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Waterway protection Ponds

Ponds

Ponds

Wisconsin State Law requires a person to obtain a permit if they plan to construct, dredge, or enlarge a pond or artificial waterbody, or any part of either that is:

  • connected to a waterway;
  • located within 500 ft. of a waterway; or
  • constructed within a wetland (this includes wetland restorations that result in ponds).

Some waterways have special designations that might affect your permit requirements. Visit our Designated water search, and record any designations the waterways on your site may have.

If you have questions about using the designated waters search tool you may visit our Designated waters search tutorial to learn how.

Determine permit required

This is a text version of our ponds 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 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 :

Please describe your project:

If your answer is "I would like to build a new pond” go to Question 14.

If your answer is "I would like to do some work on an existing pond” go to Question 2.

Question 2 :

Is your pond:

  • Connected to a waterway. In other words, was the pond created by digging out or placing a dam on a stream or is there a channel from your pond that flows directly to a stream, river or lake?
AND
  • Is that stream or channel navigable? Can you float the stream or channel with a small canoe or kayak periodically throughout the year?

For more information about navigability please see Identifying Navigable Lakes and Streams [PDF].

If your answer is "Yes” go to Question 3.

If your answer is "No” go to Question 7.

Question 3 :

Would you like to dredge or remove material from your pond?

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes,”:

You will not need a permit if:

  • Your pond was authorized by the legislature or you can show that the department issued a permit for your pond AND
  • You are maintaining the pond to its original dimensions and depth

Otherwise, you will need a dredging permit, please see the department’s dredging website to learn more about dredging.

If your answer is "No” go to Question 4.

Question 4 :

Would you like to rebuild or repair an existing dam or embankment for the pond?

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes,”:

It is likely that you will need a permit from our Dam safety program, please see the dam safety website for more information.

If your answer is "No” go to Question 5.

Question 5 :

Would you like to manage the vegetation around your pond either through mechanical removal or the use of chemicals?

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes,”:

You may need approval from the Aquatic Plant Management program, please see the Aquatic Plant Management Program website for more details.

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

Question 6 :

Would you like to place shoreline stabilization along the banks of the pond?

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes,”:

You will need a shoreland stabilization permit. Please visit the Lakeshore Erosion control permit page for more information.

You've answered No.

If your answer is “No,”:

Please contact your local Water Management Specialist to discuss your plans and verify that no permits are required for your project. To find your local Water Management Specialist please visit the Contacts page.

Question 7 :

Is your pond:

  • Within 500 feet of a navigable stream or a lake?

OR
  • Connected to a non-navigable stream or is there a non-navigable channel that flows from your pond into a stream or lake? Non-navigable means you cannot float a small canoe or kayak on a periodic basis through the year. For more information about navigability please see Tools for Identifying Navigable Lakes and Streams [PDF].

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

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

Question 8 :

Was the pond constructed before 1963?

If your answer is "Yes” go to Question 9.

If your answer is "No” go to Question 10.

You've answered I don't know.

If your answer is “I don't know,”:

Please contact your local Water Management Specialist to discuss your plans and verify that no permits are required for your project. To find your local Water Management Specialist please visit the Contacts page.

Question 9 :

Do any of the following circumstances apply to your pond?

  • Is your pond a natural waterway. In other words, it has always been on the land, even if people have historically dredged or modified it?
  • There is public access to your pond or the public been legally accessing your pond for hunting, fishing or other recreation for a number of years?

If your answer is "Yes” go to Question 3.

You've answered No.

If your answer is “No,”:

It is likely that your pond is considered a private pond.

You will not need a permit to dredge or place shoreline stabilization materials on the banks of the pond. However, you may still need permits if you plan on enlarging the pond, rebuilding a dam or if you plan on removing aquatic plants mechanically or by using a chemical treatment.

If you are enlarging the pond please refer to the ponds website to learn about when permits are required.

Please refer to the dam safety website at for more information about dams.

Please refer to the Aquatic Plant Management program website for more information about aquatic plant management.

