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Vermont's new Lake Shore Protection Act

As of July 1, 2014, owners of waterfront property in Vermont will have to consider the Shoreline Protection Act whenever they want to improve the property. The Shoreline Protection Act applies to any lake that is greater than 10 acres in size. The intent of the new law is to protect water quality, preserve habitat and stabilize shorelines, and to protect the overall benefits (both economic and recreational) of the state's aquatic resources.

In general the law focuses on two issues: 1) the clearing of trees and brush over three feet tall and b) increasing impervious surfaces within a 250 foot zone of the mean water line. Any such activities occurring after July, 2014 may fall within the scope of the law. (Structures and development existing as of that date are "grandfathered." Any subsequent changes to the property, however, must comply with the new law if applicable.)

Certain activities such as minimal clearing of brush under three feet tall for recreational purposes (placing a picnic table, storing a canoe, maintaining existing landscaped areas and structures, and creating a foot path or staircase no greater than 6 feet in width) are exempted. Construction within an existing impervious "footprint" is also exempted. The law also exempts activities that are conducted according to state promulgated "Vegetation Management Practices."

Other activities require prior registration of the intended development with the Agency of Natural Resources. "Registration" is merely providing the agency with notice that the development will occur. Registration is required for smaller projects, such as the building of a small shed or gazebo, or the clearing of brush that is less than three feet high, within 100 feet of the mean water line. (The closer to the water the smaller the development must be in order to qualify for simple registration.)

Larger development activities will require a permit from the Agency of Natural Resources before the development can begin. In determining whether a project is eligible for a permit the agency will consider several factors, including the square footage of impervious surface area created by the development, the proximity of new structures to the mean water line and whether the physical features of the lot allow for the same proposed development to occur but in a different manner. Permits may impose mitigation requirements such as the use of screening during construction and the planting of new vegetation to compensate for that lost to the development. Permits may also be conditioned to prohibit or otherwise restrict future development of the property.

The Lake Shore Protection Act does no change the way docks are regulated in Vermont. Waterfront land owners must still comply with the Lake Encroachment Permit Program when it comes to installing and maintaining their docks.

More information about the Lake Shore Protection Act can be found at:

Vermont Agency of Natural Resources web site

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