Wetland Permitting Reform Bill Adopted by Wisconsin Legislature

February 18, 2016

The Wisconsin Legislature has passed 2015 Assembly Bill 600 / Senate Bill 459 revising the permitting of work that affects wetlands.  Under current law, projects that affect wetlands require a permit from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR). As part of the permitting process, an applicant must establish that there is not a practicable alternative available to minimize wetland impacts while still meeting the overall project purposes. In the case of existing industrial, commercial, or agricultural facilities, current law limits the DNR’s review of practicable alternatives to those that are located at the site of the discharge or adjacent to that site. In other words, the DNR cannot require that the practicable alternative for a project is that it be moved to another, non-adjacent site.

This bill extends that limitation to projects involving fewer than two acres of wetland if the project is limited to either the construction or expansion of a single-family home and attendant features, the construction or expansion of a barn or farm buildings, or the expansion of a business project. This bill also exempts from the permit process stormwater discharged from the permitting requirement that is the result of maintaining of a stormwater detention basin. The Governor is expected to sign this bill into law. This reform will further clarify the standards that are applied by the DNR relating to development and wetlands.