Shoreland Management Model Ordinance

A shoreland ordinance is an important land use regulation that helps to protect surface water quality, near shore habitat, and shoreland aesthetics valued by Minnesotans. A shoreland ordinance contains a variety of provisions that guide land development and activity in shorelands that protect these shoreland resources. The DNR uses the shoreland model ordinance for evaluating whether new ordinances and amendments comply with Minnesota Rules 6120.2500 - 6120.3900.


The model includes two documents that are updated regularly based on user feedback and to maintain consistency with statutes and other agency rules that may change from time to time:

  • Shoreland Model Ordinance with Commentary – This MS Word document explains provisions that are confusing and often misinterpreted as well as optional language for better administration and resource protection. The optional language is shown as additions and deletions to rule language.
  • Shoreland Model Ordinance –  This MS Word document only includes the model ordinance text included in the commentary document, It is intended for “cutting and pasting” text into a local government ordinance document.

Using the Model Ordinance

The shoreland model ordinance may be used by townships, cities and counties in developing new shoreland ordinances or amending existing ordinances consistent with Minnesota Rules 6120.2500 - 6120.3900. The model includes the full array of zoning and subdivision regulations for most shoreland management situations.

It is anticipated that adopted shoreland ordinances will deviate from the model as the situation warrants. Some of the model language may duplicate language already in an ordinance while some provisions may not be applicable. For example, if a community does not allow feedlots or septic systems (only public sewer) then those model provisions would not be needed. Additionally, community may have special circumstances where deviation from the strict application of the rule is desired. These often include development existing prior to adoption of a shoreland ordinance.

The model is not a freestanding set of zoning and subdivisions regulations. However, it could be adopted as separate sections in existing zoning and subdivision regulations. An overlay district is often a practical approach for administering shoreland regulations. Use of the model format and language will expedite DNR approval of local ordinances, however, the DNR will accept any ordinance format and language that meets the intent of the shoreland rules.

Please refer to Adopting and Amending Shoreland Ordinances, which details the process for submitting ordinance amendments for DNR approval. Contact your Area Hydrologist with questions about the model ordinance or the ordinance approval process.

Shoreland includes areas within 1000 feet of a lake or basin, 300 feet from a river or stream, or in a floodplain

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Bluff must include an area at with at least a 30 percent average slope over 25 vertical feet

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Areas below the Ordinary High Water Level (OHWL) require DNR permit. Areas above OHWL require local permit

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