Water permits answers

If you have further questions, please send them to info.dnr@state.mn.us for a response.

Important: Other approvals may be required from federal, state, and local units of government, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, watershed districts, water management organizations, counties, townships, and cities.


Aeration systems

Is a DNR permit required to install an aeration system in the lake adjoining my property?

Permitting authority for aeration systems lies with the DNR Fisheries Division. Applications are received at DNR Regional Fisheries Offices and processed by the regional fisheries supervisor, who will consult with the DNR regional hydrologist and other appropriate regional personnel.

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Aquatic vegetation

Is a DNR permit required to remove aquatic vegetation?

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Beach sand blanket

Is a DNR permit required to haul sand onto my lakeshore to make a beach area?

A DNR public waters work permit (application available under DNR Division of Waters forms) is not required if the following conditions are satisfied:

  • Does not cover emergent vegetation, unless already authorized by an Aquatic Plant Management permit from the Department's Division of Fisheries.
  • Clean, inorganic sand or gravel, free of pollutants and nutrients.
  • No more than 6 inches thick, 50 feet wide along the shore, or one-half the width of the lot (whichever is less), and no more than 10 feet waterward of the ordinary high water level (OHWL).
  • Local watershed district and local zoning officials must be given at least 7 days prior notice.
  • The site is not a posted fish spawning area.
  • Installation of sand or gravel may only be repeated once at same location, not exceeding same amount and dimensions of the original sand blanket.

Important: Other approvals may be required from federal, state, and local units of government, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, watershed districts, water management organizations, counties, townships, and cities.

See the information sheet titled Shoreline Alterations: Beach Sand Blanket under DNR Waters Publications, or view Permit Requirements under the Public Waters Work Permits Program.


Beaver dams

Is a DNR permit required to remove the beaver dam from the wetland on my property?
Can I remove a beaver dam at the lake outlet or on someone else's property?

Beavers are protected animals under the game and fish laws, but their dams have no special protection under these laws. Landowners have the right to remove beaver dams from their property. A DNR public waters work permit (application available under DNR Division of Waters forms) would be required to remove a beaver dam when the bed of the lake or stream is excavated (i.e., by dragline, backhoe) in conjunction with the dam's removal. Questions about trapping or killing beaver or destroying beaver lodges should be directed to the local DNR conservation officer. If a beaver dam has been in place for many years and affects other properties than your own, the other property owners should be contacted. In some cases, lakeshore has been developed in conformance with water levels resulting from a beaver dam controlling the outlet for many years. Before removing a beaver dam in that situation, it is suggested the DNR area hydrologist be contacted. The DNR no longer participates in the control of beaver populations or problem beavers.

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Blasting

Is a DNR permit required to blow up the beaver dam on my property?

The use of explosives in public waters or public waters wetlands is restricted under Minnesota Statutes 97 C. 325, Subd. A(1). Before any blasting is done in public waters or public waters wetlands, the local DNR conservation officer must be contacted. In general, no DNR public waters work permit (application available under DNR Division of Waters forms) will be required to remove beaver dams, log jams, or other debris by the use of explosives. If use of explosives would result in substantial modification in the bed or banks of public waters or public waters wetlands, however, a DNR public waters work permit (application available under DNR Division of Waters forms)would be required.

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Bluff

Is a DNR permit required to modify the steep slope grade (bluff) along my shoreline?

Your property may be within the boundaries of one or more land use management districts and subject to slope alteration and development requirements.

For lands within a Shoreland Management District, a "bluff" is defined as land draining toward a water body, which rises more than 25 feet above the water body and exceeds more than 30 percent rise in grade. A "steep slope" within the Shoreland Management District is land that exceeds 12 percent in grade. Any land that exceeds 12 percent in grade is poorly suited for either agricultural activity or development if its natural vegetation is removed because precipitation on an exposed slope that steep will erode. Agriculture experts recommend that land above 6 percent grade not be tilled because of erosion probabilities. Architects claim that homes can be built in slopes that approach 18 percent grade if proper geo-technical precautions are followed.

To provide for some consumer protection, the rules for lands within a Shoreland Management District state that building sites should be located 30 feet either above or below the top or toe of a bluff (defined as that point where the grade becomes less than 18 percent). In situations where land slopes exceed 12 percent, expertise should be obtained to ensure that any proposed development meets requirements, does not create erosion during construction, and does not lead to problems from gravitational slippage after construction (i.e., when soils become saturated with precipitation and gravitational forces on the structure move it down slope). City or county planning/zoning officials should be contacted for district boundaries, requirements, and best management practices before undertaking any construction activity in these areas that will be highly vulnerable to erosion and soil slippage.

