful substances that contribute to water pollution, so it’s important that these materials are monitored through a permit system.  

Getting that permit can be time-consuming, but it’s a mandatory part of your building process. It ensures that the wetland area you want to build on is safe and that construction won’t negatively impact the environmental or ecological influences in the area. Before you start, it’s important to consider that building on wetlands will have a significant impact on the value of your property. 

When it comes to regulating wetlands, there are two main government entities involved: the federal government which passes legislation surrounding wetlands and the protection of these ecosystems, and the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) which enforces these legislations. It’s important to keep in mind that while the USACE evaluates over 85,000 permit applications every year, roughly 95% of them are approved! So while the process of obtaining a permit can be time-consuming and frustrating at times, it is usually worth the effort.

If you’re a landowner or developer and you’re interested in a construction project or building on wetlands, you’ll have to obtain legal permission to get the go-ahead. With careful planning and consideration for the impact of the project, building on wetlands can be done! If you’ve got questions about a construction project on your wetland property, get in touch with me at or your local Land Professional!

About the Author
Jeremy Banks joined the National Land Realty team of Land Professionals in November 2023. Born and raised in Madison County, AL, Jeremy has deep ties to his community and a passion for hunting and the outdoors, bringing a wealth of knowledge to every transaction. Before coming to National Land Realty, Jeremy served and still serves as Co-Owner and Director of Marketing of B&B Healthservices for the past 16 years which owns HaL Medical O&P and Trinity Medical Center. Jeremy also owned and operated his own landscaping company for 12 years, honing his land management skills and putting his bachelor’s degree in Ornamental Horticulture from Auburn University to good use. Exceptionally devoted to his faith, Jeremy is also a youth leader at First United Methodist Church in Huntsville, AL. In his free time, he enjoys hunting, fishing, and spending time out on the golf course. He and his wife, Lisa, are based out of South Huntsville in Madison County where they live with their 3 children, Macie, Colton, and Tate, in addition to their 2 dogs, Thunder and Finn.