Senate passes conference committee version of shoreland protection bill


The Senate gave final approval Wednesday to a bill requiring a permit to build along Vermont's shorelines. Vermont has no statewide standards for development along the shorelines of its lakes and ponds. According to a 2013 report on Vermont's lakes, there is less natural shoreline vegetation in Vermont than the national average. More on shorelands protection bill.

Sen. Diane Snelling, R-Chittenden, made shorelands protection a priority this session.

"The waters of Vermont are at risk, and we must take action in every possible way," Snelling told the Senate. These standards are part of an overall plan to protect the state's water quality and aquatic habitat, she said.

House and Senate lawmakers last week reached an agreement on a bill, H.526, which is designed to preserve aquatic and shoreline habitat along Vermont's lakes and large ponds by requiring development to meet certain permitting standards enforced by the Agency of Natural Resources.

Snelling said the Senate's version of the bill "prevailed" through the conference committee with minor compromises.

House lawmakers ensured that towns with "functionally equivalent" permitting standards could enforce their own programs. In exchange, the Senate kept minimal statewide permitting standards drafted by ANR in the bill.

The restrictions within the so-called 100-foot protection zone include no construction on a 20 percent slope; less than 40 percent of the parcel's area can be cleared of its natural vegetative cover; and less than 20 percent of a parcel's area can contain impervious surfaces that prevent the absorption of water runoff.

The bill gives the ANR the authority to adopt new rules to implement the law and expand the standards. The conference committee also added a request for a report on the progress of shoreland protection standards.


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