For lands within a Shoreland Management District, the "bluff impact zone" is the first 20 feet of the 30-foot setback for structures proposed to be built in bluff areas that are located immediately adjacent to an 18 percent or steeper slope. This 20-foot bluff impact area should not be disturbed either by removing the vegetation or by excavation. Diseased or dying vegetation may be removed, and selective pruning of branches is permitted to allow a view. Local officials should be contacted for district boundaries and requirements before undertaking these types of activities.

For lands within a Wild and Scenic Rivers District, the Lower St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, or the Mississippi River Critical Area Corridor, the definition of a bluff, bluff line setbacks, and requirements for allowing development on a bluff will generally differ and be more restrictive than for lands within the Shoreland Management District. Requirements for proposed vegetative cutting or excavation on a bluff or within bluff line setbacks may also be more restrictive. Contact your city, county, or township local planning/zoning authority for information on district boundaries, requirements, and permits before undertaking these types of activities.

See also:
Wild and Scenic Rivers Program
Lower St. Croix National Scenic Riverway
Mississippi River Critical Area Program

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Boat house/boat storage structure

Is a DNR permit required to build or repair a boat house, boat storage structure, or storage shed adjacent to a lake or river?

Contact your city or county planning/zoning authority if you propose to construct or reconstruct an on-land boat house or other accessory structures along your lake or river shoreline.

After reading Water Access: Boat Storage Structures Adobe Acrobat Reader is required to download this file., contact the DNR for permit requirements if you have an existing in-water structure that needs repair. The DNR cannot issue permits for new boat storage structures.

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Boat ramp

Is a DNR permit required to build a boat launching ramp?

A DNR public waters work permit (application available under DNR Division of Waters forms) is not required for privately owned ramps if the following conditions are satisfied:

  • Constructed only of gravel, natural rock, concrete, steel matting, or other durable inorganic material.
  • No more than 7 inches thick; 12 feet along the shore; and 10 feet waterward of the shoreline or into a water depth of 4 feet, whichever is less.
  • No more than 5 cubic yards of excavation, and no more than 5 cubic yards of fill consisting of crushed rock, gravel, clean sand, or small stone is allowed for a stable base.
  • Site is not a posted fish spawning area or on a federally designated wild and scenic river.

The same conditions apply for publicly owned ramps as those for privately owned ramps, except the ramp can be up to 36 feet wide and 30 feet waterward of the shoreline or into a water depth of 4 feet, whichever is less. Up to 80 cubic yards of fill consisting of crushed rock, gravel, clean sand, or small stone is allowed. Up to 200 cubic yards of excavation is allowed. The use of coffer dams constructed of metal sheet piling or other portable materials is allowed to construct and maintain public boat launching ramps if all materials are completely removed from public waters within 30 days of completion of the project.

Important: Other approvals may be required from federal, state, and local units of government, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, watershed districts, water management organizations, counties, townships, and cities.

See the information sheet titled Water Access: Installing a Boat Ramp PDF icon. under DNR Waters Publications

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Bridge crossing

Is a DNR permit required to construct a bridge over the stream that flows through my land?

A DNR public waters work permit (application available under DNR Division of Waters forms) is not required to build a temporary bridge across a stream if the following conditions are satisfied:

  • The stream bank can support bridge without pilings, foundations, culverts, excavation, or other special site preparations.
  • Nothing is placed in the bed of the stream.
  • The bridge is capable of removal for maintenance and flood damage prevention.
  • The bridge is firmly anchored at one end and can swing away during flooding.
  • The lowest portion of the bridge is at least three feet above the ordinary high water level on navigable streams.
  • The bridge construction is consistent with floodplain, shoreland, and wild and scenic river ordinances.

See the information sheet titled Temporary Bridges and Low-Water Ford Crossings PDF icon. under DNR Waters Publications

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Dams

What are the permit requirements pertaining to dams?

A permit is needed from DNR Waters to construct, alter, repair, remove, or transfer ownership of a regulated dam.

