New law eases tree-cutting on wetlands

Developers, timberland owners and other landowners will get a little break from regulation, thanks to several revisions in state law that go into effect on Friday.

One law enables timberland owners to apply for a waiver to cut down trees even if those trees are located near or in a wetland, but only if the state Department of Environmental Services determines that there is no significant wetland loss. Don’t go rushing out to apply for one yet, however. The department is just beginning working on rules for the criteria as well as how much a waiver would cost.

(The law allows utility companies to work in wetlands, with a filing fee of $200 per foot per town not to exceed $10,000.)

In other laws set to take effect:

• Landowners with smaller dams won’t have to pay dam registration fees, thanks to HB 502. Registration fees used to apply to dams over four feet; now they must be over six feet. And all dams with a storage capacity of more than two acre feet used to be covered. No longer.
• Regional planning commissions will have to put in writing their guidelines to assist local land use boards in determining whether development has potential for regional impact. Some developers have complained that in the past such decisions have been arbitrary.
• Local planning boards will get some more enforcement powers. Previously, those who ignored planning board edicts paid $275 for the first offense and $550 for subsequent offenses. Now the law reads, “Each day that a violation continues shall be a separate offense.” — BOB SANDERS/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW