DEEP: Information for Municipalities

Information for Municipalities

What are municipal responsibilities toward tidal wetlands?

Although activities within tidal wetlands are regulated by the DEEP, municipalities are responsible for ensuring that adjacent upland development does not harm these resource areas. The Connecticut Coastal Management Act contains policies and standards regarding tidal wetlands that must be applied during the municipal coastal site plan review process. Generally speaking, land use boards and commissions in coastal municipalities must ensure that development will not result in degradation of tidal wetlands, and that tidal wetlands are preserved, protected and, to the extent practicable, restored.

What can a municipality do to minimize impacts to tidal wetlands?

Update the municipal Plan of Conservation and Development, Municipal Coastal Program, if applicable, and zoning and subdivision regulations to better protect tidal wetlands by providing development setbacks and vegetated buffers from the upland edge of tidal wetlands which are adequate to protect the wetlands from runoff, erosion, construction, and other negative impacts that might result from development on adjacent upland resources. (See fact sheets regarding Vegetated Buffers, Stormwater Management and Water Quality for more information.)

Amend zoning regulations to require on-site, upland retention of the runoff associated with the first one-inch of rainfall and to direct additional runoff, after appropriate treatment, away from tidal wetlands. Freshwater inputs such as those associated with stormwater runoff adversely impact the brackish and saline ecosystems that characterize most tidal wetlands in Connecticut. (See fact sheets regarding Water Quality and Stormwater Management for additional information.)

  • Review the existing zoning regulations regarding the maximum impervious cover allowed. Reduce this wherever possible, especially adjacent to coastal waters and other sensitive coastal resources.
  • Include in the municipal Plan of Conservation and Development or Municipal Coastal Program, if applicable, an inventory of tidal wetland areas and adjacent upland for possible open space acquisition.
  • Preserve or restore the structure, function, and integrity of the physical and biological components of tidal wetlands by encouraging projects that would: 1) maintain or restore the natural tidal flushing, circulation, and chemical characteristics of tidal wetlands and adjacent estuarine waters; 2) maintain or restore the natural plant and animal species that inhabit tidal wetlands; and, 3) avoid adverse impacts to U.S. and state listed threatened and endangered species.
  • Disallow extensions of water and sewer lines into tidal wetlands except sewers that will accommodate existing uses with limited excess capacity may be used when necessary to abate existing sources of pollution.
  • Employ siting alternatives which will avoid or substantially limit negative impacts, such as the following: 1) siting inconsistent uses out of tidal wetlands on adjacent upland areas, or 2) siting consistent uses in such a manner as to avoid or minimize the tidal wetland area affected. When siting consistent uses, consider requiring construction techniques which will avoid or substantially limit impacts such as: 1) elevation of consistent uses on low impact pile foundations at a height sufficient to prevent or minimize the effects of shading on the wetland vegetation; 2) storage of construction materials and equipment in non-wetland areas; 3) provision of waterborne access to the construction site, or use of temporary elevated construction accessways; 4) schedule construction activities during late fall, winter or early spring months when impacts to wetland systems are generally the least harmful; 5) schedule construction activities so as to avoid shorebird, shellfish and finfish breeding seasons; and 6) restore all disturbed marsh surfaces as nearly as possible to their natural topographic condition following construction activities and re-establishing a natural vegetation cover.
  • Where applicable, as a component of permitted activities, rehabilitate and restore degraded tidal wetlands through such means as 1) restoration of natural tidal range or circulation patterns 2) restoration of tidal flushing and circulation to wetlands which were formerly connected to tidal waters, and 3) re-establishment of marsh vegetation.

Additional Resources for Municipalities: