|Thursday, 16 April 2009 00:00|
The state has a comprehensive program involving direct state permitting for alteration of surface waters, tidal and nontidal wetlands and a variety of other jurisdictional areas. Permitting is centralized at the State level, but municipal conservation commissions are given a statutory intervention authority. The New Hampshire wetland regulatory program’s website is at http://des.nh.gov/organization/divisions/water/wetlands/index.htm.
Innovative Features and New Programs/Initiatives:
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) revoked all Nationwide Permits in New Hampshire in June 1992, and replaced them with the New Hampshire State Programmatic General Permit (NHSPGP). The Corps comes to the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) Wetlands Bureau once a week to review those projects that have received a New Hampshire wetland permit. Corps reviewers decide whether the project is federally jurisdictional and whether it qualifies, potentially qualifies (subject to a federal agency review), or does not qualify under the NHSPGP. Those projects that meet federal jurisdiction and do not qualify (less than 1% of those approved by the State) require an individual 404 permit in addition to the State permit.
State Wetland Conservation Plan
New Hampshire Wetlands Priority Conservation Plan completed (1989).
No Net Loss/Net Gain Goal
The goal in New Hampshire, by policy, is no net loss of environmental value. Protection of upland buffers around natural wetlands, and of uplands within a natural mosaic of wetlands and uplands is the preferred mode of mitigation where such systems exist in a healthy state. Such preservation provides a value gained, since there is considerable loss of wetland value whenever those unregulated upland areas are developed. The numbers vary from year to year, but during calendar year 2002, 104 acres of wetlands were approved for dredge or fill impacts, with most projects impacting 0.2 of an acre or less. Mitigation for impacts included 4.8 acres of wetlands creation, 41 acres of restoration, and 882 acres of land protection (through conservation easements. etc.).
Wetland Regulatory Statutes and Administrative Rules
All wetlands and surface waters are regulated by state law (RSA 482-A) and almost all dredge and fill in jurisdictional areas require a State permit. Federal 404 permitting is mostly through the NHSPGP, and only 5 or 6 projects each year require an individual Corps permit in addition to the State Permit.
Fill and Dredge in Wetlands, N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann., 482-A:1 to :27 (was known as RSA 483-A prior to recodification in January, 1990). Permits are required for dredge, fill, or construction of structures in wetlands, surface waters, tidal buffer zones, sand dunes, and areas adjacent to municipally designated prime wetlands. Initial passage was in 1967.
N.H. Administrative Code, Chapters Wt 100-700 contain the wetlands administrative rule. http://des.nh.gov/organization/commissioner/legal/rules/index.htm#wetlands
The NHDES’s water quality program is authorized under RSA 485-A:8 & 13 (N.H. Water Pollution and Waste Disposal Act). See http://des.nh.gov/organization/divisions/water/wmb/section401/index.htm
Wetland Definition and/or Delineation; Comparability With Federal Definition
Administrative rule Wt 301.01 requires that wetlands be delineated using the 1987 Corps of Engineers Wetlands Delineation Manual, and the 1998 New England Interstate Field Indicators for Identifying Hydric Soils in New England (see http://www.neiwpcc.org/field%20indicators%20guide.pdf ).
There is no standard method for permitting purposes, and the bottom line for most evaluations is professional judgment. Various methodologies are used or borrowed from when there is a good fit to the site-specific situation. These include The Highway Methodology Workbook Supplement: Wetlands Functions and Values, a Descriptive Approach, New England District Army Corps of Engineers, 1999, and the Method for the Comparative Evaluation of Nontidal Wetlands in New Hampshire, 1991.
Regulated and Exempted Activities
Dredge, fill or construction (including excavation, removal of soil, and construction of structures) requires a permit. There is no minimum size threshold – all impacts require a permit.
a. Repair or replacement of an existing structure with no change in location or configuration
Special Provisions for Agriculture and Forestry
There are no exemptions for agriculture or forest management, but special rules and best management practices have been developed to address the unique needs of each. A streamlined notification process is in place for timber harvesting that meets certain criteria.
Penalties and Enforcement
NHDES is responsible for enforcement, and can impose administrative removal and administrative fines of up to $2,000 per violation (multiple violations at a single site are possible). Acting through the Attorney General’s Office, NHDES can seek civil penalties up to $10,000 per violation per day and/or criminal penalties up to misdemeanor for private individuals and felony for corporations.
Permits, enforcement and mitigation actions are all tracked using a database which also produces weekly reports of permitting activity which are posted on the Wetlands Bureau’s web site (http://des.nh.gov/organization/divisions/water/wetlands/decisions/index.htm). The Wetlands Bureau also has GIS data layers with locations of permits and enforcement actions, municipally designated prime wetlands, rivers designated under the state program, and buffered layers of threatened and endangered species and exemplary plant communities. Every incoming permit application is checked against the GIS layers so potential impacts to these resources may be evaluated during the permit review process.
State General Permit (PGP or SPGP) for 404
Yes, see above.
