Thanks to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, there is one less obstacle in the way of Commonwealth businesses and residents faced with a massive snow removal and cleanup effort in the wake of the January 2015 Blizzard. On January 26, MassDEP issued an Emergency Declaration that suspends the standard permitting and emergency certification provisions of the Massachusetts Wetlands Regulations in order to allow certain post-storm recovery activities to proceed unimpeded. To take advantage of the Emergency Declaration, MassDEP is requiring written notification of the proposed post-storm recovery activities to the appropriate conservation commission and regional MassDEP office on or before Monday, February 2.
MassDEP did set certain conditions on the activities that business and property owners may undertake without filing a Notice of Intent or requesting an Emergency Certification, including that:
- The activity must be necessary to protect public health and safety from damage caused by the January 2015 Blizzard on or about January 27, 2015.
- Any wetland resource area altered by the activity must be restored to its pre-storm conditions.
- Written notification must be provided to the appropriate conservation commission and regional MassDEP office on or before Monday, February 2. This notification must provide a detailed description of the post-storm activities performed or to be performed, and must certify that these activities are limited to those necessary to restore conditions existing on January 26, 2015 and protect public health or safety from damage caused by the Blizzard.
- The activity must be completed by February 27, 2015. Any activities not completed by that date will require a written Emergency Certification under 310 CMR 10.06 or a Negative Determination of Applicability or Order of Conditions allowing the activity before continuing.
Post-storm restoration activities allowed under the Emergency Declaration include:
- Removal of debris blocking culverts, bridges, streams or river channels to restore conditions existing on or prior to January 26, 2015 (although stream restoration, including channel or bank stabilization, is not permitted).
- Repair, stabilizing and shoring up, but not the expansion, of any building or other structure where (1) the work is limited to the footprint of the structure that existed on January 26, 2015 and (2) the cost of restoring the building or structure to its pre-storm condition does not exceed 50% of the market value of the building or structure immediately prior to the storm damage.
- Repair, but not the expansion or realignment, of any culvert through which a stream or river flows.
- Repair, but not the expansion, of manmade stormwater management structures such as catch basins, drainage pipes, swales, detention basins, and spillways.
- Discharge of water pumped from flooded buildings to wetland resource areas, provided the discharge is not contaminated with oil or other toxic or hazardous material.
MassDEP notes that any activities undertaken beyond the scope of the Emergency Declaration constitute a violation of the Wetlands Protections Act and could subject the person conducting or directing such activities to enforcement action.