Wetlands, Easements, and Buffers
Got "overgrown" vegetation nearby? Want to mow it and make it "look nice"? Do low areas get soggy sometimes making you want to add topsoil and turf? Did it used to be soggy, but "became" dry and so you want to extend your yard?
There’s a good chance that the area is covered by a drainage and utility easement, and it may be a wetland, infiltration basin, or required buffer strip for a stormwater pond or wetland mitigation area. Avoid getting a violation! Call the City before you do anything.
There are eight different types of wetlands in Minnesota. Some may not be very wet, but they are still considered wetlands under the law.
If you have a low area that gets soggy sometimes and you want to do something, call first. There’s a good chance that you will need a permit to excavate, drain, or fill in the natural area. "Fill" includes piling grass clippings or leaves, topsoil, turf, woodchips, or dumping.
Structures are also not allowed; that means no sheds, playgrounds, sportcourts, gazebos, etc.
You might have a drainage and utility easement on your property. If you live in a subdivision, you may also have a covenant protecting natural areas. Not sure? Check the plat papers from your Closing.
Drainage easement areas are designated to provide access for maintenance and repair of stormwater structures including ponds, ditches, storm sewers, and wetlands.
Water from snowmelt or rainstorms may take several days to drain away or soak into the ground!
- If the easement has been changed by fill or structures you could be at risk of flooding your property and/or your neighbors' property.
- If the city needs to come and repair drainage issues, your structure or fill can be removed, at your expense.
A buffer strip is a width of undisturbed vegetation that slows and reduces surface water runoff from adjacent land uses. It also improves water quality by trapping and absorbing soil, nutrients, and pollutants from entering ponds and wetlands.
The Big Picture
Many people replacing small areas with turf or structures adds up to a long-term loss of water quality benefits!
Instead, leave the easements, wetlands, and buffers as they are intended so they can do their ‘job’ of cleaning our water. It’s a simple way to help improve water quality for us, our children, & grandchildren, and wildlife. And, you can avoid a potential violation.
Information provided by Coon Creek Watershed District- see our WIQ brochures #5, #9,#14,#17 in our online Library at CoonCreekWD.org.