Section 40: Removal, fill, dredging or altering of land bordering waters
Section 40. No person shall remove, fill, dredge or alter any bank, riverfront area, fresh water wetland, coastal wetland, beach, dune, flat, marsh, meadow or swamp bordering on the ocean or on any estuary, creek, river, stream, pond, or lake, or any land under said waters or any land subject to tidal action, coastal storm flowage, or flooding, other than in the course of maintaining, repairing or replacing, but not substantially changing or enlarging, an existing and lawfully located structure or facility used in the service of the public and used to provide electric, gas, sewer, water, telephone, telegraph and other telecommunication services, without filing written notice of his intention to so remove, fill, dredge or alter, including such plans as may be necessary to describe such proposed activity and its effect on the environment and without receiving and complying with an order of conditions and provided all appeal periods have elapsed. Said notice shall be filed by delivery in hand to the conservation commission or its authorized representative or by certified mail, return receipt requested, to said commission, or, if none, to the board of selectmen in a town or the mayor of a city in which the proposed activity is to be located. Upon such filing, the receipt of such notice shall be acknowledged in writing on the face thereof and shall include the time and date so received. A person delivering said notice by hand shall be given a receipt in writing acknowledging the time and date of such filing. Copies of such notice shall be sent at the same time by certified mail to the department of environmental protection. To defray state and local administrative costs each person filing such a notice shall pay a filing fee, determined on a sliding scale basis by the commissioner of administration after consultation with the secretary of environmental affairs. Fifty percent of any filing fee in excess of twenty-five dollars shall be made payable to the department of environmental protection, in a manner to be determined by the commissioner of environmental protection, at the same time as the copies of the notice are sent to the department of environmental protection. The remainder of said fee shall be made payable to the city or town; provided, that said remainder shall be expended solely by the local conservation commission for the performance of its duties under this chapter and shall accompany the copy of the notice sent to the city or town. No such notice shall be sent before all permits, variances, and approvals required by local by-law with respect to the proposed activity, which are obtainable at the time of such notice, have been obtained, except that such notice may be sent, at the option of the applicant, after the filing of an application or applications for said permits, variances, and approvals; provided, that such notice shall include any information submitted in connection with such permits, variances, and approvals which is necessary to describe the effect of the proposed activity on the environment. Upon receipt of any notice hereunder the department of environmental protection, hereinafter called the department, shall designate a file number for such notice and shall send a notification of such number to the person giving notice to the conservation commission, selectmen or mayor to whom the notice was given. Said notification shall state the name of the owner of the land upon which the proposed work is to be done and the location of said land.
Any person filing a notice of intention with a conservation commission shall at the same time give written notification thereof, by delivery in hand or certified mail, return receipt requested, to all abutters within one-hundred feet of the property line of the land where the activity is proposed, at the mailing addresses shown on the most recent applicable tax list of the assessors, including, but not limited to, owners of land directly opposite said proposed activity on any public or private street or way, and in another municipality or across a body of water. When a notice of intent proposes activities on land under water bodies and waterways or on a tract of land greater than 50 acres, written notification shall be given to all abutters within 100 feet of the proposed project site. For the purposes of this section, ''project site'' shall mean lands where the following activities are proposed to take place: dredging, excavating, filling, grading, the erection, reconstruction or expansion of a building or structure, the driving of pilings, the construction or improvement of roads or other ways and the installation of drainage, sewerage and water systems, and ''land under water bodies and waterways'' shall mean the bottom of, or land under, the surface of the ocean or an estuary, creek, river stream, pond or lake. When a notice of intent proposes activity on a linear shaped project site longer than 1,000 feet in length, notification shall be given to all abutters within 1,000 feet of the proposed project site. If the linear project site takes place wholly within an easement through another person's land, notice shall also be given to the landowner. Said notification shall be at the applicant's expense, and shall state where copies of the notice of intention may be examined and obtained and where information regarding the date, time and place of the public hearing may be obtained. Proof of such notification, with a copy of the notice mailed or delivered, shall be filed with the conservation commission.
Within twenty-one days of the receipt by a conservation commission of a written request made by any person and sent by certified mail, said commission shall make a written determination as to whether this section is applicable to any land or work thereon. When such person is other than the owner, notice of any such determination shall also be sent to the owner.
