Environmental Protection

DEP Offers Tips to Residents on Wetlands, Stream Projects

The Department of Environmental Protection is reminding homeowners and landowners who are conducting work in or along streams and wetlands that a permit may be required from DEP or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

"Homeowners and landowners may not be aware that state or federal law requires a DEP permit for certain types of work they want to do on their own property," DEP Secretary Mike Krancer said. "DEP is here as a resource and a partner for Pennsylvanians who are planning any activity in or around streams and wetlands, so that their work can be done safely and without harming the environment or downstream neighbors.

"Just like the Public Utility Commission's 'PA One Call' for excavators, the best first step for homeowners and landowners is to call the local DEP office to find out what is required before any work begins."

During the summer months, DEP typically receives a higher volume of complaints from the public regarding work in streams and wetlands. DEP frequently finds that a number of activities have occurred without permits, including dredging, which is cleaning out a stream; ditching, defined as filling in or draining wetlands; placing fill in a floodway to build up the property; relocating a stream; stabilizing a stream bank; and installing culverts, bridges, boat docks or ramps.

Residents should follow these tips when conducting stream activities:

If there are low-lying, wet areas on the property that a landowner would like to fill in, consult first with the DEP Waterways and Wetlands program that serves your county.

Do not mow or cut trees and shrubs along a stream's edge. This can potentially lead to stream-bank erosion. Leaving a buffer along the edge of a stream or wetland is an effective way to increase a stream bank's stability, reduce stream bank erosion, increase wildlife habitat and provide a pollutant filtering area for surface water that drains through the buffer.

If a project is being planned in a stream channel or floodway, work should not be conducted without the required permits within the channel or 50 feet from the top of the stream bank. A stream's floodway is typically 50 feet from the top of each stream bank unless a detailed Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) flood study determines that the floodway is smaller or larger than 50 feet. FEMA floodplain study information can be found at local township and borough offices.

Filling, ditching or draining of a wetland requires a permit from DEP and the Army Corps.

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