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BILL AS INTRODUCED 2007-2008

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H.193

Introduced by Representative Deen of Westminster

Referred to Committee on

Date:

Subject:  Conservation and development; water resources; wetlands

Statement of purpose:  This bill proposes to authorize the secretary of natural resources to make certain wetland determinations and modify the Vermont significant wetlands inventory maps.  The bill would also provide for an appeal of the secretary’s determinations, amend the wetland value relating to hydrophytic vegetation habitat, and appropriate funds for the updating and improvement of the Vermont significant wetlands inventory maps. 

AN ACT RELATING TO WETLANDS PROTECTION

It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:

Sec. 1.  FINDINGS

The general assembly finds that:

(1)  It is the policy of the state to preserve, protect, and conserve wetlands and the functions and values derived therefrom to prevent the despoliation and destruction of wetlands; to protect and enhance the quality, character, and usefulness of surface waters; and to regulate the use and development of such wetlands in a manner consistent with beneficial and environmentally sound development, private property interests, and the economic, agricultural, and silvicultural needs of the state.

(2)  The Vermont significant wetlands inventory maps provide information concerning those wetlands in Vermont which have been determined to be significant and which therefore merit protection.

(3)  The Vermont significant wetlands inventory maps have been updated in a piecemeal fashion since their creation and are currently inaccurate in many respects.

(4)  Currently, only the water resources panel of the natural resources board has the authority to modify the Vermont significant wetlands inventory maps, and any such modification may occur only after rulemaking which may only be accomplished pursuant to chapter 25 of Title 3.  There is a need to allow for modification of the maps in a more efficient manner.

Sec. 2.  10 V.S.A. chapter 37 is amended to read:

CHAPTER 37.  WETLANDS PROTECTION AND

WATER RESOURCES MANAGEMENT

Sec. 3.  10 V.S.A. § 902 is amended to read:

§ 902.  DEFINITIONS

Wherever used or referred to in this chapter, unless a different meaning clearly appears from the context:

* * *

(6)  “Class I wetland” means:

(A)  a wetland identified on the Vermont significant wetlands inventory maps as a Class I wetland;

(B)  a wetland which is contiguous, pursuant to the rules of the panel, to a wetland identified as a Class I wetland on the Vermont significant wetlands inventory maps;

(C)  a wetland which the former water resources board determined to be a Class I wetland; or

(D)  a wetland that the panel, based upon an evaluation of the extent to which the wetland serves the functions and values set forth in subdivisions 6025(5)(A)–(K) of this title, determines is exceptional or irreplaceable in its contribution to Vermont’s natural heritage and, therefore, merits the highest level of protection. 

(7)  “Class II wetland” means a wetland, other than a Class I or Class III wetland, that is:

(A)  a wetland identified on the Vermont significant wetlands inventory maps;

(B)  contiguous, pursuant to the rules of the panel, to a wetland identified on the Vermont significant wetlands inventory maps; or

(C)  determined by the secretary to merit protection, pursuant to section 913 of this title, based upon an evaluation of the extent to which it serves the functions and values set forth in subdivisions 6025(5)(A)–(K) of this title and the rules of the panel.

(8)  “Class III wetland” means a wetland that is not a Class I wetland nor a Class II wetland.

(9)  “Buffer zone” means an area contiguous to a protected wetland that protects the wetland’s functions and values.  The buffer zone for a Class I wetland shall extend at least 100 feet from the border of the wetland, unless the panel determines otherwise under section 914 of this title.  The buffer zone for a Class II wetland shall extend at least 50 feet from the border of the wetland unless the secretary determines otherwise under section 913 of this title.

(10)  “Panel” means the water resources panel of the natural resources board.

(11)  “Protected wetland” means any Class I or Class II wetland.

(12)  “Secretary” means the secretary of natural resources or the secretary’s authorized representative.

Sec. 4.  10 V.S.A. § 905b(18) is amended to read:

(18)  study and investigate the wetlands of the state and cooperate with municipalities, the general public, other agencies, and the board in collecting and compiling data relating to wetlands, propose to the board specific wetlands to be designated as significant Class I wetlands, and implement through existing programs the rules adopted by the board governing significant wetlands, including the issuance or denial of conditional use determinations orders pursuant to section 1272 of this title; the issuance or denial of conditional use determinations pursuant to section 6025 of this title and the rules of the panel, and the issuance of wetland determinations pursuant to section 913 of this title.

