Kenneth Kettenring
Administrator, New Hampshire Wetlands Board
Concord, New Hampshire

Dr. Kenneth Kettenring is an award winner in the state government category for his outstanding contributions to wetland protection in New Hampshire. Kettenring has worked tirelessly to improve the state’s relationships with both federal and local wetland protection agencies. Under his tenure as administrator of the New Hampshire Wetlands Board, the state has developed one of the most respected wetland protection programs in the country. The New Hampshire program, under Kettenring’s tutelage, has developed a stringent but efficient permit review program and an effective enforcement capability.

Kettenring was the primary proponent in fashioning the New Hampshire State Program General Permit (NHSPCP). Although a number of SPGPs now exist, this one stands out as a prototype for several reasons. The NHSPGP created a three-tiered approach to §404 permitting in the state: 1) automatic approval for minor projects; 2) automatic individual permit for projects exceeding certain thresholds; and 3) case-by-case screening to determine the proper category for all other projects. The NHSPGP replaced what had become a preposterously complex mosaic of regional general permits, nationwide permits, §404 conditions/denials, and individual reviews with a rational system that correlates the intensity of regulation with the severity of impact.

The NHSPGP increased environmental protection in the state by revoking the cumbersome and environmentally damaging nationwide permits that were in place. As such, the NHSPGP simultaneously improved wetland protection and simplified the regulatory program. The results of this new permitting scheme have been impressive: the Corps and EPA see many more projects than in the past, indicating an improved rate of compliance; average decision times have been reduced; and over 90 percent of the activities have proceeded under the general permit as either automatic approvals or expedited authorizations after screening. This SPGP would not have been developed without Kettenring’s willingness to help fashion the permit and then sell the concept to a myriad of interest groups within the state. The federal agencies hope to extend the concepts of the NHSPGP to the other New England states to develop environmentally sound approaches to the nationwide permit program.

In another innovative move, the state wetland program has reformed its fee policies. Application fees are now tied directly to the extent of adverse impacts to wetlands. The state determines the costs based on the permit application and does not refund the money in the event of denial or modification, a practice which motivates applicants to reduce wetland impacts prior to seeking a state permit. That Kettenring has achieved such success as administrator of the Wetlands Board in an atmosphere of tight budgets, occasional legislative hostility, and public mistrust of government regulation only underscores his effectiveness. Administering a wetland program in New Hampshire—where license plates read “Live Free or Die” could hardly be considered relaxing. Many residents have strong feelings about property rights and an antipathy toward government regulation. Nevertheless, with its reputation for efficiency and evenhandedness, the New Hampshire wetlands program has achieved a wide measure of acceptance throughout the state.

Kettenring has built the state’s program through a strong commitment to both environmental protection and fair treatment of the regulated public. In so doing, he is a thoughtful steward of New Hampshire’s wetlands and serves the people of his state well

— Douglas Thompson, Chief, Wetlands Protection Section, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Region 1