Overview of the Connecticut
Coastal Permit Program
The DEEP's Land and Water Resources Division (LWRD) regulates all activities conducted in tidal wetlands and in tidal, coastal, or navigable waters in Connecticut under the Structures, Dredging and Fill statutes, Connecticut General Statutes (CGS) Sections 22a-359 - 22a-363h, inclusive, and the Tidal Wetlands statutes, CGS Sections 22a-28 - 22a-35, inclusive. The major objectives of the permit program are to avoid or minimize navigational conflicts, encroachments into the state's public trust area, and adverse impacts on coastal resources and uses, consistent with Connecticut's Coastal Management Act (CCMA), CGS Sections 22a-90 - 22a-112, inclusive.
Three types of permits are issued for activities conducted in coastal, tidal, or navigable waters or within tidal wetlands, depending on the nature of the work proposed. Each involves a different review process, as explained below.
Minor activities related to previously authorized work may be eligible for a Certificate of Permission (COP). These activities include maintenance dredging and substantial maintenance of existing structures. In some cases, maintenance of unauthorized activities that were completed prior to specific dates may also be eligible for a COP. In addition, certain environmentally beneficial activities, such as the removal of derelict structures and restoration of degraded tidal wetlands, may be approved through the COP process. COPs are issued within 45 days, or within 90 days if additional information is requested by LWRD to complete its review.
General permits are issued to authorize certain minor activities. Because the environmental impacts of those activities are understood, detailed permit reviews are generally not required. General permits are typically issued within 90 days if a complete application is received. The following structures and activities may be eligible for authorization through a general permit:
- Small residential docks having no navigational or environmental impacts
- Boat moorings
- Osprey nesting platforms and perch poles
- Residential flood hazard mitigation
- Buoys and markers for navigation and certain recreational activities
- Swim floats
- Pump-out facilities at marinas
- Coastal remedial activities
The Application Review Process
Before submitting a permit application, we advise that you consult with LWRD staff to determine the appropriate permit process. A pre-application meeting is strongly recommended prior to the submittal of an application seeking authorization to work within tidal wetlands, or in tidal, coastal, or navigable waters of the state. We also recommend that you consult with and/or hire a professional such as a land surveyor, engineer, or environmental/marine consultant familiar with our Department's permitting process who can assist you in the preparation of the application and plans.
You may contact the appropriate LWRD staff for your area to request an application package and to schedule a pre-application meeting with the appropriate Permitting analyst. Please be sure to fill out and bring a completed pre-application questionnaire along with supporting documents to the pre-application meeting.
If you are applying for an individual permit, you must publish a Notice of Application in a local newspaper, notify the chief elected official of the municipality in which the activity is proposed, and pay an initial application fee. Following an initial review of your application, you will receive a letter assessing a permit fee based on the project's area of impact, and requesting additional information if necessary. When your application is complete, LWRD will publish a public Notice of Tentative Determination as to its permissibility. The public may submit comments on the application, and in some cases a public hearing may be held. General permits and Certificates of Permission also require application fees, but neither requires a public notice or hearing.
Proposed activities will be reviewed to determine their potential effect on coastal resources and uses. Factors that will be considered include the effect of the project on:
- The preservation of natural habitats and living marine resources;
- Shoreline erosion and coastal flooding;
- Water quality and pollution control;
- The use and development of all adjoining lands;
- Coastal and inland navigation;
- Use of the state's public trust land and water; and,
- The rights and interests of all persons concerned with the proposed activity.
If you are proposing to do work which requires a United States Army Corps of Engineers permit for discharge of dredged material or for the placement of rock, soil or other fill material in tidal waters, you may also need to obtain a state Water Quality Certificate. Certificates are issued by DEEP in accordance with Section 401 of the federal Clean Water Act and the Connecticut Water Quality Standards and are generally incorporated in the corresponding DEEP permit. Certain minor activities may qualify for an Army Corps Programmatic General Permit (PGP), which is an expedited process for securing Corps permits. Information about the PGP may be obtained from LWRD staff.
