For the first time in over 25 years the Department of Environmental Services has made significant updates to Wetlands rules and regulations. Also among the updates are Shoreland standards, Alteration of Terrain rules, and surface water quality standards. The changes incorporate statutory updates, as well as scientific advances and better reflect what has been occurring operationally. Many terms have been officially defined, fees have increased, and the types of projects requiring permits have changed. The overall goal of the new rules is to avoid impacts where possible and minimize unavoidable impacts.
DES has created new tools to assist with determination of project classification, including DataCheck and Wetland Permit Planning Tool (WPPT). If the project does not have impacts within a jurisdictional area or is exempted by statute, then a wetlands permit is not required. Those projects which do have impacts within jurisdictional areas or are not exempted by statute are then classified by type of resource impacted and size of impact area. Many projects are now subject to a lower scrutiny process or simply a permit by notification. Important to note is that Permit by Notification applications will now be denied if incomplete, rather than held for supplementation. Timelines for applications have been altered, with the intent to shorten the response time so projects can begin quickly.
Overall the new rules provide important updates which hope to streamline the permitting processes while striking a balance between protecting the state’s natural resources and supporting economic activity. If you need assistance navigating these updates, please contact our office.