Changes in Pine County Wetland Conservation Act Administration

Changes in Pine County Wetland Conservation Act Administration

On April 3rd, the Pine County Board of Commissioners voted to take over the administration of WCA, effective April 13, 2018. 

What does this mean to the public? It means that if you want to do any work on or near wetlands, or have wetland related questions, you will need to contact Pine County Planning & Zoning, who are stationed in the new Pine County Courthouse in Pine City. The Planning and Zoning department will be the new Local Government Unit (LGU) for WCA in Pine County. Though this is a large change, the two organizations are working diligently to make sure the transfer of roles goes smoothly and that projects continue moving forward as the county enters construction season. To contact the Pine County Planning and Zoning office, call 320-216-4220 or stop in at the Courthouse to see them.


Wetland Conservation Act (WCA)

For information about the Wetland Conservation Act, or questions about projects in or near wetlands, contact Pine County Planning and Zoning at (320) 591-1649.

Brief overview:
In Minnesota, an estimated 11 million acres of wetland areas have been lost in the last 100 years. There are approximately 9 million acres remaining. The Wetland Conservation Act (WCA) was passed in 1991 by the Minnesota Legislature and Governor Arne Carlson. It is still one of the most sweeping wetlands protection laws in the country. The goal of the act is "no net loss of wetlands".  To attain this goal; draining, filling, and excavation is prohibited unless: the drain, fill, or excavation activity is exempt; or wetlands are replaced by restoring or creating wetland areas of at least equal public value.

Wetlands are regulated by the State of Minnesota and the federal government. The WCA is consistent in scope across the entire state.  All decisions are based on the Wetland Conservation Act Rules, Chapter 8420.  The Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) administers the WCA on a statewide basis, Pine County (Planning and Zoning Department) implements the WCA locally.

Benefits of wetlands:
To provide flood control by storing excess water during rain events and spring melting
To increase water quality by filtering sediments and nutrients before they enter lakes, rivers and streams
To provide habitat for fish, birds, amphibians, and other wildlife
To provide erosion control by slowing the flow of water between upland areas and waterways
To provide groundwater recharge by detaining water and allowing it to percolate to the water table
To provides habitat for rare, endangered and threatened plants and animals

How can you tell if an area is a wetland?
Three conditions must be present to define an area as a wetland:
1. Hydric soils - soils that show characteristics of development under wet conditions
2. Hydrology - water present within top 12" of the surface for 5% of the growing season under normal rainfall years
3. Hydrophytic vegetation - vegetation that is adapted to living in wet conditions. Examples include: reed canary grass, pitcher plants, lady slippers, jack-in-the-pulpit, sedges, tamarack, and black spruce.
More wetland information is available from the Board of Water and Soil Resources office in Duluth, 394 South Lake Ave. Room 403 or visit the web site:

For more WCA Information, click on the following links for information about each listing:
De Minimus Exemption
Replacement Plan Process
Replacement Plan Sequencing
Replacement Plan Site Banking