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Water: Outreach & Communication

State, Tribal, Local, and Regional Roles in Wetlands Protection

States, Tribes, regional, and local governments are becoming more interested and active in comprehensive wetlands protection through the authorities granted to them in existing legislation. This fact sheet discusses how these governments can be involved in wetlands protection.

"Assuming" Permitting Authority

One of the ways State and Tribal governments can strengthen their roles in wetlands protection is to "assume" permitting authority under the Clean Water Act, Section 404 program. This means that States or Tribes have the authority to issue Section 404 permits. This program regulates the discharge of dredged and fill material in wetlands and other waters. To date, Michigan and New Jersey have assumed such authority, and several States and Tribes are working toward this end. EPA will work with any government interested in assuming such authority.

Other Options

Other options available to States and Tribes to strengthen their roles in wetlands protection include-

  • undertaking comprehensive State Wetland Conservation Plans

  • obtaining State Program General Permits from the Corps for discharges of dredged and fill material in wetlands

  • developing wetland water quality standards

  • applying the Clean Water Act Section 401 Water Quality Certification program more specifically to wetlands

  • incorporating wetlands protection into other State and Tribal water programs.

Regional and local participation in wetland protection can also be strengthened through comprehensive resource planning that targets specific geographic areas. Examples of such areas are river corridors for which governments and communities have identified many objectives for their use. Regional and local governments can also protect watersheds (a water shed is the area in which all water, sediments, and dissolved materials flow or drain from the land into a common body of water) and identify in advance suitable and unsuitable sites for discharges.

EPA Assistance Available

EPA helps by providing information and program guidance and by sponsoring national forums on State program development. Financial assistance may also be available from EPA to pursue some of these activities through EPA's State Wetlands Protection Grants Program.

All levels of government must work together to determine how to best protect wetland resources and what the appropriate roles and programs are for each type of government. EPA supports the strengthening of State, Tribal, and local roles in wetlands protection.

About the Wetlands ProgramPublications 

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