Dams and Dam Safety


Permit Guidelines for Dams

These guidelines are for landowners and engineers involved in dam construction, repair, alteration, removal, and transfer of property containing a dam. These activities require a Dam Safety permit from the Department of Natural Resources. The complete dam safety rules are Parts 6115.0300-0520 of the DNR Public Waters Resources rules.

What is a dam?

A dam is any artificial barrier capable of impounding water (Minnesota Administrative Rule 6115.0320). The height of a dam is the vertical distance from the natural bed of the watercourse (measured at the downstream toe of the dam) to the highest elevation at which water may be impounded during extreme flood conditions. The storage capacity of a dam is the maximum volume of water that can be impounded by the dam. Storage capacity is normally measured in acre-feet, which is the volume of water needed to cover one acre of land to a depth of one foot.

Why is a permit needed?

Dam safety permits are required to ensure the safe design, construction, operation, and maintenance of dams in order to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public. Dams remain in place for many decades and must be designed and built properly to remain safe and functional. If improperly designed or built, a dam may fail which can cause loss of life, property damage, environmental damage, and negative economic impacts. In addition, a permit is needed to address the possible impoundment of water on another person's property, alteration of a watercourse or impacts to the environment.

Do I need a permit?

dams subject to regulations

How do I obtain a permit application?

What is required of a permit applicant?

The applicant (dam owner or authorized agent) must:

What is required in a permit application?

A detailed list of items that may be needed for the design report of a new dam or enlargement can be found in Parts 6115.0410. A design report submitted with the application must include, at a minimum, the following items:

The DNR Commissioner may waive certain details in permit submittals for low hazard dams sponsored by a government agency or engineered by a federal agency.

What is required after the permit is issued?

How do I transfer ownership of a dam?

Ownership transfer of a dam requires a permit from the DNR-EWR (Minnesota Administrative Rule 6115.0370). Real estate sales may involve land on which a dam is located. The purchaser of the property must be aware of the dam, the responsibilities and liabilities of owning a dam, the structural condition of the dam and the repair costs that may be involved to bring the dam up to current safety standards.

What are the permit fees?

In addition to the $150 permit application fee, an initial construction/inspection fee may be required for privately-owned dams. This fee is based on a percentage of the construction cost, as specified in the dam safety rules. For example, the fee for a $100,000 dam is $2,500, and the fee for a $1,000,000 dam is $13,500. The state may also assess a periodic inspection fee for privately-owned dams.

How can I get the printed brochure of this information?

Download brochure or contact the State Dam Safety Engineer, Jason.Boyle@state.mn.us, 651-259-5715 to request a copy.