Trees, Docks, Walls, Fertilizer Use & More

  If you live near or camp along the lake or live in the watershed in the town of Douglas, Sutton or Oxford, and want to do work along or near the shoreline of Manchaug Pond or within 200 ft. of the lake, vernal pool, wetlands or stream in the watershed – say put in a new dock, take down a tree, make changes to a rock wall or the landscape – you may need a permit from the town’s Conservation Commission prior to beginning the work. The Conservation Commissions have jurisdiction in areas primarily defined in the Wetlands Protection Act (MGL 131 Sec 40) and further defined in the enforcing regulations (310 CMR 10.00) but they also have adopted local bylaws: Douglas,   Sutton,  and Oxford. The towns currently rely upon the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for relevant Permit Applications Forms or inquire at your town hall speaking to the Conservation Commission secretary, or visit the town website.

Wetlands are important!  Wetlands function in storm water management, floodplain protection, drinking water quality and wildlife habitat.

This law requires anyone doing work or any activity near a wetland to obtain a permit from the Conservation Commission. This law applies to homeowners and develops alike. Under Massachusetts Law, you are responsible for obtaining a permit, even if you don’t know you are required to get one. When you purchase property or propose a project, you are responsible for due diligence by obtaining the appropriate permits before you begin the project. The Town of Sutton passed a revised Bylaw in May 20 15 . A copy may be obtained at the Conservation Office or on line. Some parts of the Bylaw may differ from the Wetlands Protection Act wi th additional Jurisdictional Areas and Public Interests that protect Aquatic Life Habitat, Recreational Activities, Aesthetics, and Agriculture. Any project within 100’ of a wetland or intermittent stream and 200’ feet of a perennial stream or Great Pond, as well as the 100 – year flood plain, requires a permit from the Conservation Commission. If an endangered species habitat exits on the property, a permit from the Division of Fish & Wildlife’s Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program is also required. Wetlands are determined by 3 factors: hydrology, vegetation, and soils. Appearance varies with seasons and weather conditions. Contact the Conservation Office (508 – 865 – 8728) when in doubt, because they have maps and any former permits on the propert y, which are public record. Any open Orders of Conditions should be disclosed at closing when property is sold or transferred. Always make the inquiry. It is far easier to ask first than to stop work and fix it later. Permits from other boards have different requirements and do not exempt you from getting a permit from the Conservation Commission if wetlands are present. Asking first avoids costly delays in both time and money.


Land Clearing, Septic Systems, Wells, Retaining Walls, Cutting and Clearing Vegetation, Construction of Buildings, Additions, Garages, Pools, Decks, Sheds, Docks, Parking Lots, Roads, Demolition and Subdivisions
Wetland Identification Checklist: If you answer yes to any of the following, it is likely that you need a permit.

Evidence of Water

_____ You live near a stream, river, spring, seep, lake or pond.

_____ There is a low area with standing water after a storm.

_____ There are drainage channels or trenches that carry water.

_____ There are areas where the leaves are stained or darker than surroundings.

_____ The ground is hummocked (mounds with water around them) .

Wetland plants

_____ You see plants like sphagnum moss, ferns cattails, sedges, rushes, or skunk cabbage.

_____ There are red maple trees.

_____ There are tall blueberry bushes, swamp azalea, sweet pepperbush, northern arrowwood or dogwoods.


_____ Is the soil dark brown or black?

_____ If you dig a hole, does it fill with water or have water weeping in from the sides?

_____ Can you squeeze water out of the soil within 20 inches of the soil surface



For those living and camping on the lake, the Sutton Conservation Commission offers policy guidelines  for new temporary or removable docks:dock with canoe

  • Docks must be located 25 feet from property lines or for properties less than 50 feet wide in a central location.
  • Docks may be no further than 30 feet into the water measured from the high water.
  • Docks may be no larger than 300 square feet.
  • All docks must have permanent reflectors on each corner.
  • There may not be more than one dock per parcel.

Permitting Process

All applications must be accompanied by a complete plan to scale.

For a new Temporary or Removable Dock:

  • Applicants must file a Request for Determination with the Conservation Commission even if there is no bank disturbance or a Notice of Intent if the bank area is disturbed.
  • A permit is not required to remove Temporary Docks in and out of the water.

For a Permanent Dock or Permanent Bank Alteration:

  • Applicant must file with the Conservation Commission and must file a Chapter 91Waterways License Application with the State.
  • Permanent structures are subject to MGL Ch. 131 Section 40.
  • Bank disturbance may not exceed the lesser of 5% of frontage or 25 feet.
  • A Chapter 91 Waterways license is required for all anchored in water, off shore floating, swimming docks or pontoon structures.

This policy shall not serve to diminish the requirements of MGL or 310 CMR 9.00 but may be applied more stringently as reserved herein. The Commission may grant certain variance(s) with cause or hardship to this Regulation. This policy shall not apply to existing or and/or licensed docks before October 1, 2007. For any substantial repair with major alteration, a Request for Determination or a Notice of Intent shall be filed with the Commission.
For further information contact the Sutton Conservation Commission by calling 508-865-8728 or email:


Fertilizer Use:

Any application of fertilizer on any lawn, landscaping, garden, orchard, filed or within 100 feet of any resource area or 200 feet any body of water be 20-0-10, or other reasonable slow release zero phosphate fertilizer.


 Tree cutting within 200 feet of the lake, vernal pool, wetlands or stream in the watershed is regulated by the town’s Conservation Commission.
  • If a tree’s girth (distance around the trunk) measures 5 inches or greater, a permit is required to cut that tree.
  • Further, trees which are felled or are or to be cut in any jurisdictional area be replaced in kind with planting(s) of 2 ½ inch caliper stock or greater, unless conditions require otherwise.