What is the Wetlands Protection Act?
The purpose of the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act is the protection of Massachusetts wetlands by preventing pollution, reducing the effects of potential flooding, preventing storm damage, protecting groundwater supplies, maintaining habitats for plants and wildlife, and protecting public and private water supplies. The Act gives local communities and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) the authority to determine which Resource Areas within its jurisdiction are protected, to regulate work in these areas, and to enforce regulations.

The performance standards, detailed in the Wetlands Protection Act regulations (310 CMR 10), state that there may be no alteration of wetland resource wetland areas without prior approval of the Conservation Commission or DEP. Limited alterations of up to 5,000 square feet may be permitted under the Act, at the permitting authority's discretion, provided that the interests of the Act are adequately protected. Vernal pools are provided protection under the Act if they lie within a regulated wetland resource area. These resource areas are given special protection and no adverse effects on wildlife habitat characteristics are permitted.

In order to be protected under the Act, vernal pools must have been certified through the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program or identified by a preponderance of the evidence presented at a public hearing. In order to obtain a permit (known as the “Order of Conditions”) allowing work to occur in proximity to such areas, the applicant must file a Notice of Intent (NOI) with the Massachusetts Department Environmental Protection that is subject to approval by the Conservation Commission. The issuance of the permit allows work to proceed; however, the case is not closed until the applicant applies for and obtains a Certificate of Completion (COC), which verifies that they have complied with all of the conditions required by the permit.

Show All Answers

1. What is the Conservation Commission and what does it do?
2. What is the Wetlands Protection Act?
3. What resource areas are protected under the act?
4. How do I determine if there is a resource area on my property?
5. What is protected by the Local Wetlands Protection Ordinance?
6. What is overseen by the Stormwater Management Ordinance?
7. When should you consult the Conservation Commission?