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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 Grading

If you are grading or removing more than 10,000 square feet of material on the bank of a navigable or public waterway you will need to obtain a grading permit. However, there are some exemptions. Please use our grading interactive question and answer module below to determine if a permit is needed and what type best fits your project.

Grading

Grading


Notice:

Federal law requires landowners of construction sites with one acre or more of land disturbance to address erosion control and stormwater management. If you project involves the disturbance of one acre or more please visit Water Permits to apply for a stormwater permit.

Determine permit required

This is a text version of our grading interactive question and answer module to help you understand if you need a permit for your project. If you are seeing this message, you currently have JavaScript disabled or are in compatibility mode while using Internet Explorer. This text version is here to help you understand if you need a permit from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for your Grading project, and if so, which one. Please go through and answer each question. This will help you determine which permit you will need.

Question 1 :

Does your project fall into one of the following categories: a) construction or repair of a public highway, b) agricultural use of land, c) located within Milwaukee County?

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes,”:

You are exempt from getting a grading permit from the DNR.  Please visit the Storm Water Management portion of the DNR website to make sure your project meets any required storm water runoff provisions.

If your answer is "No” go to Question 2.

Question 2 :

Does your county shoreland zoning ordinance regulate earth moving in the shoreland zone? And/or will your project disturb over 1 acre, and require you to get a state stormwater permit?

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes,”:

If your project is authorized under a state stormwater discharge permit OR a permit issued by your county under shoreland zoning, then you are exempt from getting a state grading permit.

If your answer is "No” go to Question 3.

You've answered I don't know.

If your answer is “I don't know,”:

To determine if your project requires a county shoreland zoning permit contact your local zoning office. To determine if your project requires a state stormwater permit visit our stormwater page.



Question 3 :

Is your project located on a Priority Navigable Waterway?

If your answer is "Yes” go to Question 4.

If your answer is "No” go to Question 9.

You've answered I don't know.

If your answer is “I don't know,”:

Please use our Designated Waters Search online mapping tool to find your location and to determine what the water body designation is for the water body on which the property of your grading project is located. (If you are unsure about using the Designated Waters Search tool visit our tutorial to learn how.) Once you do that, go back and answer yes or no to Question 3.

Question 4 :

Is your project located within 300 feet landward of the Ordinary High Water Mark of your property?

If your answer is "Yes” go to Question 5.

If your answer is "No” go to Question 6.

You've answered I don't know.

If your answer is “I don't know,”:

Please review this diagram to help you measure this distance


OHWM Diagram
What is the ordinary high water mark?

Question 5 :

At 300 feet landward of the Ordinary High Water Mark what is the slope of your property?

You've answered Less than 10 percent.

If your answer is “Less than 10 percent,”:

Based on the answers to the questions we have presented so far, we have established that the bank of your property is 300 feet landward of the Ordinary High Water Mark. Please proceed to Question 15 to learn which permit you will need before beginning your grading project.



If your answer is "10 percent or greater” go to Question 7.

You've answered I don't know.

If your answer is “I don't know,”:

Please review this diagram to help you determine where to measure your slope.

OHWM Diagram
What is the ordinary high water mark?

You've answered I don't care to know.

If your answer is “I don't care to know,”:

You may make the determination that the bank of your property extends 500 feet landward from the Ordinary High Water Mark, if you would prefer not to calculate the slope of your property. Please proceed to Question 15 to learn which permit you will need before beginning your grading project.



Question 7 :

Are you able to move further landward from 300 feet landward to a point on your property where the slope becomes less than 10 percent for more than 50 feet?

If your answer is "Yes” go to Question 8.

If your answer is "No” go to Question 15.

You've answered I don't know.

If your answer is “I don't know,”:

Please review this diagram to help you determine if you are able to move further landward from 300 feet landward to a point on your property where the slope becomes less than 10 percent for more than 50 feet.


Grading Diagram
What is the ordinary high water mark?

Question 8 :

Is your project located between the point on your property where the slope has been less than 10 percent for more than 50 feet and the Ordinary High Water Mark?

If your answer is "Yes” go to Question 15.

You've answered No.

If your answer is “No,”:

Because your project is not located between the point on your property where the slope has been less than 10 percent for more than 50 feet and the Ordinary High Water Mark (which is the bank), you do not need a grading permit from the DNR.  However, please visit the Storm Water Management portion of the DNR website to make sure your project meets any required storm water runoff provisions.



You've answered I don't know.

