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Conservation Commission, Wetlands FAQ

Professor Sal A. Mander answers questions about Wetlands
Do you need to file with the Conservation Commission before starting your dream project? Here are common questions we get at the Conservation Commission office and their answers.
If you are planning a new well, septic system upgrade, addition, landscaping that involves heavy machinery or any other building projects near a wetland, swamp, marsh, bog, pond, lake, river or stream you may need to file for a permit with the Conservation Commission.
Q: What is a wetland?
A: For the purposes of Massachusetts law and the Groton Bylaw, a wetland is any: lake, pond, swamp, marsh, wet meadow, floodplain, bog, river, stream, brook or vernal pool.
Q: Why are wetlands protected?
A: Wetlands perform important functions including pollution abatement, protection of groundwater (the source of many Groton residents' drinking water) , flood control, storm damage prevention and providing habitat for fish, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and other wildlife.
Q: Do I need a permit to do work near or in a wetland?
A: Yes. Under both Massachusetts General Law Ch. 131, Sec. 40 and the Groton Wetlands Protection Bylaw, Ch. 215, of the Town code. If you intend to do work within a wetland or the buffer zone of a wetland you must file a “Notice of Intent”(NOI) or a “Request for Determination Applicability”(RDA) with the Groton Conservation Commission prior to performing any work. If you have a small project like a deck addition, or putting in a dock, patio or pool you may be able to use the simpler and quicker RDA form. Contact the Commissions Conservation Administrator at town hall for guidance.
Q: What is a wetland buffer zone?
A: A buffer zone is the protected area surrounding wetlands which is under the jurisdiction of the Conservation Commission. In the case of ponds, lakes, marshes, swamps, vernal pools and bogs the buffer zone is 100 feet, measured horizontally from the edge of the resource area. Riverfront Area is defined as the area 200 feet(again measured horizontally) from the edge of the stream or river. Floodplains do not have a buffer zone.
Q: What is an NOI?
A: A “Notice of Intent” (NOI) provides details about your proposed project, including the location and scope of work, to the Conservation Commission, the State and abutters. It requires notification of neighbors within 300 feet, and the publication of a legal notice in the newspaper. After the NOI is filed a public hearing is held before the Conservation Commission to gather additional information on your project. Abutters may also comment at this time. This is the beginning of the wetlands permitting process and may require several hearings, engineered plans and other filings.
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