The term ''applicant'' as used in this section shall mean the person giving notice of intention to remove, fill, dredge or alter.
The term ''person'' as used in this section shall include any individual, group of individuals, association, partnership, corporation, company, business organization, trust, estate, the commonwealth or political subdivision thereof, administrative agency, public or quasipublic corporation or body, or any other legal entity or its legal representative, agents or assigns.
The term ''bogs'' as used in this section shall mean areas where standing or slowly running water is near or at the surface during a normal growing season and where a vegetational community has a significant portion of the ground or water surface covered with sphagnum moss (Sphagnum) and where the vegetational community is made up of a significant portion of one or more of, but not limited to nor necessarily including all, of the following plants or groups of plants: aster (Aster nemoralis), azaleas (Rhododendron canadense and R. viscosum), black spruce (Picea mariana), bog cotton (Eriophorum), cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon), high-bush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum), larch (Larix laricina), laurels (Kalmia angustifolia and K. polifolia), leatherleaf (Chamaedaphne calyculata), orchids (Arethusa, Calopogon, Pogonia), pitcher plants (Sarracenia purpurea), sedges (Cyperaceae), sundews (Droseraccae), sweet gale (Myrica gale), white cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides).
The term ''coastal wetlands'', as used in this section, shall mean any bank, marsh, swamp, meadow, flat or other lowland subject to tidal action or coastal storm flowage.
The term ''freshwater wetlands'', as used in this section, shall mean wet meadows, marshes, swamps, bogs, areas where groundwater, flowing or standing surface water or ice provide a significant part of the supporting substrate for a plant community for at least five months of the year; emergent and submergent plant communities in inland waters; that portion of any bank which touches any inland waters.
The term ''swamps'', as used in this section, shall mean areas where ground water is at or near the surface of the ground for a significant part of the growing season or where runoff water from surface drainage frequently collects above the soil surface, and where a significant part of the vegetational community is made up of, but not limited to nor necessarily include all of the following plants or groups of plants: alders (Alnus), ashes (Fraxinus), azaleas (Rhododendron canadense and R. viscosum), black alder (Ilex verticillata), black spruce (Picea mariana), button bush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), American or white elm (Ulmus americana), white Hellebore (Veratrum viride), hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum), larch (Larix laricina), cowslip (Caltha palustris), poison sumac (Toxicodendron vernix), red maple (Acer rubrum), skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus), sphagnum mosses (Sphagnum), spicebush (Lindera benzoin), black gum tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica), sweet pepper bush (Clethra alnifolia), white cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides), willow (Salicaceae).
The term ''wet meadows'', as used in this section where ground water is at the surface for a significant part of the growing season and near the surface throughout the year and where a significant part of the vegetational community is composed of various grasses, sedges and rushes; made up of, but not limited to nor necessarily including all, of the following plants or groups of plants: blue flag (Iris), vervain (Verbena), thoroughwort (Eupatorium), dock (Rumex), false loosestrife (Ludwigia), hydrophilic grasses (Gramincae), loosestrife (Lythrum), marsh fern (Dryopteris thelypteris), rushes (Juncaceae), sedges (Cyperaceae), sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis), smartweed (Polygonum).
The term ''marshes'', as used in this section, shall mean areas where a vegetational community exists in standing or running water during the growing season and where a significant part of the vegetational community is composed of, but not limited to nor necessarily including all, of the following plants or groups of plants: arums (Araceae), bladder worts (Utricularia), bur reeds (Sparganiaceae), button bush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), cattails (Typha), duck weeds (Lemnaceae), eelgrass (Vallisneria), frog bits (Hydrocharitaceae), horsetails (Equisetaceae), hydrophilic grasses (Gramineae), leatherleaf (Chamaedaphne calyculata), pickerel weeds (Pontederiaceae), pipeworts (Eriocaulon), pond weeds (Potamogeton), rushes (Juncaceae), sedges (Cyperaceae), smartweeds (Polygonum), sweet gale (Myrica gale) water milfoil (Halcragaceae), water lilies (Nymphaeaceae), water starworts (Callitrichaceae), water willow (Decodon verticillatus).
