- Published: 11 February 2013
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Wetland setback regulations are designed to establish distances from water resources where building and other soil disturbing activities are prohibited unless the applicant obtains a variance from the local community. A wetland setback regulation is recommended as part of a community’s stormwater management program for flood control, erosion control, and water quality protection. In general it should be implemented in conjunction with a riparian setback regulation for the community.
The setback distances in CRWP's Model Ordinance for the Establishment of Wetland Setbacks (pdf 58KB) are measured from the delineated edge of the wetlands. Recommended wetlands setbacks are determined by the category of wetland, as determined by Ohio EPA’s wetland assessment methods. CRWP recommends a minimum 75 or 120 foot setback from category 2 and 3 wetlands, respectively.
Why Wetland Setbacks?
Wetlands protect the public health and safety by performing a variety of functions including groundwater recharge, flood flow attenuation and water quality protection. Wetlands also provide unique habitat for wildlife species, many of which are either endangered or threatened and provide opportunities for education, scientific study and recreation. Land use changes surrounding wetlands may increase the flow of water and pollutants to wetlands, overwhelming their ability to provide these functions and threatening their sustainability.
Wetlands cannot continue to provide these functions unless protected from the effects of fluctuations in storm water flow; urban pollutants; disposal of fill or dredged materials; and other impacts of land use change. The State of Ohio has lost over 90 percent of its original wetlands, and the Chagrin River watershed has lost over 80 percent of its original wetlands, due to draining, dredging, filling, excavating, and other acts. This has caused flooding in a significant part of the watershed threatening property and public health and safety. Wetlands have proven to lessen the damage from flooding by slowing the water velocity, enabling water to soak into the ground, and by providing temporary storage of overbank flood flows. As a result, communities are looking for mechanisms to manage the impact of land use changes surrounding wetlands while allowing for continued growth.