Wetlands Protection Permits (Part 303)

Agency: Environmental Quality

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) Water Resources Division (WRD), is responsible for the protection of wetland resources and the public functions they provide under the authority of Part 303, Wetlands Protection, of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, 1994 PA 451, as amended (NREPA). The program oversees activities proposed in regulated wetland areas and reviews permit applications for dredging; filling; draining surface water; or constructing, operating, or maintaining any use or development in a wetland. The MDEQ also administers the federal permit program which regulates dredging and filling of wetlands under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (except in coastal areas where the USACE retains this authority). Thus, in most parts of the state, issuance of a permit by the MDEQ under Part 303 of the NREPA also authorizes alteration of wetlands under federal law.

A General Permit for Shoreline Management activities is available for some activities. See the program description

A. NAME OF PERMIT OR APPROVAL:

Part 303 Wetlands Protection Permit

B. STATUTORY AUTHORITY:

Part 303, Wetlands Protection, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, Public Act 451 of 1994, as amended

Federal Clean Water Act, Section 404

C. APPLICABLE REGULATION:

Michigan Administrative Code, Rules Administered by MDEQ, WRD

Wetlands Protection (R 281.921 - 281.925)

D. SUMMARY OF PERMIT/APPROVAL PROCESS:

 1.  Applicability (activities that require the permit)

Part 303 defines a wetland as "land characterized by the presence of water at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances does support, wetland vegetation or aquatic life, and is commonly referred to as a bog, swamp, or marsh." The definition applies to public and private lands regardless of zoning or ownership. In accordance with Part 303, wetlands are regulated if they are any of the following

  • Connected to or located within 1,000 feet of one of the Great Lakes or Lake St. Clair
  • Connected to or located within 500 feet of an inland lake, pond, river, or stream
  • Located within 500 feet of an inland lake, pond, river or stream
  • Greater than 5 acres in size
  • Not connected to one of the Great Lakes or Lake St. Clair, or an inland lake, pond, stream, or river, and less than 5 acres in size, but the DEQ has determined that these wetlands are essential to the preservation of the state's natural resources and has notified the property owner

The law requires that persons planning to conduct certain activities in regulated wetlands apply for and receive a permit from the state before beginning the activity. A permit is required from the state for the following

  • Deposit or permit the placing of fill material in a wetland
  • Dredge, remove, or permit the removal of soil or minerals from a wetland
  • Construct, operate, or maintain any use or development in a wetland
  • Drain surface water from a wetland

The DEQ must determine the following before a permit can be issued

  • The permit would be in the public interest
  • The permit would be otherwise lawful
  • The permit is necessary to realize the benefits from the activity
  • No unacceptable disruption to aquatic resources would occur
  • The proposed activity is wetland dependent or no feasible and prudent alternatives exist

In order to be approved, a project must also meet the requirements of Section 404 of the Federal Clean Water Act. The MDEQ may not issue a permit granting federal authority over the objection of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

If projects also require approval under other parts of the NREPA administered by the WRD, only one permit application is required. The permit review will include a review under all applicable parts. These parts include: Part 301, Inland Lakes and Streams; Part 303, Wetlands Protection; Part 325, Great Lakes Submerged Lakes, the Administrative Rules for Floodplains and Floodways under Part 31, Water Resources Protection; Part 323, Shorelands Protection and Management; and Part 353, Sand Dunes Protection and Management.

 2.  Pre-Application Requirements
  • Public notices are sent to the County Health Department, County Soil Conservation District, County Clerk office, Township or City Office, and other affected divisions and agencies for comment. Copies of the application are provided to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) in those areas where a separate USACE permit is required
  • Major projects may be reviewed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the USACE
  • A site inspection may be required
 3.  Application Submission Requirements
  • Vicinity map detailing the project's location in relation to existing land marks
  • Cross-section plan view of the project site with elevations depicting existing and proposed land conditions
  • Approximate cubic yardage of fill or dredge material
  • Project plans represented by a complete, accurate drawing including dimensions, proposed and existing structures, existing water's edge, approximate size of wetland area, etc.
  • Demonstration that the proposed activity is primarily dependent upon being located in the wetland and/or a feasible and prudent alternative does not exist, including a discussion of alternatives considered
  • A mitigation plan
  • Other materials specific to the project that may be specified during review

Failure to provide the above information and the filing fee will result in non-action on the application until the material is provided.

 4.  Procedures and Time-Frame for Obtaining Permit or Approval
  • Applicant submits Joint Permit Application (EQP 2731) and fee to the WRD
  • A maximum application review period of 90 days is provided by Part 303 of the NREPA if the application is complete and no hearing is held
  • During a comment period of 20 days from the issuance of the public notice, an interested person may request a public hearing on the application
  • If a hearing is held, the MDEQ has 150 days to make a decision on the application
  • The municipality in which the proposed project is located has 45 days to comment on the application
  • A permit processing flowchart is available
  • Issued permits are normally valid for up to 5 years
 5.  Operational Requirements

Applicant must comply with all applicable rules and regulations and any conditions required by the permit.

 6.  Fees
  • Fees are listed in Appendix C of the Joint Permit Application.
  • $100 - $2,000
 7.  Appeal Process
  • If an application is denied for a proposed activity, the landowner may appeal the decision to the MDEQ Director requesting a contested case hearing pursuant to the State Administrative Procedures Act, Public Act 306 of 1969, as amended (a decision from this process can be appealed to the courts)
 8.  Public Input Opportunities

The decision makers in this program are district staff. In rare case an MDEQ Deputy Director or WRD Division Chief will issue the permit. The WRD has many mechanisms for public notice of pending permit decisions. A record of applications received is available on an online searchable permitting and compliance system called MiWaters. This online system allows queries related to public hearings, public notices, year, county, township, range, section, water body, file number or applicant name. The WRD district contact can be found through MiWaters. The best opportunity for public input is during the 20 day public review and comment period. The local units of government (village, city, township or county) have 45 days to submit comment. If a hearing is requested, all previously notified groups and individuals are notified by mail at least 10 days prior to the hearing. Projects that meet the General Permit Categories are not required to go through the public notice process.

E. ADMINISTERING AGENCY:

Water Resources Division, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, P.O. Box 30458, Lansing, Michigan 48909-7704

  • Program Phone: 517-284-5567

 

Creation/Revision Date:

June 2016