Wetlands Protection Regulations

The Wetlands Protection Act (Massachusetts General Laws (MGL) Chapter 131, Section 40) and the Yarmouth Wetland Protection Bylaw (Chapter 143) protect wetlands and the public interests they serve, including:

  • flood control,
  • prevention of pollution and storm damage, 
  • protection of public and private water supplies,
  • groundwater supply,
  • fisheries,
  • land containing shellfish, and
  • wildlife habitat.

These public interests are protected by requiring a careful review of proposed work that may alter wetlands.  The law protects not only wetlands, but other resource areas, such as land subject to flooding (100-year floodplains), the riverfront area (added by the Rivers Protection Act), and land under water bodies, waterways, salt ponds, fish runs, and the ocean.

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At the local level, the Yarmouth’s Conservation Commission administers the Wetlands Protection Act and Bylaw. The law regulates many types of work in resource areas, including vegetation removal, regrading, and construction of houses, additions, decks, driveways, and commercial or industrial buildings. If you want to work in a wetland resource area or within 100 feet of a wetland (an area called the buffer zone), contact the Conservation Division before you start work. If you are unsure whether your proposed work site is in a resource area or whether the work will alter a resource area, you can apply for a Request for Determination of Applicability. If the Commission determines that the work will alter a resource area, you must file an application, called a Notice of Intent (NOI), and pay an application fee.

The NOI requires a plan describing the details of the proposed project, location of wetland resource areas and buffer zones, and measures to be taken to protect them. This information can be found in the regulations and application instructions. Contact the Conservation Division for guidance on the content and detail needed in plans. The Commission will visit the site to verify the resource area boundaries on the property. At a public hearing on the project, the applicant may present information, and abutters and other members of the public may ask questions. Following the hearing, the Commission will issue a permit, called an Order of Conditions. The Order will either approve the project - with special conditions that will protect the public interests - or deny the project if impacts to resource areas cannot be avoided or mitigated. The applicant, landowner, any aggrieved person, abutter, group of 10 citizens, or MassDEP may appeal the local Commission's decision to MassDEP.