Wetlands & Riparian Areas

Wetlands & Riparian Areas
Many properties within Pitkin County contain wetlands, especially those along streams, rivers, lakes and ponds. This can present a challenge to some developments, but oftentimes results in aesthetic benefit to property owners in the long run. Wetlands and riparian areas near water bodies or in isolated locations are highly important for wildlife, providing food, water and nesting materials. Wetlands also protect and improve water quality by filtering out pollutants, store flood waters and maintain surface water flow during dry periods.

Pitkin County's Land Use Code recognizes the value of wetlands, riparian areas and meadows as natural filters and buffers for water quality and wildlife habitat. Section 3-50-040 addresses minimum setbacks from streams. The code allows for greater setbacks if it is "necessary to protect streamside vegetation, wetlands or riparian habitat."

Section 404 Permits
Wetlands are managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) as part of interstate waters (waters necessary for navigation and commerce in the United States). The Corps has developed a formal permitting process - the Section 404 permit - to help property owners and developers manage their wetland resources within the U.S. government's "no net loss" policy. The EPA website below gives initial guidance on wetlands policy and also has recent news on regulatory changes and scientific discoveries pertaining to wetlands.

It is useful to know that nearly all earthwork within a wetland requires a Corps permit. Pitkin County can assist you with information on how to obtain this permit from the Corps and will review the permitted work as part of an application for a land use approval.

You can contact the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' office in Grand Junction at 970-243-1199 for more information on the Section 404 permitting process.