Utility crossings over, under, or across state land administered by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources or public water require a utility license. Any work performed without a DNR signed license is a trespass and is subject to penalties under Minnesota law.
We are requesting that Utility License applications be submitted electronically. Please send the completed Utility License application by email to the appropriate regional office — see Lands and Minerals Regional Operations staff to determine the correct location.
In addition, the DNR is now accepting electronic signatures on both the application and Utility License. The Utility License should be signed by an officer of your company and should include the officer’s title. If the Utility License is signed by a person who is not an officer of the company, please send us a copy of the power of attorney or board resolution which authorized this person to sign the Utility License on behalf of the company.
Each utility license requires an application fee. Please mail the fee to the Lands and Minerals Regional Operations staff in your area and include a copy of the first 4 pages of the Utility License application. The DNR will not begin processing your application until the application fee has been received.
The Lands and Minerals Division is responsible for granting permission to companies that propose to cross state land or public waters with utility infrastructure projects. The permission is in the form of a utility crossing license. Utility licenses are granted for a term of 25 or 50 years, and may be renewed when they expire. Applicants apply for a license by submitting an application. Utility licenses are generally required for the installation of electrical, pipeline, and communication projects.
Land and water crossings cannot be combined on the same application.
Applicants can complete the application by using one of these methods:
- Open the PDF file, fill it out interactively, and email to the Lands and Minerals Regional Operations staff in your area.
- Open the PDF file, fill it out interactively, and print the completed form.
- Open the PDF file, print the blank form, and fill it out by hand.
- Save the PDF file to your computer, fill out the saved copy, and print the completed form.
After the application is completed, the application along with the required attachments can be emailed to the Lands and Minerals Regional Operations staff in your area or sent by postal mail to the DNR office listed in the instructions. Send the applicable fees (checks only made payable to MN DNR) to the DNR office listed in the instructions.
Quick summary of the law - Click to enlarge
All license applications require that the following portion of the application fee be submitted with the application.
As of July 1, 2023*, there is a $1,000 application fee for electric power lines, cables, or conduits of less than 100 kilovolts; for pipelines for gas, liquids, or solids in suspension which are not main pipelines; and for all communication lines (telephone, cable TV, fiber optic, or other).
The application fee for electric power lines, cables, or conduits carrying 100 kilovolts or greater, and for pipelines for gas, liquids, or solids in suspension which are main pipelines is $2,250 for water crossings and $3,500 for land crossings.
The DNR will bill the licensee at the time the license is sent out for signature for the following fees:
- A license fee based on a rate table for water crossings; and on a rate table plus assessed value for land crossings.
- As of July 1, 2023*, there is an additional application fee for water and land crossing applications that are determined to contain three or more crossings. This additional application fee is $500 for each crossing over two crossings. There will be no additional application fee for applications that have one or two crossings.
- In addition, timber damage fees or other state property damage fees may be charged, and monitoring fees may also be charged.
*See statutory text for all changes. Effective July 1, 2023, Minnesota Statute sec. 84.415 is amended by Minnesota Session Laws, Chapter 60, Article 4, Section 2.
- Do I need a license to install a utility line across state land or public water?
Yes, a license must be obtained from the DNR for the passage of any utility over, under, or across any state land or public water.
- What utilities are covered by a crossing license?
- Electrical transmission or distribution
- Pipeline transmission or distribution of liquids, gases or solids in suspension
- Communication cables, conduits, or other lines
- What is the process for requesting a utility crossing license?
- Contact DNR Lands and Minerals Regional Operations staff if you have questions concerning land ownership, planned routes, and existing resource management uses.
- Obtain a copy of the application from this webpage.
- Complete the application per the instructions, attach the necessary maps and documentation, and applicable fee. Mail to the appropriate regional office.
- After the application is received, you will be contacted. Low impact water crossing licenses typically can be issued in 4 weeks or less. Other types of water and land crossings may take up to several months to issue, depending on the scope and location of the project.
