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Buying Land and Selecting Construction Site

There are plenty of things to think about when developing land near a river. Consideration of these issues before you buy, or build, will help prevent unexpected expenses and challenges.  Choosing the right location before you build is far easier and cheaper than dealing with flood and erosion emergencies.

River on the land

If you live, or are planning to build, near a stream, river, lake, or wetland, it is important to:

  • Maintain or restore a buffer strip of native plants along riverbanks, lakeshores, and wetlands.
  • Buffer strips help keep water clean and cool and decrease erosion. The best buffers have a high diversity of plants and are fairly wide.  The steeper the slope, the wider the buffer should be.  A minimum of 300’ (as per the Governor’s Room to Roam Initiative) should be used, but if that is not possible, use the largest possible area.  A 200’ to 250’ wide buffer strip is effective at filtering nutrients.  If space is limited, the widest possible buffer will still help trap nutrients and other pollutants.
  • Build upland, away from riparian areas and wetlands.
  • Locate buildings on slopes with less than a 20% grade to prevent erosion. Use exterior colors that blend in with the landscape to be the least visually disturbing.
  • Avoid bright lights on the exterior of your buildings so as not to interfere with nocturnal animals.
  • Minimize your building area and keep shorelines and riverbanks free of permanent structures.
  • Divert rooftop runoff into rain gardens, rain barrels, or other catchment systems, or onto grass so water will be absorbed gradually.
  • Avoid extensive paved areas and other impervious surfaces near water as they may channel polluted water into waterways.
  • Keep pathways to the waterfront as narrow as possible and gently winding so run-off will not have a direct route to the water.
  • Use wood decking, bricks, pervious paving materials, or interlocking stones for walkways, so water is absorbed into the ground.
  • Avoid draining or filling wetlands. They filter pollutants, recharge groundwater, and provide important habitat for birds and other wildlife.
  • Don’t fertilize in buffer areas, and don’t apply fertilizer on your property directly before or after heavy rain or when plants are dormant.
  • Avoid disturbing wildlife travel routes and nesting areas.
  • Use natural herbicides and pesticides (as directed) for lawns and gardens.
  • Avoid washing vehicles in an area that could drain to a water body.
  • Maintain and pump your septic system on average every 3-5 years, depending on use.

Make sure to check to see what, if any, permits you may need.  Potential Permits Required | Living on the Bank

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