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Discover
how Wisconsin protects waterways by holding them in trust for everyone to enjoy.
Find
the permits you need for your waterfront property projects.
Learn
about the permit process that protects public waters.

Waterway protection The permit process

Placement of structures, dredging and similar activities in or adjacent to navigable waters often require permits from the Department of Natural Resources. Wisconsin implements a three-tier system of authorization based on the projected level of environmental impact which includes exemptions, general permits, and individual permits. All permit applications require a fee under state law. Fee information is summarized in our fee sheet [PDF].

General Permits

What is the general permit process timeline?

General Permits are granted for projects that meet pre-specified design, construction and location requirements. To qualify for a general permit, all required application items need to be submitted. DNR reviews general permit applications within 30 days and notifies an applicant if any required items are missing.

Once all required items have been submitted, DNR check to see that the plans and location match the general permit standards, and if so grants the permit in 30 days.

In special circumstances where the review shows that the general permit conditions are not sufficient to protect habitat, water quality, natural scenic beauty or navigation, DNR may inform an applicant that an individual permit is needed to allow detailed review.

Step 1: The general permit application process timeline is 30 days. The Department of Natural Resources can request additional information one time within those 30 days, which would pause the 30-day period until we receive the requested information.

Step 2: Once the information is received, the time left in the 30-day period would resume.

Step 3: The DNR needs to communicate a decision about the permit application to the applicant at the end of the 30-day period.

The process takes 30 days total.
Note: The process may pause if the DNR requests additional information from the applicant in the first step of the process, which could extend the total days of the process from start to finish.

Please visit Water permit applications if you would like to apply for a permit. Select the "Waterway and wetland” tab, and choose your general permit activity.

Individual Permits

What is the individual permit process timeline?

For activities where no exemption or general permit is available, a more detailed Individual Permit application is required. DNR reviews local fishery, wildlife and water quality data and visits the site to observe navigation patterns, habitat and similar features of the site.

Individual permits require a 30-day comment period of which people are notified by a website and newspaper notice and mailing to interested parties. During the comment period, an informational hearing may be requested. DNR staff conducts the informational hearing to gather observations and facts from others to consider in addition to its own data in making to decision.

A permit is granted for projects when the DNR concludes from this process that habitat, navigation, natural beauty and similar public rights are not harmed. DNR staff routinely advise applicants on project modifications to reduce impacts and gain approval.





Individual permits without a public hearing

Individual permits without a public hearing

Step 1: The DNR has 30 days to review the application for completeness and notify the applicant (date of closure). The DNR can request additional information one time within these 30 days which would pause the 30-day period until all information requested is received.

Step 2: The DNR has 15 days from date of closure to issue a Public Notice of Pending Application on the department website.

Step 3: The Public or DNR has 20 days after the issuance of a Public Notice of Pending Application to request a public informational hearing.

Step 4: If there is no hearing, a 30 day public comment period ends 30 days after the Notice of Pending Application was issued.

Step 5: The DNR has 30 days from the end of the public comment period to render a decision about the permit application.

The total process could take as few as 105 days.
Please note: The process may pause if the DNR requests additional information from the applicant in Step 1 of the process, which could extend the total days of the process from start to finish.

Please visit Water permit applications if you would like to apply for a permit. Select the "Waterway and wetland” tab, and choose your individual permit activity.

Individual permits with a public hearing

Individual permits with a public hearing

Step 1: The DNR has 30 days to review the application for completeness and notify the applicant (date of closure). The DNR can request additional information one time within these 30 days which would pause the 30-day period until all information requested is received.

Step 2: The DNR has 15 days from date of closure to issue a Public Notice of Pending Application on the department website.

Step 3: The Public or DNR has 20 days after the issuance of a Public Notice of Pending Application to request a public informational hearing.

Step 4: When a hearing is requested, DNR has 15 days to issue a public Notice of Public Informational Hearing on the department website.

Step 5: DNR must hold the hearing within 30 days after issuing the public Notice of Public Informational Hearing.

Step 6: The public comment period ends 10 days after the public informational hearing is held.

Step 7: The DNR has 20 days from the end of the public comment period to render a decision about the permit application.

The total process could take as few as 135 days.
Please note: The process may pause if the DNR requests additional information from the applicant in Step 1 of the process, which could extend the total days of the process from start to finish.

Please visit Water permit applications if you would like to apply for a permit. Select the "Waterway and wetland” tab, and choose your individual permit activity.

Public comment opportunity

The department is announcing its intention to issue a Statewide General Permit (GP) for projects conducted by the USDA Forest Service Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest which involve the placement of fish/wildlife habitat structures, boat landings, and stream crossings (culverts/bridges/fords/temporary crossings) in navigable waters, grading on the bank of a navigable waterway, the dredging or placement of material on the bed of a stream channel, and discharge of fill material into wetlands of Wisconsin.

Once in place, the permit will be valid for 5 years and will allow the USDA Forest Service to apply for coverage under the permit if the project meets all eligibility criteria and conditions. The Department is inviting written comments on the proposed general permit. Written comments must be received by close of business March 24, 2016. Please send comments to:

Kyle McLaughlin
WDNR Rhinelander Service Center
107 Sutliff Ave.
Rhinelander, WI 54501

Kyle.McLaughlin@wisconsin.gov

Last revised: Wednesday February 24 2016