When most people think of wetlands, they think of swampy, marshy areas complete with ducks and cattails. While those areas are indeed wetlands, many other wetlands look quite different and may even have no surface water for all or part of the year. Some wetlands support trees and shrubs; some are farmed. Technically, a wetland must have the following criteria:

  • It must have standing water or saturated (water logged) soil for at least part of the growing season
  • It must support mostly vegetation adapted to wet soil conditions

Wetland Regulation

In almost all cases, draining, filling or altering a wetland will require a permit or some other authorization in Minnesota; applicants will often need to show efforts to avoid wetlands and may be required to replace drained or filled wetland area. This includes the digging of or maintenance of ponds and drainage ditches. The following agencies will typically be involved:

  • Chisago County - Jeff Fertig, Wetland Specialist, 651-213-8370
  • Chisago Soil and Water Conservation District - Craig Mell, 651-674-2333
  • The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources - Craig Wills, 763-689-7100, ext. 225
  • The United States Army Corps of Engineers - Thomas J Hingsberger

A number of resources exist to learn more about wetland regulation. Please view our Wetland Quick Links for more information. Click View All for additional links. Of particular assistance are the MN BWSR Wetland Conservation Act (WCA) Program Guidance and Information.

Wetland Violations

The Enforcement Division of the Department of Natural Resources enforces most of Minnesota's wetland regulations. People concerned about unauthorized wetland activities occurring in their area should contact Jeff Fertig at Chisago County at 651-213-8370 or Todd Langevin, DNR Enforcement at 651-277-9473.

Projects Affecting Wetlands

If you have a project that might affect a wetland:

  • Early in the process, contact Chisago County or the Chisago County Soil and Water Conservation District. The soil and water conservation district should be able to give you appropriate guidance.
  • Find out if the land you intend to alter is a wetland. Remember, an area can be a wetland even if it does not appear wet on the surface.
  • The Chisago Soil and Water Conservation District will either help you make this determination or direct you appropriately.
  • Fill out a Combined Project Application (PDF) form.
    • You will need to mail copies of this form to all agencies listed on the form.
    • This form is available from soil and water conservation district, may be downloaded online, or by calling the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources at 651-296-3767.
  • You should hear back from the agencies after mailing the Combined Project Application form. If you do not, contact them before beginning work.

Advice for Project Applicants

  • Begin early! Visit Chisago County or the Chisago Soil and Water Conservation District office and fill out the Combined Project Application form as soon as possible.
  • Before you purchase property for development, consider the existence of any wetlands and weight the environmental impact and financial cost of disturbing those areas against the project's benefits. Be aware of state, federal and local regulations.
  • If you proceed with a project, determine where the wetlands are and design your project accordingly.
  • Thoroughly consider and document the alternatives you have considered to avoid wetland impacts.
  • Consider the possible concerns of the community and the project's neighbors and involve them early in the process.
  • Provide truthful and complete descriptions of all relevant project components.
  • Wetland Services Request Form (PDF)