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Protection of Inland Wetlands and Watercourses

For more information on how to protect wetlands and watercourses through practice click here.

 

Inland Wetland Home Page 


Why Protect Wetlands?

The State of Connecticut has determined that “The inland wetlands and watercourses of the state of Connecticut are an indispensable and irreplaceable but fragile natural resource with which the citizens of the state have been endowed.” (Connecticut General Statutes [CGS] §22a-36)  Since colonial times, 70% of the wetlands in Connecticut have been filled for agriculture, commercial, industrial, and residential uses. To ensure the future protection of the State’s inland wetlands and watercourses, the Connecticut State Legislature established the Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Act which, through the CGS §22a-36 through §22a-45d, requires that each municipality establish regulations and a commission to administer the regulations.  

As identified in the Act, wetlands are valuable natural resources for an abundance of reasons. 

  • wildlife habitat
  • aesthetic values
  • recreational uses
  • capacity to reduce flooding and erosion by retaining water during storms
  • help maintain surface water levels
  • protect water quality and filter nutrients
  • support delicate ecosystems which include species from the smallest microscopic bacteria to large mammals

Inland wetlands and watercourses are an invaluable asset to our quality of life and to the preservation of thousands of species. We are all the trusted stewards of these extraordinary, wild areas.  The Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Agency of the town of Branford, by careful review of each application, strives to preserve these areas for the benefit of all.   But one does not need to be a member of the Commission to help preserve the quality of our wetlands and watercourses. We can all make a difference.  

  • If we have wetlands on our property, we can establish and maintain a natural area between our lawns and the wetland by planting only species native to Connecticut.  
  • By limiting pesticide and chemical fertilizer use on our lawns, we can reduce or eliminate harmful contaminates from entering our rivers and streams.
  • By keeping up with maintenance on our cars, we can reduce the amount of toxic fluids carried into our wetlands by stormwater.
  • We can volunteer to pick up litter which would otherwise end up in a storm drain.
  • We can clean up after our pets and not discharge waste into our storm drains.
  • Above all we can help to educate others.

The Department of Inland Wetlands in the Branford Town Hall has information on how residents can help protect our wetlands and watercourses.  Together we can, as stated in the Connecticut General Statutes, “provide for the safety of such natural resources for their benefit, and for the benefit of generations yet unborn”.

The picture to the left depicts a eutrophic pond covered in algae. Eutrophication in fresh water is typically caused by high phosphorous levels. Phosphorous is a nutrient that enters the pond primarily by storm water that has picked up fertilizer and animal droppings from lawns and agriculture. Phosphorus encourages algae growth, which causes a decrease in oxygen levels. Mortality rates of animals and submergent plants rise dramatically when ponds are in a eutrophic state. A stagnant odor and a thick, green surface layer of algae are indicators of eutrophication of ponds

 

 

The picture to the left depicts a eutrophic pond covered in algae. Eutrophication in fresh water is typically caused by high phosphorous levels. Phosphorous is a nutrient that enters the pond primarily by storm water that has picked up fertilizer and animal droppings from lawns and agriculture. Phosphorus encourages algae growth, which causes a decrease in oxygen levels. Mortality rates of animals and submergent plants rise dramatically when ponds are in a eutrophic state. A stagnant odor and a thick, green surface layer of algae are indicators of eutrophication of ponds.

  

The Agency

CGS §22a-42(c) required that each municipality establish an Inland Wetlands Agency to protect the inland wetlands and watercourses within its territorial limits. The Town of Branford Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Agency was established in Chapter 109 of the Town Ordinance on January 9, 1974. The Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Agency of the Town of Branford consists of the Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Commission and Town staff. The Branford Inland Wetland and Watercourse members are volunteer Town residents, appointed by the Board of Selectmen. Staff includes a full time Enforcement Officer (Duly Authorized Agent) and Assistant located in the Inland Wetlands and Natural Resources Department. The Agency is responsible for administration of the Inland Wetlands and Watercousrses Regulations of the Town of Branford.

