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17. Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act and Rivers Protection Act
Authorities: M.G.L. c. 131, § 40: Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act; 310 CMR 10.00: Wetlands Regulations.
Jurisdiction: Any wetland, including:
In addition, a 100-foot buffer zone around any fresh water or coastal resource listed above is subject to jurisdiction.
Applicability: Any construction in or near a wetland resource, including intertidal and subtidal habitat, is subject to the provisions of the Wetlands Protection Act (WPA).
Regulatory Summary: Local Conservation Commissions and the Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), Wetlands Program administer the WPA (310 CMR 10:00: Wetlands Regulations). The purpose of the WPA is to protect Massachusetts wetlands resources and to ensure that the beneficial functions of these resources are maintained. The resources identified are protected because they fulfill the public interest to protect public and private water supply, protect fisheries, protect groundwater supply, provide flood control, protect land containing shellfish, prevent storm damage, protect wildlife habitat, and prevent pollution. These interests are protected by a “no net loss of wetlands” policy. Projects that affect wetlands are required to avoid impacts where possible, minimize unavoidable impacts, and mitigate for unavoidable impacts. Performance standards define the levels of environmental impacts that cannot be exceeded.
Projects proposed in wetlands resource areas or in the buffer zone around them must obtain a local Order of Conditions. Wetland resources include land under the ocean, coastal banks, coastal beaches and tidal flats, coastal dunes, barrier beaches, rocky intertidal, salt marshes, land under salt ponds, Designated Port Areas, land containing shellfish, and land on the banks of fish runs.
Review Process: Proponents of projects in wetlands or in the buffer zone around them must apply for an Order of Conditions from the municipal Conservation Commission. In addition to the requirements of the WPA, project proponents should check with Conservation Commission officials to determine if there are any local wetlands by-laws applicable to the project. Applicants must also obtain a list of abutters from the Assessors Office so that the abutters can be notified of the proposed project.
The application, called the Notice of Intent (NOI), which describes the type and boundaries of resource areas and the type of work proposed, is submitted by the applicant to the Conservation Commission along with supporting plans. A professional engineer generally must stamp plans. A copy of the NOI is also submitted to the regional office of DEP, which issues a project number for the proposed activity. A legal notice is published in a local newspaper. Upon completion of these steps, the Conservation Commission opens the public hearing of the proposal.
If the project is approved or approved with conditions, the Commission has up to 21 days to issue an Order of Conditions (OOC). Abutters, a group of 10 citizens, or the applicant have 10 days to appeal an approval to DEP. If the proposal is denied, the applicant can appeal the decision to DEP. If the project is appealed, MassDEP will issue a Superceding Order of Conditions (SOOC), either confirming or altering the original Order.
Forms: WPA Form 3 Notice of Intent at www.mass.gov/dep/water/approvals/wpaform3.pdf - (PDF, 114 KB).
Fees: Based on the category of the proposed activity and resources affected (310 CMR 10.03).
Contact: MassDEP Wetlands Program (617) 292-5695.
Publication Date: Fall, 2003
A publication of the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) pursuant to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Award No. NA170Z2338. This publication is funded (in part) by a grant/cooperative agreement from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of NOAA or any of its sub-agencies.