Wetlands: how do they impact your land?

June 21, 2023

Examining why wetlands matter and how they affect the value of land

Wetlands are everywhere here in the coastal plains of North Carolina, varying from potholes a few inches deep with nothing but a few cattails to huge expanses of deep black water swamps filled with ancient cypress trees. They’re as environmentally diverse as other major biomes like rainforests and critical habitat that support the wildlife we share a home with on the coast.

Protecting wetlands makes sense but how best to protect them has been a fierce point of debate for years.

Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling that has overturned the EPA’s definition of wetlands. Any depressions or pockets of standing water existing on land over the past years have generally been identified as wetlands and protected from any human impacts such as filling them or digging in them. 

Speculation on the new ruling follows that protected areas are where the surface waters connect to a “nexus” of navigable water, following the provisions of the Clean Water Act. In other words, wetlands that don’t flow out to a major body of water may no longer be heavily regulated.

While some states will not immediately feel the ramifications, North Carolina will certainly be one of the first ones impacted. The Clean Water Act is in place to ensure we have access to navigable water with the standards that they’re swimmable, fishable, and drinkable. Nobody in their right mind would argue against that if they enjoy boating in the ICW, swimming at the beach, or fishing in the Cape Fear river.

But where it gets complicated is when someone purchases a lot to build their home on or invested in a property with hopes of future development.