Wetland regulation is a complex topic. There are a myriad of laws designed to protect wetlands. There are also sometimes overlapping authorities given to different government entities. Some of these entities use slightly different wetland definitions. With so many laws, regulatory entities, and wetland definitions, determining who has jurisdiction over a specific wetland or activity and what procedures must be followed can be confusing. The following section attempts to explain the regulatory processes most individuals and organizations are likely to encounter.
Because land resources are limited and the demand being placed on them is always increasing, it is inevitable that some human activities will negatively affect wetlands. Recognizing the importance of wetlands, both federal and state governments have established regulatory measures to help protect these resources. As a result, if a proposed activity is likely to result in an adverse impact to a wetland, certain procedures must be followed.
There are essentially five government agencies with primary regulatory authority over wetlands in Illinois. These agencies work cooperatively with one another for the protection of these resources. Three Federal Agencies: the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), and the United States Department of Agriculture/Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA/NRCS) make up this list along with two state agencies: the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA).
Each agency is granted specific wetland regulatory authorities through separate federal or state legislative acts. The USEPA receives its authority from the 1972 federal Water Pollution Control Act, also known as the Clean Water Act (CWA). The USACE receives its authority from Section 404 of the same act. The USDA/NRCS receives its authority from the National Food Security Act of 1985 (NFSA) and its subsequent amendments. IDNR receives most of its authority from the Interagency Wetlands Policy Act of 1989 (IWPA) and peripheral authority through the state's Rivers, Lakes, and Streams Act (RLSA). IEPA receives its authority from Section 401 of the CWA.