Issue Profile
Wetlands and Waterbodies Protection Rules

revised: August 2003      contact: (207)287-3901

Background

Maine's wetlands and waterbodies are some of its most valuable natural resources, providing crucial wildlife and fisheries habitat, acting as flood barriers, and filtering harmful materials and sediment from surface water runoff.  But activities in these crucial areas are causing their rapid degradation and, in some cases, destruction, producing significant economic and environmental impacts.

To address this problem, on June 13, 1990, the Board of Environmental Protection adopted Chapter 310, the Wetland Protection Rules, under the Natural Resources Protection Act (NRPA).  On September 1, 2002, the Board adopted changes to Chapter 310, renaming it the Wetlands and Waterbodies Protection Rules, and adding rivers, streams, and brooks as natural resources subject to these rules.

What activities are governed by the Wetlands and Waterbodies Protection Rules?

The rules govern activities in or adjacent to coastal wetlands, freshwater wetlands (including wetlands associated with great ponds or wetlands that are in the floodplain of any river, stream, or brook), great ponds, rivers, streams, and brooks.

How do the Wetlands and Waterbodies Protection Rules affect the review of applications under the NRPA?

Prior to the rules' adoption, applications for alterations to protected natural resources were reviewed on a case-by-case basis, making consistency in the decision-making process difficult. The Wetlands and Waterbodies Protection Rules clarify what information is required with an application. The rules also establish standards for project review, ensuring not only consistency, but also predictability.

The level of review required for projects in and adjacent to wetlands and waterbodies depends on the size of the alteration, the type of activity proposed, and the type and value of the resource. It is best to verify the type of resource impacted by your project by contacting the DEP or a professional natural resource consultant prior to filing an application.

How are different types of wetlands and waterbodies addressed in the rules?

The Wetlands and Waterbodies Protection Rules establish six types of freshwater wetlands: forested, scrub shrub, emergent, wet meadow, peatland, and open water. In addition, all coastal wetlands, great ponds, and certain freshwater wetlands are considered Wetlands of Special Significance as defined by these rules. Rivers, streams, and brooks are defined as a channel between two defined banks, and can include both continuously flowing intermittent rivers, streams, and brooks. It is best to verify with the DEP what kinds of resources are likely to be impacted by your project before filing an application.

How are the Wetlands and Waterbodies Protection Rules applied to specific projects?

The standards require that alterations to protected natural resources be avoided where possible, and a written alternatives analysis will be required of an applicant. If it can be demonstrated that no practicable alternative exists, then the applicant must show that the amount of the resource affected has been minimized to the greatest extent practicable.

All projects in or adjacent to (within 75 feet of) wetlands of special significance and rivers, streams, and brooks require a permit. Alterations in freshwater wetlands may need a permit, depending on the size and location of the project. For all projects, erosion control measures must be used, and any applicable water quality standards and water classification standards must be met. Contact the DEP for more information on standards and permit applications.

Compensation may be required for any lost functions and values of wetlands, great ponds, or rivers, streams, and brooks. Compensation may take the form of restoring degraded resources, enhancing the functions of existing resources, preserving wetlands or waterbodies or adjacent uplands that have similar functions and are vulnerable to development, or creating wetlands or waterbodies from upland areas.

Where can I get an application form or additional information on the Wetlands and Waterbodies Protection Rules?

For more information, contact a Land and Water Bureau, Division of Land Resource Regulation staff member at the DEP office nearest you:

  • Augusta--17 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333
    (207)287-2111 or 1-800-452-1942
  • Bangor---106 Hogan Road, Bangor, ME 04401
    (207)941-4570 or 1-888-769-1137
  • Portland--312 Canco Road, Portland, ME 04103
    (207)822-6300 or 1-888-769-1036
  • Presque Isle--1235 Central Drive, Presque Isle, ME 04769
    (207)764-0477 or 1-888-769-1053