Protecting Wetlands

What are Wetlands?

Wetlands include any land under water, lands bordering a water body that has wetland vegetation, banks, lands subject to flooding, and all the area within 200 feet. of a perennial river. These areas are referred to in Wetlands Protection Regulations as protected Resource Areas.

Wetlands Environmental Benefits

Wetlands provide a number of important environmental benefits. Wetlands can reduce or prevent flooding, control erosion, reduce damage from storms, prevent pollution of surface waters, (rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds) and groundwater. They also provide habitat for fish, birds, and animals. They also have aesthetic value which enhances the community's quality of life.

They need protection because human activities and land uses can destroy wetlands and the benefits they provide. Where wetlands were once viewed as wasted land, and often filled or dredged, we now realize that they provide important environmental and economic benefits and should be preserved.

Activities Subject to Wetland Protection

Virtually any activity that occurs in a wetland Resource Area is subject to the State and Town Wetlands Protection Requirements. This includes any removal, filling, dredging or alteration of the Resource Area. There are rare exceptions. In addition, activities that occur in a Buffer Zone surrounding the Resource Area (100 feet. under the State requirements, 150 feet. under the Watertown ordinance) are subject to requirements if they will alter the Resource Area.

Projects Subject to Regulations

You should review the definitions of the areas protected and the types of activity covered in all of the relevant State laws and the Watertown ordinance, as well as get advice from an attorney if you are not sure whether your project is subject to Wetlands Protection Requirements. If it is, you must file a Notice of Intent with the Conservation Commission before beginning the project.

Determination of Applicability

Applicants can submit a request for a Determination of Applicability if they wish before submitting a full NOI. This request asks the Commission to state whether their proposed activities are subject to the Wetlands Protection Requirements. Links to forms and guidelines are provided in the Useful Resources and Links section. Contact the Conservation Commission for more information.