If you’ve ever inquired about installing a beach on your lakefront property in New Hampshire, you realize it’s an uphill battle. Although not impossible, getting permission to convert a section of your shoreline to a sandy beach is very difficult to do.
You need a permit. It seems obvious to us, but many people don’t know this. Even on private property, the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services has tight restrictions on any construction activity happening near the water’s edge. DES laws prohibit dredging of lakes and filling shoreline areas with sand. Only a percentage of natural vegetation may be removed. Any beach installation that is permitted by the NHDES must comply with the Comprehensive Shoreland Protection Act (RSA 483-B).
Shoreline restrictions on adding private beaches seem harsh, but there are a number of good reasons for them:
It won’t stay anyway. If a shoreline does not have a natural beach, it is likely that conditions will not support it. The sand that gets dumped there will either drift away with shoreline currents or slowly settle through the soft, mucky bottom sediment. Although it seems like the sand disappears, it does not leave the lake.
Plant growth. Eroding sand along shorelines can change the depth of the lake. When a lake becomes shallow, algae blooms more heavily and plants root in easily. Over time, desirable deep water shoreline areas can become marshy and unattractive.
Water quality. Introducing off-site sand can also introduce contaminants like iron or phosphorus that upsets the pH balance of the lake, promoting unsightly rust-colored bacteria or making the water cloudy.
There is a way to have a private beach on your property without disturbing the shoreline area or affecting the water quality of the lake. Perched beaches are becoming very popular with conscientious New Hampshire lakefront property owners who want to enjoy the recreational benefits of the lake without impacting the environment.
What is a perched beach? A perched beach is a beach area that is elevated at least 12 inches above the high watermark. Similar to a garden terrace, there is a retaining wall set along the water’s edge with steps allowing easy access to the water; often there is a retaining wall on the uphill side as well to provide a level beach area.
While there are restrictions to installing a perched beach, the New Hampshire DES approves of perched beach construction as a solution for home beaches. In fact, the permitting process is fairly trouble-free. The DES provides a “minimum impact expedited permit” to homeowners looking to install a perched beach. Town setback laws will also apply to the boundaries that run perpendicular to the lake.
Plan ahead. Perched beach construction must be done when the lake is in draw-down – that is, at its lowest water level – which is in late fall. So don’t wait till last minute! At Terrain Planning and Design, we can help you with the permitting process, as well as designing a perched beach for you that complies with The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services shoreland protection laws.