Coastal Regulatory Jurisdiction
The area of the shore subject to Connecticut's regulatory authority includes everything waterward of the Coastal Jurisdiction Line (CJL) or within tidal wetlands. The CJL is a land elevation on the North American Vertical Datum of 1988 (NAVD88) and is based on a specific predicted tide. Mean high water (MHW) is the land elevation indicating the average shoreward extent of all high tides. MHW also denotes the seaward limit of private property ownership in Connecticut. Mean low water (MLW) represents the average extent of all low tides. Navigable waters include tidal rivers upstream to the limit of the first dam or obstruction.
Construction Landward of the Coastal Jurisdiction Line
Construction activities landward of the coastal jurisdiction line within the coastal boundary are subject to Coastal Site Plan Review, as appropriate, by individual municipalities. In addition to undertaking stormwater management practices, precautions must be taken to prevent direct construction-related impacts to adjacent resources.
The Public Trust Doctrine
The submerged lands and waters below MHW in Connecticut belong to all citizens of the state under the ancient common law public trust doctrine. The public trust area is also referred to as tidelands. The general public may freely use these intertidal and subtidal lands and waters for fishing, shell-fishing, hunting, boating, sunbathing and walking along the beach. DEEP works to preserve these rights by regulating the encroachment of private structures into the public trust area and by promoting public access opportunities throughout Connecticut's coast.
Connecticut's Coastal Permit Program
The activities listed here are regulated by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection's coastal permit programs. The applicable permit program(s) for each activity is abbreviated and listed parenthetically: P = individual permit; GP = general permit; COP = certificate of permission. LWRD regulatory staff are available to discuss permit requirements and to meet with applicants to explain the review process. For further information please contact the appropriate LWRD staff for your area.
Bulkheads that have been authorized and maintained in functional condition may generally be repaired. Bulkheads should be replaced in-kind and in-place if possible; however, if oversheeting is necessary, the additional encroachment of the rebuilt structure into tidal waters should extend no more than 18 inches. The construction of new bulkheads may only be authorized when all criteria for permissible structural solutions as specified in CCMA section 22a-92(b)(2)(J) have been met. (P,COP)
Revetments that have been authorized and maintained in functional condition may generally be repaired, provided there is no further encroachment into intertidal or subtidal habitat. The construction of new revetments may only be authorized when all criteria for permissible structural solutions as specified in CCMA section 22a-92(b)(2)(J) have been met. Revetment construction also requires a municipal Coastal Site Plan Review. (P,COP)
Seawalls that have been authorized and maintained in functional condition may generally be repaired. Seawall repair is ideally conducted from the upland, and silt fencing must be used to protect intertidal habitat. In certain circumstances, seawalls may be capped if necessary to protect existing inhabited structures. Seawalls often perpetuate or exacerbate the erosion of adjacent shoreline, further endangering the structures they are intended to protect; therefore, the construction of new seawalls may only be authorized when all criteria for permissible structural solutions as specified in CCMA section 22a-92(b)(2)(J) have been met. Seawall construction also requires municipal Coastal Site Plan Review. (P,COP)
Groins and Jetties
Groins and jetties that have been authorized and maintained in functional condition may generally be repaired when they are designed to minimize alteration of natural circulation patterns and loss of intertidal and subtidal habitat. Permittees may be required to place sand fill to mitigate past beach erosion associated with the structure. The construction of new groins jetties may only be authorized when all criteria for permissible structural solutions as specified in Section 22a-92(b)(2)(J) of Connecticut's Coastal Management Act have been met. (P,COP)
