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New York City Enacts Wetlands Protection Laws

By: Ashley S. Miller

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has signed legislation creating a framework for the creation of a City-level “comprehensive wetlands protection strategy.”  The efforts will focus on “gaps in existing State and federal wetlands protection laws,” and will commence with a satellite survey of existing wetlands in the City.  According to the Mayor’s office, the measure, known as Introductory Number 506-A, will result in a wetlands strategy document by 2012, as part of the City’s PlaNYC efforts.

The measure defines wetlands generally as follows: “those areas that are inundated or saturated by surface or ground water at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions. Wetlands generally include swamps, marshes, bogs and similar areas.”  5 N.Y.C. Admin. C. § 24-528(2).

Notably, the City will be required to consider wetlands “smaller than 12.4 acres in size,” which may result in regulation extending beyond federal and state requirements.  5 N.Y.C. Admin. C. § 24-528(3)(c)(2).   The final strategy is to include “appropriate legal requirements, management mechanisms, funding mechanisms, enforcement mechanisms and incentives to conserve, protect, enhance, restore, stabilize and expand wetlands and associated buffer areas in the city, whether publicly or privately owned.”  5 N.Y.C. Admin. C. § 24-528(3)(d)(3)(1).

In addition to Introductory Number 506-A, the Mayor also signed into law Local Law 83 of 2005, a measure seeking to protect city-owned wetlands (pdf).

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