Shoreland classifications are a foundation of shoreland regulations. Most public waters were classified in the late 1960s. Classifications for rivers and streams were updated in the late 1980s to implement new river and stream classifications in the 1989 rules. Classifying and maintaining classifications for thousands of public waters is a large and complex task. On occasion, an error was made with the original classification and Minnesota Rules 6120.3000 Subp. 4 provides a process for local governments to request the DNR to reclassify public waters.
The basic classification principle is that the classification should be appropriate for the natural physical and biological characteristics of the waterbody, adjusted to reflect existing and planned development AT THE TIME OF ORIGINAL CLASSIFICATION. The purpose of classifications is to guide all future development from the time of original classification consistent with the ability of the waterbody to sustain surface waters and adjacent shoreland resources and to prevent and minimize further degradation to them.
Reclassifications and Development Standards
Public waters are not reclassified to a less restrictive classification to be consistent with existing or proposed future development that doesn’t conform to the standards of the existing classification. In certain and rare situations outlined in Minn. Rules 6120.2800 Subp 3, the DNR may approve a less restrictive classification and standards. Local governments should contact their DNR Area Hydrologist to discuss these situations.
Public waters should also not be reclassified to a more restrictive classification to apply more restrictive dimensional standards. Local government regulations may be stricter than state standards but they should use other regulatory and administrative tools to achieve more restrictive standards. For example, local governments could apply stricter standards to a given classification or specific waterbody or create a special protection zoning district for specific waterbodies or shorelands of those waterbodies.
Requesting a Reclassification
- A resolution from the governing body (city council, town board, county board) requesting a reclassification. The resolution should state that the existing classification is incorrect and why the requested classification is the appropriate classification. Minn. Rule 6120.3000 Subp. 1a describes each classification type.
- Data supporting why the existing classification is incorrect and that the requested classification is the more appropriate classification. Data should include:
- Acres of waterbody
- Depth of waterbody
- Shoreline length of waterbody,
- Description of soils, vegetation and topography within the shoreland district
- Existing and planned development density in 1968 (date of original classifications)
- Description of land use within the shoreland district including identification of any parcels with permanent conservation protections or easements, and special natural areas such as wildlife management areas or preserves.
The DNR will evaluate the request using the criteria in Minnesota Rules 6120.3000 Subp. 1.
If the reclassification is approved, the LGU must amend their ordinance with the updated classification and submit the amendment to the DNR for approval.