If your answer is “I don't know,”:

Please review this diagram to help you determine if your project located between the point on your property where the slope has been less than 10 percent for more than 50 feet and the Ordinary High Water Mark


OHWM Diagram
What is the ordinary high water mark?

Question 9 :

Is your project located within 75 feet landward from the Ordinary High Water Mark of your property?

If your answer is "Yes” go to Question 10.

If your answer is "No” go to Question 12.

You've answered I don't know.

If your answer is “I don't know,”:

Please review this diagram to help you determine if your project located within 75 feet landward from the Ordinary High Water Mark of your property.


OHWM Diagram
What is the ordinary high water mark?

Question 10 :

At 75 feet landward what is the slope of your property?

If your answer is "Less than 12 percent” this means the bank on your property is the area located 75 feet from the OHWM, go to Question 15.

If your answer is "12 percent or greater” go to Question 11.

You've answered I don't know.

If your answer is “I don't know,”:

Please review this diagram to help you determine the slope of your property at 75 feet.


OHWM Diagram
What is the ordinary high water mark?

Question 11 :

Are you able to move further landward from 75 feet landward to a point on your property where the slope becomes less than 12 percent for more than 50 feet?

If your answer is "Yes” this means the bank on your property extends from the OHWM landward to this point, go to Question 15.

You've answered No.

If your answer is “No,”:

Since there is no point on your property where the slope is less than 12 percent for more than 50 feet, your entire property is considered to be on the bank.  With this in mind, please Proceed to Question 15.



You've answered I don't know.

If your answer is “I don't know,”:

Please review this diagram to help you determine if you are able to move further landward from 75 feet landward to a point on your property where the slope becomes less than 12 percent for more than 50 feet?


OHWM Diagram
What is the ordinary high water mark?

Question 12 :At 75 feet landward what is the slope of your property?

You've answered Less than 12 percent.

If your answer is “Less than 12 percent,”:

Because your project is not located within 75 feet landward of the Ordinary High Water Mark of your property (which is the bank), you do not need a grading permit from the DNR.  However, to make sure your project meets any required storm water runoff provisions, please visit the Storm Water Management portion of the DNR website.



If your answer is "12 percent or greater” go to Question 13.

You've answered I don't know.

If your answer is “I don't know,”:

Please review this diagram to help you determine the slope of your property at 75 feet landward.


OHWM Diagram
What is the ordinary high water mark?

Question 13 :

Are you able to move further landward from 75 feet landward to a point on your property where the slope becomes less than 12 percent for more than 50 feet?

If your answer is "Yes” go to Question 14.

You've answered I don't know.

If your answer is “I don't know,”:

since there is no point on your property where the slope is less than 12 percent for more than 50 feet, your entire property is considered to be on the bank.  With this in mind, please Proceed to Question 15.



You've answered I don't know.

If your answer is “I don't know,”:

Please review this diagram to help you determine if you are able to move further landward from 75 feet landward to a point on your property where the slope becomes less than 12 percent for more than 50 feet?


OHWM Diagram
What is the ordinary high water mark?

Question 14 :

Is your project located between the point on your property where the slope has been less than 12 percent for more than 50 feet and the Ordinary High Water Mark?

If your answer is "Yes” this means the bank on your property extends beyond 75 feet to this point, please go to Question 15.

You've answered No.

If your answer is “No,”:

Because your project is not located between the point on your property where the slope has been less than 12 percent for more than 50 feet and the Ordinary High Water Mark (which is the bank), you do not need a grading permit from the DNR.  However, please visit the Storm Water Management portion of the DNR website to make sure your project meets any required storm water runoff provisions.



You've answered I don't know.

If your answer is “I don't know,”:

Please review this diagram to help you determine if your project located between the point on your property where the slope has been less than 12 percent for more than 50 feet and the Ordinary High Water Mark.


OHWM Diagram
What is the ordinary high water mark?

Question 15 :

Does your project physically disturb or remove more than 10,000 square feet of earth on the bank?

If your answer is "Yes” go to Question 17.

If your answer is "No” go to Question 16.

You've answered I don't know.

If your answer is “I don't know,”:

Please review this diagram to help you determine if your project physically disturb or remove more than 10,000 square feet of earth on the bank.


OHWM Diagram

Question 16 :

If your project does not physically disturb or remove more than 10,000 square feet of earth on the bank of your property you do not need to obtain a grading permit from the DNR.

