Fines Issued After Shoreline Vegetation Removal

20 January 2021

January 20, 2021. – The Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) issued a $5,250 penalty to a landowner and their hired contractor after the landowner directed their contractor to remove over 4,800 square feet of vegetation within 25 feet of the shoreline of Lake Sadawga, violating Vermont’s Shoreland Protection Act. As part of the penalty, DEC required the landowner and contractor to reestablish the vegetation that was removed.

This is the second penalty issued for vegetation removal along Lake Sadawga. On June 8, 2020, the DEC issued a $4,000 fine to another landowner and contractor for removing over 5,900 square feet of vegetation within 25 feet of the shoreline and an additional 10,000 square feet within 250 feet of the shoreline. In both cases, the landowner violated Vermont’s Shoreland Protection Act. Both properties along Lake Sadawga are in the process of restoration, which takes time. Returning the shoreline to a naturally forested area will provide long-term benefits to Lake Sadawga by stabilizing the shoreline, preventing erosion, protecting water quality, and providing habitat for Vermont’s wildlife.

Established in 2014, Vermont’s Shoreland Protection Act helps prevent water quality degradation, preserves habitat, protects the natural stability of shorelines, and maintains property values by managing development near lakes and ponds. The Act requires landowners to get a permit if they plan to build a new structure, add impervious surfaces (such as roads and parking lots), or remove trees, shrubs, ground cover, or the duff layer (the natural spongy ground cover including leaf litter, pine needles, mosses) within 250 feet of a public lake or pond that is ten or more acres.

DEC works closely with lake associations, property owners, contractors, and municipalities to help them understand what the Shoreland Protection Act is and what it means for them. For example, DEC offers a Natural Shoreland Erosion Control Certification Course for contractors, engineers, and others who work near lakeshores.

“We want the public to view the Lakes and Ponds staff as a resource,” said Laura Dlugolecki, with the Vermont DEC’s Lakes and Pond Permitting program. “We welcome the opportunity to discuss proposed plans and to provide guidance through the permitting process. Our staff members are available to conduct site visits to discuss how to proceed with lake-friendly development practices and to provide technical assistance. It’s also important to remember that if someone violates the Shoreland Protection Act, they’ll need to fix the damage they caused and they may be required to pay a fine.”

Vermont has nearly 1,500 miles of shoreline located along lakes and ponds that are ten or more acres in size. Approximately 45 percent of that shoreline has been developed in a way that impacts water quality and fish and wildlife habitat. The Shoreland Protection Act aims to protect the remaining 55 percent of Vermont’s shoreline by permitting lake-friendly development. Traditional “lawn-to-lake” style development sends phosphorus pollution into lakes and increases sediment runoff. Maintaining a naturally vegetated shoreline buffer is one of the most important things a lakeshore property owner can do.

For more information on Lake and Shoreland Permitting, contact the Regional Lakes and Ponds Permitting staff at https://dec.vermont.gov/watershed/lakes-ponds/permit/contact or visit the DEC Lakes & Ponds website.