Requirements for Projects Involving Public Waters Work Permits

The DNR Public Waters Work Permit Program applies to those lakes, wetlands, and streams identified on DNR Public Water Inventory maps. Proposed projects affecting the course, current, or cross-section of these water bodies may require a Public Waters Work Permit from the DNR and permits from other agencies.

Types of Public Waters Work Permits

There are two types of Public Waters Work Permits available from the DNR: general, and individual permits. See the Do I Need a Permit? section for frequently asked questions about permit requirements.

  • General Permits

    General permits are "pre-issued" permits issued on a statewide or county level. If work proposed in public waters or public waters wetlands meets the requirements of a specific general permit, an individual permit is not required. Currently there are five categories of general permits as follows:
    • Emergency Repair of Public Flood Damages
    • Multiple Purposes
    • Bridge and Culvert Projects
    • Dry Hydrants
    • Bank/Shore Protection or Restoration

    List of Currently Active General Permits for Work in Public Waters

    For a summary of where DNR general permits apply in Minnesota, contact the Waters Permit Unit in St. Paul or your local DNR Ecological and Water Resources Area Office.
     
  • Individual Permits

    An individual permit is required if the proposed work does not meet the requirements of a specific general permit.

Projects Requiring Public Waters Work Permits

Under Minnesota Statute103G.245, Subdivision 1 (except as provided in Subdivisions 2, 11, and 12), the state, a political subdivision of the state, a public or private corporation, or a person, must have a DNR Public Waters Work Permit (application forms) to:

  1. construct, reconstruct, remove, abandon, transfer ownership of, or make any change in a reservoir, dam, or waterway obstruction on public waters; or
  2. change or diminish the course, current, or cross section of public waters, entirely or partially within the state, by any means, including filling, excavating, or placing of materials in or on the beds of public waters.

For additional information about specific projects, see Do I Need a Permit?.


Projects Not Requiring Public Waters Work Permits

The following projects generally will have minor impacts to public waters and do not require permits from DNR Waters, provided all of the listed conditions are met. You should remember that other permits for the work might be required from local government units and other agencies of the state or federal government.

  • Projects That Alter The Shoreline Zone

    • Bank or Shoreline Zone Restoration Work - 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 installed by hand for the purpose of shoreline zone restoration work if:

      1. 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;
      2. 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;
      3. Local origin native plant species, adapted for the site, are used;
      4. An aquatic plant management permit is obtained when aquatic plants are used;
      5. The waterward encroachment is the minimum necessary for the project; and
      6. A maintenance plan is developed for the project and a copy submitted for review to the Department's Area Fisheries office.
         
    • Ice Ridge Removal and Grading Work - A DNR Public Waters Work Permit is not required if:

      1. The ice ridge resulted from ice action within the last year;
      2. The project is either exempt from local permits or is authorized by issuance of a local government permit;
      3. Not more than 200 feet of shoreline is affected;
      4. 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 of any public water;
      5. 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;
      6. No additional excavation or placement of fill material occurs on the site;
      7. All exposed areas are immediately stabilized as needed to prevent erosion and sedimentation; and
      8. Local zoning officials, the Watershed District, if applicable, and the Soil and Water Conservation District are given at least seven days prior notice.
         
    • Beach Sand Blanket - A DNR Public Waters Work Permit is not required if the beach sand:

      1. Does not cover emergent vegetation, unless already authorized by an Aquatic Plant Management permit from the Department's Division of Fisheries;
      2. Clean, inorganic sand or gravel, free of pollutants and nutrients;
      3. 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;
      4. Local watershed district and local zoning officials must be given at least 7 days prior notice;
      5. Site is not a posted fish spawning area; and
      6. Installation of sand and gravel may only be repeated once at the same location, not exceeding same amount and dimensions of the original sand blanket.
         
    • Natural Rock Riprap - A DNR Public Waters Work Permit is not required for:

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

      1. For excavation or filling of soil materials solely associated with planting or collecting native aquatic plants as authorized by an Aquatic Plant Management permit from the Department's Division of Fisheries.

    • Debris Removal - A DNR Public Waters Work Permit is not required:

      To remove debris, such as trees, logs, stumps and trash as long as:

      1. The original alignment, slope or cross-section of the lake, wetland, or streambed is not altered; and
      2. The removed debris must be placed outside of public waters and wetlands and may require local government approval.
         
