Hydrographics Program


The Hydrographics Program exists to support the DNR Ecological and Water Resources Division director and staff by collecting data and providing information that is needed to effectively carry out the Division's statutory responsibilities and water resource management programs.


The Hydrographics Program has the following responsibilities:

  • perform surveying work;
  • determine ordinary high water levels (OHWL) of public waters;
  • perform maintenance work on lake outlet dams owned by DNR;
  • provide drafting and graphics services to DNR; and
  • provide technical support and information to DNR staff, local government units, consultants, and the public.

The director of DNR Ecological and Waters Resources has been delegated authority from the DNR commissioner for administering the majority of the state water law contained in Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 103 G. Chapter 103G gives the commissioner authority to regulate work in public waters; control the appropriation and use of water; ensure the safety of dams; and conduct water resource surveys, investigations, and studies. Specifically, Section 103G.121, Subdivision 1 authorizes the commissioner to conduct survey work necessary to properly manage Minnesota's water resources: "The commissioner may conduct surveys, investigations, and studies, and prepare maps of the waters of the state and topography of the state to implement this chapter."

Clientele, Products and Services

Primary clientele are all units within DNR, including field hydrologists. Secondary clientele are others who need water resources information, including other DNR divisions and bureaus, other agencies and local units of government, consulting engineers, and the public. Primary products and services include:

  • determining ordinary high water levels (OHWL) levels of public waters and providing expert testimony at administrative and court hearings when OHWL determinations are challenged;
  • obtaining field survey data and information needed for technical analyses;
  • preparing topographic maps, profiles, cross sections, and other information from field survey notes and providing them to customers;
  • maintaining and repairing over 300 state-owned dams;
  • preparing specialty graphics, charts, maps, and other information for presentations;
  • graphic design and printing of DNR Ecological and Water Resources brochures, publications, and forms;
  • determining elevations of ground water observation wells and making needed repairs to observation wells;
  • naming geographic features of Minnesota in accordance with Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 83A;
  • providing expertise and services to the DNR State Fair Exhibit through the DNR State Fair Committee; and
  • managing DNR Waters fleet vehicles.

Information Management

Hydrographics maintains hard copy files on Minnesota lakes. Each lake file contains copies of all DNR Waters correspondence regarding that particular lake. Many lake files contain correspondence dating back to 1930's and provide a history of lake management issues. Information is culled from the lake files for incorporation into DNR computerized lakes database (Lakes-DB) maintained by the Lake Hydrology Program. A considerable amount of the field data collected by the Hydrographics Survey Crew and Dam Maintenance Specialist (ordinary high water levels, survey benchmarks, water elevation, etc.) are also integrated into Lakes-DB.

Three Hydrographics computers have access to the Minnesota Department of Transportation's (MNDOT's) Geodetic Database for retrieval of benchmarks set by MNDOT and the U.S. Geological Survey. Electronic files of AutoCAD technical drawings and Macintosh formatted publications are stored on floppy discs.


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