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Question about property i.e. watershed  RSS feed

 
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We are beginning our search for our off grid property.Came across a 5.3 acre parcel for 49K Owner carry. Terms seem Ok. However the lower left corner, perhaps 1/3 an acre is deemed a watershed. There is a seasonal creek but no standing water we can see.  This year the snowfall was well above average and  record rainfall this Spring and no flooding.  NO swampy or boggy areas. However there is an old homestead in the designated area.  Very well built, sturdy house (neglected and  dirty and home to a few critters)  we would gut and rehab. There is another maybe acre of cleared land the rest of the acreage is dense pine forest. Our plans are solar and wood and some propane for power.  The property has a 20 gpm well installed. I want a large perma culture garden, a few chickens. The property has an outhouse, I would rather do a compost toilet.  Does anyone have any experience with wetland designated property? Any advice etc? Thanks
 
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Posts: 825
Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
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Hello,

Wetland properties are a bit of a tricky thing depending on your local regulations. I can only really talk about my experience with my areas rules but they are fairly strict here. My property does not have a wetland but it does have a wetland buffer. Basically same rules apply as if the wetland was on my place and it is aimed at protecting the actual wetland. Could this be the case for your property? In my area past allowed uses were grandfathered in when they established the regulations. This has given me some options since part of it was used historically as a parking lot (I have since started to restore this area and have a nice large hugel bed there) and the rest was used as a horse pasture. But I can't build in it since there was no structures - if there was I would be able to build on the same foot print. So potentially this could give you some options depending on your local rules.

Also, if your area is just a wetland buffer and not an actual wetland you could get a survey done that would determine if it is actually a wetland or not. When wetland and wetland buffers are established it is done using aerial photography so they tend to miss some and over estimate others. A survey could show that there is no wetland and then you would just need to work with the county to get the classification changed. This is a fairly standard procedure. In my case I'm not doing a survey because as a trained hydrologist and ecologist I can easily tell that if I had a survey done much of my buffer would be reclassified as an actual wetland which would then also expand the buffer. This would restrict my options so I'm not going this route. So be careful because sometimes a wetland survey does not help though I think you can choose if you want the surveyor to submit the info to the county or not - the surveyor gets paid in either case.

Hope that helps and good luck!
 
Posts: 213
Location: SE Oklahoma
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Connie Johnson wrote:There is a seasonal creek but no standing water we can see.  This year the snowfall was well above average and  record rainfall this Spring and no flooding.  NO swampy or boggy areas.



You can tell whether water sometimes stands by what trees, grasses and other plants grow in an area. For example, in SE Oklahoma and parts of Texas, native persimmon trees thrive where water stands, but the pecan trees that grow near them thrive just beyond where the water stands.

So picture a wet-weather creek flowing through a property. Where the persimmon trees are is where the water stands. Just a little further from the creek (a few feet to a few dozen feet) is where the pecan trees grow. (These are trees that planted themselves by their seeds floating down the creek.)

When man-made ponds overflow, water spreads in a particular area. Some of it stands in water a lot. Where the water does not stand, the persimmon trees are not spreading. Where the water DOES stand for weeks on end, persimmon trees are popping up everywhere. So are wild grapes.

Some grasses and plants grow best where the soil stays wet and others will not grow where water stands. Become familiar with which is which and when you look at property you can tell what the patterns are during seasons when you aren't there to look.

Note which trees and plants grow along fence lines where it is wetter and where it isn't. Those are planted by birds sitting on the fences. Some will only grow where water stands or water runs off the property into the bar ditch (manmade channels on each side of roads so that water runs away from the road).

Others will grow anywhere along a fence line. That indicates that they don't need as much water.
 
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Location: Ozark Border
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Current federal law doesn't recognize seasonal streams or water bodies for protection under the Clean Water Act, nor do most state and local laws.  As long as there's not water flowing year-round, you won't run afoul of any statutes there.  The only thing that could be an issue is if there's sensitive plant and animal communities using the seasonal waterway, contacting the state Department of Natural Resources, Fish and Game agency, or US Fish and Wildlife Service office should take care of those questions, they're typically pretty good about determining what species occur where. 

The general rule of thumb is a 30-foot buffer on either side of the stream bank, although this my not be feasible if the homesite is near the waterway and only 1/3 of an acre.  Depending on where you are in the world and the fire risk, you'll also need to maintain a firebreak around the house.  Any offset from the stream bank is better than nothing, it'll reduce runoff downstream, reduce erosion and incision of the stream channel, provide habitat and maintain a corridor for wildlife to move along.

It's good the soil isn't ponding at the surface, but there may be a perched water table a foot or less from the surface necessitating raised beds or other projects if you're interested in cultivating root crops.  Is it possible to learn from the current owner or previous tenant why the homesite was abandoned?  If the soil's seasonally saturated, water may infiltrate the concrete pad (I'm assuming it's a pad) and pull moisture into the house.

Good luck!
 
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