Wetlands and Permits

As a waterfront property owner, you should know your way around the regulatory process because sooner or later you may want to do a project in a portion of your yard or shoreline that is regulated. If you want to do something that would disturb wetlands, shallow water habitat (“subaqueous land”), or want to disturb or build within 100 feet of the shoreline in Virginia, you must obtain a permit from one or more of the federal, state and local agencies that regulate these habitats. To simplify the permit application process, the local, state, and federal regulatory agencies use the same application form called the "Joint Permit Application."

This section lists activities which require permits and provides graphics to help you identify wetland areas. If you know you need to apply for a permit, get details about the joint permit application and learn about navigating the permit process.  

Disturbances on the “buffer” for which regulatory review is required include:

Digging, disturbing land within 100 feet of a shoreline or wetland

Cutting trees and shrubs within 100 feet of a shoreline or wetland

Paving or covering open areas within 100 feet of a shoreline or wetland

Wetlands disturbing activities for which permits are required:

Filling or draining wetlands

Dredging boat channels

Building bulkheads

Building rip rap shoreline stabilization structures

Building private piers

Building boathouses

Building marinas and community piers

Building boat ramps

To be prepared to navigate the permitting process make sure you:

Know where the wetlands are in your yard and your community.

Identify your 100 foot buffer.

Become familiar with the federal, state and local regulatory agencies

Follow Virginia’s Wetlands Guidelines , Subaqueous Guidelines and Shoreline Development BMP’s when making plans for your project. You can get these publications from the Virginia Marine Resources Commission.

Understand which agencies have jurisdiction over the property in question by using the chart on this page.