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Waterfront Development

Managing construction and development in and around New Hampshire’s lakes, rivers, ponds and seacoast.

Regulating waterfront development helps maintain high water quality within our lakes, rivers, streams, and ocean, as well as healthy vegetation buffers at the water’s edge. In turn, high water quality and vegetated buffers promote healthy wildlife and plant populations, increase the monetary value of waterfront properties, preserve the recreational value of waterbodies within New Hampshire, encourage tourism, and help protect public health.

Certain construction, fill, excavation or dredge activities within surface waters, banks, and the protected shoreland are therefore regulated under state law. Examples of regulated activities include, but are not limited to:

  • Constructing or modifying the footprint of houses, patios, decks, driveways, and other structures within the protected shoreland.
  • Installing docks, boathouses, jet ski lifts, and breakwaters.
  • Filling and excavating shorelines for stabilization.
  • Removing vegetation in proximity to public waters.

These activities may also require a shoreland permit under the Shoreland Water Quality Protection Act (RSA 483-B), a wetlands permit under Fill and Dredge in Wetlands (RSA 482-A), or an alteration of terrain permit under Water Pollution and Waste Disposal (RSA 485-A:17).

Shoreland Accessory Structures Rules Changed in December 2019

dock and structure alongside a lakeChanges to the rules regulating accessory structures, such as beaches, decks, patios, etc., within the protected shoreland were adopted in December 2019. Changes to these rules will affect the construction, modification and expansion of these structures within 50 feet of the reference line. Also, pending changes to rules under RSA 482-A and/or RSA 483-B can be found on the Administrative Rules library.  

Narrated video on water access structures

Photograph of a well vegetated waterfront buffer on a lake

The Shoreland Water Quality Protection Act (RSA 483-B) regulates waterfront development on land. The Act establishes minimum standards for the subdivision, use and development of shorelands adjacent to the state’s public waterbodies.  

The Shoreland Water Quality Protection Act Minimum Standards  

Photograph of a well vegetated waterfront buffer

Nature’s most economical and efficient stormwater purification system is a combination of native shoreland plants. As communities grow and New Hampshire’s landscape changes, the quality of our public waters depends on each of us managing the trees, shrubs and low-growing plants on our property.   

Learn how to manage vegetation for water quality  

Photograph of stormwater running onto asphalt on a rainy day, with a child standing in rain gear

Stormwater runoff is water from rain or melting snow that does not soak into the ground. When natural areas are developed to make room for neighborhoods, roads and other development, we introduce impervious surfaces, such as rooftops, roads and driveways, that change the way water flows over and through the land. These surfaces create excess stormwater runoff, which can result in flooding, stream bank erosion and reduced groundwater recharge. Runoff can also carry pollution into surface waters and contributes to over 90% of the water quality problems in New Hampshire.   

Do-It-Yourself Stormwater Solutions for Your Home  

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Did you know?

Did you know?

You can find the status of a shoreland or wetlands application through NHDES OneStop. Check application status  

Docking Structures and Shoreline Stabilization

Shoreline stabilization projects and docking structures involve dredge, fill, or the placement of structures in tidal and freshwaters and associated banks.

Protected Shorelands and Shorelines

Our shorelands and shorelines are among our most valuable and fragile natural resources. Unregulated impacts can deteriorate water quality and affect our landscapes.

Alteration of Terrain (AoT) Permitting

To help protect surface water and groundwater quality, the Alteration of Terrain Program requires a permit for land disturbances, depending on the size of the project.