For the definition of what is a dam and more details concerning dam permits, see the information sheet titled Dam Safety - Permit Guidelines for Dams PDF icon. under DNR Waters Publications

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Dewatering

I'm a sewer contractor, and in many cases it is necessary to install a series of sandpoints in an area I need to lay sewer pipe. Is a DNR permit required to install the sandpoints?

A DNR water appropriation permit is not required to install sandpoints. However, a DNR water appropriation permit (application available under DNR Division of Waters forms) would be required to dewater the site if the amount of water that is appropriated from these wells exceeds 10,000 gallons per day or 1 million gallons per year. The installation of dewatering wells is regulated by the Minnesota Department of Health. If the water from the sandpoints is discharged to a body of water (lake, river, wetland), contact the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to learn more about its regulation of water discharges.

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Diking adjacent to public waters

Is a DNR permit required to build a dike adjacent to the lake or wetland on my land?

Dikes and other development located adjacent to public waters are regulated by the local unit of government under its floodplain, shoreland management, and other land use controls. In general, no DNR public waters work permit (application available under DNR Division of Waters forms) is required for the placement of dikes above the ordinary high water level (OHWL) of public waters. However, the county board of commissioners may give the DNR authority to grant permits for certain activities adjacent to public waters. Minnesota Statutes Section 103G.245, Subdivision 4 states the following:

The commissioner, subject to the approval of the county board, shall have power to grant permits under such terms and conditions as he shall prescribe, to establish, construct, maintain and control wharfs, docks, piers, levees, breakwaters, basins, canals and hangars in or adjacent to public waters of the state except within the corporate limits of a municipality.

 

If a county board passes an official resolution authorizing the commissioner to grant permits for dikes adjacent to public waters pursuant to the above statute, DNR Waters can regulate dikes using Minnesota Statutes 103G permit authority. Since there are no specific rules for diking, each permit would be evaluated based on the general criteria set forth in Minnesota Statutes 103G and Minnesota Statutes 116D (i.e., "reasonable need," "minimal impact solution","effect on public health and safety"). Note that this authority is valid only within unincorporated areas of a county. Before DNR personnel discuss the use of this section by any county board, they must advise the DNR Waters director and secure approval to promote the use of this authority.

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Docks and structures along the shore

Is a DNR permit required to install a dock or swimming platform in a lake?

A DNR public waters work permit (application available under DNR Division of Waters forms) is not required to construct, reconstruct or install docks, floating or temporary structures, watercraft lifts and mooring facilities if the following conditions are satisfied:

  • Will not be an obstruction to navigation or create safety hazard.
  • Will not be detrimental to significant fish and wildlife habitat.
  • Site is not a posted fish spawning area.
  • Does not have a roof, walls or sewage facilities and is not used or intended to be used for human habitation or as a boat storage structure.
  • Allows for the free flow of water beneath it.
  • Is consistent with or allowed under local government zoning authority controls.
  • Other than a seasonal watercraft lift or canopy, is not more than 8 feet in width, and is not combined with other similar structures so as to create a larger structure.
  • Docks placed on rock filled cribs are located only on waters where the bed is incapable of accepting pilings.

Note: Temporary structures which do not extend from shore, such as: swim rafts, slalom courses, ski jumps or buoys of any kind, may not be placed in the waters of the state between sunset and sunrise without a permit from the county sheriff. Those structures not left in the water overnight are still required to be placed so that they do not create a hazard on the water body or obstruct navigation. Contact the water patrol unit of your county sheriff's department for permit information. Call the DNR Boat and Water Safety Section at 651-259-5400 for additional information.

Sometimes disputes regarding the installation of docks and other structures in front of adjacent properties occur. Such disputes are best settled by first discussing your concerns with your neighbor. If your neighbor is uncooperative, you may have to contact an attorney about the legalities of your neighbor's actions.

See the information sheet titled Docks and Access in Public Waters under DNR Waters Publications.

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Dredging

Is a DNR permit required to dredge out my boat harbor that is connected to the lake?

A DNR public waters work permit (application available under DNR Division of Waters forms) is required to dredge a proposed or existing harbor by either mechanical or hydraulic methods when the excavation is intended for the mooring of watercraft Maintenance dredging of an existing harbor may already be permitted if a DNR permit was previously issued to the same riparian landowner proposing the dredging and the permit contains a maintenance provision. The permittee would be limited to dredging an area to the same dimensions as originally permitted. If the landowner is not the same, a new DNR permit would be required. A permittee is required to notify the DNR prior to conducting any maintenance excavation activity.

