The Wendell Conservation Commission is a three-member board established to administer the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act (MGL Chapter 131, Section 40) and collaborate with various town departments on wetland issues. Wetlands and floodplains are protected because they play a vital role in serving the following public interests:
- Protection of Public and private water supply
- Protection of Groundwater supply
- Flood control and storm damage prevention
- Pollution prevention
- Protection of fisheries and wildlife habitat
Understanding the Wetlands Protection Act (WPA):
The Wetlands Protection Act is the state law that ensures critical natural resources that serve public interests are protected. Wetland Resource Areas include:
"Buffer zone" - Any land within 100 feet of a wetland or bank of a stream, this is protected because of its importance to the wetland and to wildlife habitat
Floodplains - areas along streams or rivers that are flooded in major storms
Vegetated wetlands - areas where soils are wet and where wetland plants, such as red maple, skunk cabbage, cattails, cinnamon and sensitive fern occur
- Wet meadows
- Man-made ponds or ditches
Riverfront Area - All land within 200 feet of a river or perennially-flowing stream, measured horizontally from the top of the bank of the river or stream (not at an angle up a hill) - the "riverfront area" is protected by The Rivers Act
Bordering land subject to flooding - The area flooded by 100-year (or less) storm events
Isolated land subject to flooding - Isolated areas that flood and hold at least 1/4 acre foot, 6 inches deep at least once a year
Any building project that takes place in one of these Resource Areas or a buffer zone of a Resource Area requires a filing with the Conservation Commission.
A good regulatory definition of the term "wetland" may be found in the Federal Clean Water Act:
Those areas that are inundated or saturated by surface or ground water at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions.
As such, wetlands are defined -- or delineated -- according to three criteria:
Hydrophytic vegetation: water-tolerant plants that have adapted to wetland conditions
Hydric soils: water-saturated soils that have become oxygen deficient. Indicators of hydric Soils form after being inundated for a week or more during the growing season
Other indicators of the hydrologic regime: dominated by the presence of water through flooding or saturated ground, including intermittent stream channels, shallow rooting, etc.
Working Under the Wetlands Protection Act and Wendell Wetlands Protection Bylaw:
Any projects (i.e. tree clearing, earth work, new construction, percolation tests, septic fields, roadway/driveways, etc.) that involve work within wetlands or within resource areas within 100 feet of a wetland resource or 200 feet of a vernal pool will usually require a permit from the Conservation Commission. In addition, many building permits for these same projects require sign-off from the Conservation Commission.
If you are unsure if your project involves work in wetlands or adjacent resource areas, please contact the Conservation Commission and/or submit a Request for Determination of Applicability (RDA). The form and instructions can be found at: https://www.mass.gov/how-to/wpa-form-1-request-for-determination-of-applicability.
If you know that your project will involve work in wetlands or adjacent resource areas, please submit a Notice of Intent (NOI). The form and instructions can be found at: https://www.mass.gov/how-to/wpa-form-3-wetlands-notice-of-intent.
The MassDEP RDA and NOI forms can be used for filings under both the Wetlands Protection Act and Wendell General Wetlands Protection Bylaw.
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