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State Water Board Adopts State Wetland Definition and Procedures for Discharges of Dredged or Fill Material to Waters of the State

On Tuesday April 2, 2019, the State Water Resources Control Board adopted a statewide Wetland Definition and Procedures for Discharges of Dredged and Fill Material to Waters of the State. The Procedures consist of four major elements: 1) A wetland definition; 2) A framework for determining if a wetland is a water of the state; 3) Wetland delineation procedures; and 4) An application for dredged or fill activities.

The state wetland definition includes any land with hydric soils and hydrology regardless of whether the land has wetland plants: “An area is wetland if, under normal circumstances, (1) the area has continuous or recurrent saturation of the upper substrate caused by groundwater, or shallow surface water, or both; (2) the duration of such saturation is sufficient to cause anaerobic conditions in the upper substrate; and (3) the area’s vegetation is dominated by hydrophytes or the area lacks vegetation.”

Where a water feature meets the Procedures’ definition of a wetland, the burden is on the applicant to demonstrate that the wetland is not a water of the state.

The adoption comes after more than a decade of stakeholder involvement in the development of a wetland definition and accompanying Procedures.

Next steps:

  • The Procedures are effective 9 months after approval by the Office of Administrative Law, which has yet to occur.
  • Water Board staff will be developing implementation guidance for potential applicants prior to the effective date of the Procedures.
  • Water Board staff, in consultation with stakeholders, will be providing Water Board members will annual progress reports regarding implementation issues with the Procedures, including economic impacts, unintended consequences to industry, such as ag, and the number of wetlands restored due to the Procedures.

To read the Wetland Definition and Procedures for Discharges of Dredged and Fill Material to Waters of the State as adopted by the State Water Resources Control Board on April 2, 2019, please click here.

This article was originally prepared by Kari Fisher (kfisher@cfbf.com) of California Farm Bureau Federation, in Sacramento, CA, and is republished with permission.

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