Assumption of Section 404 Powers
No. The state sees no benefit to assumption given the success of the NHSPGP over the past 10 years.
The State works jointly with the Corps on those few large transportation projects that do not qualify for the NHSPGP.
Special Area Management Plans and Advanced Identification Plans
Municipalities can designate prime wetlands that receive additional protections under NH RSA 482 A:15 and Chapter Wt 700 of the rules (http://des.nh.gov/organization/commissioner/legal/rules/index.htm#wetlands).
Role of Local Governments
Municipal conservation commissions have an advisory role in the state permitting process and can provide comments to the NHDES before a permitting decision is made. Some local governments have adopted wetland protection regulations, including the requirements for buffers to wetlands. State permits require as a condition that local permits be obtained.
Staffing (Regulatory Staff)
The Wetlands Bureau consists of 30 full-time plus 5 or 6 seasonal/part-time staff; total funding is $1.3 to 1.6 million.
Wetlands and Water Quality Standards
Wetlands are defined as surface waters of the state by rule Env-Ws 403.20. By Env-Ws 1703.02, water quality standards apply to wetlands except “wherever the naturally occurring conditions are different from the criteria listed in these rules, the naturally occurring conditions shall be the applicable water quality criteria.”
Administrative rules Env-Ws 403-22 and Env-Ws 1702.53 are the same as Wt. 101.88 described above. They all define "wetland” using the language of 33CFR 328.3 (Corps definition).
Narrative and/or Numeric Criteria
Staffing (Wetland Water Quality Staff)
Water quality staff are in another bureau of the NHDES Water Division, but none are considered wetlands staff.
Mitigation is required on a function-by-function basis. The total package must provide equal or greater environmental value. Methodology varies. Up front mitigation has been required on some sites.
There are no mitigation banks in New Hampshire, though regional not-for-profit banks have been considered as a possible planning tool to protect significant aquatic resources.
In Lieu Fee Program
None, but there is interest because of the large number of very small projects that require mitigation.
Ad Hoc Arrangements
Donations to nonprofits or other organizations are generally not accepted as mitigation for permitting, but occasionally such an arrangement is made as part of an enforcement settlement.
Yes, as part of the permitting database.
Staffing (Mitigation Staff)
One part-time person responsible for overseeing policy and compliance. Most evaluation and finalization of mitigation proposals is done by permit reviewers.
LANDSAT telemetry data was converted to a statewide GIS based resource map in the early 1990s and was extensively ground-proofed. Since that time new USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) soils mapping has been digitized, as have National Wetland Inventory maps. No single source is considered particularly reliable, but in combination they give good landscape scale estimates.
Wetland Classification and Assessment
Regulations place highest value on tidal wetlands, bogs, marshes, and swamps (in that order).
Overall Wetland Gain and Loss Tracking System
Yes. Data is based on the permitting database, but does not include restoration work by other parties such as NRCS, or FWS.
Staffing (Monitoring and Assessment Staff.)
There are several cooperative State/federal programs in the coastal section of the State, and at least one river restoration associated with improvement of cold-water fisheries. Most restoration is done as mitigation for permitting or to resolve an enforcement case.
Restoration Program Goals
Projects with the primary goal of restoration are tracked in the Wetlands Bureau’s permitting database.
Staffing (Wetland Restoration Program Staff.)
Permitting staff do the evaluation and permitting of wetland restoration projects.
The Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP) created under RSA 227-M acquires wetlands and other resources through easements and fee-simple purchases. However wetlands are only one of several resources of interest. http://www.lchip.org/
The State has a current use tax system which includes tax reductions for agriculture, forestry, and wetlands (but with a different definition than the regulatory one). http://www.nh.gov/revenue/munc_prop/current_use/current_use.htm
In-office pre-application meetings with permitting staff are offered to landowners, consultants, and municipal conservation commissions to review proposed projects that may require a permit.
Other Nonregulatory Incentives for Private Landowners
No additional programs identified.
Wetland Training and Education
The NHDES Wetlands Bureau reaches about 5,000 people through 30 - 40 presentation or events each year, including multiple workshops offering continuing education credits to certified wetland and soils scientists, foresters, land surveyors, engineers, etc. Other groups reached include members of conservation commissions and other municipal boards, road agents, landowners, and the general public.
NHDES has begun to use impact tracking data from the permitting database in conjunction with the GIS information for coastal watersheds.
New Hampshire is the fastest growing state in New England, and one of the 10 fastest-growing states in the country. The result of this situation is that the development pressures are increasing, and land previously considered undesirable is now being proposed for development.
The NHDES centralizes regulatory activities in New Hampshire. The NHDES works in cooperation with other State agencies, federal agencies, and municipal conservation commissions on a regular basis.
Collis Adams, Administrator
Guidebooks, Brochures, Websites, Other Educational Materials
The web site at http://des.nh.gov/organization/divisions/water/wetlands/index.htm contains reference materials, presentations and links to other sites.
|Last Updated on Tuesday, 24 May 2011 16:34|