The term ''Densely developed areas'', as used in this section shall mean, any area of ten acres or more that is being utilized, or includes existing vacant structures or vacant lots formerly utilized as of January first, nineteen hundred and forty-four or sooner for, intensive industrial, commercial, institutional, or residential activities or combinations of such activities, including, but not limited to the following: manufacturing, fabricating, wholesaling, warehousing, or other commercial or industrial activities; retail trade and service activities; medical and educational institutions; residential dwelling structures at a density of three or more per two acres; and mixed or combined patterns of the above. Designation of a densely developed area is subject to the secretary of the executive office of environmental affair's approval of a city or town's request for such designation. Land which is zoned for intensive use but is not being utilized for such use as of January first, nineteen hundred and ninety-seven or which has been subdivided no later than May first, nineteen hundred and ninety-six shall not be considered a densely developed area for the purposes of this chapter.
The term ''Mean annual high-water line'', as used in this section, shall mean with respect to a river, the line that is apparent from visible markings or changes in the character of soils or vegetation due to the prolonged presence of water and which distinguishes between predominantly aquatic and predominantly terrestrial land. The mean high tide line shall serve as the mean annual high water line for tidal rivers.
The term ''River'', as used in this section, shall mean a natural flowing body of water that empties to any ocean, lake, or other river and which flows throughout the year.
The term ''Riverfront area'', as used in this section, shall mean that area of land situated between a river's mean annual high-water line and a parallel line located two hundred feet away, measured outward horizontally from the river's mean annual high-water line. This definition shall not create a buffer zone, so-called, beyond such riverfront area. Riverfront areas within municipalities with (i) a population of ninety thousand or more persons or (ii) a population density greater than nine thousand persons per square mile, as determined by the nineteen hundred and ninety federal census; (iii) that are within densely developed areas as defined herein; (iv) land in Waltham between the Charles river on the north, and the Crescent street and Pine street on the south, and the intersection of the Charles river and a line extended from the center line of Walnut street on the west, and the railroad right-of-way now or formerly of the Boston and Maine Railroad on the east; or (v) property located in the town of Milton shown on Milton assessors Map G, Block 56, Lot 13, located on 2 Granite Avenue shall be defined as that area of land situated between a river's mean annual high-water line and a parallel line located twenty-five feet away, measured outward horizontally, from the river's mean annual high-water line. The riverfront area shall not include land now or formerly associated with historic mill complexes including, but not limited to, the mill complexes in the Cities of Holyoke, Taunton, Fitchburg, Haverhill, Methuen and Medford in existence prior to nineteen hundred and forty-six and situated landward of the waterside facade of a retaining wall, building, sluiceway, or other structure existing on the effective date of this act. The riverfront area shall not apply to any mosquito control work done under the provisions of clause (36) of section five of chapter forty, of chapter two hundred and fifty-two or of any special act or to forest harvesting conducted in accordance with a cutting plan approved by the department of environmental management, under the provisions of sections forty to forty-six, inclusive, of chapter one hundred and thirty-two; and shall not include any area beyond one hundred feet of river's mean annual high water mark: in which maintenance of drainage and flooding systems of cranberry bogs occurs; in which agricultural land use or aquacultural use occur; to construction, expansion, repair, maintenance or other work on piers, docks, wharves, boat houses, coastal engineering structures, landings, and all other structures and activities subject to licensing or permitting under chapter ninety-one and its regulations; provided that such structures and activities shall remain subject to statutory and regulatory requirements under chapter ninety-one and section forty of chapter one hundred and thirty-one or is the site of any project authorized by special act prior to January first, nineteen hundred and seventy-three.
The term ''Riverfront area boundary line'', as used in this section, shall mean the line located at the outside edge of the riverfront area.
The conservation commission, selectmen or mayor receiving notice under this section shall hold a public hearing on the proposed activity within twenty-one days of the receipt of said notice. Notice of the time and place of said hearing shall be given by the hearing authority at the expense of the applicant, not less than five days prior to such hearing, by publication in a newspaper of general circulation in the city or town where the activity is proposed and by mailing a notice to the applicant and to the board of health and the planning board of said city or town. The conservation commission and its agents, officers and employees and the commissioner of environmental protection and his agents and employees, may enter upon privately owned land for the purpose of performing their duties under this section. No conditions shall be imposed, nor shall any determination be rendered by a conservation commission, in reference to this section, unless the conservation commission meets with a quorum present.
