The Protected Shoreland in New Hampshire


Eutrophication:  Accelerated aging of a waterbody.  What is New Hampshire doing to prevent it and protect its water resources?


The New Hampshire Comprehensive Shoreland Protection Act


…or CSPA sets minimum standards and requirements for the development, use, and subdivision of all land within 250 feet of the water’s edge (reference line).  The protected shoreland is essential to maintain the quality of our rivers, lakes, ponds, and tidal waters.  The CSPA, effective July 1, 1994, was created to protect one of our states most valuable and fragile natural resources.




Excessive Cutting


Once the trees are gone and the groundcover is disturbed, there is nothing to prevent soil from the shoreland from eroding into the water.  The water temperature may rise and may promote the growth of aquatic weeds.


The CSPA requires that a healthy well distributed stand of trees, shrubs, and groundcover and their undamaged root systems must be maintained within 150 feet of the waters edge (reference line).  [RSA 483-B:9 V.(a)]


How to Maintain a Woodland Buffer


- Keep deep rooted trees and shrubs.
- The root systems filter runoff and groundwater. 
- They also protect the shoreland and the waterbody from erosion.
- The tree canopy shades the shoreline, making it healthier and more attractive.




Erosion carries nutrients that were available for the growth of trees and shrubs into the water.  This promotes algae and weed growth and leads to a loss of water clarity.

Any construction within 250 feet of the water’s edge (reference line) must follow the current Best Management Practices for Stormwater and Erosion Control.  [RSA 483-B:9V.(c)]


How to Control Erosion


- Look for areas on your property that are being scoured or washed away by rainfall.
- Small erosion problems can often be remedied by planting deep rooted vegetation and ground cover. 
- Large erosion problems should be corrected by a professional, or contact your county conservation district.




The concentration of nutrients in fertilizer is much greater than that of the natural soil.  Fertilizer can be even worse than erosion, especially if improperly applied.

No fertilizer or pesticide may be used within 25 feet of the waters edge.  From 25 feet to 250 feet from the waters edge only low phosphate, slow release nitrogen fertilizer may be applied.  [RSA 483-B:9 II.(d)]


How to Keep Low Impact Lawns


- Practice low impact (and low maintenance) lawn care techniques.
- A properly cared for lawn can help the environment and and be less costly to maintain.  
- For more information on low impact lawn care, contact the Department of Environmental Services or your local University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension.




For any question about:


- the NH CSPA
- performing construction on your property,
- restoring your property or making it healthier for the waterbody,


Call the NH Department of Environmental Services (DES), Shoreland Outreach Coordinator at (603) 271-7109 or see the Shoreland Protection web site,


If you think you may have seen a violation of the Shoreland Protection Act or want to file a complaint, please contact the DES Shoreland Compliance Coordinator at (603) 271-6876.


For information about obtaining a permit to install a dock, beach or other water dependent structure, contact the DES Wetlands Bureau at (603) 271-2147.

If you are not sure who you need to talk to, call the main DES number, (603) 271-3503, and you will be directed appropriately.




Before beginning construction or modification of your shoreland property:


Obtain and become familiar with the minimum standards of the CSPA, RSA 483-B.


Obtain and become familiar with all local zoning and conservation ordinances (when state and local regulations overlap, whichever is more stringent applies).


If you are not sure about a particular issue, it is less costly and troublesome to ask  questions before you begin, than to fix a problem afterwards.




The NH Comprehensive Shoreland Protection Act (CSPA), which became effective July 1, 1994, sets minimum standards and requirements for the development, use, and subdivision of shorelands within 250 feet of the water’s edge (reference line).  The NH Department of Environmental Services (DES) is responsible for enforcing the CSPA and has developed this brochure to help homeowners understand what the CSPA is and why it is important to New Hampshire


This brochure is not intended as a guide for development, subdivision, or site design.  The CSPA itself and the Administrative Rules (Env-Ws 1400) should be consulted when planning this type of project.


For more information about the CSPA, contact NH DES at (603) 271-7109.