Maritime law affects the sea, but it also affects those who live by the sea, and in some instances, those who live near waterways generally. This includes those who have wetlands on their property.
If you live near the ocean or a waterway, you may not think that part of your property qualifies as wetlands, but that may not be the case. Not all wetlands are swamps, and indeed, some wetlands include forested areas. It even includes Long Beach, California, ephemeral streams and drainage ditches.
Specifically, according to the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “[w]etlands are areas that are inundated or saturated by surface or groundwater at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions.” And, property with as little as 1/10 an acre of wetlands falls under federal and state wetland law.
Why do I care if part of my property is a wetland?
Unless you just plan on holding the land to keep the land pristine and untouched, you must be cognizant of the local, state and federal laws that govern the use of wetlands. Otherwise, you risk huge fines and other penalties.
Do I need a permit?
If you plan on altering Long Beach, California, wetlands, you need a Nationwide Permit from the USACE and maybe even the EPA. In prior decades, acres of wetlands could be filled in for property development purposes, but these days, the allowance has been decreased to ½ an acre or fewer. This is for all uses, including, residential, commercial and even public institutional use.
Depending on your intended uses and the land that you wish to utilize, permits can be complicated, especially since you may need more than one agency to sign off on permits. This is why many experts recommend contacting an attorney to ensure that all of your bases are covered.
The last thing you want is to fully develop the Long Beach, California, property, and get a notice in the mail stating that it was illegal. In that case, you may have to pay fines, tear down your improvements and rebuild them.