The major wetland regulatory programs of statewide importance in Minnesota are:  

  • Department of Natural Resources Public Waters Work Permit Program (state program)
  • Wetland Conservation Act (state & local program)
  • Clean Water Act Section 404 permit program (federal program)
  • Clean Water Act Section 401 water quality certification process (state & federal program) 

Two or more of these programs may cover the same wetland and in some cases, various portions of the same wetland will be regulated by different programs. However, state and federal agencies along with local units of government coordinate to help the public determine applicable regulatory program jurisdiction on a case by case basis. The regulatory process is often initiated at the local level (city, county, watershed district, watershed management organization or soil and water conservation district) where program representatives can identify which regulations apply depending on the location and nature of the proposed activity that may effect wetlands or other water resources. BWSR is the state agency responsible for administration of the Wetland Conservation Act (WCA) which regulates the vast majority of wetlands at the state/local level.  

WCA is implemented at the local level by the local government unit (“LGU”). BWSR promulgates administrative rules for the program, provides training to LGUs, participates on technical evaluation panels, hears appeals from local government determinations, and assures proper implementation by LGUs.  

Although information provided on our Wetlands page focuses on the WCA, some information is applicable to other regulatory programs in the state as well. Information on programs other than WCA can be found via the Related Links below. The Minnesota DNR produced a general summary of wetland regulation in Minnesota in 2016.


Ken Powell
Wetland Conservation Act Operations Supervisor