The State of Delaware and the federal government both have laws and regulations that govern wetlands, but they use different methods for determining the location and extent of the wetlands they regulate.
You can download maps of state-regulated wetlands, or DNREC staff may be able to help you determine if there are state-regulated wetlands on your property.
Both public and private wetlands are protected by federal and state laws because of their exceptional value to society. Maintaining wetland functions is essential to protecting the public.
Wetlands store and control flood waters, they control erosion, they protect water quality, and they provide habitat for fish, wildlife and plant species. Wetlands are important for education and recreation; they supply us with lovely open places to enjoy.
While the degree to which a wetland area serves these functions varies from location to location, wetland area works in combination with others as part of a complex, integrated system.
Wetlands regulated under Delaware’s Wetlands Act are depicted on jurisdictional maps maintained at the Wetlands and Waterways Section office in Dover.
To determine if you have state-regulated tidal wetlands on your property, you can refer to downloadable maps of state-regulated wetlands. Or, you can call us and share a detailed description of your property location. Under most circumstances, the contact person of the day can determine if state-regulated wetlands exist on your property by referring to those official regulatory maps. Sometimes a site visit by a DNREC staff scientist to perform a jurisdictional determination is necessary to more accurately locate the boundary between uplands and wetlands on a particular parcel.
To determine if you may have federally regulated wetlands on your property, a detailed onsite investigation is usually required. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requires that wetlands regulated under their program be delineated by a wetland scientist knowledgeable in using the Corps’ delineation manual. Delineation requires a detailed evaluation of soils, hydrology and plants to determine the presence of a regulated wetland.
For more detailed information regarding the federal regulatory programs for wetlands and waters call the Philadelphia District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Regulator of the Day, at 215-656-6728, or visit the Corps’ website.
If you determine that there are wetlands on your property, it means that you may need a permit from DNREC and/or the Army Corps of Engineers if you are proposing any construction or landscape modification activity that might encroach upon the wetlands. The County governments may also have setback requirements from wetlands for the placement of structures. Be sure to contact DNREC and the Corps to discuss your plans for such activities as early as possible in the planning process.
But, if wetlands do exist on your property, you should also count yourself very lucky! Wetlands contain wonderful wildlife habitat and function as important water quality, groundwater recharge and flood storage areas.