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The Five Steps

Photo by Will Parson/Chesapeake Bay Program

We’ve broken the process of building or restoring a wetland into five general steps. This process usually takes one to two years to complete, with construction occurring in the summer and fall.

Five Steps to Building or Restoring Your Wetland

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  • Step 1: Find Technical Support

    There is free technical support available to you from your local conservation district office and county offices of the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Farm Service Agency (FSA). These wetland planners can guide you through the process of wetland restoration from finding and applying for funding to designing and maintaining your wetland. One of the first things they will do is determine if, based on the characteristics of your property, building or restoring a wetland is feasible.

    Use our searchable directory to find to find wetland planners to help you navigate the restoration process.

  • Step 2: Find Funding

    There are two main kinds of programs that fund wetland restoration on agricultural lands: easements and cost share programs. Easements usually cover all wetland restoration costs and require a project to remain in place forever. Cost share programs usually cover a percentage of wetland restoration costs and require a project to remain in place for 10 to 15 years. Some cost share programs pay rent for the land that has been restored. Depending on where your wetland is located, state funds could be available to cover any expenses not backed by a cost share program.

    Some funding programs provide one-time payouts, while others provide yearly payments over a set period of time.

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture is the largest funder of wetland restoration in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. It supports wetland restoration through two agencies: the Natural Resource Conservation Service and the Farm Service Agency. Both of these agencies have planners on staff who can offer you free assistance. These planners may need to visit the site of your proposed project to examine its elevation and topography and determine whether it is eligible to receive federal funds. If it is not eligible, they may be able to recommend alternative funding sources.

    Nonprofit organizations, land trusts and your local Soil and Water Conservation District may also offer financial incentives for restoring wetlands on your land.

    Use our searchable directory to find funding programs near you or to find wetland planners to help you navigate the restoration process

  • Step 3: Apply for Funding & Design Your Wetland

    If you are eligible to receive funding from an easement or cost share program, representatives from that program will help you fill out and submit your application.

    Once your application has been approved, someone will need to design a wetland that meets the requirements of your funding program and your own budget and specifications. Some funding programs will connect you with a technical service provider who will design and build your wetland. Others will require you to find your own design and construction contractor.

  • Step 4: Build Your Wetland

    The agency or organization funding your restoration project will work with you and your wetland planner throughout the construction process. As a team, you will need to make sure that whatever is being built matches the approved design.

  • Step 5: Maintain Your Wetland

    The terms of your funding program may require you to perform some level of maintenance on your newly restored wetland. This could include mowing, managing water levels or removing woody or invasive plants. Your wetland planner can help you understand your maintenance obligations when you are developing the contract for building your wetland.

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