OLR Bill Analysis

sSB 124

AN ACT CONCERNING LONG ISLAND SOUND AND COASTAL PERMITTING.

SUMMARY:

This bill requires anyone receiving a wetlands regulated activity permit, dredging permit, certificate of permission for routine maintenance, or emergency authorization for corrective action on or after October 1, 2010, to file a certified copy of the document on the land records of the municipality where the property is located within 30 days of issuance (see BACKGROUND). It requires a property owner transferring land for which such a document is issued to record the document in the land records before the transfer (1).

The bill establishes a fee for retaining structures (1) built without the required building or dredging permit and (2) ineligible for a certificate of permission. The fee is four times the fee for a permit to build the structure, although the DEP commissioner may lower the fee upon a finding of significant extenuating circumstances, including whether the applicant acquired his or her interest in the site after the unauthorized activity occurred, is not otherwise liable, and did not have reason to know about the unauthorized activity. By law, permit fees depend on the size of the project. The bill permits the commissioner to establish a simplified fee schedule and vary the statutory permit fees and cost of publication through regulation. The schedule must promote expedited approval for applications consistent with all applicable standards and criteria (8).

The bill eliminates a provision permitting the placement, maintenance, or removal of aquaculture structures and buoys without a permit while a permit is pending (9).

The bill expands the activities eligible for a certificate of permission (10). By law, the commissioner may issue a certificate of permission for certain activities in state tidal, coastal, or navigable waters, including maintenance and repair of existing structures (CGS 22a-363b). It expands the list of notices and permits that may be submitted electronically.

Under current law, the commissioner must hold a hearing on a regulated activity permit request when 25 people petition her to do so. The bill allows a permit applicant to request a hearing on the application (3) (see BACKGROUND).

The bill also eliminates (1) coastal management grants to municipalities and (2) the estuarine embayment improvement program (12) and also makes technical and conforming changes.

The bill makes several changes to the statutes governing waste discharge. It replaces the state designated “no discharge” areas within Long Island Sound with the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) designated areas (see BACKGROUND). For the purposes of the section, the bill amends the definition of sewage to (1) include only human body wastes, toilet wastes, and waste from other receptacles; and (2) exclude animal, domestic, and manufacturing wastes (2).

The bill eliminates a requirement that the DEP submit to the General Assembly and governor an annual report concerning the development and implementation of the Coastal Management Act (6).

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2010

CERTIFICATES OF PERMISSION

The bill expands the activities eligible for a certificate of permission to include tidal wetland restoration; resource restoration or enhancement; and substantial maintenance or repair of structure, fill, obstructions, or encroachments landward of the mean high waterline and waterward of the high tide line, completed before October 1, 1987, and continuously maintained and serviceable since.

The bill further expands the activities eligible for a certificate of permission by allowing the DEP commissioner to issue a certificate of permission for activities completed before January 1, 1995 without the necessary permit, certificate, or authorization, provided the applicant demonstrates that the activity complies with all applicable standards and criteria. Current law applies only to activities completed before January 1, 1980, and requires the applicant to demonstrate that the activity does not (1) interfere with navigation, littoral, or riparian rights and (2) adversely affect coastal resources (10) (see BACKGROUND).

Under current law, the commissioner may permit maintenance to the unauthorized activities; the bill allows the commissioner to permit minor alterations to them as well (10).

ELECTRONIC TRANSMITTAL

The bill permits electronic transmittal of (1) wetlands regulated activity permits from the DEP commissioner to the town's chief administrative officer, (2) notice of hearing for the permits, (3) notice of application for dredging permits, and (4) notice of the commissioner's decision regarding the dredging permit ( 3 and 8). It eliminates the requirement that the hearing held by the DEP commissioner occur between 30 and 60 days after the receipt of a wetlands activity permit application (3).

BACKGROUND

Routine Maintenance

Under current law, a person must obtain permission from the commissioner or municipal inland wetlands commission to conduct certain activities, such as removing or depositing material, in a wetlands or watercourse.

Emergency Authorizations

Emergency authorizations may be issued if the DEP commissioner finds they are necessary to deal with imminent threats to human health or the environment and are limited by any conditions the commissioner deems necessary. Emergency authorizations under the coastal structures and dredging program have a specific expiration after which a regular permit application must be filed.

Regulated Activity

By law, regulated activities are any operations within or use of a wetland or watercourse involving (1) removal or deposition of wetland or watercourse material or (2) obstruction, construction, alteration, or pollution of the wetland or watercourse (CGS 22a-38). But regulated activities do not include “as of right” operations and uses (CGS 22a-40). These include:

1. certain agricultural uses;

2. uses incidental to the enjoyment and maintenance of residential property, such as landscaping that does not remove or deposit significant amounts of material from or into the wetland or watercourse or divert or alter a watercourse; and

3. the construction of a residential home under very limited circumstances.

No Discharge Zone

In July 2007, the governor declared all state waters in Long Island Sound to be a “No Discharge Area,” making it illegal for boaters to discharge sewage from vessels anywhere on the Connecticut coastline. The state received the No Discharge Area designation from EPA after demonstrating that sufficient pump-out facilities were available to boaters. Connecticut became the third state (after Rhode Island and New Hampshire) to designate its entire coastline a No Discharge Area.

Littoral

The littoral zone extends from the high water mark to shoreline areas that are permanently submerged.

COMMITTEE ACTION

Environment Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute

Yea

29

Nay

0

(03/19/2010)