Shoreland Management History and Purpose

The history of Minnesota's Shoreland Management Program dates back to 1969 with the passage of the Shoreland Management Act. Minimum development standards - such as structure setbacks, height limits, impervious surface limits, lot requirements, vegetation removal and land alteration requirements - are established in state rules (Minnesota Rules, part 6120.2500 - 6120.3900) and administered through local ordinances.

Shoreland district boundaries around rivers and lakes

Shorelands typically contain important habitat and erodible soils, which present a high risk to surface water pollution if not anchored with natural deep-rooted vegetation. Many of these areas are highly sensitive to development. Shoreland standards are designed to accommodate development around sensitive water bodies in a sustainable way - reducing impacts on water quality and preserving the natural character of the water body.

The Shoreland Management Program is the most comprehensive of the state's shoreland and river-related programs that guide land use.

Other programs include:

Timeline of Shoreland Management Standards

1969 - Shoreland Management Act (Minn. Stat. 103F.201-.227)

  • Required counties to adopt shoreland management controls
  • Directed DNR to develop rules/oversee program

1970 - Shoreland Rules for Counties

  • Established lake and river classifications
  • Established zoning standards (lot size, setbacks, subdivisions)
  • Established sewage treatment provisions (pre-dated PCA rules)

1976 - Shoreland rules extended to cities

1989 - Revisions to Shoreland Rules (Minnesota Rules, part 6120.2500-.3900)

  • Addressed agricultural uses
  • Identified priority cities to adopt shoreland protections

2005 - Voluntary Alternative Shoreland Standards

  • Intent was to develop rules for the north-central lakes area as part of Governor Pawlenty’s Clean Water Initiative in 2003. Goal changed to provide a set of voluntary alternative standards for use throughout the state. Twelve communities adopted these alternative standards.

2007 - Legislature directs DNR to commence rulemaking to update Shoreland Rules

  • Extensive public participation process conducted
  • Draft rules and SONAR completed in early 2010, but rules were returned to DNR
  • DNR’s rulemaking authority lapses