DEEP: History of Wetlands and Watercourses in Connecticut

History of Wetlands and Watercourses in Connecticut

Connecticut has a long heritage of protecting its land resources. In 1972, the State legislature enacted the Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Act (Act), see sections 22a-36 through 22a-45 of the CT General Statutes. With this landmark legislation, The General Assembly recognized that the inland wetlands and watercourses of the State of Connecticut are an indispensable and irreplaceable but fragile natural resource with which the citizens of the State have been endowed. Furthermore, the inland wetlands and watercourses of Connecticut are essential to the well being of its citizens, and that it is necessary to balance the need for the economic growth of the State and the use of its land with the need to protect its environment.

The Act created a regulatory process to consider the impacts of proposed activities on inland wetlands and watercourses; and in keeping with the home rule political culture of our state, the Act provided for municipalities to implement this regulatory process. By the mid-1980s the majority of municipalities were administering the Act with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) regulating activities within approximately 25 towns or cities.
In 1987, the Connecticut Legislature amended the Act and provided language that clearly signaled its desire to have all municipalities administering this law. Section 22a-42 of the Act was amended to read, "To carry out and effectuate the purposes and policies of sections 22a-36 to 22a-45, inclusive, it is hereby declared to be the public policy of the state to require municipal regulation of activities affecting the wetlands and watercourses within the territorial limits of the various municipalities or districts". In addition, the amendment required that all municipalities establish an inland wetlands agency by July 1, 1988. As a result, all of Connecticut’s 169 communities now have municipal inland wetlands agencies. In fact, there are 170 municipal inland wetlands agencies as the City of Groton and the Town of Groton are separate.
Today's municipal inland wetlands agency regulates activities that affect inland wetlands and watercourses within their municipal boundaries. These activities, often referred to as "regulated activities", are those proposed or conducted by all persons other than state agencies. State agency actions are solely regulated by DEEP. The volume of business conducted by municipal inland wetlands agencies is substantial on a statewide basis. Over 4,000 actions (such as permit approvals or denials, enforcement proceedings, etc.) are taken by Connecticut's municipal inland wetlands agencies annually, and this number is increasing by approximately 12 percent per year.
Content last updated November 2016.