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For the purposes of Massachusetts law and the Dracut Wetlands Protection Bylaw, an inland wetland is any marsh, lake, pond, river, stream, floodplain, vernal pool, wet meadow, bog, or swamp. Wetlands that border ponds, lakes, rivers, and streams are called bordering vegetated wetlands.
Wetlands may not always be obvious to the untrained eye and only the examination of soils, vegetation, and hydrology can determine if an area is a wetland.
A buffer zone is the protected area surrounding a wetland that is under the jurisdiction of the Conservation Commission. In the case of ponds, lakes, marshes, swamps, intermittent streams, vernal pools, and bogs the buffer zone is 100 feet measured horizontally from the top of the bank of the wetland.
Rivers and perennial streams have a buffer zone of 200 feet called riverfront area that is measured horizontally from the top of the bank of the stream or river.
An intermittent stream does not have flowing water year-round while a perennial stream typically has water flowing through it year-round. Massachusetts has criteria for determining if a stream is perennial in the Appendix of the 310 CMR 10, the regulations of the Wetlands Protection Act (PDF). A wetlands scientist can be consulted to determine if a stream is perennial or intermittent.
Vernal pools are water-holding depressions free of fish that usually appear in the spring after snowmelt, however, some fill with water in the fall during rain events and persist through the winter into the spring. While many vernal pools dry up during the summer, some are semi-permanent and do not dry every year. Vernal pools are important habitats for many species of wildlife, including salamanders, frogs, turtles, and toads, some of which are totally dependent on vernal pools for their survival. Because of their sensitive nature and important ecological functions, vernal pools come under special consideration in both state and local bylaw wetlands regulations.
Certified and non-certified vernal pools and their 100-foot buffer zone are regulated in Dracut and any work will need to come before the Conservation Commission for permitting before it can begin.
Wetlands perform important functions including pollution abatement, protection of groundwater (which is the source of many Dracut residents' drinking water), flood control, storm damage prevention as well as providing habitat for plants, invertebrates, fish, birds, reptiles, amphibians and other wildlife.
Under the he Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act (M.G.L. Chapter 131, § 40), no one may "remove, fill, dredge, or alter" any wetland, floodplain, bank, land under a water body, land within 100 feet of a wetland, or land within 200 feet of a perennial stream or river, without a permit from the local Conservation Commission".
Under Massachusetts General Law Chapter 131, § 40 and the Dracut Wetlands Protection Bylaw, Chapter 18 of the Town Code, most activities, such as construction, landscaping, and grading require a permit. Some activities, such as normal maintenance, are allowed without a permit. The Conservation Department can help you determine if your proposed activity will require a permit.
There are 3 wetlands permitting forms and the Conservation Department can assist in helping you to determine which form is the correct form for your project:
It is very likely that the area you are describing is a wetland, but only a soil test and examination of the vegetation can make an accurate determination. Contact a wetland scientist or the Conservation Commission before you plan or carry out any work.
Yes, an NOI will be required to be filed if the retaining wall is located on the shoreline of the lake. Work further away from the lake may qualify for an RDA filing. Please consult with the Conservation Department to determine which filing will be most appropriate for your particular project and proposed project location.
Yes, an RDA will likely be the required filing but a larger dock or one that is permanently anchored may require a NOI filing. Please consult with the Conservation Department to determine the correct filing type. In addition, you will need to file with the MA DEP to obtain a Chapter 91 license under the Massachusetts General Laws Public Waterfront Act. If you plan a dock that exceeds 600 square feet you will also need an engineered plan prepared by a licensed professional engineer.
Maybe. If the location of the new deck is over 100 feet away from the bank of the stream if it is intermittent or over 200 feet away if the brook is perennial, no permit is needed.
If the proposed deck is within 200 feet from an intermittent stream, an RDA can likely be filed for the project and if the proposed deck is within 100 feet of a perennial stream, a NOI must be filed. Please consult with the Conservation Agent to determine if your project can be filed as an RDA or a NOI.
This depends on the number of trees being removed, whether you plan to remove stumps and the reason for the tree removal. Please consult the Conservation Department before proceeding with tree removal to determine how to proceed. Trees are important to wetlands as they moderate the temperature of wetlands creating specific habitat conditions integral to the survival of certain plants, wildlife, and invertebrates and providing habitat to wildlife and invertebrates even when they are dead. Additionally, tree roots stabilize the land in and around wetlands preventing erosion.
You should contact the Commission before proceeding with any project in or near this depression as it is possible what you are observing is a vernal pool.
Yes, as the property owner you are legally responsible for any and all work that occurs on your property. The marshy area may be a wetland, however, only a soil test and identification of vegetation can confirm this. You are required to obtain a permit before doing any work within a floodplain, within 100 feet of a wetland, and within 200 feet of a river or perennial stream. Please don't assume that your contractor knows this or that they will contact the Conservation Commission.
Contact the Conservation Commission immediately and do not attempt to intervene on your own. Provide the Conservation Commission with accurate information as to the location and the nature of the work being done. The Conservation Commission can confirm whether the work is being conducted under a permit and will investigate the work being done if necessary.
The Conservation Commission may be reached by calling the Conservation Agent at 978-770-2587.
The Conservation Department is located in Town Hall on the 2nd Floor at 62 Arlington Street, Dracut, MA 01826. The office is staffed Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm, Tuesday from 8:30 am to 7 pm, and Friday from 8:30 am to 1 pm.
It is recommended that an appointment is made if you would like the Conservation Director to review plans or a proposed filing.