If after said hearing the conservation commission, selectmen or mayor, as the case may be, determine that the area on which the proposed work is to be done is significant to public or private water supply, to the groundwater supply, to flood control, to storm damage prevention, to prevention of pollution, to protection of land containing shellfish, to the protection of wildlife habitat or to the protection of fisheries or to the protection of the riverfront area consistent with the following purposes: to protect the private or public water supply; to protect the ground water; to provide flood control; to prevent storm damage; to prevent pollution; to protect land containing shellfish; to protect wildlife habitat; and to protect the fisheries, such conservation commission, board of selectmen or mayor shall by written order within twenty-one days of such hearing impose such conditions as will contribute to the protection of the interests described herein, and all work shall be done in accordance therewith. If the conservation commission, selectmen or mayor, as the case may be, make a determination that the proposed activity does not require the imposition of such conditions, the applicant shall be notified of such determination within twenty-one days after said hearing. Such order or notification shall be signed by the mayor or a majority of the conservation commission or board of selectmen, as the case may be, and a copy thereof shall be sent forthwith to the applicant and to the department.
If a conservation commission has failed to hold a hearing within the twenty-one day period as required, or if a commission, after holding such a hearing has failed within twenty-one days therefrom to issue an order, or if a commission, upon a written request by any person to determine whether this section is applicable to any work, fails within twenty-one days to make said determination, or where an order does issue from said commission, the applicant, any person aggrieved by said commission's order or failure to act, or any owner of land abutting the land upon which the proposed work is to be done, or any ten residents of the city or town in which said land is located, may, by certified mail and within ten days from said commission's order or failure to act, request the department of environmental protection to determine whether the area on which the proposed work is to be done is significant to public or private water supply, to the groundwater supply, to flood control, to storm damage prevention, to prevention of pollution, to protection of land containing shellfish, to the protection of wildlife habitat or to the protection of fisheries or to the protection of the riverfront area consistent with the following purposes: to protect the private or public water supply; to protect the ground water; to provide flood control; to prevent storm damage; to prevent pollution; to protect land containing shellfish; to protect wildlife habitat; and to protect the fisheries. The commissioner of environmental protection or his designee also may request such a determination within said ten days. The party making any such request shall at the same time send a copy thereof by certified mail to the conservation commission, board of selectmen or mayor which conducted the hearing hereunder. If such party is other than the applicant, a copy of such request shall also be sent at the same time by certified mail to the applicant. Upon receipt of such request the department shall make the determination requested and shall by written order issued within seventy days of receipt of such request and signed by the commissioner or his designee, impose such conditions as will contribute to the protection of the interests described herein; provided, however, that said department shall notify the applicant within thirty days of the receipt of such request if his application or request is not in proper form or is lacking information or documentation necessary to make the determination. Such order shall supersede the prior order of the conservation commission, board of selectmen or mayor, and all work shall be done in accordance therewith, but in no event shall any work commence until ten days have elapsed following the issuance of said order. In the case of riverfront areas, no order issued by a conservation commission, board of selectmen, mayor, or the department shall permit any work unless the applicant, in addition to meeting the otherwise applicable requirements of this section, has proved by a preponderance of the evidence that (1) such work, including proposed mitigation measures, will have no significant adverse impact on the riverfront area for the following purposes: to protect the private or public water supply; to protect the ground water; to provide flood control; to prevent storm damage; to prevent pollution; to protect land containing shellfish; to protect wildlife habitat; and to protect the fisheries, and (2) there is no practicable and substantially equivalent economic alternative to the proposed project with less adverse effects on such purposes. An alternative is practicable and substantially economically equivalent if it is available and capable of being done after taking into consideration: costs, and whether such costs are reasonable or prohibitive to the owner; existing technology; the proposed use; and logistics in light of overall project purposes. For activities associated with access for one dwelling unit, the area under consideration for practicable alternatives will be limited to the lot; provided, that said lot shall be on file with the registry of deeds as of the August first, nineteen hundred and ninety-six. For other activities including, but not limited to, the creation of a real estate subdivision, the area under consideration shall be the subdivided lots, any parcel out of which the lots were created, and any other parcels that are adjacent to such parcel or adjacent through other parcels formerly or presently owned by the same owner at any time on or after August first, nineteen hundred and ninety-six or any land which can reasonably be obtained; provided, that an ownership interest can reasonably be obtained after taking into consideration: cost, and whether such cost is reasonable or prohibitive to the owner; existing technology; the proposed use; and logistics in light of overall project purposes. At any time prior to a final order of determination by the department, any party requesting a determination may in writing withdraw the request, and such withdrawal shall be effective upon receipt by the department. Notwithstanding the withdrawal, the commissioner or his designee may continue the determination if he notifies all parties within ten days of receipt of the withdrawal. A copy of such order shall be sent to the applicant, to the conservation commission, board of selectmen or mayor which conducted the hearing hereunder. As used in this section the words ''wildlife habitat'' shall mean those areas subject to this section which, due to their plant community composition and structure, hydrologic regime or other characteristics, provide important food, shelter, migratory or overwintering areas, or breeding areas for wildlife.
