PennsylvaniaELI State Wetland Protection Status, Trends, & Model Approaches
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Original Wetland Acreage Remaining Wetland Acreage Acreage Lost % Lost
1,127,000 499,014 627,986 -56%

Pennsylvania Wetlands: About 97 percent of wetlands in Pennsylvania are palustrine, about 2 percent are lacustrine, and 1 percent are riverine. Palustrine wetlands consist of deciduous and evergreen forested wetlands, open water, emergent wetlands, deciduous scrub-shrub and emergent wetlands, and others. 

(Please click on heading below to go to that section.)

 Summary Features Regulation Water Quality Standards Mitigation Monitoring and Assessment Restoration Public/Private Partnerships





Overall Program:

The state comprehensively regulates activities in coastal and freshwater wetlands. 

Innovative Features and New Programs/Initiatives:

The state program is based upon a broad statute applying to encroachments in waters of the Commonwealth.   
The Commonwealth’s newest initiative is the Growing Greener program.  The program is a 650 million dollar six-year program to provide wetland, stream and watershed restoration grants to watershed groups, County Conservation Districts and other conservation organizations. 

State Wetland Conservation Plan

Pennsylvania’s Wetlands Protection Action Plan was completed in 1988 reaffirmed in 1997.  

No Net Loss/Net Gain Goal

One of many commitments for Pennsylvania under the Interstate Chesapeake Bay Agreement is no net loss of wetland and ultimately a net gain of 4,000 acres of wetland within the Commonwealth over the next ten years. Wetlands Net Gain Strategy




Wetland Regulatory Statutes and Administrative Rules

Dam Safety and Encroachments Act of 1978; P.L. 1375, No. 325.  Permits are required from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for dams, fills, excavation and other encroachments into Waters of the Commonwealth.  Waters of the Commonwealth includes watercourses, floodways, wetlands and bodies of water.   (Title 25, PA Code

Wetland Definition and/or Delineation; Comparability With Federal Definition

Consistent with the Federal 404 program wetlands are defined in regulation as the following “Areas that are inundated or saturated by surface water 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 including swamps, marshes, bogs and similar areas.”  
By policy the DEP has adopted the 1987 Wetland Identification and Delineation Manual as acceptable delineation methodology. 

Evaluation Methodology

Formal functional assessments such as WET II or HEP may be required for larger projects. 

Regulated and Exempted Activities

Certain agricultural and forestry activities are exempt.  See Special Provisions below.

Special Provisions for Agriculture and Forestry

Agricultural plowing, seeding, cultivating, harvesting, and normal silviculture are not regulated.  However, construction of temporary roads, bridges, and staging areas are regulated. 

Penalties and Enforcement

Up to $10,000 total and $500 a day. 

Permit Tracking

The Division of Waterways, Wetlands and Erosion Control (Division) tracks a number of items including permits issued, acres of wetland impacted, acres replaced, and feet of watercourse impacted.  The Division completes an annual report summarizing this information.   

State General Permit (PGP or SPGP) for 404

A Pennsylvania State Programmatic General Permit (PASPGP) has been in place since March 1995.  Recently the PASPGP was reauthorized and PASPGP-2 is valid until June 30, 2006.  The PASPGP-2 divides activities into three major categories for the purpose of processing permits.  Link: 

Assumption of Section 404 Powers

Pennsylvania has not actively pursued assumption. 

Joint Permitting

Pennsylvania has joint permitting. Under the PASPGP one application covers both programs.  

Special Area Management Plans and Advanced Identification Plans

Coastal zone areas - Pennsylvania does not have an advanced identification program. 

Role of Local Governments

Through Act 67 and 68 local governments are given notice of planned projects, and are encouraged to comment back to the DEP. 

Staffing (Regulatory Staff) 

There are seven education and technical assistance staff in Central Office, 57 permit reviewers across six regional offices, six compliance specialists, and ten administrative staff.

Water Quality Standards

Wetlands and Water Quality Standards

The state has adopted a Section 401 Water Quality Certification (WQC) Program. 401 WQC and the Chapter 105 permitting program are administratively tied.  Wetlands have been included in the Commonwealth’s water quality standards. 

Wetland Definition

No information. 

Designated Uses

Pennsylvania has two major classifications of wetlands – Exceptional Value and Other.   The designation of Exceptional Value (EV) wetlands is based on specific characteristics or uses.  

Narrative and/or Numeric Criteria

DEP has been participating with the Penn State Cooperative Wetlands Center to develop a protocol for assessing wetland quality using HGM, biological criteria, and land cover type. 

Antidegradation Policy

Wetlands have been included in the Commonwealth’s antidegredation policy. 


No information 

Staffing (Wetland Water Quality Staff)

No information 


Mitigation Policy

Mitigation as it relates to avoidance and minimization is required for all applications proposing to impact wetlands, if the impact cannot be avoided compensatory replacement at a minimum 1:1 ratio for areal extent and function and value is required.  

Mitigation Banks

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania supports mitigation banking and currently has a banking agreement with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) to compensate for impacts that occur as a result of the highway construction.  PennDOT wetland banks are operational in three geographic regions.

Because of the small acreage of wetland impacts that are permitted in the Commonwealth, entrepreneurial banking does not appear to be financially viable. 

In Lieu Fee Program

The Commonwealth’s In-lieu fee program, The Pennsylvania Wetland Replacement Project, was developed in 1996 and is covered by a publicly participated guidance document.  Where appropriate, in-lieu compensation can be used.  The funds are used by the Commonwealth to restore or create wetlands in targeted sub basins.  To date approximately 100 acres of wetlands have been restored or created to mitigate for 70 acres of permitted loss.  The current cost per acre for wetland restoration/creation is $7000. 

