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Conservation & Sustainability

Regulated Activities


One of the main functions of the Holyoke Conservation Commission is to protect and conserve the vital wetland resources of our community. Some benefits and functions of wetlands include:

  • Flood Control
  • Pollution Prevention
  • Protection of groundwater supply
  • Protection of wildlife habitat and native wetland plant species

In Massachusetts, most of the regulatory authority for wetland protection is held by the Conservation Commission of each municipality. The Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act (MWPA, 310 CMR 10.00) defines the different kinds of inland wetlands and the standards for their protection. These include:

Bordering Vegetated Wetlands (any swamp, wet meadow, bog, or marsh)

Land Under Water Bodies (any river, stream, pond, or lake, including canals)

Banks (any naturally occurring banks or beaches adjacent to the above water bodies)

Land Subject to Flooding (as defined by the National Flood Insurance Program)

The MWPA also includes Conservation Commission jurisdiction for work within the 100 foot Buffer Zone, which extends in all directions from the boundaries of any of the above wetland types.

The Massachusetts Rivers Protection act of 1996 (and included in the updated MWPA, 310 CMR 10.58) extends protections to Riverfront Areas, defined as the land area measured from the mean annual high water line of any perennial stream or river 200 feet in either direction. Note that Riverfront Area can encompass other wetland resources and does not have a buffer zone. Rather, this entire land area is considered a wetland resource in its own right. Perennial streams in Holyoke include: Tannery Brook, Broad Brook, Green Brook, Paucatuck Brook, Bray Brook, Serendipity Brook, Barry Brook, and Whiting Brook. The CT River riverfront from the Holyoke Dam south to Berkshire Street has been designated as an Historic Mill District.

In addition to these state regulations, the Conservation Commission also enforces the provisions of the Holyoke Wetlands Ordinance (HWO), adopted in 2001. This provides additional regulations that include protections for isolated wetlands and vernal pools, and establishes a No-Build Zone within 50 feet of any wetland resource.

Most work activities are restricted within wetlands and their buffer zones, and require a project review and permit from the Conservation Commission. Examples of these activities include:

Dumping: leaves, brush, or other organic material

Cutting: trees or shrubs

Building: new structures, additions to existing structures

Grading: including any excavation, or filling with soil or other materials

Polluting: point-source chemicals, including attenuation of nonpoint-source pollution.

A few minor projects and certain maintenance projects may be exempt from permitting, but will still require a negative determination from the Conservation Commission.  Contact us for additional guidance prior to performing any work to ensure that all activities are in compliance.

For more information about wetlands protection and state regulations, please reference the following resources:

Holyoke Wetlands Protection Ordinance (Revised 2/7/2013)

Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act

Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Guidelines Informational Outline by the Berkshire Environmental Action Team (Website)


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