Dredging proposals may require a permit from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) pertaining to the management of the dredged material. See the MPCA Dredged Materials Management page for more information.

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Fences

Is a DNR permit required to build a fence across the wetland or stream on my property?
What are the regulations regarding putting a fence along my property into the lake to prevent people from trespassing onto my property?

In general, no DNR public waters work permit (application available under DNR Division of Waters forms) is required for the placement of fences in or across public waters or public waters wetlands. Landowners who fence their waters or shorelands can be prosecuted under the Water Safety Act (Minnesota Statutes 86B) and/or the Public Nuisance Law (Minnesota Statutes 609.74) if their fences obstruct navigation or pose a threat to public safety.

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Fill

Is a DNR permit required to place fill in a lake, river, or wetland?

A DNR public waters work permit (application available under DNR Division of Waters forms) is required to place fill in a lake, many watercourses, and public waters wetlands. State rules specifically prohibit placement of fill into a water body by an individual or organization to create upland areas. To determine whether a local permit is required or allowed, contact your city or county planning/zoning authority if you propose to haul fill onto the existing upland portion of your property .

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Fish stocking

Is a DNR permit required to stock fish in the lake on which I live or in the dug-out pond on my property?

Stocking of fish in Minnesota's lakes, rivers, and ponds is regulated by the DNR Fisheries Division, (651) 259-5200.

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Floating bogs

Who is responsible for removing a bog that floated across the lake and lodged on my shoreline? Is a DNR permit required to remove it?

When a floating bog has broken free from the shoreline by natural causes, and becomes grounded elsewhere on private or public property, the property owner(s) where the bog becomes grounded are responsible for removing the bog if they so desire. If there is no evidence to identify the responsible party or parties, the local government must assume responsibility. The DNR responsibility is limited to the following:

  • Provide advice and approval on bog disposition.
  • Obtain funds from the state agency involved when a floating bog has become lodged on the shoreline of state-owned lands.
  • Remove any floating bogs lodged on state owned dams or other DNR property.

NOTE: Removing floating bog material requires a DNR aquatic plant management permit issued through the DNR Regional Fisheries Office where your shoreline property is located. Minnesota Rules 6280 describes permit requirements relating to the removal of aquatic vegetation. See also Aquatic Vegetation.

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Ground water

Is a DNR permit required to drill a well on my property?
Is a DNR permit required to drive a sandpoint well at my lake cabin?

The construction of wells is regulated by the Minnesota Department of Health-Division of Environmental Quality under Minnesota Statutes 103 I. A DNR permit may be required if the water pumped exceeds 10,000 gallons per day or 1 million gallons per year.

Is a DNR permit required to pump water out of the lake I live on to water my garden?

A DNR water appropriation permit (application available under DNR Division of Waters forms) is not required to pump water from a well, lake, wetland, watercourse, ditch, gravel pit, quarry, or human-made pond if the amount does not exceed 10,000 gallons per day (gpd) or 1 million gallons per year (gpy). See Water Appropriation Permit Program for more information.

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Heat Pumps (Geothermal systems)

What is a ground-water heat pump (geothermal system) and is a DNR permit needed to install one?

A ground-water heat pump or geothermal system is an alternative method to heat and cool a building such as your home. Closed-loop geothermal systems, which do not use water, are preferred. In an open-loop system water is pumped from a well through the system in your home, which essentially extracts the heat in winter and cool in summer. The water is discharged to a water body or low area. In general, open-loop systems, otherwise called "pump and dump" or "once-through cooling", are discouraged. Once-through systems using water in excess of 5,000,000 gallons per year are prohibited.

A DNR water appropriation permit would be required if the water used to operate the system would exceed 10,000 gallons per day or one million gallons per year. A DNR public waters work permit is required for alterations to the bed of public waters, such as placement of energy exchanging loops or plates, directional boring, or trenching for system installation.

Water discharges are regulated by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

Also see the information sheet titled Geothermal Heating and Cooling Systems PDF icon.

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Hydropower (Small scale)

Do I need a permit to install a micro/mini hydropower project to supplement power for my home?

