Section: Words and phrases defined
The Legislature finds and declares that freshwater wetlands protect and preserve drinking water supplies by serving to purify surface water and groundwater resources; that freshwater wetlands provide a natural means of flood and storm damage protection, and thereby prevent the loss of life and property through the absorption and storage of water during high runoff periods and the reduction of flood crests; that freshwater wetlands serve as a transition zone between dry land and water courses, thereby retarding soil erosion; that freshwater wetlands provide essential breeding, spawning, nesting, and wintering habitats for a major portion of the State's fish and wildlife, including migrating birds, endangered species, and commercially and recreationally important wildlife; and that freshwater wetlands maintain a critical baseflow to surface waters through the gradual release of stored flood waters and groundwater, particularly during drought periods.
The Legislature further finds and declares that while the State has acted to protect coastal wetlands, it has not, except indirectly, taken equally vigorous action to protect the State's inland waterways and freshwater wetlands; that in order to advance the public interest in a just manner the rights of persons who own or possess real property affected by this act must be fairly recognized and balanced with environmental interests; and that the public benefits arising from the natural functions of freshwater wetlands, and the public harm from freshwater wetland losses, are distinct from and may exceed the private value of wetland areas.
The Legislature therefore determines that in this State, where pressures for commercial and residential development define the pace and pattern of land use, it is in the public interest to establish a program for the systematic review of activities in and around freshwater wetland areas designed to provide predictability in the protection of freshwater wetlands; that it shall be the policy of the State to preserve the purity and integrity of freshwater wetlands from random, unnecessary or undesirable alteration or disturbance; and that to achieve these goals it is important that the State expeditiously assume the freshwater wetlands permit jurisdiction currently exercised by the United States Army Corps of Engineers pursuant to the Federal Act and implementing regulations.
L. 1987, c. 156, s. 2.
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