Work in a wetland or watercourse, or within 100 feet of those, requires a permit from the IWWA. If the project is in a public drinking water supply watershed, the 150 feet adjacent to the wetland or watercourse is regulated. This buffer area is properly identified as an “Upland Review Area.” Wetlands, watercourses, and Upland Review Areas can collectively be referred to as regulated areas. In general, the types of activities in regulated areas on a residential property requiring a permit include:
Landscaping activities are most likely to be conducted in violation of the regulations, resulting in an enforcement action by the Town. For this reason, homeowners are strongly encouraged to check in with the agency staff to be sure your anticipated work does not require a permit. People are encouraged to visit the office of the agency where extensive records are available for any property with a past application.
Documentation for 1973 to 2010 applications submitted can be accessed through the agency’s public portal. Newer applications are available in the agency’s office. Technical staff are also available to meet with you in the office or come to your site and discuss the land and your project ideas.
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An application to create a pond should be made after careful consideration of the future pond’s support system, e.g., the size and condition of the watershed contributing to the pond, the depth of the pond, and how often it will be fully flushed (water flowing in completely replaces the volume of water in the pond). Ponds should be at least eight feet deep and have side slopes of 1:3, with more shallow slopes for the first 18 inches of depth. This baseline design information will determine the minimum size the pond should be. If there is a small area contributing overland flow to the pond or if the pond is in a stream which flows for only part of the year, the flushing rate will be low and the likelihood nuisance algal blooms and floating vegetation will increase. Similarly, the nature of the landscape contributing overland flows will influence the presence of algal blooms and floating vegetation.
Management of fertilizers, pet waste, impervious surfaces, and failing septic systems on your property and those of your neighbors will make a difference. The pond should be designed with habitat goals in mind not just aesthetic goals; i.e., there should be a buffer area of tall, native grasses or the like between the lawn and the water’s edge to keep lawn chemicals and clippings out of the pond and to discourage geese from congregating. Creation of a pond requires approval of the IWWA and the application documentation will require professional assistance. Larger ponds and larger streams with more extensive watersheds may require additional permits from the Army Corps of Engineers. Generally speaking, creation of a pond in an otherwise healthy wetland is not in the best interest of the wetland, thus obtaining a permit will be difficult.
Repeated disposal of lawn clipping, leaves, and other yard waste in the same area in a wetland or next to it, will result in filling of a regulated area. This violation can be avoided if the yard waste is spread out thin enough that it is capable of decomposing within a year or so, i.e. 4 inches or less for clippings and below the knee for leaves.
If the scrubby area is in a wetland and/or within 100 feet (150 feet in public drinking water supply watersheds) to a wetland and/or watercourse, then the cleanup work will likely be regulated. “Cleaning up” is the most common source of violations largely due to the somewhat vague language in the state statutes, which state “landscape maintenance” is allowed without a permit provided the work does not change the character of the area.
Acknowledging the lack of clarity in regulations, it is best to speak with a member of the agency’s staff, who will gladly meet you and/or your landscaper in the office or on-site to discuss your plans, regulations, and if applicable, the permitting process. There is no charge for this consultation.
Yes, a deer fence, privacy fence, stone wall, etc. requires a permit from the IWWA if it is proposed in a wetland, watercourse, and/or their 100 or 150-foot Upland Review Area. Provided the fence does not include altering the grades or clearing vegetation to accommodate it, a permit should be issued. Permits for fences include a condition requiring the bottom of the fence be set 6 inches off the ground within 35 feet of the wetland or watercourse to allow other wildlife the ability to move across the landscape, though this condition is waived when it conflicts with the building code.
In most cases, if you are removing trees more than 100 feet (150 feet in public drinking water supply watersheds) from a wetland or watercourse, no permit is needed. If you are planning to have trees cut in a wetland or the 100 or 150-foot buffer from the wetland or watercourse, then a permit will be necessary if more than 2 to 3 trees are affected. Agency staff are readily available to meet with you and/or your arborist to discuss your plans in the office or on-site at no charge.
Also be aware that if the tree(s) in question lie between the road and your property line, the town tree warden must be consulted.
Yes, installation of a septic system in regulated areas, even correcting a failed system, requires a permit. Staff will be looking to see that the footprint of disturbance is minimized, erosion and sedimentation controls are adequate, and if applicable, proper mitigation is included, prior to issuing the permit. It is in everyone’s best interest to get the system repaired as quickly as possible.
Unfortunately, violations of the regulations occur and enforcement action follows. The first step is the technical staff issues a stop work order for the property and then issues a cease and correct order. The order is issued to the property owner and the contractor. Recipients will be given the opportunity to speak directly with the agency members to present information as to why the order was issued in error. The agency considers the evidence and determines if the order will be upheld, modified, or withdrawn.
When the order is upheld or modified, the violators will be directed to submit an application for corrective action. This is processed the same way an application is, however the agency doesn’t issue a permit, it issues an order to correct with mandatory dates for implementation.
Application fees for corrective actions are triple the normal base fee. Additionally, the agency has the authority to impose fines of up to $1,000 per violation per day. As a last resort, the agency may seek an injunction from the courts to force a violator to correct a violation. Thankfully, this step is rarely warranted. Fees, fines, and court action associated with violations are expensive and the agency’s staff will gladly make themselves available to help you avoid them. Questions and guidance are free; please don’t be shy!
Because every wetland, watercourse, and project creates a unique set of circumstances, there is no hard and fast “setback” within the 100 or 150-foot regulated buffer. The quality of the wetland, nature of the activity, justification for the activity, and mitigation opportunities are variables the agency and their staff take into consideration.