Micro (or mini) hydro is a term used for hydroelectric (including hydrokinetic) installations that typically produce less than 100 kW of power. These installations will not require a DNR permit if the installation is a temporary structure, does not constitute a hazard to public health, safety, and welfare, does not obstruct navigation or create a water safety hazard, and is not detrimental to significant fish and wildlife habitat. It must allow the free flow of water beneath it. It may be attached to a dock or platform where the dimensions are in conformance with law. If attaching the installation to the dock or platform increases the width of either of these, a permit might be required.

A DNR water appropriation permit is required if water is diverted from a watercourse or water body to operate the system where the volume of water diverted exceeds 10,000 gallons per day or one million gallons per year.

Each community has its own set of codes and regulations. Be sure to contact your local Building Inspection Department. In addition, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) regulates small hydro projects. To see their requirements, visit the FERC website.

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Ice ridges

Is a DNR permit required to remove or grade soil material ("ice ridge") pushed up by ice action onto my shoreline?

For most projects regarding work below the ordinary high water level (OHWL) of public waters, an individual Public Waters Work Permit is required.

ICE RIDGE PERMIT EXCEPTION: Under the following conditions an individual permit would not be required from the DNR for ice ridge removal or grading:

  • The ice ridge resulted from ice action within the last year;
  • The project is either exempt from local permits or is authorized by issuance of a local government permit;
  • Not more than 200 feet of shoreline is affected;
  • All ice ridge material that is composed of muck, clay or organic sediment is deposited and stabilized at an upland site above the ordinary high water level (OHWL);
  • All ice ridge material that is composed of sand or gravel is removed as provided above or graded to conform to the original cross-section and alignment of the lakebed, with a finished surface at or below the ordinary high water level (OHWL);
  • No additional excavation or replacement fill material occurs on the site;
  • All exposed areas are immediately stabilized as needed to prevent erosion and sedimentation; and
  • Local zoning officials, the Watershed District, if applicable, and the Soil and Water District are given at least seven days prior notice.

 

See the information sheet titled Shoreline Alterations: Ice Ridges under DNR Division of Waters Publications. Also see: Ice damage to shoreline property - Causes, Responses, Photo Gallery.

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Irrigation, crop

I currently dry land farm corn and soybeans in western Minnesota on a rotational basis and I am considering installing a well and center pivot irrigation system. Do I need a DNR permit to irrigate these types of crops?

A DNR water appropriation permit (application available under DNR Division of Ecological and Water Resources forms) is required to irrigate any type of crop if the amount of water appropriated (used) from a groundwater or surface water source exceeds 10,000 gallons per day, or one million gallons per year.

See: Water Use Permit Information

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Irrigation, non-crop (including lawn watering)

Is a DNR permit required to pump water from a lake or river to irrigate my garden or lawn?

A DNR water appropriation permit (application available under DNR Division of Ecological and Water Resource forms) is required to pump water or allow to flow by gravity from a lake, wetland, watercourse, spring, ditch, gravel pit, quarry, natural or artificial pond, or well; to irrigate gardens and lawns if the amount exceeds 10,000 gallons per day, or one million gallons per year.

A well-maintained lawn in Minnesota uses approximately one inch of water per week, regardless of whether this comes from rainfall or lawn watering. As a rule of thumb, an irrigated lawn greater than 1.4 acres in size will likely meet the threshold for requiring a DNR permit during a dry year.

See: Water Use Permit Information

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Lakeshore frontage

What permits do I need to do certain activities on my lakeshore?

Proposed Work

For work proposed on the bed of a lake, river, or wetland, you should contact the DNR area hydrologist covering the county where the work is being proposed. If your proposal involves work on the upland portion of your property riparian to a water body or watercourse, you should contact your local unit of government for regulations regarding its shoreland, wild and scenic rivers, or critical area ordinances. If the property is located within an incorporated area, contact the city planning and/or zoning department, and if the property is located within an unincorporated area, contact the county planning and/or zoning authority.

Permits Needed

Work that is proposed below the ordinary high water level (OHWL) of public waters and public waters wetlands may require a DNR public waters work permit (application available under DNR Division of Waters forms). Examples of activities include filling or excavating.

See Permit Requirements under the Public Waters Work Permits Program. Work that is proposed above the OHWL of public waters and public waters wetlands (upland area of your property) may require a permit from the local unit of government such as a city or county planning or zoning department. In addition, watershed districts, water management organizations, or conservation districts may regulate activities both above and below the OHWL of a water body or watercourse.

More Information

See the DNR Waters information sheet titled Shoreline Alterations: Lakescaping This is a PDF file. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to download it. (1.1 Mb).