No work proposed in any notice of intention shall be undertaken until the final order, determination or notification with respect to such work has been recorded in the registry of deeds, or if the land affected thereby be registered land, in the registry section of the land court for the district wherein the land lies. If the final order, determination or notification requires the recording of a plan which (1) shows the location of the work, (2) is prepared by a registered professional engineer or land surveyor and (3) is in recordable form, no work proposed in the notice of intention shall be undertaken until such plan has been recorded in the registry of deeds or, if the land affected thereby is registered land, in the registry section of the land court for the district wherein such land lies.
Within twenty-one days of the receipt of a written request, by the applicant or the owner of the property, for a certificate of compliance, the issuer of the final order shall grant such request if the activity, or portions thereof, complies with such final order. The certificate of compliance shall state that the activity, or portions thereof, has been completed in accordance with such order.
Any site where work is being done which is subject to this section shall display a sign of not less than two square feet or more than three square feet bearing the words, ''Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection File Number....'' and the sign shall display the file number assigned to the project.
If the department of environmental protection finds that any proposed work would violate the provisions of chapter ninety-one, it shall proceed immediately to enforce the provisions of said chapter.
The provisions of this section shall not apply to any mosquito control work done under the provisions of clause (36) of section five of chapter forty, of chapter two hundred and fifty-two or of any special act; to maintenance of drainage and flooding systems of cranberry bogs, to work performed for normal maintenance or improvement of land in agricultural use or in aquacultural use; or to any project authorized by special act prior to January first, nineteen hundred and seventy-three.
Within one hundred and twenty days of the effective date of this act, the department, upon the advice and consent of the Commissioner of the Department of Food and Agriculture, shall promulgate rules and regulations pursuant to this section which shall establish definitions for the term ''normal maintenance or improvement of land in agricultural, or in aquacultural use'', for each agricultural commodity, or where appropriate because of similarities in cultural practices, groups or commodities in the Commonwealth. The department shall create a farmland advisory board to be appointed by the commissioner consisting of five persons one a member of the cooperative extension service, one a member of the USDA soil conservation service, one a member of a municipal conservation commission who has demonstrated expertise in agricultural issues, and two commercial farmers with expertise in different agricultural commodities to assist the department in the drafting of rules and regulations pursuant to this paragraph.
