Intermittent Streams Merit a 100-Foot Buffer Zone in Hopkinton

To help fulfill Northampton’s vision as a progressive, environmentally-aware community, we will be presenting ordinances from other Massachusetts communities relating to trees and wetlands. Here is a bylaw from Hopkinton’s Wetlands Protection Regulations (PDF) requiring a 100-foot buffer zone around intermittent (and continuous) streams. We note that just such an intermittent stream, Millyard Brook, runs through the heart of the forest behind North Street that Kohl Construction intends to build on.

3.2 Intermittent Streams (emphasis added)

Creeks and streams, including intermittent streams, are important for storm damage prevention, flood control, ground water protection, wildlife habitat, and recreation values. During spring, summer, and fall these streams disperse snowmelt and storm runoff across the landscape thereby preventing dangerous volumes and flows from spilling over roadways and property. This broad dispersal also allows for larger volumes of water to infiltrate into the ground, recharging groundwater supplies.

Intermittent streams are an essential source of food and water for wildlife, and are often the only source of water in higher elevation areas. The moist soils that border intermittent streams are significantly richer in herbs and flowering/fruiting plants – the base trophic level of food – than surrounding upland areas. During all seasons, but especially in winter and spring, intermittent streams act as essential corridors for animal movement when food is scarce.

Some animals, such as pickerel frogs and eastern spotted newts, rely heavily on intermittent streams for movement. For these reasons the upland areas surrounding intermittent streams are heavily utilized by wildlife for living space, breeding, feeding, migrating, dispersal, and security. Accordingly, this Bylaw protects streams of all forms (Bylaw section 206-3 and Regulation 11.9) and the buffer zone within 100 feet of those streams.