However, a permit may be required from the city, village, town or county government where your property resides. Before doing any work, please contact your local zoning office to determine if any permits are required. In addition, if any wetlands are present within the project boundaries and you are proposing to grade, fill or disturb the wetland, you will need to obtain a wetland permit. Please visit Water Permits to apply for a wetland permit.

Question 17 :

Does your project physically disturb or remove more than 1 acre (43,000 sq. ft.) of earth?

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes,”:

Any disturbance or removal of earth totalling over 1 acre, requires a state stormwater permit. If you have a state stormwater permit you are exempt from getting a state grading permit. Visit our stormwater page to apply.



If your answer is "No” go to Question 18.

You've answered I don't know.

If your answer is “I don't know,”:

Please review this diagram to help you determine if your project physically disturb or remove more than 1 acre (43,000 sq. ft.) of earth.


Grading Diagram

Question 18 :

Does your county's shoreland zoning ordinance where the project is located require permits for land disturbance?

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes,”:

If your project is authorized by a land disturbance permit issued by your county under shoreland zoning, then you are exempt from getting a state grading permit.



If your answer is "No” go to Question 19.

You've answered I don't know.

If your answer is “I don't know,”:

To determine if your project requires a shoreland zoning permit contact your local zoning office.



Question 19 :

Does the bank of your property include any area where the slope or drainage of the land into the navigable waterway is completely interrupted (topographic break)?

If your answer is "Yes” go to Question 20.

If your answer is "No” go to Question 21.

You've answered I don't know.

If your answer is “I don't know,”:

Please review the diagram to help you determine if the bank of your property includes any area where the slope or drainage of the land into the navigable waterway is completely interrupted (topographic break).


Topographic break Diagram
What is the ordinary high water mark?

Question 20 :

Since your property has a topographic break that stops runoff from reaching navigable waters, your bank is limited to the area from the OHWM landward to the topographic break. Is your project located within this area?

If your answer is "Yes” go to Question 21.

You've answered No.

If your answer is “No,”:

Because your project is not located within the area landward of the Ordinary High Water Mark to the complete interruption, or topographic break, you do not need a grading permit from the DNR.  However, to make sure your project meets any required storm water runoff provisions, please visit the Storm Water Management portion of the DNR website.



You've answered I don't know.

If your answer is “I don't know,”:

Please review the diagram to help you determine if your project is located within the area landward of the Ordinary High Water Mark to the complete interruption, or topographic break.


Topographic break Diagram
What is the ordinary high water mark?

Question 21 :

Is your project located on property which is next to any of these: a) state of Wisconsin natural area, b) Federal wild and scenic river, c) state of Wisconsin wild river?

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes,”:

Because your project is located on property adjacent to a protected waterway area, you do not qualify for a grading general permit. You will need to apply for a grading individual permit.*Please note: WAMS ID and password needed to apply. If you do not have a WAMS ID, you must register for one prior to proceeding.


Please be aware there may be additional permit standards you must meet. Prior to applying for a permit please review the Permit Application Checklist [PDF] and also be sure to review the Sample Drawings [PDF], for this activity.


If your answer is "No” go to Question 22.

You've answered I don't know.

If your answer is “I don't know,”:

Please use our Designated Waters Search online mapping tool to find your location and to determine what the water body designation is for the water body on which the property of your grading project is located. (If you are unsure about using the Designated Waters Search tool visit our tutorial to learn how.) Once you do that, go back to Question 21 and answer Yes or No.



Question 22 :

Your project may qualify for a grading general permit. Please visit the General permits page to apply. *Please note: WAMS ID and password needed to apply. If you do not have a WAMS ID, you must register for one prior to proceeding.

Please be aware there may be additional permit standards you must meet. Prior to applying for a permit please review the Permit Application Checklist [PDF] and also be sure to review the Sample Drawings [PDF], for this activity.

Exemptions

  • Grading permits are not required for the construction of repair of public highways, for agricultural use of land or projects occurring in Milwaukee county.
  • Grading permits are not needed if you are disturbing LESS than 10,000 square feet of material.
  • Grading permits are not needed if your project is authorized under a state stormwater permit.
  • Grading permits are not needed if your project is authorized under a permit issued by your county under its shoreland zoning ordinance.

Laws

Applicable statutes and codes include Section 30.19, Wis. Stats. [PDF exit DNR] and Chapter NR 341 [PDF exit DNR].

Local permits and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regulations may also apply. We advise you to contact your local zoning office and your regional U.S. Army Corps of Engineers office [exit DNR].

Last revised: Wednesday December 03 2014