Who is a member?
Our members are the local governments of Massachusetts and their elected and appointed leadership.
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection recently released several regulatory updates that affect public and private waterways and permitting requirements for dredging projects.
The MassDEP’s regulations on waterways, 310 CMR 9.00, seek to protect and promote tidelands, great ponds, and non-tidal rivers and streams. Under Chapter 91, the Massachusetts Public Waterfront Act, MassDEP issues licenses for projects located in waterways and maintains that projects meet the necessary public-access requirements.
The proposed update to these regulations would amend licensing to better reflect potential consequences of climate change that could impact these waterways.
Storm surge and increased precipitation would be considered for existing and proposed structures along waterfronts. Certain existing requirements would be adjusted to prepare for sea-level rise, while still allowing for public access and additional public benefits.
Current regulations provide for “any other relevant factors” to be taken into account for extended terms over 30 years. The proposed change would explicitly incorporate sea-level rise as one of those factors to be considered. Additional changes include reviews of projected sea-level rise during the life of a building being designed, and modified height requirements to move utilities from flood-prone basements to roofs.
Information on the proposed regulations, including a summary document, can be found on the MassDEP’s website, along with a frequently asked questions page on waterways permitting.
Wetlands protection and water quality certification
The MassDEP has proposed wetlands-related regulations to promote environmental protection and public safety in the face of climate change impacts. Amendments would affect Wetlands Protection Act regulations (310 CMR 10.00) and Water Quality Certification regulations (314 CMR 9.00).
Wetlands Protection Act regulations include protection of public and private water supply and groundwater supply, flood control, pollution and storm damage prevention, and protection of wildlife habitat. Water Quality Certification regulations supplement existing permitting requirements for dredging projects, which are required by the federal Clean Water Act.
The proposed revisions would introduce new coastal floodplain standards, allow for additional resilience provisions, update stormwater standards for flood protection, and make water quality improvements, all related to increased incidences of flooding, storm damage, sea-level rise, and runoff pollution.
Coastal floodplain standards
Proposed “Land Subject to Coastal Storm Flowage” standards — new performance standards impacting development in coastal floodplains — would respond to sea-level rise by reducing damage to property, infrastructure and the natural shoreline.
Most new development would be prohibited in a “Velocity Zone” — areas closest to the ocean where waves are 3 feet or more, so new construction would be prohibited where storm damage is most likely. Areas that are already developed or overlap with other regulated wetlands resource areas, approximately 90% of the Velocity Zone, would not be affected by these regulations.
New development and redevelopment would be allowable in a “Moderate Wave Action Zone,” where waves are between 1.5 and 3 feet, when structures are built on open pilings.
Allowed in both Moderate Wave and Velocity Zones would be plantings, pedestrian walkways, boat launching facilities, open boat storage, docks, piers, and compliant septic systems.
New development, redevelopment and other activities would be permitted a “Minimum Wave Action Zone” so long as the project incorporates best practices to minimize adverse impacts and structures are built on pilings or solid foundations.
Stormwater standards, water quality improvements
The proposed regulations would update precipitation data to reflect current standards. The data would allow stormwater systems to make more accurate decisions to capture stormwater in properly sized pipes and prevent flooding, damage and other problems from uncaptured water.
The proposed regulatory changes would help move more stormwater efficiently and better align state practices with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s requirements for stormwater pollutant management through MS4 permits that apply to more than 260 communities.
Virtual public hearings on the proposed regulatory changes will be held on Jan. 31 at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m., and on Feb. 1 at 1 p.m. (Visit the MassDEP website for registration details.)
Recordings of three public information sessions on the proposed regulations are available on the MassDEP’s Youtube page.
Comments may be submitted by email to firstname.lastname@example.org with “Wetlands-401 Resilience Comments” in the subject line. The comment period will end on March 1.