Local Wetland Ordinances

Local wetland ordinances are one of the ways that local governments can protect vernal pools and other natural features at the fine scale that small wetlands require in the state of Michigan.

This page can serve as an introduction to local wetland ordinances, and is a summary of EGLE's Kate Kilpatrick's presentation on Tools for Local Protection of Wetlands, Lakes, and Streams. Please visit EGLE's webpage on Local Wetland Protection for more information. 

For an example of a Model Wetland Ordinance, click here.

Local wetland ordinances must meet certain requirements under Part 303

  • Can only regulate same activities and make decisions in same timeframe as Part 303
  • Cannot regulate activities that are exempt under Part 303
  • Must use application form provided by state
  • Must process permit in similar manner as other local approvals and coordinate permit applications (for state jurisdictional wetlands) with state when needed
  • Must use state definition of wetland, except than can regulate isolated wetlands smaller than 5 acres
  • Must include a provision in the ordinance that allows a landowner to request a revaluation of a property that has receive a permit denial


If you are looking to protect a wetland under 2 acres, such as a vernal pool, your site is required to have at least one “essentiality determination”.

Must find that site provides one of the following: 

  • Threatened or endangered plant, fish, or animal species
  • Locally rare ecosystem
  • Plants or animals of identified local importance
  • Documented groundwater recharge
  • Flood and storm water control
  • Breeding, feeding, and nesting grounds for wildlife
  • Protects sub-surface water supplies
  • Pollution treatment by serving as biological and chemical oxidation basin
  • Erosion control by absorbing silt and organic matter
  • Sources of nutrients in water food cycles


This is an easy hurdle because wetlands by definition, will serve at least the following functions:

  • Hydrologic absorption and storage capacity
  • Pollution treatment by serving as oxidation basin
  • Absorbs silt and sediment
  • Wildlife habitat


For more on how to develop an ordinance, common misconceptions, and how to cover the costs of an ordinance, click here