  • Structures Along The Shore

    • Docks, Floating or Temporary Structures, Watercraft Lifts and Mooring Facilities - A DNR Public Waters Work Permit is not required if the structure:

      1. Will not be an obstruction to navigation or create a safety hazard;
      2. Will not be detrimental to significant fish and wildlife habitat;
      3. Site is not a posted fish spawning area;
      4. 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;
      5. Allows for the free flow of water beneath it;
      6. Is consistent with or allowed under local government zoning authority controls;
      7. 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; and
      8. Docks placed on rock filled cribs are located only on waters where the bed is incapable of accepting pilings.
         
    • Boat Ramps - A DNR Public Waters Work Permit is not required:

      1. Privately owned ramps:
        • Site can support ramp without pilings, dredging, or other special site preparation;
        • 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, which ever is less;
        • No more than 5 cubic yards of excavation and 5 cubic yards of fill allowed for a stable base; and
        • Site is not a posted fish spawning area or on a federally designated wild and scenic river.
      2. Publicly owned ramps
        • Same as above, except 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, with up to 200 cubic yards of excavation and 80 cubic yards of fill 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.
           
    • Removal of Existing Structures - A DNR Public Waters Work Permit is not required if:

      1. The original lake, wetland or stream bed is restored;
      2. All parts of the structure, including footings or pilings, are removed; and
      3. The structure is not a water level control device and is not on an officially designated trout stream.
  • Structures In Streams

    • To Construct A Bridge or Culvert, or to Fill or Excavate the Bed of a Public Watercourse Having a Total Drainage Area, at its Mouth, of Less Than 5 Square Miles (3,200 Acres) - A DNR Public Waters Work Permit is not required, provided:

      1. County zoning officials and local Soil and Water Conservation District are given at least 7 days prior notice to determine that the project will not result in downstream erosion or sedimentation;
      2. The project will not divert water to a different watershed;
      3. The project will not impound water by damming the watercourse; and
      4. The watercourse is not an officially designated trout stream.
         
    • Low Water Ford Crossings (on streams only) - A DNR Public Waters Work Permit is not required when:

      1. The crossing conforms to the shape of the natural stream channel;
      2. The original stream bank is no higher than 4 feet;
      3. The normal summer flow does not exceed 2 feet in depth.
      4. The normal summer flow is not restricted or reduced;
      5. No special site preparation necessary;
      6. The crossing is constructed only of gravel, natural rock, concrete, steel matting or other durable, inorganic material not more than 1 foot thick;
      7. The finished graded slope is no steeper than 5:1 (horizontal to vertical);
      8. The graded banks must be seeded or mulched to prevent erosion and sedimentation; and
      9. The site is not an officially designated trout stream, wild, scenic or recreational river or officially designated canoe and boating route.
         
    • Temporary Bridges (on streams only) - A DNR Public Waters Work Permit is not required when:

      1. The stream bank can support bridge without pilings, foundations, culverts, excavation, or other special site preparations;
      2. Nothing is placed in the bed of the stream;
      3. The bridge is capable of removal for maintenance and flood damage prevention;
      4. The bridge is firmly anchored at one end and can swing away during flooding;
      5. A minimum 3 feet of clearance between the lowest portion of the bridge and normal summer stream flow is maintained; and
      6. The bridge construction is consistent with floodplain, shoreland, and wild and scenic river ordinances.
         
    • Water Level Control Structures Construction, Reconstruction or Abandonment (on streams only) - A DNR Public Waters Work Permit is not required when:

      1. The contributing watershed above the structure is 300 acres or less;
      2. The structure is not a "dam" under State Dam Safety rules (Minn. Rules 6115.0300-.0520, see Minnesota Office of the Revisor of Statutes; and
      3. The structure is not on an officially designated trout stream.
  • Outlets - Storm Sewers, Drain Tile, Ditches

    • Maintenance - A DNR Public Waters Work Permit is not required when:

      1. The outlet has been maintained and has been functioning within the last 5 years;
      2. The maintenance work does not alter the original course, current or cross-section of the lake, wetland or streambed; and
      3. The removed debris must be placed outside of public waters and wetlands and may require local government approval.
         
    • Installation of Agricultural Drain Tile Outlets - A DNR Public Waters Work Permit is not required when:

      1. The outlet involves no construction of an open ditch and is not intended to drain a public water or wetland;
      2. The bank is restored to the natural slope;
      3. The installation does not require channelization, dredging or filling; and
      4. Except for the tile, no permanent structure is placed in the lake, wetland or streambed.

Your local DNR Area Hydrologist should be contacted in all situations to determine whether a permit is needed.