PA 10-106—sSB 124 (VETOED; OVERRIDDEN)

Environment Committee

Planning and Development Committee

Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee

AN ACT CONCERNING LONG ISLAND SOUND, COASTAL PERMITTING AND CERTAIN GROUP FISHING LICENSES AND PERMITS FOR SOLID WASTE FACILITIES

SUMMARY: This act 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 act 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 it 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 act permits the commissioner to, through regulation, establish a simplified schedule and vary the statutory permit fees and cost of publishing notice. The schedule must promote expedited approval for applications consistent with all applicable standards and criteria ( 8).

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

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. The act expands the activities eligible for a certificate of permission ( 10).

It expands the list of notices and permits that may be submitted electronically.

The act adds to those individuals who may petition for a hearing on a regulated activity permit. It also eliminates the deadline for holding wetlands hearings.

The act makes 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 act amends the definition of sewage to (1) include only human body wastes, toilet wastes, and waste from other receptacles for body waste; and (2) exclude animal, domestic, and manufacturing wastes ( 2).

The act eliminates (1) coastal management grants to municipalities and (2) the estuarine embayment improvement program ( 16). It also 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).

The act also creates a group fishing license for any tax-exempt organization for the purpose of conducting a group fishing event for certain individuals. The license fee is $250 ( 12, 13, 14).

The act prohibits the DEP commissioner from making a determination of need or approving any permit application that is pending or filed as of the act's passage for a new solid waste facility or the expansion of an existing facility located within 1,000 feet of a primary or secondary aquifer, until the need for additional capacity is determined by the Solid Waste Management Plan ( 15).

Finally, the act makes technical and conforming changes.

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2010, except for the repeal of coastal management grants and the estuarine environment improvement program, the group fishing license, and the provisions affecting solid waste facilities, which are effective on passage.

CERTIFICATES OF PERMISSION

The act expands the activities eligible for a certificate of permission to include tidal wetland restoration; resource restoration or enhancement; and substantial maintenance or repair of structures, fill, obstructions, or encroachments placed 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 act 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. Prior law applied only to activities completed before January 1, 1980, and required the applicant to demonstrate that the activity did not (1) interfere with littoral or riparian rights or navigation and (2) adversely affect coastal resources ( 10) (see BACKGROUND).

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

ELECTRONIC TRANSMITTAL

The act authorizes electronic transmittal of (1) wetlands regulated activity permit applications from the DEP commissioner to the chief administrative officer of any town in which proposed work is located, (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).

PERMIT HEARINGS

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

The act eliminates the requirement that the hearing occur between 30 and 60 days after the receipt of a wetlands activity permit application ( 3).

GROUP FISHING LICENSE

Under the act, the DEP commissioner may issue a group fishing license to any tax-exempt organization for the purpose of conducting a group fishing event for individuals:

1. with a service-related or other disability who receive services at a U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs Connecticut Healthcare System facility;

2. who receive mental health or addiction services from the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS), DMHAS-funded programs or facilities, or psychiatric hospitals operated at least in part by DMHAS;

3. with autism or mental retardation who receive services from the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) or a DDS-licensed facility; or

4. receiving care from the Department of Children and Families (DCF), in receiving homes, or certain DCF-licensed child care facilities or programs.

Tax-exempt groups seeking a permit must apply annually, on a form prescribed by the commissioner. The license fee is $250.

Tax-exempt groups receiving a license may hold up to 50 events per year, including inland and marine water events. Each event is limited to 50 people. The events must be supervised by organization staff or volunteers, who must possess the group license at the event site. In addition, each staff member or volunteer must have his or her own fishing license. The groups may not charge a fee to participate and the events may not be used as a fundraiser.

Within 10 days after a group fishing event, the group must, on forms provided by the commissioner, report the number of (1) participants, (2) hours fished, (3) each species caught, and (4) each species not released.

Under the act, a fishing license is not required for any individual participating in a group fishing event conducted by an organization with a group license. Any such participant is subject to other state laws related to fishing.

BACKGROUND

Routine Maintenance

By 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 are for a specific time, 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) such as:

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; or

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

No Discharge Area

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 Zone

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

OLR Tracking: JK: KS: pf: ts