Rules and Regulations Governing the Administration and Enforcement of the Freshwater Wetlands Act
|Title||250||Department of Environmental Management|
|Part||2||Rules and Regulations Governing the Administration and Enforcement of the Freshwater Wetlands Act|
|Type of Filing||Adoption|
|Filing Notice Date||11/23/2020|
|Filing Hearing Date(s)||01/06/2021
|Public Comment Dates||11/23/2020 to 01/22/2021
Regulation Authority :
R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 2-1-18 through 2-1-27
Purpose and Reason :
The Department proposes to adopt new freshwater wetland rules in accordance with the amendments set forth in R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 2-1-18 through 2-1-27 to strengthen the protection of freshwater wetlands and to provide clarity and predictability and streamlining of the regulatory framework. The new rules will replace the existing rule which will be repealed. The statutory amendments were enacted in response to recommendations of a Legislative Task Force as described in the Final Report, dated December 2014, Rhode Island Division of Planning.
Following is a brief summary of the proposed rules, 250-RICR-150-15-2:
1. § 2.4 incorporates new and revised definitions of certain terms including, but not limited to, freshwater wetlands, jurisdictional area, buffer and buffer zone.
2. § 2.5.1, the applicability rule, is clarified by identifying landscape features that are not considered freshwater wetlands.
3. § 2.5.2 describes the additional areas that will fall under the Department jurisdiction consistent with the expansion of the authority prescribed in the amended law.
4. § 2.6, the list of exempt activities, is modified by adding new exemptions or clarifying the language of existing exemptions.
5. §§ 2.7.1(A) and (B) of the rule specify freshwater wetlands and buffer protection standards the latter of which are new. The buffer standards reflect a tiered protection with buffer zone widths specified between 25 feet and 200 feet for the different freshwater wetland resources being protected. This section also includes rules addressing the creation of new buffer on existing disturbed properties and a procedure for in-fill lots.
6. § 2.7.1(C) specifies construction setback requirements.
7. § 2.7.2 presents the review criteria pertaining to the review of applications for proposed projects or activities.
8. § 2.7.3. establishes a new variance procedure for applicants proposing projects or activities that do not meet certain protection standards (§§ 2.7.1(A) to (F)).
9. In § 2.8.9 the application fee schedule is simplified and the fee for municipal government projects is eliminated.
10. § 2.10 establishes the new process for the issuance of general permits.
11. § 2.13 is organized to more clearly present rules applicable to farming and ranching activities.
12. § 2.16 includes new language on a municipal petition process, as required by the amended law.
13. § 2.23 provides additional detail, including tables, to identify the applicable buffer zone designations.
14. § 2.24 includes a map which is used to distinguish buffer zone requirements by the designation of regions.
15. § 2.19 discusses the relationship of the new rules to existing applications and the municipal approval process.
16. § 2.20 specifies a 180-day phase in period before the new rules would take effect.
17. Other changes in wording for clarity and consistency have been made throughout the rules.