DEEP: Municipal Permitting

Municipal Permitting
What if I Own Wetlands?

If your property includes wetlands, you are a custodian of a valuable natural resource. If you find that you need to conduct work in or near wetlands (e.g.: clearing, grading, piping, culverting, excavating, filling, constructing), you must submit a description of your proposed project for review and approval by your town’s wetland agency. Many towns employ wetland agents to provide guidance and assist wetland agencies and citizens with related issues.

The Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Act (Act) creates a land-use regulatory process which considers the environmental impacts of proposed development activities. A person proposing to conduct a regulated activity in or affecting a wetland or a watercourse must first obtain a permit from a municipal wetlands agency or, in the case of a State agency activity, from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP).

Municipal Inland Wetland Agencies. The Act is implemented through regulations adopted by municipal inland wetlands agencies. Each of Connecticut’s 169 towns have established, by ordinance, an inland wetlands agency comprised of appointed or elected volunteers from the community. Depending on the town, a planning and zoning commission, conservation commission, or other entity may act as the wetlands agency. As previously stated, each wetlands agency has adopted regulations through which the town implements the Act. Regulations, which are reviewed and approved by the DEEP, prescribe the form and content of applications and the standards and criteria for acting on such applications, as well as other business of the agency.

Regulated Activities. Municipal regulations also include the definition of "regulated activity". Regulated activities are broadly defined to mean "…any operation or use of a wetland or watercourse involving removal or deposition of material, or any obstruction, construction, alteration or pollution, of such wetlands or watercourses…"

In addition, construction or other work located in areas adjacent to wetlands, may have an impact on those wetlands. For this reason, many towns regulate activities in designated areas surrounding wetlands. Such non-wetland areas are described variously in town regulations as review, setback or buffer areas.

Permits. In order to conduct a regulated activity, a person must first apply for and obtain a wetland permit from the local wetlands agency. A permit application may need to include a plan depicting the proposed activity as well as engineering and/or environmental information describing its impacts. The wetlands agency may grant or deny a permit, or grant it with conditions as are necessary to mitigate wetland impacts. Correction of an existing environmental problem at the project site, such as stabilizing stream bank erosion or restoring a degraded wetland, may be encouraged to mitigate impacts of proposed activities. The wetlands agency may hold a public hearing on a permit application. The applicant is expected to defend the project in terms of the permit decision factors established in the Act, and further established in the town’s regulations. In addition, the applicant may appeal a municipal inland wetlands agency decision, however, the appeal must be heard by the courts not the DEP.

Permitted Operations and Uses. The Act omits certain activities from the definition of regulated activity, often referred to as "as of right" activities. These activities involve certain agricultural, residential, water company, maintenance, conservation, and recreational uses of wetlands. A town’s wetlands agency should be contacted to receive confirmation that a project is in fact a permitted "as of right" activity or use.

Content last updated on March 22, 2012