Question 10 :

Do any of the following apply?

  • The pond was constructed in Milwaukee County.
  • The pond was constructed for agricultural use and remains in agricultural use.
  • The pond was constructed by DOT as a borrow pit and I would like to continue to utilize it as a borrow pit for public highway purposes.

If your answer is "Yes” go to Question 9.

If your answer is "No” go to Question 11.

Question 11 :

Has the Department issued a permit for the pond?

If your answer is "Yes” go to Question 12.

If your answer is "No” go to Question 13.

You've answered I don't know.

If your answer is “I don't know,”:

Review the Surface Water Data Viewer to make a determination.

Question 12 :

Does the permit state that the pond is public?

If your answer is "Yes” go to Question 3.

If your answer is "No” go to Question 13.

Question 13 :

Was the pond constructed after 1963 but before 1988?

If your answer is "Yes” go to Question 3.

You've answered No.

If your answer is “No,”:

It is likely that your pond is considered private, however since your pond is either within 500 ft. of a navigable waterway or has a non-navigable connection to another waterbody, a pond permit is needed to authorize the pond before you can do work on your existing pond. To figure out which pond permit you are eligible for, please Start over and choose “build a new pond” as the process to determine the type permit needed for a new pond is the same to determine the type of permit needed for a non-permitted existing pond that requires a permit.

Additional permits may be needed if you are rebuilding a dam or removing aquatic plants mechanically or by using chemicals.

Please refer to the dam safety website at for more information about dams.

Please refer to the Aquatic Plant Management program website for more information about aquatic plant management.

Question 14 :

Will your pond be constructed by digging out a navigable stream?

For more information about navigability please see the navigability factsheet [PDF]

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

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

Question 15 :

Is your project located in Milwaukee County OR will the pond be located on land that is in agricultural use?

"Agricultural use" is defined as beekeeping; dairying; egg production; feedlots; grazing; floriculture; raising of livestock; raising of poultry; raising of fruits, nuts and berries; raising of grains, grass, mint and seed crops; raising of vegetables; and sod farming.

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes,”:

You may need to apply for a dredging permit. Please visit the department’s dredging website to determine if you need to apply for a 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 [drawing 1] [PDF], [drawing 2] [PDF] for this activity.

You've answered No.

If your answer is “No,”:

You will need to apply for an individual pond 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. ** NOTE: If you currently have or are constructing a dam, please continue to Question 16 to learn if you may require additional approvals.

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 [drawing 1] [PDF], [drawing 2] [PDF] for this activity.

Question 16 :

Will you be constructing a dam across a watercourse (stream, ditch, swale, channel, etc…)?

The definition of a "Dam" is "any artificial barrier in or across a watercourse which has the primary purpose of impounding or diverting water."

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes,”:

You will need approval to construct a dam. Please see the dam safety website for more information.

If your answer is "No” go to Question 17.

Question 17 :

Will any portion of your pond, including any outlet structure, be within 500 feet of a navigable stream or a lake?

For more information about navigability please see the navigability factsheet [PDF]

If your answer is "Yes” go to Question 18.

If your answer is "No” go to Question 32.

Question 18 :

Are you constructing a pond to treat stormwater runoff?

If your answer is "Yes” go to Question 19.

If your answer is "No” go to Question 26.

Question 19 :

Will the pond meet all of the following criteria?

  • The pond will only discharge as a result of storm events
  • The crest of the berm will be at least 35 feet from the ordinary high water mark of the lake or stream.
  • The pond will not be constructed in a wetland

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

You've answered No.

If your answer is “No,”:

You will need to apply for an individual pond 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.

If you are enlarging the pond please refer to the ponds website to learn about when permits are required.

Please refer to the dam safety website at for more information about dams.

Please refer to the Aquatic Plant Management program website for more information about aquatic plant management.

Question 20 :

Will the pond be within 100 feet of a public rights feature?