- What are the license fees?
Application Fee due with application:
Each utility license application requires an application fee. The following portion of the application fee must be submitted with the license application:
For main pipelines and 100 kilovolts or greater electric power lines, cables, or conduits, the fee is $2,250 for a water crossing application and $3,500 for a land crossing application.
Effective 7/1/23, the fee is $1,000 for all other utilities (including non-main pipelines; electric power lines, cables, or conduits less than 100 kilovolts; and communication lines). The $1,000 fee applies to both land and water crossing applications.
Fee(s) due at the time of license signing:
After the license is prepared, DNR will send the license to the utility company for signing and notify the company of the additional fees. All fees must be paid when the signed license is returned to DNR for approval and execution.
License fee - For each crossing, there is a one-time license fee which is either based on a fee table (for water crossings), or (for land crossings) on a fee table and the appraised value of the state land. The applicant can use the fee tables found in Minnesota Rules, Chapter 6135 to estimate the license fee.
Timber damages or other damages to the property of the state may apply, and a monitoring fee may also be assessed.
Additional application fee - Effective 7/1/23, an additional application fee of $500 will be due for the third and each additional crossing (i.e., for an application with three crossings, the additional application fee would be $500; for four crossings, $1,000, and so on). The application fee will be charged on both water crossing and land crossing applications.
- What are the Utility Crossing License Laws and Rules?
The current law is effective 7/1/2023.
Minnesota Statutes, Section 84.415, authorizes the Commissioner of Natural Resources to establish rules for the sale of licenses which permit utilities to pass over, under, or across public lands and waters under the control of the Commissioner. As a result, Minnesota Rules, Chapter 6135 was adopted. Section 84.415 also sets forth other requirements for licenses, including but not limited, to, certain requirements as to applications and fees. Effective July 1, 2023, section 84.415 was amended by Minnesota Session Laws, Chapter 60, Article 4, Section 2.
- How can I find out if my project will cross state land?
A utility license is required to cross state land managed by the Department of Natural Resources. If your project crosses state land managed by another agency (MnDOT, for example), you must contact them for crossing permission. If your project crosses tax forfeited land managed by a county, you must contact the county. Plat books and county websites are good resources for checking land ownership.
To confirm that your project crosses state land managed by DNR, consult the DNR website for interactive maps.
ArcGIS shapefiles depicting state land administered by DNR are available for downloading at Minnesota Geospatial Commons.
- Is a land crossing license required if a utility line is being placed within a road right-of-way when DNR owns land adjacent to the road?
It depends on the location. DNR often owns to the center of the road. If we do, then a land crossing license is required. To confirm DNR ownership contact Lands and Minerals Regional Operations staff.
- What is a public water and how can I find out if my project will cross one?
Public waters are any water bodies (lakes, rivers, public ditches, and some wetlands) identified as such on the Protected Waters and Wetlands Maps (PWI). These maps were produced on a county-by-county basis and are available for download. For some counties, GIS-based PWI maps in electronic format are available.
ArcGIS shapefiles of basins and watercourses used to construct the GIS-based PWI maps are available at Minnesota Geospatial Commons.
To confirm if your project crosses a public water, locate your crossing on a PWI map.
- Do public wetlands require a license?
The answer depends on the underlying facts. The first step is to check the Public Waters Inventory (PWI). Most Public Waters Wetlands are identified in the PWI with the suffix of "W." However, there are some wetlands that are classified as Public Waters and are identified in the PWI with a suffix of "P."
If the wetland is classified as Public Waters, a state License for Utility to Cross State Waters is needed. If the wetland is classified as a Public Waters Wetland, a state License for Utility to Cross State Land is only needed if the wetland is located on state-owned land managed by the DNR.
