The Wendell Conservation Commission is a three-member board established to administer the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act (MGL Chapter 131, Section 40) and collaborate with various town departments on wetland issues. Wetlands and floodplains are protected because they play a vital role in serving the following public interests:
- Protection of Public and private water supply
- Protection of Groundwater supply
- Flood control and storm damage prevention
- Pollution prevention
- Protection of fisheries and wildlife habitat
The Wendell Conservation Commission holds it's regular meeting on the first Wednesday of every month unless otherwise posted.
Understanding the Wetlands Protection Act (WPA):
The Wetlands Protection Act is the state law that ensures critical natural resources that serve public interests are protected. Wetland Resource Areas include:
"Buffer zone" - Any land within 100 feet of a wetland or bank of a stream, this is protected because of its importance to the wetland and to wildlife habitat
Floodplains - areas along streams or rivers that are flooded in major storms
Vegetated wetlands - areas where soils are wet and where wetland plants, such as red maple, skunk cabbage, cattails, cinnamon and sensitive fern occur
- Wet meadows
- Man-made ponds or ditches
Riverfront Area - All land within 200 feet of a river or perennially-flowing stream, measured horizontally from the top of the bank of the river or stream (not at an angle up a hill) - the "riverfront area" is protected by The Rivers Act
Bordering land subject to flooding - The area flooded by 100-year (or less) storm events
Isolated land subject to flooding - Isolated areas that flood and hold at least 1/4 acre foot, 6 inches deep at least once a year
Any building project that takes place in one of these Resource Areas or a buffer zone of a Resource Area requires a filing with the Conservation Commission.
A good regulatory definition of the term "wetland" may be found in the Federal Clean Water Act:
Those areas that are inundated or saturated by surface or ground water at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions.
As such, wetlands are defined -- or delineated -- according to three criteria:
Hydrophytic vegetation: water-tolerant plants that have adapted to wetland conditions
Hydric soils: water-saturated soils that have become oxygen deficient. Indicators of hydric Soils form after being inundated for a week or more during the growing season
Other indicators of the hydrologic regime: dominated by the presence of water through flooding or saturated ground, including intermittent stream channels, shallow rooting, etc.
Working Under the Wetlands Protection Act - Requesting a Site Visit:
Most projects (i.e. perc. tests, additions, paving roadways, building accessory structures, swimming pools, etc.) that require building permits from the Building Department first require a sign-off from the Conservation Commission. To complete this first step, stop by the Commission office at Town Hall and complete a Site Visit form. The form requires you to provide the following information:
- the project location (map & lot number)
- a brief description of the work to be done
- a basic site plan showing where the proposed project will take place
In addition, the location of the proposed work should be flagged or staked in the field. The Conservation Commission will conduct an inspection within 14 days. If no wetland resources are present, the Commissioner will sign-off on the project and no further filing with the Commission for the project is necessary. If wetland resources are present near the proposed work site, the Commissioner will advise the applicant on how to proceed. Usually a Request for Determination of Applicability (RDA) or a Notice of Intent (NOI) are required.