Ad Hoc Arrangements

There are no Ad Hoc arrangements in the Commonwealth. 

Mitigation Database

Pennsylvania maintains a database to track mitigation losses and gains.  This function will become a routine part of Pennsylvania’s electronic permitting system in the future. 

Staffing (Mitigation Staff)

See staffing under Regulation.

Monitoring and Assessment

Mapping /Inventory

Mapping has been completed by the National Wetlands Inventory for the entire state. 

Wetland Classification and Assessment

Pennsylvania has a cooperative agreement with Penn State Cooperative Wetland Center to develop a protocol for assessing wetland quality. A simple classification is currently provided in regulations for “exceptional value” and “other” wetlands. 

Overall Wetland Gain and Loss Tracking System

A procedure has been developed and is in use for tracking wetland gains/losses from federal, state, and private wetland programs within Pennsylvania. 

Staffing (Monitoring and Assessment Staff.)

See Staffing under Regulation.


Program Description

Various state and federal agencies participate directly for the purpose of wetland restoration in the Commonwealth: the Conservation Reserve Program, the Wetland Reserve Program, Partners for Wildlife, and the Wetland Reserve Program.  Other programs working with matching funds also support wetland restoration as part of their overall environmental goals: Pennsylvania’s Growing Greener, Section 319 grants, and the Pennsylvania Game Commission.  The Wetland Restoration/Creation Site Registry links property owners with those who are required to replace wetlands. 

Restoration Program Goals

Pennsylvania, as part of the Chesapeake Bay goals has committed to restoring at least 400 acres of wetland per year for the next ten years. 

Eligibility Criteria

Pennsylvania gives the highest priority to sites where actual restoration of former wetlands can take place.  A cost/benefit analysis also helps to prioritize project implementation. 

Restoration Database

Pennsylvania has developed a centralized database to track wetland creation and restoration by state and federal agencies.  A single form (Pennsylvania Wetland Net Gain Tracking) has been used by the agencies to report gains and losses and other site conditions.    

Staffing (Wetland Restoration Program Staff.)

Previously mentioned staff (under Regulation) participates in wetland restoration activities. 

Public/Private Partnerships

Acquisition Program

DEP has no active acqusition program.

Public Outreach/Education

Wetland Restoration/Creation Site Registry links property owners with those who are required to replace wetlands.  See Guidebooks below. 

Tax Incentives

Conservation easements that meet federal tax code requirements may be treated as a charitable gift and deducted from income tax.  

Technical Assistance

Technical assistance is available to Growing Greener grant recipients.  The Wetland Restoration/Creation Site Registry links property owners with those who are required to replace wetlands.  Owners are provided with some technical background information to explain whether their property may be a candidate for wetland restoration or creation.  

Other Nonregulatory Incentives for Private Landowners

A Clean and Green program administered at the county level encourage landowners to preserve forested areas and wetlands by reducing property taxes.

Wetland Training and Education

Training staff housed within the Division offer a variety of wetland courses, many in cooperation with Federal Agencies. 
Examples of training Courses:  Soil Taxonomy, Basic Wetland Identification, Interagency Delineation Training, Aerial Photo Interpretation, Wetland Hydrology, Plant Taxonomy, Winter Botany, Constructed Wetlands Workshops. 
The State also provides regulatory training to 40 Conservation Districts with delegation agreements.  
The state has provided regulatory training to more than 500 local government units.  

Watershed Planning

Pennsylvania’s Growing Greener Program provides funding for watershed planning, including prioritization of sites for wetland creation or restoration.

Special Problems

Generally, the intensive education and permit program implemented by the state over the last fifteen years has reduced permitting and wetland issues to a manageable level. 


Pennsylvania’s State Programmatic General Permit requires extensive coordination between several state and federal agencies.  A technical support document, including standard operating procedures and policies has been developed to implement this program.  Meetings are regularly scheduled to up date policies and to foster agency interaction.  Agencies include the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the state Game Commission, the state Fish and Boat Commission, and County Conservation Districts 

Contact Person(s)

Ken Reisinger
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection
P.O. Box 8775
Harrisburg, PA 17105-8775
(717) 787-6827 

Contact Points

None identified. 

Guidebooks, Brochures, Websites, Other Educational Materials

Fact Sheets. 2000. One sheet on each of the following topics:

Clues to Wetland Identification
Wetlands: Functions at the Junctions
Urban Wetlands: Generously Gifting Our Cities
Facts and Falsehoods: A True/False ``Test'' of Wetland Trivia
Wetlands Protection and Agriculture
Gravel Bar Removal
Single and Complete Projects
Wetland Identification Policies
Private Residential Construction in Wetlands
Pennsylvania State Programmatic General Permit-2

Cryptic Clues the Wetland Classroom – elementary education

Values of Wetland Plants to Wildlife – middle school

Yearly Summary Of the Pennsylvania Wetland Replacement Project - 2000

Catalog of Published Pennsylvania Maps. 1982. U.S. Department of the Interior Geological Survey. Dam Safety and Encroachments Act. 1978. 18 pp. Bureau of Dams and Waterway Management. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  
Department of Environmental Resources, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 1990. Wetlands Protection: A Handbook for Local Officials. Environmental Planning Information Series Report #7, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. (Out of print) 
Hill, R.J. 1989. Wetlands: A Conspectus. In Wetlands. Pennsylvania Bar Institute. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. 
Lieu Fee Program: 
General Wetlands Information:  
Joint Permit Application: 
General Permits:


Please note: This report was last revised by the state on June 22, 2004. Please submit any comments or suggestions to