April 1, 2016

Shoreland Protection Laws

OLR Report 2016-R-0013 broadly summarizes shoreland protection laws in New England states.  Shoreland protection laws are statutory mechanisms to protect, on a statewide basis, the land near lakes, ponds, and rivers from pollution and other environmental challenges.  Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont each have a shoreland protection law that generally restricts certain activities (e.g., construction or clearing) within these areas through a permitting process.  The laws vary in scope and in how they are administered.

Maine's Mandatory Shoreland Zoning Act requires municipalities to adopt shoreland zoning ordinances to regulate land use activity within (1) 250 feet of great ponds, rivers, or wetlands and (2) 75 feet of streams. 

New Hampshire's Shoreland Water Quality Protection Act restricts development and land use activity within 250 feet of large streams and designated rivers; tidal waters; and certain lakes, ponds, and impoundments.

Vermont's Shoreland Protection Act is limited to land surrounding certain lakes and ponds.  The act regulates development activity within 250 feet of these water bodies.

These shoreland laws work in conjunction with other laws that regulate activity near waterbodies, such as state wetland laws.  In Vermont, for example, certain wetlands have a required 100-foot or 50-foot buffer area.  Consequently, there may be shoreland areas that are also wetlands, potentially requiring both wetlands and shoreland permits.

For more information, read the full report here.