DEEP: Overview of Connecticut's Coastal Permit Program

Overview of Connecticut's Coastal Permit Program

The DEEP's Office of Long Island Sound Programs (OLISP) regulates all activities conducted in tidal wetlands and in tidal, coastal or navigable waters in Connecticut under the Structures, Dredging and Fill Act (Conn. Gen. Statutes (CGS) Sec. 22a-359 - 22a-363f, inclusive) and the Tidal Wetlands Act (CGS Sec. 22a-28 - 22a-35, inclusive). The major objectives of the permit program are to avoid or minimize navigational conflicts, encroachments into the state’s public trust area, and adverse impacts on coastal resources and uses, consistent with the Connecticut Coastal Management Act (CGS Sec. 22a-90 - 22a-112, inclusive). 

Three types of permits are issued for activities conducted along the coast, depending on the nature of the work proposed. Each involves a different review process, as explained below.

Individual Permits
Certain activities require an "individual" permit specific to the proposed work. These activities typically include new construction and other work for which a detailed review of potential environmental impacts is needed. The review process for an individual permit provides an opportunity for public comment.

Certificates of Permission
Minor activities related to previously authorized work may be eligible for a Certificate of Permission (COP). These activities include maintenance dredging and substantial maintenance of existing structures. In some cases, maintenance of unauthorized activities that were completed prior to specific dates may also be covered by a COP. In addition, certain environmentally beneficial activities such as the removal of derelict structures and restoration of degraded tidal wetlands may be approved through the COP process. COPs are issued within 45 days, or within 90 days if additional information is requested by OLISP to complete its review.

General Permits
General permits are issued to authorize certain minor activities. Because the environmental impacts of those activities are understood, detailed permit reviews are generally not required. General permits are typically issued within 90 days if a complete application is received. The following structures and activities may be eligible for authorization through a general permit:

  • Small residential docks having no navigational or environmental impacts
  • Boat moorings
  • Osprey nesting platforms and perch poles
  • Residential flood hazard mitigation
  • Buoys and markers for navigation and certain recreational activities
  • Swim floats
  • Pump-out facilities at marinas
  • Coastal remedial activities

The Application Review Process

Before submitting a permit application, we advise that you consult with staff from OLISP to determine the appropriate permit process. A pre-application meeting is strongly recommended prior to the submittal of an application seeking authorization to work within tidal wetlands, or in tidal, coastal, or navigable waters of the state. We also recommend that you consult with and/or hire a professional such as a land surveyor, engineer or environmental/marine consultant familiar with our Department’s permitting process who can assist you in the preparation of the application and plans. 

You may call 860-424-3034 to request an application package and to schedule a pre-application meeting with the appropriate Permitting and Enforcement analyst who is assigned to the town in which you are proposing the project. Please be sure to fill out and bring a completed pre-application questionnaire along with supporting documents to the pre-application meeting.

If you are applying for an individual permit, you must publish a Notice of Application in a local newspaper, notify the chief elected official of the municipality in which the activity is proposed, and pay an initial application fee. Following an initial review of your application, you will receive a letter assessing a permit fee based on the project’s area of impact, and requesting additional information if necessary. When your application is complete, OLISP will publish a public Notice of Tentative Determination as to its permissibility. The public may submit comments on the application, and in some cases a public hearing may be held. General permits and Certificates of Permission also require application fees, but neither requires a public notice or hearing.

Proposed activities will be reviewed to determine their potential effect on coastal resources and uses. Factors that will be considered include the effect of the project on:

  • the preservation of natural habitats and living marine resources
  • shoreline erosion and coastal flooding
  • water quality and pollution control
  • the use and development of all adjoining lands
  • coastal and inland navigation
  • use of the state’s public trust land and water
  • the rights and interests of all persons concerned with the proposed activity

If you are proposing to do work which requires a United States Army Corps of Engineers permit for discharge of dredged material or for the placement of rock, soil or other fill material in tidal waters, you may also need to obtain a state Water Quality Certificate. Certificates are issued by DEEP in accordance with Section 401 of the federal Clean Water Act and the Connecticut Water Quality Standards, and are generally incorporated in the corresponding DEEP permit. Certain minor activities may qualify for an Army Corps Programmatic General Permit (PGP), which is an expedited process for securing Corps permits. Information about the PGP may be obtained from the OLISP permit staff.

