Harwich Town Hall
732 Main St., Harwich Center, MA 02645
ph: (508) 430-7514
fx: (508) 432-5039
Conservation Commission
Contact TypeContact Information
, Conservation Agent
(508) 430-7538
Monday - Thursday 8:30 AM - 9:15 AM or by appointment.
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Robert Hartwell
Robert Sarantis
Bradford Chase
Walter Diggs
John Rossetti
Jane Flemming
Dean Hederstedt
Amy Usowski
Conservation Agent
Bill Zoino
Associate Member
Lara Slifka
Associate Member
Linda Cebula
Selectmen's Liaison

What is the Harwich Conservation Commission?

The Harwich Conservation Commission is composed of seven volunteer members, appointed by the Board of Selectmen. It was established by the Conservation Commission Act to promote and protect Harwich's natural resources, to protect watershed resources, to protect wetland resource areas, to provide permitting review for proposed projects within resource areas, and to coordinate with other town officials and boards on conservation issues that relate to its areas of responsibility.

In Massachusetts, Conservation Commissions' authority comes from several sources: the Conservation Commission Act (MGL Chapter 40 section 8C) for open space protection; the Wetlands Protection Act (MGL Chapter 131 section 40) for protecting wetlands and waterways; and the home rule provisions of the state constitution for non-zoning wetlands bylaws whereby the municipal Conservation Commission may adopt regulations for its implementation.

What does the Commission do?

The Harwich Conservation Commission is the permitting authority specifically charged with the promotion and development of Harwich's natural resources and the protection of wetland resource areas. The Commission conducts public hearings for various projects pursuant to the administration of the Wetlands Protection Act (MGL 131, ยง40), its regulations 310 CMR 10, and the Harwich Wetlands Protection Bylaw.

The Commission also engages in planning, helping to acquire and manage open space, and encouraging and monitoring Conservation and Agricultural Preservation Restrictions.  The Harwich Open Space and Recreation Plan (April 2010) is updated every five years pursuant to State Regulations. The Commission is responsible for the management of approximately 162 parcels with over 886 acres of Conservation land within the Town.  

What is the Wetlands Protection Act?

The Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act exists to preserve and protect Massachusetts wetlands by preventing pollution; reducing the effects of potential flooding; storm damage prevention; protecting groundwater supplies; maintaining habitats for plants and wildlife; and protecting public and private water supplies.
The Act gives local communities the authority to determine which Resource Areas within its jurisdiction are protected, to regulate work in these areas, and to enforce the regulations.   The activities or area of jurisdiction covered under the Harwich Wetland Protection Bylaws be more stringent and differ from those subject to the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act.

What Resource Areas are protected under these laws?

The protected resource areas include:

Any bank
the ocean
any freshwater wetland  
any estuary
any coastal wetland     
any creek
any beach
any river
any dune
any stream
any flat
any pond
any marsh
any lake
any swamp

Protection extends 100 feet from the edge of any of the above, 125 feet from vernal pools, and 200 feet from rivers and most brooks and streams.

The above resource areas are part of the system that provides drinking water for use by Harwich's inhabitants. In addition, they provide habitat and food for aquatic life, birds, and animals and act as conduits for the movement of water from one area to another. Wetlands serve as temporary storage areas for water, filtering out pollution and allowing the filtered water to be absorbed into the aquifer.

When should you consult the Commission?

Anytime you plan to work within the 100-foot buffer zone of a Resource Area, or within the 200-foot buffer zone of a Riverfront Area, you'll need to obtain the necessary permits from the Commission. When in doubt, the Conservation Administrator acts as a liaison between the Conservation Commission and the general public. The Conservation Agent may be contacted for any questions pertaining to specific projects, assistance with applications, or Commission jurisdictional issues at (508)~430-7538 or at the Conservation Department located in Harwich Town Hall at 732 Main Street.

How much does it cost to file an application?

It is illegal for anyone in Harwich to dredge, fill, modify or alter any of these resource areas without first filing for and receiving a permit. Anyone who may want to work within 100 feet of a resource area or within 200 feet of a brook, stream or river and who plans to build, grade, clear, apply herbicides or do any work which could alter the resource area must contact the Conservation Commission before doing so.