New Mexico
Environment Department

Contact Information:
(505) 827-2855 MAIN // 1-800-219-6157 (toll free)
Environmental Emergencies:
505-827-9329 (24 hrs)

Surface Water Quality

Wetlands Issues and Legislation

Impacts to wetland resources and their resultant effects to water quality have become an important focus for the SWQB Wetlands Program.


Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County (SWANCC) v. United States Army Corps of Engineers (US ACE) et al.

The January 2001 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in the SWANCC case limited the jurisdiction of the US ACE under US Clean Water Act (CWA) Section (§) 404 to protect certain water resources.  The court ruled that the Migratory Bird Rule was insufficient as the sole basis for the US ACE to exercise federal CWA jurisdiction over isolated, intrastate, non-navigable waters including wetlands. 

The Albuquerque District of the US ACE has interpreted SWANCC broadly for New Mexico by asserting that closed basins are no longer jurisdictional under §404. This interpretation threatens the health of rivers, streams, and wetlands within over 20 percent of the State’s land area.

Many playas of the Llano Estacado are considered isolated wetlands.

It is now up to individual states to assist in providing protection measures for water resources, including wetlands, no longer protected by federal regulations or programs

Clean Water Act § 404

Although most commonly associated with activities that involve filling of wetlands, CWA § 404 actually deals with one broad type of pollution:

placement of dredged or fill material into all “waters of the United States”‘

Wetlands are one component of “waters of the United States”, however, in New Mexico there are numerous other types: intermittent streams, small perennial streams, rivers, and lakes, to name a few.

The §404 permit program is administered jointly by the US EPA and US ACE

The US ACE handles the actual issuance of permits (both individual and general); it also determines whether a particular plot of land is a wetland or a ‘waters of the United States‘. The Corps has primary responsibility for ensuring compliance with permit conditions, although US EPA also plays a role in compliance and enforcement.  The US EPA issues certain guidelines and policies, including methods for determining whether a particular tract is a wetland.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service plays an important role where federal Threatened & Endangered
species exist

For more information or to obtain a § 404 Permit, please visit:

Albuquerque District Regulatory Program
US ACE Headquarters Regulatory (Permits)