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes,”:

You will need to apply for an individual pond 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 [drawing 1] [PDF], [drawing 2] [PDF] for this activity.

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 use our Designated Water Search online mapping tool to find your location and to determine if there is a public rights feature near your proposed pond.

If you are unsure about using the Designated Waters Search tool visit our tutorial to learn how.

Question 21 :

Will the pond have a permanent pool of water that discharges to a trout stream or one of its tributaries?

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes,”:

You will need to apply for an individual pond 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 [drawing 1] [PDF], [drawing 2] [PDF] for this activity.

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

Question 22 :

Will the pond be designed to prevent both:

  • Fish entrapment
  • Inflow from the navigable waterway up to the 10-year 24 hour rain event?

If your answer is "Yes” go to Question 23.

You've answered No.

If your answer is “No,”:

You will need to apply for an individual pond 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 [drawing 1] [PDF], [drawing 2] [PDF] for this activity.

Question 23 :

Will any excavated material be temporarily or permanently placed in a wetland, floodplain or below the ordinary high water mark of a navigable waterway?

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes,”:

You will not qualify for the stormwater pond general permit. You will need to apply for an individual pond 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 [drawing 1] [PDF], [drawing 2] [PDF] for this activity.

If your answer is "No” go to Question 24.

Question 24 :

Will the pond be designed and constructed to meet construction site performance standards in s. NR 151.11 and best management practices for stormwater discharge permits under Ch. NR 216?

If your answer is "Yes” go to Question 25.

You've answered No.

If your answer is “No,”:

You will need to apply for an individual pond 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 [drawing 1] [PDF], [drawing 2] [PDF] for this activity.

Question 25 :

Will fish be reared in the pond or is the pond associated with a metallic or non-metallic mining project?

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes,”:

You will need to apply for an individual pond 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 [drawing 1] [PDF], [drawing 2] [PDF] for this activity.

You've answered No.

If your answer is “No,”:

You may qualify for a stormwater pond General permit. Please visit the General permits page to apply for a stormwater pond general 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.

Question 26 :

Will any portion of the berm or pond be closer than 35 feet from the ordinary high water mark of the navigable waterway?

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes,”:

You will need to apply for an individual pond 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 [drawing 1] [PDF], [drawing 2] [PDF] for this activity.

If your answer is "No” go to Question 27.

Question 27 :

Will any portion of the berm or pond be within 100 feet of any public rights feature?

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes,”:

You will need to apply for an individual pond 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 [drawing 1] [PDF], [drawing 2] [PDF] for this activity.

If your answer is "No” go to Question 28.

You've answered I don't know.

If your answer is “I don't know,”:

Please use our Designated Water Search online mapping tool to find your location and to determine if there is a public rights feature near your proposed pond.

If you are unsure about using the Designated Waters Search tool visit our tutorial to learn how.

Question 28 :

Will the pond be constructed, dredged or enlarged in the regulated floodplain?

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes,”:

You will need to apply for an individual pond 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 [drawing 1] [PDF], [drawing 2] [PDF] for this activity.

If your answer is "No” go to Question 29.

Question 29 :

Will the pond be constructed, dredged or enlarged in a wetland?

If your answer is "Yes” go to Question 32.

If your answer is "No” go to Question 30.

Question 30 :

Will excavated material be temporarily or permanently placed in a wetland, floodplain or below the ordinary high water mark of a navigable waterway?

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes,”:

You will need to apply for an individual pond 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 [drawing 1] [PDF], [drawing 2] [PDF] for this activity.

If your answer is "No” go to Question 31.

Question 31 :

Is the pond part of a stormwater management plan or is it associated with a non-metallic or metallic mining project?

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes,”:

You will need to apply for an individual pond 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 [drawing 1] [PDF], [drawing 2] [PDF] for this activity.

You've answered No.

If your answer is “No,”:

You may qualify for a stormwater pond General permit. Please visit the General permits page to apply for a stormwater pond general 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.

Question 32 :

Will any portion of the pond be constructed in a wetland?

