How to Build a House Near Wetlands

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The beauty of wetlands makes them desirable for building.
The beauty of wetlands makes them desirable for building. (Image: wetland 2 image by Colin Buckland from Fotolia.com)

It is understandable why you want to build a house near wetlands. Wetlands provide habitat to a host of bird life and many unique and beautiful plants. However, there are certain precautions that you need to take before you build. These steps are necessary in order to protect your home from the potential risks inherent in these areas. All your pre-planning will pay off in the end. First, begin with an assessment of the wetlands and any special requirements for building.

Contact your state U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and state natural resources department regarding any regulations for building near wetlands. In some areas, building may be prohibited. There may also be a required buffer distance from the wetlands. In addition, contact your city hall. Larger lake systems with their adjacent wetlands may have local conservation districts which regulate development activity.

Research the flood risk for the area in which you plan to build. Wetlands near surface water such as lakes and streams may be subject to flooding. There also may be seasonal flooding due to winter thaw and spring rains. Consult the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for flood zone maps specific to your area.

Contact your lender regarding flood insurance. FEMA is responsible for the development and maintenance of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) maps. Depending upon the flood risk, you may be required to purchase additional flood insurance.

Find out what type of foundation will be necessary for your home by looking into the projected flood elevation for your site. FEMA or your insurance agent will be able to provide you with this information. You will want to build your home at least one foot above this height to minimize your flood risk.

Make sure any heating oil or storage tanks are anchored to prevent displacement from flood waters.

Build your home with the possibility of flooding in mind. Make sure all electrical outlets and boxes are installed well above floor level.

Place electrical appliances such as water heaters or water softeners on concrete blocks to protect them in the event of a flood.

Minimize potential flood clean-up efforts by using waterproof finishes on any walls of ground level rooms. Make sure all windows are sealed properly. Make sure and seal any holes or cracks on the exterior foundation.

Install a sump pump system with a battery-backup system to protect your home in case of a sewer backup. Sewer backups can occur if nearby streams crest.

Tips & Warnings

  • Minimize the amount of wetlands you develop near your home in order to take advantage of the flood protection they provide.
  • Use caution when applying any pesticides or fertilizers in your garden. With a home built in a wetlands, you need to take extra care regarding your environment impact to avoid harming the wetlands.

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