Wisconsin has a comprehensive transportation network that includes roads, highways, airports, railroads and harbors. This system is essential to our economy because it moves workers to jobs, raw materials to factories, finished products to markets and travelers to their destinations. Building and maintaining transportation infrastructure can, however, result in environmental impacts to waterways, wetlands, fisheries, endangered species and other resources.
A local road culvert on a Waupaca County trout stream is analyzed by DNR OEEA staff.
The DNR's Office of Energy and Environmental Analysis (OEEA) works cooperatively with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) and with local governmental transportation agencies to avoid and minimize environmental concerns with the construction and maintenance of highways, roads, bridges, culverts, airports, railways and harbors. For each county, there is an OEEA regional staff person who serves as the transportation liaison contact.
Throughout the process of planning, building and maintaining transportation projects, DNR works together with DOT on a wide variety of environmental issues. Under the DNR-DOT Cooperative Agreement, DOT is not required to obtain permits from the DNR. County, city, village and town governments must obtain waterway, wetland and stormwater permits for transportation projects that they propose.
Permitting for local transportation projects
Local units of government must obtain waterway, wetland and stormwater permits for transportation projects they propose. Local transportation officials and their consultants can find permit information and forms below. To facilitate the permit process, we also strongly recommend contacting the DNR transportation liaison for the county in which your project is located.
General wetland & waterway permit
The WDNR-GP2-2012 General Permit for Municipal Bridges, Arches & Culverts is a general permit (GP) that is available for a discharge to waters and wetlands of no more than 10,000 square feet that is necessary for the construction, reconstruction or maintenance of a roadway, bridge, arch or culvert that is being carried out under the direction and supervision of a city, village, town or county, under s. 30.123, Wis. Stats.
A complete application for the GP includes the following items.
- A completed and signed Water Resources Application for Project Permit (WRAPP) certifying that the project meets the terms and conditions of WDNR-GP2-2012.
- Project plans or schematic drawings.
- Maps of the project site that show clear directions to the project site with project and property boundaries clearly labeled.
- Photographs that represent existing site conditions where the project will occur.
- An alternatives analysis including detailed documentation that clearly demonstrates why the impact to the wetland cannot be avoided and how the impact to the wetland will be minimized.
See WDNR-GP2-2012 General Permit Application Checklist for detailed instructions.
Appropriate culvert sizing and invert elevations will be determined using the Municipal Supplemental Worksheet.
General permit WDNR-GP2-2012 authorizations are provisional and require that project proponents obtain any other local, state or federal permits before any work may proceed. Please contact the county zoning administrator to determine if permits are needed.
Individual wetland & waterway permit
Highway, bridge, arch and culvert projects that are not eligible to use the GP (WDNR-GP2-2012) will also require completing a Water Resources Application for Project Permit (WRAPP). Please contact the DNR transportation liaison for your county to set up a pre-application meeting before applying for an individual permit.
The Wisconsin Pollutant Elimination Discharge System (WPDES) Notice of Intent Permit process is used to regulate all stormwater discharges that result from disturbing one or more acres of land. This permit is needed for both transportation and non-transportation related projects. See Construction site stormwater permits for more information.
United States Army Corps of Engineers wetland permits are required for discharges to federal wetlands. For public transportation projects, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has issued general permit GP-003-WI. This federal general permit may be used for activities whose purpose is to construct, expand or improve transportation projects (e.g., roads, highways, railways, airport runways and taxiways) in waters of the United States.
Potential environmental impacts
Staff from the DNR take measurements at a highway-stream crossing. A new bottomless culvert structure was installed that allows fish and other aquatic animals to pass.
Crossing waterways and wetlands with roads, bridges, culverts and runways can result in water flow changes and habitat impacts. Aquatic habitat can be lost due to shoreline armoring and dredging activities. Siltation of waterways and wetlands can result from inadequate erosion control measures on construction projects. Fish and other aquatic animals can be blocked from passing through an improperly designed bridge or culvert.
Improper timing of construction and maintenance projects can impact bird, bat and fish reproductive cycles. Invasive species can be spread by construction and maintenance activities, as well as by vehicles using transportation facilities. Habitat fragmentation and disruption of animal movements can also result from siting transportation facilities.