NHDES is the State of New Hampshire’s Department of Environmental Services. NHDES regulates air pollution, alteration of terrain, waste management, drinking water, dams, shorelands, wetlands, and other environmental matters. NHDES’s enforcement (or lack thereof) of New Hampshire’s environmental statutes and administrative rules is a perennial source of disagreement and frustration depending which side you are on in any particular matter. I have clients who are seeking permits from NHDES, and I have clients who are opposed to permit applications that others have filed with NHDES. I have clients who want NHDES to investigate apparent violations of statutes and rules, and I have clients who are the subjects of such investigations and allegations.
This article is focused on NHDES’s regulation of wetlands and, specifically, NHDES’s current efforts at overhauling its wetlands administrative rules. In 1989, the New Hampshire legislature enacted a wetlands protection statute that has since been amended several times. The wetlands protection statute is contained in our State law as RSA 482-A, which you can easily find by searching “RSA 482-A” online or by going directly to the NHDES website. RSA 482-A requires NHDES to adopt administrative rules to flesh out the details of the statute. Both the statute and the administrative rules are law. NHDES is currently in the process of heavily revising the current version of the wetlands rules.