Seasonal residents returning to their lakefront homes in New Hampshire this time of year are excited about the possibilities of fixing up their properties.
It’s important for these folks to be aware that engaging in a construction project within 250’ of a New Hampshire lake that is greater than 10 acres falls under the jurisdiction of The Shoreline Water Quality Protection Act (SWQPA), commonly referred to as the “Shoreline Protection Act.” This New Hampshire law, revised in 2005, has strict guidelines with regards to the development or rebuilding of properties along New Hampshire’s major lakes, streams and tidal waters. Engaging in a construction project without the correct shoreline permits can cost as much as $20,000 in fines per violation. The purpose of the law is not so much to preserve the aesthetic beauty of shoreline areas – although that is certainly a benefit – the real intent was to maintain natural filtration along the water’s edge to prevent pollutants and erosion from altering the water quality of the lake. Indeed, anyone lives along the shoreline protection has a vested interest in protecting it.
At Terrain Planning, we hear many questions like “can I cut trees along the shoreline” or “how big of a house can I build on my property at the lake” and “how close to the water can I build?” Changes or additions to existing structures, boat houses and docks, retaining walls and driveways – even a simple screen house close to the water are all regulated under the Shoreline Protection Act. These regulations dictate what you can or cannot do based upon proximity to the water’s edge, pitch of the land, and pervious impervious surfaces – to name a few. In addition to that, there may be town ordinances to comply with, association laws, or other departmental permits required by the state relating to project you are planning to do.
Another question we frequently hear is, “can I apply for a New Hampshire shoreline permit myself?” The answer is yes. Any property owner can submit applications through the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES.) Given the complexity of the law and site assessment data required at the time of application, however – many shoreline property owners have found great value in hiring the landscape architects at Terrain Planning and Design to perform this critical process for them. We will work with clients in any capacity they require – from land survey work to project management – and obtain the necessary state and local permits, so that our clients can enjoy improving the quality of their lakefront property.