Tim Bergquist, an ISA Master Arborist and an ASCA Registered Consulting Arborist is a guest blogger and local expert. His expertise with the Shoreland Protection Act is applied in his business practice. In the below paragraphs, Berquist gives a basic outline of the New Hampshire Shoreland Water Quality Protection Act, commonly referred to as the Shoreland Protection Act.
Berquist has a bachelors in environmental forest biology and over 28 years of experience in all aspects of arboriculture. He enjoys helping to educate those interested in regulations that protect our state's shorelands, one our most fragile and beautiful natural resources.
The shoreland protection act was put in place in 1991 to establish the minimum standards for the use and development of land adjacent to the state’s public water bodies.
There were many changes applied over the following 20 years with the most recent changes occurring in 2011.
- The shoreland buffer is the 250 feet adjacent to the state’s shoreline of the sea, large ponds, lakes, and large rivers.
- It is measured from the reference line, a point near the shoreline from which the setback is determined.
The shoreland buffer includes (2) more restricted buffers, the natural woodland and waterfront buffer,
- The waterfront buffer is the first 50’ along the shore,
- The woodland buffer extends from the shore to 150’ and includes the waterfront buffer.
The woodland buffers purpose is to protect the quality of public waters by:
· Minimizing erosion
· Preventing siltation and turbidity
· Stabilizing soils
· Preventing excess nutrients and chemical pollution
· Maintaining natural water temperatures and a healthy tree canopy and understory
· Preserving fish and wildlife habitat and the overall natural condition of the protected shoreland
It requires that on a given lot that 25% of the area from 50 feet to 150 feet shall be maintained as a natural woodland.
The waterfront buffer is highly restricted; it was put in place to protect the quality of public waters. It does, however, still allow homeowner discretion with regard to the following:
- View-scape maintenance
- Lot design
This discretion comes with prohibitions and limitations including:
- The use and application of pesticides and fertilizers within the buffer, the setback can be extended to include the entire shoreland buffer in areas located near the water supply
- The removal of rocks, stumps, trees and woody vegetation
- Limitations on the pruning of trees and shrubs
- The maintenance of the minimum quantity of points required by the act for each shoreline segment
As measured along the shoreline, the segments are 25’ wide parcels that extend inland to the 50’ setback. They begin at the northerly or easterly boundary.
Each segment requires 25 points of vegetation, this vegetation can consist of tree, sapling, shrub and ground cover, but does not include a mowed lawn.
The points are determined by the diameter of the tree at 4.5 feet or the caliper of a tree measured at the height on nursery standards. A one inch diameter minimum is set for trees, ground cover and shrubs are measured by square feet.
Vegetation shall not be removed from any segment which fails to meet the minimum scoring but owners are encouraged to plant non-invasive vegetation to increase point scores.
This can aid in allowing future removal of vegetation as may become necessary while still meeting the point requirements.
Dead, diseased or unsafe trees or saplings shall not be included in scoring.
They can be removed even if the points fall below the minimum quantity if they pose a hazard to structures or have the potential to cause personal injury. I recommend consulting with a qualified arborist if you have a concern but are unsure how to proceed.
Normal trimming, pruning and thinning of branches necessary to maintain the health of the planted areas as well as to protect structures, maintain clearances and provide views is permitted as long as it does not endanger the health of the plant.
I recommend you include qualified professionals, contractors and consultants in any plan designs that you would like to implement within your shoreland property.
There are many limitations put in place by the shoreland protection act, all of which were put in place to preserve our beautiful shoreland and watershed.
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