Coastal Regulatory Jurisdiction

The area of the shore subject to Connecticut’s permit authority includes everything waterward of the Coastal Jurisdiction Line (CJL) or within the bounds of tidal wetlands.  The CJL is an elevation in the North American Vertical Datum of 1988 (NAVD88) and is based on a specific predicted tide.  The mean high water line (MHW) is the line on the shore indicating the average shoreward extent of all high tides. The MHW line also denotes the seaward limit of private property ownership in Connecticut. The mean low water line (MLW) represents the average limit of all low tides. Navigable waters include tidal rivers upstream to the limit of the first dam or obstruction.

The Public Trust Doctrine
The submerged lands and waters below the mean high water (MHW) line in Connecticut belong to all citizens of the state under the ancient common law public trust doctrine. The public trust area is also referred to as tidelands.

The general public may freely use these intertidal and subtidal lands and waters for fishing, shell-fishing, hunting, boating, sunbathing and walking along the beach. DEEP works to preserve these rights by regulating the encroachment of private structures into the public trust area and by promoting public access opportunities throughout the Connecticut coast.

Connecticut’s Coastal Permit Program

The activities listed here are regulated by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s coastal permit programs. The applicable permit program(s) for each activity is abbreviated and listed parenthetically: P = individual permit; GP = general permit; COP = certificate of permission. Staff of the Office of Long Island Sound Program’s (OLISP) Permit Section are available to discuss permit requirements and to meet with applicants to explain the review process. For further information please call OLISP at 860-424-3034.

Stormwater Management
Coastal development sites must incorporate proper stormwater management measures. Sites should be developed to retain existing natural vegetation, reduce site disturbance and overall impervious cover, and pretreat runoff to tidal waters and wetlands. Drainage from paved surfaces should be directed to stormwater collection systems that are outfitted with appropriate pretreatment structures, such as swirl concentrators. Stormwater outfalls must be permitted. (P)

Revetments
Revetments which have been authorized and maintained in useable condition may generally be repaired, provided there is no further encroachment into intertidal or subtidal habitat. The construction of new revetments is strongly discouraged. Please note that revetment construction also requires municipal Coastal Site Plan Review. (P,COP)

Utilities
Installation of submarine cables and pipelines must be sited to minimize impacts on intertidal and subtidal resources, including shellfish beds and submerged vegetation, and must not interfere with navigation and public access. Cables which are no longer in use must be removed. (P)

Bulkheads
Bulkheads which have been authorized and maintained in useable condition may generally be repaired. Bulkheads should be replaced in-kind and in-place if possible, however, if oversheeting is necessary, the additional encroachment of the rebuilt structure into tidal waters should extend no more than 18 inches. The construction of new bulkheads is strongly discouraged unless necessary to support water dependent uses on the adjacent upland. Water dependent uses are those which require direct access to, or location in, marine or tidal waters, such as maritime industry, recreational and commercial fishing operations, marinas, boat building facilities and shipyards. (P,COP)

Tidal Wetland Restoration
Accurate surveying and specialized low ground pressure equipment must be used in restoring degraded tidal wetlands to prevent further damage to healthy wetland habitat. (COP)

Osprey Platforms and Perch Poles
Osprey nesting platforms must be located a minimum distance from man-made disturbances and from other platforms. (GP)

Docks, Ramps, Floats and Pilings
Residential docks must be designed to prevent shading of tidal wetland grasses and intertidal flats, avoid areas of submerged aquatic vegetation, minimize encroachment into public trust lands, and allow continued navigation and public access along the shore. A generally acceptable dock design in most settings includes a fixed pier extending to mean low water, a ramp and a 10' x 10' float. (P,COP,GP)

Construction Landward of the High Tide Line
Construction activities landward of the high tide line that may have adverse impacts on coastal resources are subject to Coastal Site Plan Review, as appropriate, by individual municipalities. In addition to undertaking stormwater management practices, precautions must be taken to prevent direct construction-related impacts to adjacent resources.