 


Inland Wetlands and Watercourses – Regulated Areas

Wetlands and Watercourses are the areas that fall under jurisdiction of the Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Agency. Per Connecticut General Statutes, inland wetlands are defined by their soils and are classified as “poorly drained, very poorly drained, alluvial, and flood plain soils” (more information here).  This method of classification by soils allows for the identification of inland wetlands during droughts or when other indicators such as standing water, wetland vegetation, or obligate wildlife species are absent. Tidal wetlands as identified in the  CGS and as determined in the field by the  DEEP Office of Long Island Sound Programs [OLISP]  are excluded from Inland Wetland jurisdiction.  Watercourses are defined as “rivers, streams, brooks, waterways, lakes, ponds, marshes, swamps, bogs, and all other bodies of water, natural or artificial, vernal or intermittent, public or private, which are contained within, flow through, or border upon the Town of Branford.”

 


Regulated Activities

The Agency routinely exerts jurisdiction over regulated activities proposed within the established 100 foot upland review area of wetlands and watercourses, within wetlands and watercourses.  The Agency will take jurisdiction over activities that take place outside of the 100 foot review area if the activities are likely to impact a wetland or watercourse. For more information refer to the Branford Inland Wetland and Watercourse Regulations' definition of Regulated Activities. 

 


Before You Act

Wetland regulations apply to everyone.  Anyone planning to perform an activity which is in the vicinity of a wetland or watercourse should contact the Inland Wetland office at Town Hall, 203-315-0675 to find out if a permit is needed.  Remember, the existence of a wetland is not always obvious.  Wetlands can exist in lawns, on the sides of steep slopes, or on top of ridges.  Wetlands can be found anywhere the ground water level remains close to the soil surface for extended periods of time.  The Agency reviews all applications submitted to the Building and Planning and Zoning departments.  If a wetland permit is required, the process can take a month or more, so it should be obtained as soon as possible.

checklist%20clipartBefore buying a property,  it is best to find out if wetlands are located either on the property,  or close enough that activities will require a permit. Additionally, a history of permits issued for the site should be obtained.  A deed restriction may have been required by the Commission as part of a permit in order to maintain a natural vegetated buffer area between wetlands and developed area.  A deed restriction or Conservation easement may have been established in order to maintain a natural vegetation and limit specific activities that can be conducted in that area.  Anyone found to be conducting regulated activities without a permit or violating conditions of an issued permit can face enforcement action.  (Enforcement)

 


The Application

Applications for permit are generally reviewed in a public forum at regular meetings and voted upon by the commission.  Public hearings may be held for applications which meet certain statutory requirements as stated in CGS §22a-42a(c).  If an application poses only minor risk of impact to regulated areas, then the Agent may administratively approve the application.  Applications must be submitted no later than the day before a meeting to be legally received at that meeting (legal “receipt” date).  The Commission is not permitted by law to make a decision until at least 14 days after receipt of an application in order to give Town residents the opportunity to submit a petition for a public hearing.

Click here for more information on the application process and to access the application form.

 


 Enforcement

The Connecticut General Statutes (§22a-44), The Inland Wetland and Watercourses Regulations of the Town of Branford, and Chapter 196 of the Town Code all provide a means for the Commission to fine those who operate or maintain regulated activities without a permit, or who conduct other activities which may impact a wetland or watercourse. Anyone found to be conducting regulated activities without a permit or violating conditions of an issued permit can face enforcement action in the form of a Cease and Correct Order and/or fines of up to $1,000 per day.  Refer  to Section 14 of the Regulations for more information.

 


For more information on how to protect wetlands and watercourses through practice click here.

 

Town Hall Address: 1019 Main Street, Branford, CT 06405 Phone: (203) 488-8394 Business Hours: 8:30 am - 4:30 pm, Monday-Friday