If your answer is "Yes” go to Question 33.

You've answered No.

If your answer is “No,”:

It is unlikely that a permit will be required to construct your pond. Please remember that if the disturbance is over 1 acre in size you may need a permit from the stormwater program. Please visit their website for more information http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/Stormwater/. Also please remember to check with your local zoning office to determine if local permits are required.

You've answered I don't know.

If your answer is “I don't know,”:

Please use our Designated Water Search online mapping tool to find your location and to determine if there is or could be a wetland where you would like to build the pond.

If you are unsure about using the Designated Waters Search tool visit our tutorial to learn how.

Question 33 :

Is the purpose of the project wetland conservation? In other words will the project result in the re-establishment or restoration of drained wetlands, enhancement of existing degraded wetlands or creation of new wetlands?

If your answer is "Yes” go to Question 34.

You've answered No.

If your answer is “No,”:

You will need to apply for an individual pond 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 [drawing 1] [PDF], [drawing 2] [PDF] for this activity.

Question 34 :

Do wetlands already exist at the site?

If your answer is "Yes” go to Question 35.

If your answer is "No” go to Question 36.

You've answered I don't know.

If your answer is “I don't know,”:

Please visit the DNR’s wetland mapping page to learn more about identifying wetlands on your property.

Question 35 :

Is the site and wetlands:

If your answer is "Planted in agricultural crops or dominated by invasive or early successional species” go to Question 36.

You've answered Dominated by an undisturbed wetland plant community.

If your answer is “Dominated by an undisturbed wetland plant community,”:

You will need to apply for an individual pond 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 [drawing 1] [PDF], [drawing 2] [PDF] for this activity.

You've answered I don't know.

If your answer is “I don't know,”:

Please visit the DNR’s invasive species page to learn more about potential invasive species on your property.

Question 36 :

Will the project be designed can constructed according to Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) field office technical practice standards 378-Pond and 657-Wetland Restoration? Specifically will the pond meet the following parameters:

  • Side slopes of 8:1 or flatter
  • Maximum depth of 4 feet
  • Total size ranging from 0.1 acres to 1 acre
  • Minimum of 25 foot wide vegetated buffer areas surrounding the pond

To review the NRCS technical practice standards for a Pond and Wetland Restoration see:

Pond: http://efotg.sc.egov.usda.gov/references/public/WI/378.pdf [PDF exit DNR]

Wetland Restoration: http://efotg.sc.egov.usda.gov/references/public/WI/657.pdf

If your answer is "Yes” go to Question 37.

You've answered No.

If your answer is “No,”:

You will need to apply for an individual pond 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 [drawing 1] [PDF], [drawing 2] [PDF] for this activity.

Question 37 :

Will the project impact a cold water resource or block fish spawning to existing habitat areas? For example are you constructing a dam or ditch plug of fill across the navigable water, such that water will be impounded and migration of fish would be blocked up stream of the structure?

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes,”:

You will need to apply for an individual pond 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 [drawing 1] [PDF], [drawing 2] [PDF] for this activity.

If your answer is "No” go to Question 38.

Question 38 :

Are you proposing a dam, berm, dike or embankment that is:

  • Less than 2 feet in height as measured from the natural ground level and impounds less than 50 acre feet of water
  • Less than 6 feet in height as measured from the natural ground level and designed by a professional engineer registered in the State of Wisconsin or the project is being submitted by county, state or federal agency

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes,”:

You may qualify for a General permit. Please visit the General permits page to apply for a pond general 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.

You've answered No.

If your answer is “No,”:

You will need to apply for an individual pond 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 [drawing 1] [PDF], [drawing 2] [PDF] for this activity.

Exemptions

Other pond activities

For more information about pond management, see Management of Aquatic Plants and Algae in Ponds: Protecting Your Piece of Paradise.

Laws

Applicable statutes and codes include Section 30.19, Wis. Stats. [PDF exit DNR] and Chapter NR 343, Wis. Adm. Code [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: Tuesday November 04 2014