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DEC publishes draft rule to protect freshwater wetlands, public comments accepted through Sept. 19 –

DEC publishes draft rule to protect freshwater wetlands, public comments accepted through Sept. 19 –

On July 10, New York State Department of Environmental Protection (DEC) Interim Commissioner Sean Mahar announced the release proposed regulations to protect freshwater wetlands in New York State. The draft regulations are ready available for public consultation until September 19, and would protect approximately one million additional acres of unprotected wetland habitat by increasing the number of wetlands regulated by DEC.

“Wetlands provide economic and ecological benefits to all New York communities by improving natural resilience, helping to protect communities from flooding, particularly in response to climate change, while providing essential habitat for fish and wildlife,” said DEC Interim Commissioner Mahar. “I encourage New Yorkers to review this proposal and provide feedback as we fulfill Governor Hochul’s commitment to modernize wetland protections and work to ensure the long-term health of these critical ecosystems.”

Freshwater wetlands are areas and submerged areas—commonly referred to as marshes, fens, backwaters, and peatlands—that support aquatic or semi-aquatic vegetation. The New York State Wetlands Act was enacted in 1975 and modernized as part of the 2022–23 state budget. The proposed regulations would take effect in January 2025 and clarify the jurisdictional status of smaller wetlands of “exceptional significance” that meet one of 11 specific criteria in the recently amended Freshwater Wetlands Act. The proposed regulations also provide for a revised wetland classification system and a process for the public to request and appeal jurisdictional determinations.

The proposed regulations are a continuation of DEC’s ongoing efforts to engage stakeholders in the development of the regulations and, along with public comment, build on the Early Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that DEC published in January 2024.

The proposed rule and supporting documents can be viewed and downloaded on the DEC website.

DEC encourages public comment on the proposed rule. Comments will be accepted until September 19, 2024, and can be submitted by email to WetlandRegulatoryComments@dec.ny.gov (subject: “Comments on Wetlands Section 664”) or by mail to NYSDEC, Attn: Roy Jacobson, Jr., 5t Floor, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4756.

The public can also comment at virtual and in-person public hearings. Virtual public hearings are scheduled for September 10 at 1:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. An in-person public hearing is scheduled for September 12 at 1:00 p.m. at the DEC office at 625 Broadway, Albany, NY. Registration for the public hearings is available on the DEC website.

Top photo: Wetlands at Paul Smith’s College VIC. Explorer archive photo by Mike Lynch.