Rivers, Streams, Brooks, & Drainage Ditches

Something flows through your property. You may think it is a drainage ditch, yet the Conservation Administrator insists that it is an intermittent stream. Or you have a small body of running water in your back yard-no more than three feet wide-the Conservation Administrator is insisting it is a river. How can one tell?

A natural flowing body of water that flows year-round and empties into the ocean, any lake, or another river. A river can be any size. All perennial streams are considered rivers. Rivers and streams that are not running during State defined periods of drought are still considered to be perennial. Unlike the other protected resource areas in Massachusetts, the River has a 200 ft "protected" riverfront area. See definition below of “Riverfront Area”

Riverfront Areas

  • Along a “river”
  • Extends 200 ft from mean annual high water
  • No additional buffer zone
  • May overlap other resource areas and their buffer zones
  • First 100 ft should remain as undisturbed vegetation
  • All work proposed in the second 100 feet must have no significant adverse impact. The work, including proposed mitigation measures, must have no significant adverse impact on the Riverfront Area to protect the interests of the Act.
  • There must be no practicable and substantially equivalent economic alternative to the proposed project with less adverse effects on the interests of the Act.
A stream that runs throughout the year (perennial) is considered a River. Please see above description and instructions. A stream which does not flow throughout the year is considered intermittent. See Intermittent Stream below.

Intermittent Streams

A body of running water that does not flow throughout the year. A stream must move in a definite channel in the ground due to a hydraulic gradient An intermittent stream is legally a stream under the Regulations where it flows in or below an area of wetland vegetation. A section of stream flowing through a culvert or drain is still a stream if it flows in or below an area of vegetation.

Drainage Ditches

Manmade, or artificially channelized streams are still considered streams under the State law.