Inland Wetland Home Page
In recent years, the Town of Branford has experienced growth in both commercial and residential development. Residents can dine, take in a movie, shop, hike, golf, and enjoy picturesque open space and water views without ever having to leave town. But these amenities come with a price. The amount of buildable land in Branford has decreased dramatically, which means that development has been occurring in and around environmentally sensitive wetland areas which require proper planning to insure that our inland wetlands and watercourses are protected. Such development is regulated by the Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Agency of the Town of Branford.
Vegetated Buffer Areas
Areas of vegetated land that lie adjacent to wetlands and watercourses, protect them from negative impacts. The soils, grasses, shrubs, and trees buffer and provide the following ecological and environmental services:
Minimization of erosion and sedimentation into water resources: The root systems of plants and trees, as well as organic matter and rocks serve to keep the soils in place during storm events and help minimize erosion of soils. Vegetated areas also help to slow the water down, which reduces turbidity and suspended sediments.
Pollution reduction: When storm water run-off enters the ground, pollutants and contaminants are sequestered, then broken down chemically and biologically by microorganisms into less harmful substances.
Reduction of stormwater flow: Vegetated areas intercept water before it can reach the ground and allow for infiltration of water into the ground which provides storage, and helps to keep surface and ground water levels stable.
Food and habitat for terrestrial and aquatic species: Insects that reside in the trees and other vegetation that comprise the buffer are a vital food source for fish, amphibians, birds, and reptiles.
Ecological integrity: Wetlands produce highly productive plant and animal communities. The more intact these systems are, the more diverse and valuable they become. Vegetated buffer areas help to keep wetland habitat productive, diverse, and safe from human encroachment.
Protection against impacts: Development of adjacent land can have negative impacts that range from polluted runoff, to erosion, sedimentation, and dumping. Vegetated areas between the water resource and development serve to protect wetlands from potential negative impacts that can destroy water quality and habitat.
Vegetated buffer areas are typical of the symbiotic workings of nature. The interplay of the living organisms with their extended environment serves to maintain plant and animal diversity, habitat, and stability in hydrology.
When it rains, stormwater naturally travels downhill over land and through watercourses on its way to low areas, often water bodies and wetlands. Infiltration aids in the replenishment of ground water stores, and allows stormwater to be filtered and cooled before it reaches rivers, lakes, and wells. When stormwater is not managed properly, it will run off parking lots, landscaped, and lawn areas where it picks up oils, anti-freeze, gasoline, litter, sand, salt, fertilizers, pesticides, pet droppings and other pollutants. When the flows reach a level area, usually a wetland, waterbody, or flood plain, the pollutants and sediments begin to settle out. Excessive deposition of sediments and pollutants can destroy aquatic habitat, plant, and animal species. Deposition, or “filling”, buries vegetation and amphibian eggs. Sedimentation can also alter stream channel flow by filling channels, and can cause flooding by removing valuable storage volume for flood waters. The pollutants accumulate and become toxic to native microorganisms, insects, plants, and animals, and can cause the death of many species. Generally, developed sites have much higher water volumes than would naturally occur because they do not retain and/or infiltrate as well. The excess storm water will seek the lowest areas to pool, whether it be wetland, pond, basement, parking lot, or nearby yard.
It is expensive and not particularly effective to “fix” these problems after the fact. That is why the Agency requires that stormwater drainage management be designed into any proposed plans. It is generally recommended that, at minimum, the first flush (1 inch) of stormwater be retained and infiltrated on the site, no increase in peak flows occur, and water quality can be maintained. In some areas impacted by flooding, more aggressive management of storm water may be required so that the existing hydrograph is maintained.
Remember that storm drains do not carry stormwater to be treated at the sewage treatment plant. Storm drains discharge stormwater directly into our wetlands and watercourse so we should never put car wash water, used oil, pet droppings, chlorinated pool water, leaves or other foreign substances into the storm drains.
Inland Wetland Deed Restrictions
Deed restrictions are language placed on the property deed which may prohibit or limit certain activities. The subject areas are generally negotiated during the application and permitting process and are included in the wetland approval as vegetated buffers designed to permanently protect the wetlands and watercourses from damage. The language on the deed must be read very carefully in order to determine what activities are not permitted at all and what activities may be allowed if permitted by the Agency. Protected areas may be required to be identified by signs or monuments.
CGS §12-63g states that "Property required as a buffer pursuant to any permit issued by an inland wetlands agency under regulations adopted under section 22a-42a shall be assessed at a value equal to the value of such property if it were an inland wetland or watercourse area".
Similar to the deed restrictions, conservation easements apply to buffer areas negotiated during the permitting process. The difference is that the property rights to these conservation areas are granted to various entities such as Branford Land Trust, Town of Branford Conservation and Environment Commission, or State of Connecticut. The language must be read very carefully to understand what property rights have been granted to others.
Inland wetlands and watercourses are an invaluable asset to our quality of life and to the preservation of thousands of species. We are all the trusted stewards of these extraordinary, wild areas. The Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Agency of the town of Branford, by careful review of each application, strives to preserve these areas for the benefit of all. But one does not need to be a member of the Commission to help preserve the quality of our wetlands and watercourses. We can all make a difference.
If we have wetlands on our property, we can establish and maintain a natural area between our lawns and the wetland by planting only species native to Connecticut. By limiting pesticide and chemical fertilizer use on our lawns, we can reduce or eliminate harmful contaminates from entering our rivers and streams. By keeping up with maintenance on our cars, we can reduce the amount of toxic fluids carried into our wetlands by stormwater. We can volunteer to pick up litter which would otherwise end up in a storm drain. We can clean up after our pets and not discharge waste into our storm drains. Above all we can help to educate others. The Department of Inland Wetlands in the Branford Town Hall has information on how residents can help protect our wetlands and watercourses. Together we can, as stated in the Connecticut General Statutes, “provide for the safety of such natural resources for their benefit, and for the benefit of generations yet unborn”.
Inland Wetland Home Page
Return to: Protection through Regulation