Permits to Impact Wetlands and Other Aquatic Areas:
interest in water resources began in the 1850s when the U.S. Supreme
Court recognized the importance of commerce on nontidal waters and
determined that the navigability on such waters should not be restricted.
These waterways, also recognized for their important natural resources,
were eventually held protected in trust for all people. The trust
resources of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service include endangered species,
anadromous fish, migratory birds, and wetland-related habitats.
Recognizing that the chemical, physical, and biological integrity
of our nations waters was critical to our society, Congress
passed the Federal Water Pollution Control Act and later the Clean
Water Act to maintain this integrity. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
was given regulatory authority over these resources and issues permits
for activities in streams, lakes, rivers, wetlands, etc.
Every year, our office reviews approximately 250 public notices
prepared by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Coast Guard.
In these public notices, applicants propose to impact wetlands,
streams, and other water bodies. The Service is effective at reducing
the impacts of these projects on fish and wildlife resources and
ensuring that mitigation is provided to achieve fish and wildlife
Wetlands are lands that are transitional between terrestrial and aquatic
systems where the water table is at or near the surface or the land is
covered by shallow water for at least part of the growing season. Wetlands
generally support a prevalence of hydrophytic (water-loving) plants, are
underlain by undrained hydrophytic soil, or have a non-soil substrate
that is inundated or saturated with water.
Why are Wetlands Valuable?
Wetlands provide important feeding, breeding, and resting habitat for
a variety of fish and wildlife. They can soak up and retain rainfall,
thereby reducing flooding of adjacent and downstream upland areas. Wetland
plants and sediments can also filter out nutrients, sediment, organic
matter, and contaminants, preventing or slowing their release into streams,
lakes, and groundwater. Wetlands also provide beautiful places for people
to hunt, fish, hike, and just enjoy natural resources.
What is Happening to Wetlands in New York?
and other Shoreline Development - Docks, piers, and boathouses
enhance our enjoyment of aquatic resources. But construction of these
structures and armoring of shoreline habitat can harm fish and wildlife.
The shoreline and shallow water vegetation that many fish and waterfowl
species use for food and cover can be shaded out by over-water structures,
removed to create beach or armored conditions, or eliminated by dredging.
Shoreline development has been linked with reduced numbers and size
of fish, reductions in water quality from inadequate septic systems,
and runoff from maintained lawns. We encourage you to enjoy New York
States abundant aquatic resources and help to preserve them
by maintaining vegetated shoreline habitat and keeping docks and boathouses
to the minimum size needed to access the water.
Fragmentation - Wetland habitats are being fragmented
by highways, residential/commercial development, agricultural activities,
and pipelines. This fragmentation may leave patches of wetland that
are too small to support viable populations of certain species.
Interspersion of human development with wetlands may also introduce
nuisance plant and animal species, increase predation and nest parasitism,
alter wetland hydrology, and contribute to contamination of wetlands
with chemicals and nutrients. We encourage land managers to cluster
development to leave large undisturbed wetland tracts and route
linear projects around wetlands.
Alteration - New York is traversed with a rich network of stream
and river channels. They provide habitat for fish and wildlife, recreational
opportunities for people, and water for agriculture and other uses. Unfortunately,
streams and rivers are frequently dredged, channelized, or re-located to
accommodate development or to alleviate flooding of structures built within
floodplains. Streambank vegetation may be removed, streambanks may be
armored, and pollutants may be discharged into streams as a result of
stormwater outfalls and runoff from highways, parking lots, agricultural
areas, golf courses, and residential areas. These stream-altering activities
can contribute to streambank erosion, sedimentation, decreased water quality,
habitat loss, and increased flooding. Landowners and developers should
consider avoiding development within and along stream courses and in flood-prone
areas. Stream modification projects should be performed with assistance
from people knowledgeable in the field of natural stream channel design
to ensure healthy and stable streams and rivers. Our Partners
for Fish & Wildlife program provides advice and assistance for
This stream has now been restored by U.S. Fish & Wildlife
Island Permit Issues:
Island Field Office reviews permits under Section 10 of the Rivers and
Harbors Act. Activities to be permitted frequently include the filling
of wetlands and open water, the construction of structures such as piers
and bulkheads in navigable waters, dredging, and beachfill. The Service
provides recommendations on measures to avoid, minimize, rectify, reduce,
and/or compensate for fish and wildlife resource impacts of proposed actions.
When Federally-listed threatened or endangered species occur within areas
of proposed activity, the Long Island Field Office undertakes project reviews
under the Endangered Species Act with the Federal action agency.
See our Long Island Federal Projects page.
National Wetlands Inventory
District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Regulatory Program
York District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Regulatory Program
Resource Conservation Service's soil maps
FWS Conservation Planning Assistance Home Page • FWS Conservation Planning Assistance Northeast Region