Identifying Wetlands

Wetlands area


The term "wetlands," by federal definition, means:
"Those areas that are inundated or saturated by surface or ground water 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."

Additionally, the COE regulates discharges and construction into any "navigable water," defined as:

"Those waters that . . . are presently used, or have been used in the past, or may be susceptible for use to transport interstate or foreign commerce. A determination of navigability, once made, applies laterally over the entire surface of the waterbody, and is not extinguished by later actions or events which impede or destroy navigable capacity."

Navigable waters must be semi-permanent and have defined bed and banks, such as Lake Superior, Nemadji River, Superior, and St. Louis Bays, for example.

Wetlands area and vegetation

Different Types of Wetlands

There are several different types of wetlands found within Superior. The majority of wetlands in Superior are shrub or wooded swamps and sedge or fresh meadows. These wetlands usually have standing water in the spring but dry out over the summer when there is less rain. Typical shrubs include willows, red-osier dogwood, and alder. Other wetland types in Superior include seasonally flooded basin, floodplain forest, shallow marshes, and hardwood swamps.

Not all wetlands have cattails and not all wetlands are wet all the time. In the summer, vegetation is a good indicator of wetlands. Plants like sedges, iris, bluejoint, alder, willow, aspen, and selected ferns are usually found in wetlands.

The only way to know where the wetland boundaries are exactly, is to have a wetland professional (click here for a list of qualified wetland delineators) perform a wetland delineation during the growing season.

Principle Wetland Components

Wetlands must include ALL THREE of the following principle wetland components:
  • Hydrology: soil must be saturated to the surface for at least 5% of the growing season (typically 2 weeks).
  • Soils: must contain unique characteristics indicating the presence of water. In Hermantown, much of the soil contains clay, which may retain water. Seasonal wetland soils often have small red iron concentrations, while frequently inundated wetland soil may often be black or gleyed (gray).
  • Vegetation: must be dominated by wetland species. All plant species have a wetland rating, indicating their preference or avoidance of wetland habitats.

In order to be defined as a wetland, the area must have all three wetland components. If any component has been altered or is unclear, it is up to the wetland delineator's professional judgment to determine wetland boundaries. Wetland delineations should not be performed if the vegetation is mowed or cut or if there is snow or frost on/in the ground.

Wetland Delineations

Wetland delineations must be approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. A preliminary review of the wetland boundary may be requested by the City of Superior's Environmental Regulatory Coordinator.

To find out if there are wetlands on your property, contact the City of Superior's Environmental Regulatory Coordinator, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or a qualified wetland delineator (view a list of qualified wetland delineators).