Wetland Delineation: What It Is and Why It Matters

WetlandAt Blaze Design, Inc. we do our best to serve society by conducting detailed, accurate land surveys each and every time we’re out in the field. After all, people all over Vermont and New York depend on us to keep their homes clear of flood plains, unstable terrain, and other environmental hazards. Every now and then, however, we’re lucky enough to be able to serve the very planet on which this great society stands.


Wetland delineation may not be the most glamorous work – in fact, it can get downright filthy – but it is some of the most important survey work around.


Alright, down to brass tacks. What the heck is wetland delineation, anyway? Put simply, wetland delineation is the process of establishing borders between wetlands and adjacent territory. Wetlands are not always so easy to identify. Sometimes, they might only be flooded for a few weeks in a season. Other times, they’re largely concealed by dense vegetation.


The first step in wetland delineation involves taking soil samples and analyzing them based on color and consistency. Dark colored soil indicates an abundance of moisture and decomposed plant matter. As we move further away from wetlands, the soil becomes lighter and sandier.


Next, we study the local foliage and determine whether or not it is characteristic of wetlands. Cattails and fallen grasses are telltale signs of a wetland. Water marks on tree trunks are another common indicator of wetlands.


Finally, we take a step back and examine the grade of the land. Unsurprisingly, wetlands tend to be in low lying areas.  By determining where changes in slope and elevation occur, we can get a better idea of just where a wetland begins and ends.


Now let’s tackle that second, all important question. Why should we care about wetland delineation in the first place?


Wetlands do all sorts of remarkable things to promote the health and well-being of an ecosystem. The vegetation in wetlands acts as a natural filter, removing toxins and pollutants from runoff water before it returns to the ground. We call these floral filters riparian buffers. By delineating wetlands we can protect riparian buffers, thereby preserving the water quality in the surrounding area.Wetland


Not only do wetlands clean our drinking water, they also act as natural traps for greenhouse gasses. We call these gas traps carbon sinks. Without carbon sinks, the greenhouses gasses would have nowhere to go but up into the atmosphere. By delineating wetlands, we can do our part to conserve valuable ecosystems and minimize our carbon footprint.


In Vermont, per state regulations, wetlands are sorted into three classes. The class of wetland determines the size of the buffer zone between the wetland and any future building projects. For builders, it’s important to know what class of wetland you’re dealing with before you break ground on a project. At Blaze Design, we can determine the size of the state mandated buffer zone so that you’ll have a clear picture of where a wetland buffer ends and your project begins.


Are you thinking of starting a build near a wetland? Don’t risk getting stuck with a hefty fine from the state. Call for a consultation today and let us help you identify wetland buffers so your project can go off without a hitch.