An isolated topographical depression in an upland setting where, in most years surface water is present for at least 2 consecutive months during the spring and summer, but not throughout the year, and where fish are absent.

Definition recommended by Murphy and Golet (1998)


The Rhode Island Fresh Water Wetlands Act (RIFWWA) (R.I.G.L., Sections 2-1-18 through 2-1-27) defines a pond as "a place not less than one-quarter (1/4) acre in extent…where open standing or slowly moving water shall be present for at least six (6) months a year."  Vernal pools do not consistently meet this definition because they are often smaller than ¼ acre in size and may hold water for less than 6 months a year.  As a result many vernal pools were not regulated by the RIFWWA or by any other State statute for many years.  To ensure better protection for vernal pools, the 1994 Rules included a new wetland category, special aquatic site (Rule 5.80), which was defined as "a body of open standing water…which does not meet the definition of pond but which is capable of supporting and providing habitat for aquatic lifeforms."  Many vernal pools are regulated as special aquatic sites under the current wetlands program.  [A standing water body is defined in the bill as "a natural or manmade basin… that contains standing or slowly moving water either permanently or for extended seasonal periods."]

What the scoop on WETLANDS ?  DEM's Freshwater Wetlands Program
Rhode Island Department of Environment Management

Generally speaking, wetlands are areas where water covers the soil or is near the surface of the soil for varying periods of time during the year.  Legally, wetlands in Rhode Island fall into a number of categories all with specific definitions found in the Freshwater Wetlands Act and the Rules and Regulations Governing the Administration and Enforcement of the Freshwater Wetland Act.

Rhode Island's vegetated wetlands include swamps, marshes, bogs, and emergent shrub and forested wetlands. Water from rain, snowmelt, and groundwater is necessary to sustain these wetlands and is the controlling factor in the development of wetland soils and plants.  Vegetated wetlands may have standing surface water above the ground or a water table that is underground but close to the surface at least part of the year. The water levels may fluctuate with seasonal changes and the wetland soils may be alternately wet and dry. The frequent wetting and drying make these wetland soils distinctly different from upland soils. The plants that develop and thrive in these wetlands have special adaptations that enable them to live where it is so wet. Only those plants that can withstand the low oxygen levels in the saturated soils can survive.

Rhode Island's other wetlands include flowing and standing water wetlands, floodplains, and perimeter and riverbank wetlands. Flowing and standing water wetlands include rivers, streams, intermittent streams, ponds, special aquatic sites, and areas subject to storm flowage.

Through the Freshwater Wetlands Act and the Rules and Regulations that govern the Act, DEM regulates all freshwater wetlands on the landward side of the jurisdictional boundary  [the jurisdictional boundary coincides with the state and local roads, and those freshwater wetland shoreward of the boundary, i.e., "in the vicinity of the coast", are under the jurisdiction of the CRMC.] no matter how big or small the wetlands are.  The Rules and Regulations define all regulated areas and in some cases size is a determining factor. Specifically, ponds must be at least 1/4 acre in size and hold water for more than 6 months; swamps must be at least 3 acres in size; marshes must be 1 acre or greater; and bogs can be any size.  If a wetland meets the size criteria, DEM regulates not only the main body of water but also that area of land within 50 feet of the wetland as the perimeter wetland.  The perimeter wetland buffers and protects the main body of the wetland form adverse effects and is an integral component of the wetland it is associated with.

Copies of DEM's "What's the Scoop on Wetlands" and "Rules and Regulations" are available by calling the DEM office of Technical and Customer Assistance or by visiting them in the Foundary Building, 235 Promenade Street, Providence.