MassDEP Proposes New Wetlands, Waterways, and Water Quality Rules for Climate Change and Resiliency – Update from McGregor Legere & Stevens

Written by Gregor I. McGregor, Esq.

In January 2023 MassDEP proposed a comprehensive suite of new regulations to deal with climate change in the form of storms, flooding, and sea level rise. These are expected to be promulgated during 2024. They will affect three related regulatory and policy programs. The opportunity for the public to comment is open through February. Where and how to send your comments are specified by MassDEP.

These changes and the policies behind them have been long in the works, since the MassDEP regulations lacked since 1978 and 1983 any specified performance standards for Land Subject to Coastal Storm Flowage. Now the science of climate change, the need for climate adaptation, mitigation and resilience, and the urgency of public health, safety, and the environmental considerations press the point.

These new rules will amend 310 CMR 10.00: Wetlands Protection, and 314 CMR 9.00: 401 Water Quality Certification for Discharges of Dredged or Fill Material, Dredging, and Dredged Material Disposal in Waters of the United States Within the Commonwealth; and 310 CMR 9.00: Waterways (including Tidelands and Great Ponds).

MassDEP is proposing to modify the Wetlands Protection regulations and the 401 Water Quality Certification regulations to accomplish two main objectives:

  • Promote coastal resiliency against worsening impacts of storms, flooding, and sea level rise through
    • First-time standards to protect the coastal floodplain (Land Subject to Coastal Storm Flowage or “LSCSF”) from damage, which will help to maintain its natural capacity to protect structures and properties from storm damage and sea level rise
    • Provisions to support resilient shorelines, roadways, and water dependent uses and to allow scientific test projects to study effects of climate change
  • Promote resiliency against increasing flooding, storm damage, and runoff pollution through updated stormwater management standards by
    • Incorporating current science and data for better rainfall estimates into updated stormwater management rules and replace outdated (60-year-old) precipitation data
    • Improving consistency between state regulations and EPA stormwater permit
    • Encouraging use of nature in design (“environmental design”) through seven cost-effective green design credits in lieu of built structures

View Wetlands Protection Regulations...

MassDEP is proposing the amendments to the Waterways regulations to ensure that licensing properly reflects the potential effects of climate change, including but not limited to, sea level rise, storm surge, and increased precipitation for existing and proposed structures along the waterfront. The proposed revisions will assist current and potential licensees by modifying certain requirements to prepare for sea level rise, while maintaining public access and other public benefits.

View Waterways Regulations…

Written Comments will be accepted until 5:00 p.m. on March 1, 2024. The Department encourages electronic submission by email to
If you comment on the Wetlands and 401 rules, you must include”Wetlands-401 Resilience Comments” in the subject line. In lieu of electronic submittal, paper comments may be mailed to:

MassDEP – BWR Wetlands Program
Attn:Wetlands-401 Resilience Comments
100 Cambridge Street, Suite 900
Boston, MA 02114

If you comment on the Waterways rules, you must include ”Waterways Resilience Comments” in the subject line. In lieu of electronic submittal, paper comments may be mailed to:

MassDEP – BWR Waterways Program
Attention: Waterways Resilience Comments
100 Cambridge Street, 9th Floor
Boston, MA 02114