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Martin County Growth Management > Environmental > Wetlands > Wetlands FAQ

Wetlands : Frequently Asked Questions

WHICH COUNTY REGULATIONS APPLY TO ENVIRONMENTAL RESOURCES?

The following Divisions of the Martin County Land Development Regulations (LDR) have been written in order to protect environmental resources in Martin County. The full text of each is found in Article 4, Development Standards, of the LDR.

  • Wetlands Protection (Division 1)
  • Uplands Protection (Division 2)
  • Barrier Islands (Division 4)
  • Landscaping, Buffering and Tree Protection (Division 15)

WHAT IS A WETLAND?

Martin County, through Section 4-5.B (1) of the Martin County Comprehensive Growth Management Plan, adopts the definition of wetlands found in Title XXVIII, Chapter 373, Section 373.019 (22) of the Florida Statutes. This definition states that wetlands are "... those areas that are inundated or saturated by surface water or groundwater at a frequency and a duration sufficient to support, and under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soils. Soils present in wetlands are generally classified as hydric or alluvial, or possess characteristics that are associated with reducing soil conditions. The prevalent vegetation in wetlands generally consists of facultative or obligate hydrophytic macrophytes that are typically adapted to areas having soil conditions described above. These species, due to morphological, physiological, or reproductive adaptations, have the ability to grow, reproduce, or persist in aquatic environments or anaerobic soil conditions. Florida wetlands generally include swamps, marshes, bayheads, bogs, cypress domes and strands, sloughs, wet prairies, riverine swamps and marshes, hydric seepage slopes, tidal marshes, mangrove swamps and other similar areas. Florida wetlands generally do not include longleaf or slash pine flatwoods with an understory dominated by saw palmetto."

HOW DO YOU DETERMINE IF A PIECE OF PROPERTY CONTAINS ANY WETLANDS?

The County has prepared maps illustrating the location of wetlands in Martin County. These maps can be used as a screening method to determine if a particular piece of property has a potential for containing wetlands. These maps are based on the Martin County soil survey, the National Wetlands Inventory and satellite imagery. Typically, if any two of these sources indicates the presence of wetlands on a particular piece of property, then the property is likely to contain wetlands.

However, the only reliable way to determine whether or not a piece of property has wetlands is to have the property reviewed in accordance with the State of Florida approved methodology for wetlands determination. Typically, an environmental consultant is hired by the property owner to perform an Environmental Assessment of the property in question. The Environmental Assessment should include a delineation of on-site wetlands and native upland habitat, as well as an identification of any protected animal species found on site.

Usually, the South Florida Water Management District, or in some cases, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, will be contacted by the environmental consultant to verify on-site the consultant's wetland delineation. The final wetland delineation, as agreed to by the consultant and the State agency, should be surveyed by a land surveyor and the wetland area should be included in the property survey as the final wetland delineation of the property. Such a survey drawing will be accepted by the Martin County Growth Management Department as the final wetland delineation for the property.

WHERE CAN I FIND AN ENVIRONMENTAL CONSULTANT?

There are many businesses which have experience conducting environmental consulting, exotic plant removal, or preparation of environmental documents and plans in Martin County. Environmental consultants are listed in the Yellow Pages of your local telephone book.

HOW ARE WETLANDS DEFINED?

Martin County recognizes and accepts the methodology used by the State of Florida in defining wetlands. Section 4.2.B of Division 1 of the Martin County Land Development Regulations states "The state unified wetland delineation methodology will determine the final jurisdictional location and extent of wetlands."

Section 300 of Chapter 62-340 of the Florida Administrative Code contains an explanation of the methodology used by the State in determining the landward extent (i.e. boundary) of wetlands.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, also involved extensively in protection of wetlands in the US, has an informational pamphlet which defines wetlands and explains the importance of wetland determinations. The pamphlet also explains how wetland vegetation, soils, and hydrology are used to make wetland determinations.

WHY DOES MARTIN COUNTY PROTECT WETLANDS?

Martin County is rich in water-related resources, including wetlands. These resources have been one of the main reasons for the County's desirability as a place to live. In addition, wetlands serve many important hydrological and ecological functions including: acting as groundwater recharge and filter areas for the shallow aquifer; reducing the impact of flooding by serving as surface water storage basins; and providing shelter and forage for naturally occurring wildlife.