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Lawn landscaping

Is a DNR permit required to landscape my lakeshore property to improve the appearance of my lawn?

Landscaping work proposed on the upland part of your lakeshore or river property may require a permit from the local unit of government. Contact your city or county local planning/zoning authority.

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Ordinary high water level

If I need to apply for a permit, how do I know where the ordinary high water level is?

The ordinary high water level (OHWL) is a reference elevation that defines the DNR's regulatory authority over development projects that are proposed to alter the course, current or cross section of public waters and public waters wetlands. For lakes and wetlands, the OHWL is the highest water level that has been maintained for a sufficient period of time to leave evidence on the landscape. The OHWL is commonly that point where the natural vegetation changes from predominately aquatic to predominantly terrestrial. For watercourses, the OHWL is the elevation of the top of the bank of the channel. For reservoirs and flowages, the OHWL is the operating elevation of the normal summer pool. The OHWL is also used by local units of government as a reference elevation from which to determine structure setbacks from water bodies and watercourses.

Contact your local area hydrologist to determine the OHWL for a specific water body or watercourse.

Learn more about ordinary high water levels.

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Permit applications

Where can I obtain a public waters work permit or water appropriation permit application?

Applications for both DNR public waters work permits and DNR water appropriation permits are available at any DNR Waters regional or area field office and the DNR central office in St. Paul. Both applications can also be downloaded from DNR Waters Forms.

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Public waters on federal lands

Is a DNR permit required to alter a lake on federal lands?

The DNR has the authority to regulate and manage the public waters and public waters wetlands located inside areas under federal jurisdiction (e.g., national forests). It is DNR's position that the federal government must obtain Minnesota Statutes103G.245 permits for work in public waters and public waters wetlands just as other private landowners must.

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Remodeling

Is a DNR permit required to remodel my lake or river home (e.g., tear down the deck so I can build a four-season porch)?

You should contact your city or county planning/zoning authority for local permitting requirements if you propose to do any remodeling of your lake or river home/cabin.

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Retaining walls

Is a DNR permit required to build a retaining wall along my shoreline?

A DNR public waters work permit (application available under DNR Waters Forms) is required to build a retaining wall along your shoreline if the structure is proposed below the ordinary high water level(OHWL). The DNR discourages the construction of retaining walls, particularly when a water basin or watercourse is relatively undeveloped. The use of hard armoring (rock riprap) or soft armoring (biovegetation) is encouraged. Many local governmental units address projects such as retaining walls with a grading and filling permit system, so you should also contact your local zoning office for any specific requirements.

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Riprap

What is riprap, what is it used for, and do I need a DNR permit to install it?

Riprap is the term used for large natural rock placed along a shoreline to control or stop erosion. Riprap can be either large boulder size rocks typically found along a farmer's fence line or a commercially mined rock product such as basalt (traprock).

A DNR public waters work permit (application available under DNR Division of Waters forms) is not required if the following conditions are satisfied:

  • Installation allowed only where there is a demonstrated need to stop existing erosion or to restore and an eroded shoreline. The DNR area hydrologist should be consulted to determine whether a need for riprap exists.
  • The riprap does not cover emergent vegetation, unless authorized by an Aquatic Plant Management Permit from the Department's Division of Fisheries;.
  • Only natural rock is used, between 6 and 30 inches in diameter, free of debris that may cause pollution or siltation.
  • A filter of crushed rock, gravel or filter fabric material is placed underneath the rock.
  • No more than 6 feet waterward of the Ordinary High Water Level
  • Conforms to natural alignment of shore and does not obstruct navigation or the flow of water.
  • Minimum finished slope no steeper than 3:1 (horizontal to vertical)
  • No more than 200 feet of shoreline along lakes and wetlands, or along shorelines of streams, less than 5 times the average width of the affected watercourse.
  • Site is not a posted fish spawning area, designated trout stream, nor along the shore of Lake Superior.

Important: Other approvals may be required from federal, state, and local units of government, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, watershed districts, water management organizations, counties, townships, and cities.

See the information sheet titled Shoreline Alterations: Riprap under DNR Waters Publications, or view Permit Requirements under the Public Waters Work Permits Program.

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Road construction

I want to construct a road on my property down to the lake or river to launch my boat. Is a DNR permit required?