Maintenance dredging of marina basins and navigation channels may be authorized if dredging of those areas has been previously authorized by DEEP. Such maintenance dredging must not encroach into previously undisturbed subtidal habitat and is prohibited during periods of shellfish and finfish spawning when drifting sediment could impair reproductive success. New dredging is strongly discouraged, and dredging of tidal wetlands and intertidal flats is not allowed. (P, COP)
Installation of submarine cables and pipelines must be sited to minimize impacts on intertidal and subtidal resources, including shellfish beds and submerged aquatic vegetation, and must not interfere with navigation and public access. Cables that are no longer in use must be removed. (P)
Docks, Ramps, Floats and Pilings
Residential docks must be designed to prevent shading of tidal wetland grasses and intertidal flats, avoid areas of submerged aquatic vegetation, minimize encroachment into public trust lands, and allow continued navigation and public access along the shore. A generally acceptable dock design in most settings includes a fixed pier extending to mean low water with a ramp and a 10' x 10' float. (P,COP,GP)
Jet Ski Floats
Floats used for storage of jet skis, and jet boats, including prefabricated floats, must not be located over submerged aquatic vegetation. Adding a jet float to an existing dock requires a permit. (P)
Boat moorings (anchored or clothesline-rigged, or an unattached small float) may be installed for private recreational use but must not be located in federal navigation channels or anchorages. Moorings must not be installed in tidal wetlands or over submerged aquatic vegetation. Moorings authorized by a Harbor Master are eligible for General Permit, otherwise they must be approved by LWRD. (P,COP,GP)
Swim floats may be used for swimming and associated recreation but not for securing or storing boats. Swim floats may not exceed 200 square feet in area, and must be removed from the water from November 15th through April 15th each year. They must not be located over submerged vegetation and must not interfere with navigation or public access along the shore. (GP)
Stairs or ladders used to access the beach over slopes and seawalls should be kept above the coastal jurisdiction line where possible. (P)
Public Access Structures
Public access boardwalks, walkways and viewing platforms are encouraged but generally should not be constructed in or encroach upon tidal wetlands, beaches and dunes, or intertidal flats. (P)
Installation of pumpout facilities for boat sewage is required to protect water quality when construction of a new marina is permitted or when an existing marina is substantially modified. (P, GP)
Osprey Platforms and Perch Poles
Osprey nesting platforms must be located a minimum distance from man-made disturbances and from other platforms. (GP)
Sand may be placed and graded on beaches landward of MHW to replace sand lost to erosion or as a non-structural method of erosion control. Imported sand must match the grain size and color of the existing beach sand. Precautions must be taken to prevent newly placed sand from drifting onto nearby fish and shellfish resources and habitat. (P,COP)
Tidal Wetland Restoration
Accurate surveying and specialized low ground pressure equipment must be used in restoring degraded tidal wetlands to prevent further damage to healthy wetland habitat. (COP)
Coastal development sites must incorporate proper stormwater management measures. Sites should be developed to retain existing natural vegetation, reduce site disturbance and overall impervious cover, and pretreat runoff to tidal waters and wetlands. Drainage from paved surfaces should be directed to stormwater collection systems that are outfitted with appropriate pretreatment structures, such as swirl concentrators. Stormwater outfalls must be permitted. (P)
Buoys and Markers
Buoys, water skiing ramps, and other markers related to navigation or waterbased recreation are regulated by the DEEP Boating Division. Upon authorization by the Boating Division, they are considered to be concurrently authorized by LWRD. (GP)
For further information on Connecticut's Coastal Permit Program, please contact:
LWRD Regulatory Staff
Land and Water Resources Division
Bureau of Water Protection and Land Reuse
Department of Energy and Environmental Protection
79 Elm Street
Hartford, CT 06106-5127
This overview is designed to answer general questions and provide basic information. Refer to the appropriate statutes and regulations for the specific criteria of the different regulatory programs. This document should not be relied upon to determine whether or not an environmental permit is required. It is your responsibility to obtain and comply with all required permits.
Content Last Updated March 3, 2020