Governor Chris Sununu, NHDES Commissioner Bob Scott Announce Major Overhaul of Wetlands Rules
Concord, NH – Today, Governor Chris Sununu and the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services Commissioner Bob Scott announced the release of a draft revision of the New Hampshire Wetlands rules, the first complete rewrite of the rules since 1991. To overhaul the rules, NHDES worked closely with partner organizations, stakeholders, and concerned citizens to obtain significant public feedback on the development of wetland rule concepts, strategies, and process.
Since 2014, NHDES hosted over 100 listening sessions, stakeholder workgroup sessions, partner meetings and presentations. NHDES heard from landowners, road agents, utility providers, loggers, foresters, engineers, conservation commissioners, industry and business, septic designers, general contractors, wetland scientists, conservation organizations, farmers, regional planning commissions, marine contractors, legislators, teachers, local, state, and federal officials and received hundreds of public comments.
"Streamlining New Hampshire's regulatory framework is a key priority of my administration," said Governor Chris Sununu. "These efforts are the most comprehensive overhaul of wetlands rules in over 25 years, and represent a major step toward a more citizen-centered State Government."
The NHDES wetland rules regulate the following type of resources: wetlands, surface waters (lakes, ponds), watercourses (streams, rivers), shorelines, vernal pools, prime wetlands, coastal lands, and tidal waters. Example projects impacted by these rules include: beaches, docks, boathouses, wall construction, riprap, bank stabilization, forestry, utility, agriculture, trails, dredging, filling, residential and commercial development, and roadway construction.
"By listening to our stakeholders on ways to improve the wetland rules, we can reduce many of the issues that arise during the permit process – therefore making it more streamlined, predictable, and transparent for both the applicant and NHDES," said Bob Scott, NHDES Commissioner.
The draft wetland rules propose over 50 new definitions to provide clarity and consistency, shorten the review time for lower scrutiny approvals and expand the number of projects that qualify for streamlined review, including stream crossing projects. The new rules clarify permit processes, project classification, standard conditions, avoidance, minimization, and mitigation requirements, and application review standards. The draft rules also provide significant changes to the coastal rules and updates to the prime wetland rules.
NHDES is now accepting public comments on the draft wetlands rules. NHDES will be hosting 5 public input sessions in the following locations:
- Concord: February 26, 2018
- Portsmouth: February 28, 2018
- Laconia: March 1, 2018
- Keene: March 5, 2018
- Lancaster: March 7, 2018
The draft wetland rules, rules summary, wetland rules FAQs, draft BMPs, public input session schedule and public comment collection sheets are located at www.des.nh.gov/organization/divisions/water/wetlands/process-improvement.htm.
The NHDES public comment deadline on the draft rules is April 20, 2018. Once the draft rules process is complete, formal rule making will begin, including public hearings and additional public comment period. The adoption of the revised wetlands rules is anticipated to be complete by the end of 2018. Please provide your comments in writing, either using the Comment Collection Sheet or mail your comments to Attention: Mary Ann Tilton, 29 Hazen Drive, Concord, NH 03302. Comments may also be submitted electronically to: MaryAnn.Tilton@des.nh.gov. When sending email comments, please be sure to include: 2018 Wetland Rule Comments in the Subject line of your email. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact Mary Ann Tilton at (603) 271-2929.