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Permitting
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Information for Permit Application and Review
Our information for applicants document provides basic information concerning the permit application and review process.

If you have questions as to whether your project requires a permit, or if you need clarification about any aspect of the permitting process, please contact the Conservation Department during posted office hours, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at 781-455-7550, extension 248.

Regulatory (Permitting) Role of the Needham Conservation Commission

The Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act and regulations and the Needham Wetlands Protection Bylaw (Article 6) and Needham Wetlands Protection Regulations (August 2014) are administered by the Needham Conservation Commission in order to ensure that no harm is done to the wetlands or to their ability to protect public and private water supply, protect groundwater, protect water quality, prevent flooding and storm damage, and protect wildlife, wildlife habitat, and fisheries (the “public interests”).

If you are planning any work within a wetland resource area or buffer zone, you will need to apply for and obtain a permit or a formal determination that your project will not adversely impact resource areas.

Under the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act no one may “remove, fill, dredge, or alter” any of the land surface, water levels, or vegetation in wetlands, flood plains, “bordering vegetated wetlands” (BVWs), or other wetland resource areas without obtaining a permit from the local Conservation Commission.

The Conservation Commission also has the authority to regulate activities in the "buffer zone” of upland that is within 100 feet of a wetland or stream, and the “riverfront area” within 200 feet of perennial rivers or streams.

Statutes that Provide Regulatory Authority
Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act (MGL Ch. 131. S. 40)
Since the passage of the Jones Act in 1963, Massachusetts has become a leader in wetland protection. The Jones Act was the first wetlands protection statute in the nation and required developers to acquire permits before building on or filling in coastal wetlands. In 1965, the Massachusetts legislature passed the Hatch Law that extended protection to inland wetlands.

In 1972, these laws were combined into the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act and broadened to protect beaches, dunes, wetland banks, and areas subject to flooding. Town Conservation Commissions are required to implement the wetland regulations at the local level for the protection and conservation of local wetlands, watershed areas, and other natural resources.

Rivers Protection Act

The Rivers Protection Act was incorporated into the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act in 1996 in order to strengthen the protection of rivers and permanent streams through the creation of a new resource area, a riverfront area buffer zone. The riverfront area is a 200-foot wide corridor of land on each side of a perennial river or stream, measured from the high-water line of the river.

Needham Wetlands Protection Bylaw (Town of Needham General Bylaw Article 6)
The Town of Needham Wetlands Bylaw additionally protects resource areas defined as any freshwater wetland, including marsh, wet meadow, bog, or swamp; any bank of a lake, pond, river, stream, or other watercourse; any water body or waterway, including any lake, river, pond, stream, or watercourse: land within 100 feet of a vernal pool; and any bordering or isolated land subject to flooding or inundation by groundwater or surface water.