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“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” – Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride
On several occasions our Town Supervisor has stated that the proposed wetlands law will “strengthen, not weaken” the existing law protecting our town wetlands In the proposed law, however, I see little of that “strength.”
By redefining protected wetlands as having an area of 4,356 square feet or greater (the standing law includes wetlands of 1,000 square feet or greater), the wetlands that the town will even consider protecting would be significantly reduced. This is despite the fact that smaller wetlands, in conjunction with other smaller wetlands, can offer similar benefits to a single, larger wetland—serving as habitat and migration stops for wildlife, and water filtration and retention. I don’t agree that protecting less of a resource equals “strengthening” its protection.
The proposed law increases the scope of projects for which the Town Engineer may issue a permit without notices or notification of adjacent property owners, leaving them with no voice in a process that has the potential to cause harmful runoff onto their property. The position of property owners would be weakened, not strengthened, by the loss of input as to what happens to adjacent wetlands.
Finally, the proposed law fails to take into account that we are not always successful in managing Nature. The standing law has a requirement that, when one wetland is compromised or eliminated by changes in use, other wetlands of must be either created or improved to maintain the current overall benefits provided by wetlands: water filtration, wildlife habitant, and flood prevention or mitigation. The new or improved wetlands have to be more extensive than the eliminated or damaged area. This allows for the possibility of some of the new wetlands areas failing to function in the desired fashion. The proposed law lacks any such assurance. Failing to anticipate predictable hurdles is a weakness, not a strength.
I urge my fellow citizens to learn more about the proposed law, and come to the public hearing on April 18th.