A DNR public waters work permit is not required as long as no work is done below the Ordinary High Water Level (OHWL) of the water body. Check with your city or county planning/zoning officials if you propose to construct a road on your lake or river property.

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Shoreline restoration

I want to restore the shoreline of the lake where my summer cabin is located with natural plantings. Is a DNR permit required?

A DNR public waters work permit is not required to perform bank or shoreline zone restoration work using willow wattles, willow posts, brush mattressing, brush layering, fiber roll breakwaters, plant carpets, root wads, and other natural materials if they are installed by hand for the purpose of shoreline restoration work if:

  • The project is approved by DNR staff and is designed or reviewed by the local soil and water conservation district or the local watershed district;
  • The design does not interfere with navigation or other riparian uses of the waterbody;
  • the project is done during times of the year when it will not interfere with fish spawning or the nesting of protected bird species;
  • Local origin native plant species, adapted for the site, are used;
  • An aquatic plant management permit is obtained when aquatic plants are used;
  • The waterward encroachment is the minimum necessary for the project; and
  • A maintenance plan is developed for the project and a copy submitted for Review to the Department's Area Fisheries office.

Check with your city or county planning/zoning officials if there are any local permits required.

More Information

See the DNR Waters information sheet titled Shoreline Alterations: Lakescaping This is a PDF file. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to download it. (1.1 Mb).

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Sunken Log Removal

I want to harvest sunken logs from public waters. Is a DNR permit required?

There has been a moratorium on removing sunken logs in Minnesota since 2001. Effective July 1, 2010, the DNR Commissioner is barred from issuing permits or leases for removing sunken logs from any public waters (Minnesota Statutes, section 103G.651).

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Structure setbacks

I want to build a structure such as a deck or other structure on my lake or river frontage. What are the structure setbacks?

Minimum structure setbacks are available from your local county or city planning/zoning authority. Check the government section of your telephone book or contact the Association of Minnesota Counties or the League of Minnesota Cities for information on how to contact these local officials.

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Tribal lands

Is a DNR permit required to alter a lake on tribal lands?

Riparian landowners who are enrolled members of federally recognized tribes, bands or communities in Minnesota who propose to do work in the bed (bottom) of public waters or public waters wetlands that are located within the boundaries of established tribal lands will not, until further notice, be subject to the permit requirements of Minnesota Statutes 103G.245. However, riparian landowners who are not members of federally recognized tribes, bands, or communities in Minnesota are subject to Minnesota Statutes 103G.245 permit authority if they propose to work in the bed (bottom) of public waters or public waters wetlands that are located within the boundaries of established tribal lands. These regulations do not preclude a non-member riparian landowner whose land lies within established tribal lands from first obtaining a DNR aquatic plant management permit from the Regional Fisheries Office if any destruction of emergent vegetation, such as cattails, bulrush or wild rice, is likely to result from working in the bed (bottom) of public waters or public waters wetlands (see Minnesota Statutes 103G.615).

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Utility crossings

Do I need a DNR permit to run an electric cable underwater to an island that I own in the lake on which I live?

Utility crossings over or under public waters or public waters wetlands are subject to the statutory authority of both Minnesota Statutes 103G and Minnesota Statutes 84.415. However, by administrative agreement (December 11, 1974 and July 6, 1981), DNR Waters has delegated its Minnesota Statutes 103G regulatory authority to the DNR Division of Lands and Minerals. The Division of Lands and Minerals Management "license," which is issued under Minnesota Statutes 84.415 and Minnesota Rules Parts 6135.0100 to 6135.1800, also constitutes the "permit" required under Minnesota Statutes 103G. Problems arising from utility crossings over or under public waters should be jointly evaluated by DNR Waters and Division of Lands and Minerals personnel. When necessary, corrective action should be initiated and directed by the Division of Lands and Minerals. Local units of government may also have requirements for utility crossings and routes through land use management districts.

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Vegetation removal

Is a DNR permit required to cut, clear, or eliminate the vegetation (trees and shrubs) along my lakeshore?

A DNR aquatic plant management permit may be required to remove aquatic vegetation (See Aquatic Vegetation.) However, no permit is required to remove debris below the ordinary high water level, such as trees, logs, stumps and trash as long as the original alignment, slope or cross section of a lake, wetland, or streambed is not altered, and the removed debris must be placed outside of public waters and public waters wetlands which may require local government approval.

