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Resources for Inland Wetland Agencies and Conservation Commissions
Assessing Impacts of Upland Development Activities to Wetlands and Watercourses


The complexity of technical information needed by municipal inland wetland agencies (IWA) to assess impacts to wetlands and watercourses from upland development activity has increased significantly due, primarily, to the narrowing of their jurisdiction to impacts on the physical characteristics of wetlands and watercourses. To assist IWA and Conservation Commissions (in a research and advisory role) in assessing whether or not a regulated activity outside wetlands or watercourses are likely to impact or affect the physical characteristics of a wetland or watercourse CACIWC has asked experts to address this issue. Their contributions, previously published in The Habitat or presented in workshops at CACIWC’s environmental conferences, are noted below and can be accessed by clicking on the title.

Background: Inland Wetland Agencies (IWA) have traditionally regulated activities within mapped inland wetlands, determined by presence of “wetland” soils and within water bodies as defined by the Connecticut General Statutes. The 1995 revisions to the Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Act specifically enabled the IWA to regulate upland activities that would likely impact wetlands or watercourses. Beginning with Queach Corporation vs. Branford Inland Wetlands in 2001 and then in 2003 with AvalonBay Communities, Inc. vs. Inland Wetlands Commission of the Town of Wilton, Connecticut’s Supreme Court reaffirmed this authority ( if the municipal regulations so specify). For analysis of these decisions visit the Queach Information Page and the Public Act 04-209 Information Page.

The Court’s clarification of IWA authority to regulate upland areas has generated considerable interest in how to assess activity in upland areas with respect to impacts they may have on wetlands or watercourses. In the AvalonBay decision the Court provided some guidance by limiting jurisdiction for assessing activity in upland areas to potential impacts to the physical characteristics of wetlands and watercourses.

The 2004 Public Act 04 –209, An Act Concerning Jurisdiction of Municipal Inland Wetlands Commissions, codified the Court’s “physical characteristic” limit by amending section 22a-41 of Connecticut’s Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Act with the addition of new subsections (c) and (d) to read as follows:

(c) For purposes of this section, (1) “wetlands or watercourses” includes aquatic, plant or animal life and habitats in wetlands or watercourses, and (2) “habitats” means areas or environments in which an organism or biological population normally lives or occurs.

(d) A municipal inland wetlands agency shall not deny or condition an application for a regulated activity in an area outside wetlands or watercourses on the basis of an impact or effect on aquatic, plant, or animal life unless such activity will likely impact or affect the physical characteristics of such wetlands or watercourses.


Readers are urged to utilize the following references.

  • Center for Watershed Protection
    Watershed Protection Research Monograph No. 1: Impacts of Impervious Cover on Aquatic Systems, March 2003. This report is the first in a series of watershed protection monographs that the CWP is producing. Each monograph synthesizes emerging research within a major topical area in the practice of watershed protection. The cost of the report is $25.00.

Contacts for the Center are:
mail: CWP, 8391 Main Street, Ellicott City, MD 21043
Tel: 410-461-8323 Fax: 410-461-8324

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