The Water Bank Act (“Act”) is a federal legislation enacted to promote the preservation of U.S. wetlands. The Act authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture (“Secretary”) to enter into land restriction agreements with landowners and operators to preserve wetlands and retire adjoining agricultural lands. In return, the landowners are entitled to annual federal payments. Such agreements are entered for a period of 10 years, and upon expiry the contracts may be renewed. Provisions relating to the Act are found under 16 USC §§ 1301 through §§1311.
Pursuant to the Act, the Secretary has the responsibility of formulating and carrying out a continuous program to prevent the serious loss of wetlands and to preserve, restore and improve these lands. The Act expanded coverage to wetland types 6 and 7 (shrub and wooded swamp). It clarified that the definition of wetlands includes artificially created inland fresh areas and other types the Secretary may designate.