If the wetland is classified as a Public Waters Wetland, but the wetland is not located on state-owned land managed by the DNR, you do not need a state utility license but you will need to contact the other state agency or county (for tax forfeited land) or private property owner for permission to cross the lands. In addition, Public Waters Wetlands located on non-DNR managed land may require a Waters Permit if the utility company is going to be working below the Ordinary High Water Level and altering the course, current or cross section of the wetland. Please contact a DNR Hydrologist for further instructions in these instances.
DNR Hydrologist »
- What is the minimum depth a utility line should be placed under the bed of a public water?
Per DNR policy, the minimum depth is 10 feet; however, in some instances the DNR may require the line be placed deeper under certain public waters.
- Are there funding restrictions on State land?
Some lands owned by the State of Minnesota were purchased using funds that put restrictions on the lands. Before the DNR can grant a utility license over lands with funding restriction, DNR must receive written approval from the funding provider. This process can take up to a year or more.
The DNR encourages you to plan ahead for this review. Please contact your Lands and Minerals Regional Operations staff. They will determine if the state land you would like a utility license over has funding restrictions.
If it is determined that funding approval is required, the items listed below should be submitted with your utility license application.
- Map that indicates scope of entire project - preferably with aerial photo background and clearly labeled.
- Detailed map of project segment on DNR land.
- Project and construction description sufficient to evaluate potential impacts to natural resources and to recreational users, including time of the year construction will take place, type of equipment, and environmental precautions used.
- A cultural review of the project must be completed by the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO). Depending on the results of the initial cultural review, a more detailed survey of historical and cultural assets may be needed. A copy of the letter from SHPO must be included.
- Description of alternate routes that were considered.
- When are bird flight diverters required to be placed on overhead lines?
Per DNR policy, bird flight diverters are required when an overhead line crosses DNR land or public water. While we can negotiate on the exact location and type of diverter, the DNR standard is the yellow spiral swan flight diverter spaced every 15 feet.
- What is the DNR process for approving maintenance activities through a utility corridor?
When maintenance activities are needed over DNR land please contact Lands and Minerals Regional Operations staff. Our staff will guide you through the maintenance approval process.
- What information should be put in the cover letter?
A detailed explanation of the project, providing any other information that will help staff better understand the project. This will save staff time during the review process.
This could include:
- route information, listing the starting point and ending point of the project.
- details about an emergency situation.
- stating that there are no trees or shrubs in the crossing locations.
- information on any trees (the number, sizes, species, etc.) and shrubs within the crossing location that will require removal and details on the removal process.
- referencing any additional reviews that were done, such as a State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) or a Natural Heritage Information Systems (NHIS) review and provide documentation.
- If unable to install the line a minimum of 10 feet under the bed of the public water, explain why (i.e., due to bedrock, etc.) and reference any studies that were completed and provide documentation.
- If unable to directional bore under the public water, explain why it is not possible, reference the studies and provide documentation.
- The road authority is replacing a bridge or culvert and is requiring that the existing utility line be removed and the new line be placed under the public water body.
- What is the process for renewing a license that is expiring?
Utility licenses are set up for a length of either 25 or 50 years and they may be renewed when they expire. The process of renewing a license is similar to the process for applying for a brand-new project. Companies will need to review their expiring licenses and determine if the lines are still in place and active in each crossing location. Provide the cover letter with any pertinent information, the current application, and new aerial maps for each of these crossings as well as separate plat, plan, and cross section maps. Include an “as built” survey map if available. Submit the renewal applications far enough in advance so that the utility license renewals can be completed before the current utility licenses expire.
- What is the proper way to list the company name on the application?
The company name on the application must be the company’s legal name filed and in active status with the Minnesota Secretary of State. This information can be searched on the Minnesota Secretary of State’s website. Please consult with your legal department if you have questions.
- Introduction to the utility license program
- Legal information
- Utility license application overview
- Funding restrictions
- Submitting a complete application
- Finalization of the utility license application process
- Maintenance of existing utility lines
- Additional resources & conclusion