Sec. 5.  10 V.S.A. § 911 is amended to read:

§ 911.  ENTRANCE UPON LANDS; RECORDS; MAINTENANCE

The department employee or agent may enter upon lands for the purposes of inspecting and investigating conditions relating to wetland determinations pursuant to section 914 of this title, sources of pollution of the waters of the state or the potential pollution thereof, and to determine whether the rules and orders of the department or the panel are being complied with.  Any authorized representative of the department may examine any records or memoranda pertaining to the operation of disposal systems or related water quality projects.  The department may require the maintenance of records relating to the operation of disposal systems.  Copies of these records shall be submitted to the department on request.


Sec. 6.  10 V.S.A. chapter 37, subchapter 4 is added to read:

Subchapter 4.  Wetlands Determinations and Protection

§ 913.  PROHIBITION

Except for allowed uses adopted by the panel by rule, no person shall conduct or allow to be conducted an activity in a protected wetland or buffer zone of a protected wetland except in compliance with a conditional use determination or order issued by the secretary.

§ 914.  WETLAND DETERMINATIONS

(a)  The secretary may, upon a petition or on his or her own motion, determine whether any wetland is a Class II or Class III wetland.  Such determinations shall be based on an evaluation of the functions and values set forth in subdivisions 6025(d)(5)(A)–(K) of this title and the rules of the panel.

(b)       The secretary may establish the necessary width of the buffer zone of any Class II wetland as part of any wetland determination pursuant to the rules of the panel.

(c)  The secretary shall provide, in person or by mail, a written copy of a wetland determination issued under this section to the owner of the relevant parcel of land and to the requesting petitioner.

(d)  The secretary may recommend to the panel that a wetland be classified as a Class I wetland under section 915 of this title.


§ 915.  CLASS I WETLANDS

The classification of any wetland as a Class I wetland, the classification of a Class I wetland as a Class II or III wetland, or the modification of the buffer zone of a Class I wetland shall be conducted by the panel pursuant to the rulemaking provisions of chapter 25 of Title 3.

§ 916.  AMENDMENT OF VERMONT SIGNIFICANT WETLANDS

             INVENTORY MAPS

The secretary shall amend the Vermont significant wetlands inventory maps to reflect a wetland determination issued under section 914 of this title or rulemaking by the panel under section 915 of this title.

§ 917.  APPEALS

Any act or decision of the secretary under this subchapter may be appealed in accordance with chapter 220 of this title.

Sec. 7.  Sections 921-924 of 10 V.S.A. chapter 37 are recodified within subchapter 5, which is added to read:

Subchapter 5.  Aquatic Nuisance Control

Sec. 8.  10 V.S.A. § 6025(d) is amended to read:

(d)  The water resources panel may adopt rules, in accordance with the provisions of chapter 25 of Title 3, in the following areas:

* * *

(5)  Rules regarding the identification of wetlands that are so significant that they merit protection.  Any determination that a particular wetland is significant merits protection will result from an evaluation of at least the following functions and values which a wetland serves:

* * *

(G)  provides for hydrophytic vegetation habitat contributes to Vermont’s natural heritage;

* * *

(7)  Rules protecting wetlands that have been determined under subdivision (5) or (6) of this subsection to be significant merit protection, including rules that provide for the issuance or denial of conditional use determinations and wetland determinations under chapter 37 of this title by the department of environmental conservation; provided, however, that the rules may only protect the values and functions sought to be preserved by the designation.  The panel shall not adopt rules that restrain agricultural activities without the consent of the secretary of the agency of agriculture, food and markets and shall not adopt rules that restrain silvicultural activities without the consent of the commissioner of the department of forests, parks and recreation.


Sec. 9.  APPROPRIATIONS

In addition to any other funds appropriated to the agency of natural resources in fiscal year 2008, there is appropriated from the general fund to the agency $700,000.00 in fiscal year 2008 for the purpose of updating and improving the Vermont significant wetlands inventory maps. 

Sec. 10.  EFFECTIVE DATE

This act shall take effect July 1, 2007.



Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont


www.leg.state.vt.us