​Wetlands and Waterways Program Frequently Asked Questions

Q:   Do I need an authorization from the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) to do work (for example, build a shed or driveway or pier or bulkhead) in tidal wetlands, nontidal wetlands, waterways and/or floodplains?
A:  Yes, most activities in tidal wetlands, nontidal wetlands, waterways and/or floodplains require authorization from the MDE.  MDE’s application can be found at the following links.  If federal authorization is needed for the same project, MDE will forward this application to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for review.
Joint Federal/State Application for the Alteration of Any Floodplain, Waterway, Tidal or Nontidal Wetland in Maryland:
Q: Will the Wetlands and Waterways Program conduct a Pre-Application meeting?
A:  Yes, Pre-Application meetings are strongly encouraged to help expedite the permitting process and better ensure that any issues are addressed early in the process. Please be prepared to present all available project information at the Pre-Application meeting. To schedule a Pre-Application meeting please go to the link below, complete and submit the Pre-Application form.  You will be contacted by a Project Reviewer to set-up an appointment.
Q:   Who is my Project Reviewer or who can I contact with questions?
A:  Please clink the following link to find contacts for the Wetlands and Waterways Program that will be happy to assist you with any questions regarding an existing or proposed project.
Q:   I would like to construct a Living Shoreline or have a Living Shoreline at my property and need advice on how to design it and/or how to properly maintain it.  Who can I contact for assistance?
A: The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Chesapeake and Coastal Services Program provides free consultation to property owners regarding the erosion of their shoreline and Living Shorelines.  The Program can evaluate your site, assess problems, and offer solutions specific to your shoreline.  This program can also offer advice to property owners on how to improve their existing Living Shoreline.   Please feel free to contact DNR at the link below. 

Waterway Construction Division

Q:   What is regulated by the Waterway Construction Division?
A: The waterway construction regulations are designed to govern construction, reconstruction, repair, or alteration of a dam, reservoir, or waterway obstruction or any change of the course, current, or cross section of a stream or body of water within the State including any changes to the 100-year frequency floodplain of free-flowing waters.
Q:   Why is a stream closure period necessary?
A: Certain periods of the year are considered crucial for the growth and propagation of aquatic species, wildlife and habitat. Instream activities are typically not permitted during the following periods.
1. USE I and IP  -                 March 1-June 15 of any year
2. USE III and USE III-P      October 1 – April 30
3. USE IV                             March 1- May 31
Q:   Can I replace a bridge with a pipe culvert?
A:  In general, resource regulating agencies (for example, the Department of Natural Resources) prefer a bridge over culverts because bridges in general cause less environmental impacts than culverts. If it can be justified that the culvert can maintain hydraulic functions and environmental functions similar to a bridge, yes, the replacement may be an acceptable alternative.
Q:  A recent storm has caused the stream bank failure in my property. This is an emergency situation and I have planned to immediately stabilize the banks to control further failure of the banks. Do I need a permit?
A:  If there is an imminent danger to human health and/or property due to failure of a structure, the project can qualify for an emergency repair or replacement work under the waterway construction regulations. The applicant has to notify MDE and the Army Corps and get an oral consent from the agency’s reviewer to do the work.  A permit application must be submitted as soon as possible to obtain an after-the-fact permit.

Nontidal Wetlands Division

Q:   What is regulated by the Nontidal Wetlands Division?
A:  Since January 1, 1991 the Maryland Nontidal Wetlands Protection Act has required a State nontidal wetlands Permit, or Letter of Authorization from the Nontidal Wetlands Division for activities in a nontidal wetland, or within a 25-foot nontidal wetland buffer or 100-foot nontidal wetland expanded buffer.
Q: Are there nontidal wetlands on my property? How can I tell? And if there are, what does that mean for me?
A:  Wetlands function as important water quality, groundwater recharge and flood storage areas and host wildlife habitat.  Some nontidal wetlands are easily identified by observation. They may have water on the surface for most of the year and support familiar plants, such as cattails. Many wetlands are quite difficult to distinguish from upland areas. They may only have surface water or high ground water for brief periods during the spring and have plants that are found in many other areas, but the presence of water during the growing season has a profound effect on the vegetation and animals that live there. Private or Commercial property owners who want to be certain whether nontidal wetlands are on their property should consult a professional to do a field delineation.  A delineation requires a detailed evaluation of soils, hydrology and plants to determine the presence of a regulated nontidal wetland.
Nontidal Wetland Consultants List
Q:   Can a representative of the Maryland Department of the Environment come to my property to delineate regulated nontidal wetlands?
A:  At this time MDE does not provide delineation of regulated resources. However, if a Pre-Application meeting is requested before a project is planned; a representative from the Nontidal Wetlands and Waterway Construction Divisions can visit your property and provide a presence/absence determination of regulated areas. Project managers who are familiar with your area and knowledgeable about the regulatory process can help identify requirements and potential hurdles in the application review process, prior to your designing a project and submitting an application. 

Tidal Wetlands Division

Q:   What is regulated by MDE’s Tidal Wetlands Division?

A:  The Tidal Wetlands Division regulates projects that are conducted in, on, over, under, or through State or private tidal wetlands.  Tidal wetlands by definition include all lands beneath tidal waters and tidal waters up to the mean high water line, and vegetated wetlands, such as marshes, that abut those waters and are subject to periodic tides within Maryland.  The Division may issue a License for any project that includes the construction of structures, dredging, or filling of State or private tidal wetlands.  Examples of structures include piers, boat lifts, platforms, bulkheads, revetments, and Living Shorelines.
Q:   Do I need a License from MDE to replace my pier? Boat Lift? Or other structures?
A:  A previously authorized structure or a structure built before February 14, 1994 can be replaced in-kind if it is functional and will be reconstructed in the same location with the same dimensions.  According to COMAR C. http://www.dsd.state.md.us/comar/comarhtml/26/
"The following activities are exempted from the requirement to obtain a license from the Board or a license, general license, general permit, or permit from the Department under this subtitle: ...(5) Routine maintenance, repair, or replacement of a highway structure, pier, boathouse, a structure on a pier, bulkhead, revetment, tidal impoundment dike, water control structure, aboveground transmission facility, agricultural drainage ditch, or highway drainage ditch when the existing structure is functional and there is no increase in the original length, width, height, or channelward encroachment..".
The Department considers a structure to be functional if it is performing at least 85% of the action that the structure was originally intended to perform.  If you would like to replace your existing structure in-kind, please contact your County’s Project Reviewer by consulting the following link to further discuss if your project requires a License.
Q:   I’ve received all of the required State, federal and local authorizations for my proposed project. Who can construct it?
A:  Maryland requires all projects in tidal wetlands to be constructed by the property owner or a marine contractor registered with MDE.  For a list of licensed marine contractors be refer to the link below or contact the Board at mde.mclb@maryland.gov or  by phone at 410-537-3249 or 1-800-633-6101 ext. 3249 

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