DNR Announces New Public Waters Work Permit Rules (October 2002)

Commissioner Allen Garber and DNR Waters Director Kent Lokkesmoe announced recently that the revised DNR Public Waters Work Permit Rules formally went into effect on October 14, 2002.

The revised rules were initiated in response to legislation enacted in 2000 and 2001 that changed the way both the Department of Natural Resources and the Board of Water and Soil Resources administer the Public Waters Work Permit Program and the Wetland Conservation Act. Both agencies were required to change their program rules to implement the legislative changes designed to make the decisions made by both of these programs more similar. The rules adopted by the Board of Water and Soil Resources went into effect on August 5, 2002.

The changes to the DNR?s permit program affect projects taking place in the lakes, wetlands, and streams identified on the DNR?s Public Water Inventory. Copies of the inventory maps can be viewed in local DNR offices, at local Soil and Water Conservation District offices, at County Auditor?s offices, and on the web at: www.dnr.state.mn.us/waters/watermgmt_section/pwi/maps.html

The major changes that lakeshore homeowners, contractors, and government officials will notice include:

  • Changes in terminology. The new rules replace the use of "protected waters" terms with "public waters". This change was made to better distinguish the application of the Public Waters Work Permit Program on public waters from the provisions of the Wetland Conservation Act on wetlands.
  • Projects that can be done without permit. The new rules modify the list of projects that can be installed in public waters without a permit. The major changes include language to restrict the placement of beach sand blankets and riprap shore protection in areas of emergent vegetation without first obtaining an Aquatic Plant Management permit from the DNR?s Division of Ecological Resources, dimension restrictions on the use of materials used for riprap shore protection and to limit its use to areas where there is a demonstrated need to prevent erosion or restore eroded shoreline, and other shore protection measures. Changes were also made in the language authorizing the installation of docks and mooring facilities without a permit as long as they are allowed and consistent with local zoning regulations and are less than 8 feet in width. Commercial marinas will still be subject to permit regulation by the DNR.
  • Restoration Section. The new rules now contain a new section of language to address restoration of public water resources. Language is included to address shoreline zone restoration work using natural materials, ice ridge removal or grading, and use of riprap where there is a demonstrated need to prevent erosion or restore eroded shoreline and to address other bioengineering, structural erosion control, wave break, and contaminated site restoration projects.
  • Permit processing. The new rules include language requiring applicants to apply sequencing concepts of impact avoidance, impact minimization when the project cannot avoid all impacts to public waters, and mitigation (replacement) of major project impacts allowed under permit by restoration of diminished public waters or replacement of comparable public values. The new rules also contain provisions that allow the DNR to transfer the authority to regulate projects in certain public water wetlands to the local unit of government that is administering the Wetland Conservation Act. This transfer or waiver of authority can only take place if the DNR provides a written notice of this waiver to the project applicant and the local unit of government within 15 days of receipt of the permit application, and is only applicable on public water wetlands that are not subject to shoreland zoning, are not lakes, and do not have state or federal lands that were acquired because of the presence of the wetland. Public road projects affecting public water wetlands and wetland areas of public waters will also be addressed with different permit and reporting procedures.
  • Local Agreements. The new rules include language that allows the local government unit administering the Wetland Conservation Act to transfer that authority to the DNR by means of a written agreement with DNR. This section of the rule is designed to integrate both the local unit of government?s Wetland Conservation Act concerns into the DNR?s Public Waters Work Permit for projects where otherwise two separate authorizations from the local unit of government and the DNR would be required.
  • Local Plans. The new rules allow the DNR to work with local groups and government units to develop and adopt locally based plans that can take the place of the general permit rules that otherwise would have application. This allows for specific lake or watershed based plans to be developed to provide a more specific and integrated approach to land and water resource management problems in a particular area. The rule sets up criteria for developing the plan, a review process and an approval process by the Commissioner.