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Waterway protection Beach maintenance

Lower water levels the past few years have left many lake front property owners with additional exposed beach areas below the ordinary high water mark (OHWM).

Beach area in Wisconsin

Beach area in Wisconsin

Lake front owners get to enjoy these exposed areas, however areas below the OHWM are protected and activities in these areas, even when temporarily high and dry, may require approval and or permits.

For more information about this, please see the "Beach Maintenance Activities" [PDF] factsheet .

Determine Permit Required

This is a text version of our Beach Maintenance interactive question and answer module to help you understand if you need a permit to perform maintenance. 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 Swimming Raft 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 :

What do you want to do?

If your answer is "Perform beach maintenance,” go to Question 2.

Question 2 :

Do you want to do maintenance work on areas of your property above or below the ordinary high water mark (OHWM) of a waterway?

You've answered Above.

If your answer is “Above” :

Maintenance activities above the OHWM are regulated by your local unit of government through Shoreland Zoning.

Contact your local shoreland zoning office to learn if there are any permits you need.

You've answered Below.

If your answer is “Below” :

Go to Question 3.

You've answered I don't know.

If your answer is “I don't know” :

Below we provide photo examples of each one of these four indicators to help you determine where the Ordinary High Water Mark (OHWM) is on your property:

  1. Stains on rocks or other shoreline structures.
    Beach Maintenance Stains on rocks
  2. Bare dirt; marks on trees.
    Beach Maintenance Bare dirt; marks on trees
  3. Exposed roots running along the shore.
    Exposed roots running along the shore.
  4. Changes in vegetation from water plants to upland plants.
    Changes in vegetation from water plants to upland plants.

You may also visit our Web page about the Ordinary High Water Mark (OHWM) for more information. Once you have reviewed these materials, go back and answer Question 2.

Question 3 :

Do you want to remove washed up debris, Zebra/Quagga mussels, Cladophora (algae), dead fish or other accumulated plant and animal nuisance deposits from your shoreline?

If your answer is "no,” go to Question 4.

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes”:

  • You can remove washed up debris, by hand without any DNR approvals. This means that you can use a shovel, rake, wheel barrow etc. to pick up and remove the material. The material must not be disposed of in any waterway or wetland.
  • Mechanized equipment can only be operated in public waters with a permit, so for nuisance levels of this type of material which require motorized equipment to remove, there is a general permit available for you to use.*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 4 :

Please best describe the maintenance you would like to perform.

You've answered Remove vegetation in the area below the OHWM in order to maintain it.

If your answer is “Remove vegetation in the area below the OHWM in order to maintain it”:

  • Removal of vegetation on exposed lake bed areas (below the OHWM) is limited to a single 30-foot-wide path, per property, measured along the shoreline. All vegetation may be removed by hand without any department approvals.

You've answered Remove exotic or invasive species.

If your answer is “Remove exotic or invasive species”:

  • The following invasive species may be removed by hand in an unlimited area: Phragmites, Eurasian Water Milfoil, Curly Leaf Pondweed and Purple Loosestrife. Removal of vegetation above the OHWM is regulated by your local unit of government. Contact your local shoreland zoning office to learn if there are any permits you need.
  • If you need to use a motor vehicle to manage Phragmites by mowing, cutting, etc., if you meet the statutory exemption criteria [exit DNR], you may not need department authorization.
  • If you need to use a motor vehicle to manage all other invasive plant species by mowing, cutting, etc., you will need to apply for a permit. The type of permit will depend on the type of materials you are removing. Please visit the general permits page to apply for a waterway general permit or an aquatic plant management 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 Place sand, rocks or fill in the exposed area below the OHWM.

If your answer is “Place sand, rocks or fill in the exposed area below the OHWM”:

  • The placement of any fill at or below the OHWM including sand, pea gravel and rock requires permits from the department. Depending on the type of fill and water body involved. Please visit our Pea Gravel page to learn more.
  • Visit Water Permits to apply for a general or individual permit. Select pea gravel general or individual permit, or miscellaneous structure individual permit if the fill is something other than pea gravel (like sand). *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 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 note that there are additional permit standards you must meet before the department may approve the permit. Please review the additional standards, found in the department’s checklist prior to applying for a permit.

  • In addition, placement of fill above the OHWM may require a permit from your local unit of government. Contact your local shoreland zoning office to learn if there are any regulations they may require you to follow.

You've answered Use chemicals to remove vegetation.

If your answer is “Use chemicals to remove vegetation”:

  • Chemical treatment of vegetation in or near waterways requires a permit. To learn more about using chemicals in the treatment of vegetation and what permits are needed please visit the department's Wisconsin Aquatic Plant Management and Protection Program.
  • Visit Water Permits to apply for a general or individual aquatic plant management 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 Remove a larger than 30 feet area of vegetation.

If your answer is “Remove a larger than 30 feet area of vegetation”:

  • If you will be removing vegetation in an area wider than 30 feet you will need a permit. To learn more about mechanical removal of vegetation and what permits are needed please visit the department's Wisconsin Aquatic Plant Management and Protection Program.
  • Visit Water Permits to apply for a general or individual aquatic plant management 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 4 :

Please best describe the maintenance you would like to perform.

You've answered Use a motor vehicle, such as a golf cart, ATV, or riding mower, to aid in vegetation removal.

If your answer is “Use a motor vehicle, such as a golf cart, ATV, or riding mower, to aid in vegetation removal”:

  • Removal of any vegetation above the OHWM is regulated by your local unit of government.
  • If you need to use a motor vehicle to manage Phragmites by mowing, cutting, etc., if you meet the statutory exemption criteria [exit DNR], you may not need department authorization.
  • If you need to use a motor vehicle to manage all other invasive plant species by mowing, cutting, etc., or a motor vehicle to remove native plants, you will need to apply for a permit. The type of permit will depend on the type of materials you are removing.
  • Visit Water Permits to apply for a general or individual aquatic plant management 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.

Exemptions

Laws

Applicable statutes and codes include Section 30.12(1)(g), 30.13 (1)(m), and 30.61(6)(a), Wis. Stats. [PDF exit DNR] and Chapter NR 326, 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: Monday September 15 2014