Your property may be within the boundaries of one or more land use management districts and subject to vegetative cutting or removal requirements. For lands within a Shoreland Management District, no permit is required for limited clearing of trees and shrubs (10 to 20 percent) and cutting, pruning, and trimming of trees to accommodate the placement of stairways, paths, and water accesses and to provide a view to the water from the principal dwelling.

For lands within a Wild and Scenic Rivers District, the Lower St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, or the Mississippi River Critical Area Corridor, requirements for vegetative cutting or removal may be more restrictive than for lands within the Shoreland Management District. Contact your city, county, or township local planning/zoning authority for information on district boundaries, requirements, and permits before undertaking these types of activities.

See also:
Wild and Scenic Rivers Program
Lower St. Croix National Scenic Riverway
Mississippi River Critical Area Program
Shoreline Alterations: Lakescaping This is a PDF file. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to download it. (1.1 Mb)

There are dead trees on my shoreline and in the lake. Is a DNR permit required to cut them down?

Your property may be within the boundaries of one or more land use management districts and subject to vegetative cutting or removal requirements. For lands within a Shoreland Management District, dead or diseased trees, limbs, or branches that pose a safety hazard may be removed as long as the structure remains adequately screened when viewed from the water. Diseased or dying vegetation may be removed along with selective pruning of branches to allow a view. If the lakeshore area includes a bluff, vegetation removal is more closely controlled through the local governments shoreland controls.

For lands within a Wild and Scenic Rivers District, the Lower St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, or the Mississippi River Critical Area Corridor, requirements for vegetative cutting or removal may be more restrictive than for lands within the Shoreland Management District. Contact your city, county, or township local planning/zoning authority for information on district boundaries, requirements, and permits before undertaking these types of activities.

See also:
Wild and Scenic Rivers Program
Lower St. Croix National Scenic Riverway
Mississippi River Critical Area Program
Shoreline Alterations: Lakescaping This is a PDF file. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to download it. (1.1 Mb)

Is it environmentally OK for my neighbors to rake their leaves into the lake to dispose of them?

The DNR highly discourages individuals from dumping their leaves and grass clippings into a lake, river, or wetland. In addition, this material should not be raked into the street where it can wash into the storm sewer that drains to water bodies or watercourses. Leaves and grass clippings add nutrients that use up valuable oxygen as they decompose, on which aquatic organisms in the food chain depend. The DNR encourages good stewardship of our water and land resources. There are alternative stewardship practices for disposing of leaf and grass clippings that are more environmentally friendly. The best way to dispose of this waste is to compost it either on your land or at a designated compost site in your community. An excellent source of information on the environmental benefits of proper leaf disposal is a DNR publication entitled "Lakescaping For Wildlife and Water Quality" available from Minnesota's Bookstore.

Reports of pollution or littering in public waters or public waters wetlands should be referred to the local DNR conservation officer, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, and county officials such as sanitarian or sheriff.

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Weed control and removal

Do I need a DNR permit to remove the cattails along my lakeshore?

The control or removal of emergent aquatic vegetation, such as cattails, bulrushes or wild rice, does require a DNR aquatic plant management permit (also see: Aquatic Vegetation). The DNR Section of Fisheries regulates the control or removal of aquatic vegetation by physical or chemical means. Permits can be applied for through the DNR Regional Fisheries Office serving the area where your shoreline property is located. They may be contacted at (651) 259-5100 for more information.

A DNR public waters work permit is not required unless you fill or excavate (See fill or dredge).

Also see the DNR Waters information sheet titled Shoreline Alterations: Lakescaping This is a PDF file. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to download it. (1.1 Mb).

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Well construction

Is a DNR permit required to drill a well on my property?
Is a DNR permit required to drive a sandpoint at my lake cabin?

The construction of wells is regulated by the Minnesota Department of Health-Division of Environmental Quality under Minnesota Statutes 103I.

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Wildlife ponds

Is a DNR permit required to excavate a wildlife pond on my property?
I heard the DNR pays for wildlife ponds constructed on private property? Is that true?

A DNR public waters work permit (application available under DNR Waters Forms) is not required if the pond is not excavated below the ordinary high water level(OHWL) of a public waters or public waters wetland. A landowner can contact a DNR wildlife manager for information on how to construct a wildlife pond in a way that would be attractive to wildlife. The DNR does not pay individuals for constructing wildlife ponds on their private property. Local units of government may also have requirements for excavations.

Learn more about excavated ponds for wildlife