Zoning Strategy. Riparian Corridor Protections

WestCOG is pleased to release a report titled “The Case for Riparian Corridor Protections: Zoning Strategies to Reduce Pollution of Inland Waters and Resultant Hypoxia of Long Island Sound.”

Following an explosion in scientific evidence pointing to the importance of riparian buffers as a means to reduce nonpoint source pollutants, on June 10, 2021 the Connecticut General Assembly enacted Public Act 21-29. This law expands the responsibility of zoning commissions in protecting the water quality of Long Island Sound from 24 coastal municipalities to all 169 municipalities of the state. In expanding local authority – and responsibility – over coastal water quality, the law will require broader development and implementation of zoning strategies to control the discharge of a wide range of water pollutants – including “dead zone” causing nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus.

All 169 municipalities in Connecticut meet the law’s definition of being “contiguous or on a navigable waterway draining to Long Island Sound.” As such, all municipalities will be subject from October 1, 2021 to the legal mandate that their zoning regulations:

  1. “be made with reasonable consideration for the restoration and protection of the ecosystem and habitat of Long Island Sound;
  2. be designed to reduce hypoxia, pathogens, toxic contaminants and floatable debris on Long Island Sound; and
  3. provide that such municipality’s zoning commission consider the environmental impact on Long Island Sound coastal resources, as defined in section 22a-93, of any proposal for development.” This change to state law will require revisions to zoning regulations in most municipalities.” (p. 7 of Public Act 21-29)

The linked report presents the history of past attempts to protect riparian corridors, the role riparian corridors play in reducing surface water pollution and hypoxia in Long Island Sound, reviews the range of riparian corridor protection strategies that have been adopted statewide, and provides model regulations for implementing Public Act 21-29.

Questions regarding these zoning strategies can be directed to Francis Pickering, Executive Director at WestCOG.