As a result of the rapid urbanization of Florida's east coast, protection of wetlands and other existing natural resources has been a priority in Martin County since 1970.

IS A MAN-MADE CANAL A WETLAND?

Man-made canals are not considered wetlands, although in some cases, man-made navigable canals connected to waters of the State are protected under provisions of the County's Wetland Protection LDR. Man-made canals clearly excavated in uplands are not considered wetlands and are exempt from the County's wetland protection regulations. Refer to Section 4.2.A., Manmade wetlands, of the LDR.

WHAT IS A WETLAND BUFFER? WHAT IS A CONSTRUCTION SETBACK?

A wetland buffer is an area of land immediately adjacent to a wetland that is set aside as a transition zone to protect the wetland from impacts caused by development of adjacent upland areas.

A construction setback is a ten (10) ft-wide area of land adjacent to a buffer that is set aside to protect the buffer from impacts due to construction and maintenance activities.

In Martin County, negative impacts are not allowed in wetlands and wetland buffers, except as specifically provided for in Section 4.3 of the County's Wetland Protection LDR. Regulations pertaining to wetland buffers and setbacks are explained in the LDR.

WHAT ARE THE MARTIN COUNTY WETLAND BUFFER REQUIREMENTS?

A fifty (50) ft-wide buffer of native vegetation must be preserved around the edge of an isolated freshwater wetland. In addition, a construction setback shall be applied to the buffer area. The construction setback requires that primary structures must be built ten (10) ft from the buffer of native vegetation.

A seventy-five (75) ft-wide buffer of native vegetation must be preserved around the edge of estuarine wetlands (wetlands connected to the St. Lucie, Loxahatchee, or Indian Rivers), waters connected to the estuaries, and waters or wetlands within areas designated as Wetland Areas of Special Concern in the Martin County Comprehensive Growth Management Plan. A construction setback shall be applied to this buffer also. The construction setback requires that primary structures must be built ten (10) ft from the buffer of native vegetation.

If wetlands are found on a site being developed, a Preserve Area Management Plan (PAMP) will be required as part of any development approval. An environmental consultant can provide information on wetlands preservation and can prepare a PAMP for submittal to the County.

ARE THERE WAIVERS OR EXCEPTIONS TO THE COUNTY'S WETLAND REGULATIONS?

Martin County does not allow development in wetlands. However, under certain circumstances, it is possible to get a waiver or exception to the buffer and setback requirements of the County's wetland regulations. These circumstances, and the procedure to be followed to obtain such waivers or exceptions, are explained in the Environmental Waiver Application. (GOTO)

ARE SINGLE-FAMILY RESIDENTIAL LOTS LOCATED ON NAVIGABLE WATERS ELIGIBLE FOR A WAIVER TO WETLAND BUFFER REQUIREMENTS? WHAT IS THE MAXIMUM REDUCTION IN THE WETLAND BUFFER AND CONSTRUCTION SETBACK THAT CAN BE GRANTED?

These are the most commonly asked questions relative to waivers of wetland buffer regulations in Martin County.

Single-family residential lots of record located on navigable waters are eligible to apply for a waiver to wetland buffer and construction setback requirements. Lots of record are defined as those platted (or recorded) before April 1, 1982.

If the wetland buffer waiver application is approved, the wetland buffer can be reduced to a minimum of twenty (20) ft landward of the mean high water line. In addition, the setback can be eliminated completely if the lot is less than one-half acre in size and there is no remaining native vegetation. As conditions of the waiver, existing native upland and transitional vegetation adjacent to the mean high water line must be maintained and either a swale or berm will be required to retain stormwater on site.

This type of waiver does not apply to buffers around isolated wetlands. However, other waivers are available for owners of property containing isolated wetlands. Please refer to the application process noted in the previous question.

WHY ARE ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENTS REQUIRED PRIOR TO DEVELOPMENT OF SOME LOTS?

Martin County requires protection of wetlands, native upland habitat, and protected animal species such as gopher tortoises. Therefore, an Environmental Assessment is required prior to development of any property which has the potential of containing any of them. If the Environmental Assessment finds that the property contains any of them, a Preserve Area Management Plan will be required prior to the start of development, to assure their protection.

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