Stairs
Stairs or ladders used to access the beach over slopes and seawalls should be kept above the high tide line where possible. (P)

Public Access Facilities
Public access boardwalks, walkways and viewing platforms are encouraged, but generally should not be constructed in or encroach upon tidal wetlands, beaches and dunes, or intertidal flats. (P)

Seawalls
The construction of new seawalls is discouraged because they often perpetuate or exacerbate the erosion of adjacent shoreline, further endangering the structures they are intended to protect. Repair of existing seawalls is ideally conducted from the upland, and silt fencing must be used to protect intertidal habitat. In certain circumstances, seawalls may be capped if necessary to protect existing inhabited structures. Please note that seawall construction also requires municipal Coastal Site Plan Review. (P,COP)

Swim Floats
Swim floats may be used for swimming and associated recreation but not for securing or storing boats. Swim floats may not exceed 200 square feet in area, and must be removed from the water from November 15 through April 15. They must not be located over submerged vegetation, and must not interfere with navigation or public access along the shore. (GP)

Groins and Jetties
Existing groins and jetties may generally be repaired, but must be designed to minimize alteration of natural circulation patterns and loss of intertidal and subtidal habitat. Permittees may be required to place sand fill to mitigate past beach erosion associated with the structure. Construction of new groins and jetties is strongly discouraged. (P,COP)

Beach Nourishment
Sand may be placed and graded on beaches to replace sand lost to erosion or as a non-structural method of erosion control. Imported sand must match the grain size and color of the existing beach sand. Precautions must be taken to prevent newly placed sand from drifting onto nearby fish and shellfish resources and habitat. (P,COP)

Pumpout Stations
Installation of pumpout facilities for boat sewage may be required to protect water quality when construction of a new marina is permitted or when an existing marina is modified. (P, GP)

Buoys and Markers
Buoys, water skiing ramps and other markers related to navigation or waterbased recreation are regulated by the DEEP Boating Division. Upon authorization by the Boating Division, they are considered to be concurrently authorized by OLISP. (GP)

Maintenance Dredging
Dredging of marinas and navigation channels may be conducted if dredging of those facilities has been previously authorized by DEEP. Such maintenance dredging must not encroach into previously undisturbed subtidal habitat, and is prohibited during periods of shellfish and finfish spawning when drifting sediment could impair reproductive success. New dredging is strongly discouraged, and dredging of tidal wetlands and intertidal flats is not allowed. (P, COP) Boat moorings (anchored or clothesline-rigged, or an unattached small float) may be installed for private recreational use but must not be located in federal navigation channels or anchorages. Moorings must not be installed in tidal wetlands or over submerged aquatic vegetation. Moorings authorized by a Harbor Master are eligible for a General Permit, otherwise they must be approved by OLISP. (P,COP,GP)

Moorings
Boat moorings (anchored or clothesline-rigged, or an unattached small float) may be installed for private recreational use but must not be located in federal navigation channels or anchorages. Moorings must not be installed in tidal wetlands or over submerged aquatic vegetation. Moorings authorized by a Harbor Master are eligible for General Permit, otherwise they must be approved by OLISP. (P,COP,GP)

Jet Ski Floats
Floats used for storage of jet skis, and jet boats, including prefabricated floats, must not be located over submerged aquatic vegetation. Adding a jet float to an existing dock requires a permit. (P)

For further information on Connecticut's Coastal Permit Program, please contact:
Office of Long Island Sound Programs
Bureau of Water Protection and Land Reuse
Department of Energy and Environmental Protection
79 Elm Street
Hartford, CT  06106-5127
Phone: 860-424-3034

This overview is designed to answer general questions and provide basic information. You should refer to the appropriate statutes and regulations for the specific language of the different regulatory programs. This document should not be relied upon to determine whether or not an environmental permit is required. It is your responsibility to obtain and comply with all required permits.

Coastal Permits