The notice of intention required in the first paragraph of this section shall not apply to emergency projects necessary for the protection of the health or safety of the commonwealth which are to be performed or which are ordered to be performed by an agency of the commonwealth or a political subdivision thereof. An emergency project shall mean any project certified to be an emergency by the conservation commission of the city or town in which the project would be undertaken, or if none, by the mayor of said city or the selectmen of said town. If the conservation commission, mayor, or selectmen, as the case may be, fail to act favorably within twenty-four hours of receipt of a request for certification of an emergency project, said project may be so certified by the commissioner or his designee. In no case shall any removal, filling, dredging, or alteration authorized by such certification extend beyond the time necessary to abate the emergency. The permitting and emergency provisions in this paragraph shall not apply to severe weather emergencies as declared by the commissioner of environmental protection following a destructive weather event requiring widespread recovery efforts, debris cleanup or roadway or utility repair. A severe weather emergency declaration shall allow for emergency related work to occur as necessary for the protection of the health or safety of the residents of the commonwealth. A severe weather emergency declaration by the commissioner shall describe the types of work allowed without filing a notice of intent, any general mitigating measures to condition the work that may be required in performing such work, any notification or reporting requirements, the geographic area of the declaration's effect and the period of time the declaration shall be in effect which, in no event, shall be longer than 3 months unless extended by the commissioner. A severe weather emergency declared by the commissioner shall be sent electronically to all conservation commissions in the geographic area of the severe weather emergency and shall be made widely available to the general public through appropriate channels for emergency communications. A declaration of a severe weather emergency by the commissioner shall not impact the department's ability to enforce any general or special law or rule or regulation that is not altered by the commissioner's declaration.
Notwithstanding the provisions of section fourteen of chapter twenty-one A or any other provision of law to the contrary, the notice of intention required in the first paragraph of this section shall not apply to a maintenance dredging project for which a license has been previously issued within ten years by the division of waterways of the department of environmental protection. A person intending to fill or dredge under such previously issued license shall file a written notice by certified mail to the conservation commission or if none, to the board of selectmen in a town or mayor of a city in which the land upon which such dredging project is located. Such notice shall contain the name and address of the applicant.
If the conservation commission, the board of selectmen or mayor fails to notify the applicant at the applicant's address within twenty days of the receipt of such notice of the specific objections to the commencement of such dredging fill or maintenance dredging contemplated under said license, the applicant may commence such work without any further notice to other agencies of the commonwealth. Notwithstanding failure to notify an applicant, as hereinbefore provided, the conservation commission, the board of selectmen or mayor may at any time designate an area at which spoilage from the dredging may be placed and may require the relocation of shellfish before such maintenance dredging takes place.
If the conservation commission, the board of selectmen or mayor cites specific objections to the notice of intention, such conservation commission, board of selectmen or mayor may order a hearing as provided in this section and all other pertinent provisions of this section shall apply.
Any person who purchases, inherits or otherwise acquires real estate upon which work has been done in violation of the provisions of this section or in violation of any order issued under this section shall forthwith comply with any such order or restore such real estate to its condition prior to any such violation; provided, however, that no action, civil or criminal, shall be brought against such person unless such action is commenced within three years following the recording of the deed or the date of the death by which such real estate was acquired by such person. Any court having equity jurisdiction may restrain a violation of this section and enter such orders as it deems necessary to remedy such violation, upon the petition of the attorney general, the commissioner, a city or town, an owner or occupant of property which may be affected by said removal, filling, dredging or altering, or ten residents of the commonwealth under the provisions of section seven A of chapter two hundred and fourteen.
Rules and regulations shall be promulgated by the commissioner to effectuate the purposes of this section. However, failure by the commissioner to promulgate rules and regulations shall not act to suspend or invalidate the effect of this section. In addition to the other duties provided for in this section, a conservation commission and its agents, officers, and employees; the commissioner, his agents and employees; environmental officers, and any officer with police powers may issue enforcement orders directing compliance with this section and may undertake any other enforcement action authorized by law. Any person who violates the provisions of this section may be ordered to restore property to its original condition and take other actions deemed necessary to remedy such violations.
No person shall remove, fill, dredge or alter any area subject to protection under this section without the required authorization, or cause, suffer or allow such activity, or leave in place unauthorized fill, or otherwise fail to restore illegally altered land to its original condition, or fail to comply with an enforcement order issued pursuant to this section. Each day such violation continues shall constitute a separate offense except that any person who fails to remove unauthorized fill or otherwise fails to restore illegally altered land to its original condition after giving written notification of said violation to the conservation commission and the department shall not be subject to additional penalties unless said person thereafter fails to comply with an enforcement order or order of conditions.
Whoever violates any provision of this section, (a) shall be punished by a fine of not more than twenty-five thousand dollars or by imprisonment for not more than two years, or both such fine and imprisonment; or (b), shall be subject to a civil penalty not to exceed twenty-five thousand dollars for each violation.