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Waterway protection Lake shore erosion

Clear span bridge

Lake Erosion Control


Natural shoreline features provide erosion control in various ways. Every shoreline is exposed to different natural events and human activities that can cause erosion.

A small amount of soil erosion may not be a cause for any concern, but intervention may be needed on some shorelines. A permit may be required.

Determine permit required

This is a text link version of our lake shore erosion interactive question and answer module. 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 lake shore erosion 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 :

Are you a municipality or similar public entity (e.g. state or federal government, inland lake protection and rehabilitation district or similar special purpose unit of government, public utility, etc.) wanting to put in a permanent breakwater structure?

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes,”:

The placement of a new breakwater structures on inland waterbodies can only be authorized on the following water bodies:

  • Castle Rock and Petenwell flowages: Adams and Juneau counties
  • Lake Koshkonong: Dane, Jefferson and Rock counties
  • Beaver Dam lake, Fox lake and Lake Sinissippi: Dodge County
  • Lake Puckaway: Green Lake County
  • Lake Nokomis – Rice River reservoir: Lincoln and Oneida counties
  • Big Eau Pleine reservoir: Marathon County
  • Lake DuBay: Marathon and Portage counties
  • Rainbow and Willow flowages: Oneida County
  • Lake Poygan: Winnebago and Waushara counties
  • Lake Winneconne and Lake Buttes des Morts: Winnebago County
  • Lake Winnebago: Calumet, Fond du Lac and Winnebago counties
  • Impoundments of the Mississippi river: various counties

To place a breakwater in one of these waterbodies, you will need to apply for an 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].

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

Question 3 :

Is your project located in the Wolf River or Fox River basin?

You've answered I don't know.

If your answer is “I don't know,”:

The Wolf River and Fox River basin area consists of all of Winnebago County; the portion and shoreline of Lake Poygan in Waushara County; the area south of STH 21 and east of STH 49 in Waushara County; that portion of Calumet County in the Lake Winnebago watershed; all of Fond du Lac County north of STH 23; that portion of Outagamie County south and east of USH 41; that portion of Waupaca County that includes the town of Mukwa, city of New London, town of Caledonia, town of Fremont; and the portion and shoreline of Partridge Lake and the Wolf River in the town of Weyauwega. With this information in mind, please go back to and answer Question 3

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

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

Question 4 :

Does your project involve the placement of a NEW seawall or the replacement or repair of an EXISTING seawall that is being used for erosion control?

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes,”:

Since your project involves a seawall located in the Wolf River or Fox River basin, you may be exempt from permit requirements, however there still are certain standards you must meet. These standards are listed in Chapter 30 of Wisconsin State Statutes under Section 30.2023 [PDF]. Please review the standards listed to determine if you are eligible.

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

Question 5 :

Is your project located on the Great Lakes?

You've answered I don't know.

If your answer is “I don't know,”:

Your project is considered to be on the Great Lakes if it is located in any of these locations: Lake Michigan, and Superior; Green Bay, Sturgeon Bay, Sawyers Harbor, and Fox River from its mouth up to the dam at De Pere.

If your answer is "Yes” go to Question 6.

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

Question 6 :

Do you have existing rip rap in place?

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes,”:

On the Great lakes, you can replace up to 100 linear feet of existing rip rap without a permit ONLY IF YOUR LOCATION IS NOT DESIGNATED AS AN AREA OF SPECIAL NATURAL RESOURCE INTEREST (ASNRI). On the Great lakes, you can repair up to 300 linear feet of existing rip rap without a permit ONLY IF YOUR LOCATION IS NOT DESIGNATED AS AN AREA OF SPECIAL NATURAL RESOURCE INTEREST (ASNRI). Please use the designated waters tutorial to determine if your project is located in an Area of Special Natural Resource Interest (ASNRI).

If you need to replace or repair more than the amounts listed, or your location is designated as an ASNRI please apply for a individual permit. To apply for an individual permit, please visit the individual permits page.*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].

You've answered No.

If your answer is “No,”:

For placement of new shoreline erosion control structures on the great lakes, please apply for an individual permit. To apply for an individual permit, please visit the individual permits page.*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].

You've answered I don't know.

If your answer is “I don't know,”:

Take a close look at your shoreline. If you have rip rap, you will have multiple layers of rock (including filter material) placed on the bed or bank to prevent erosion, scour etc. If it looks like you have rip rap please go back to Question 6and choose "Yes". If it looks like there was no attempt to control erosion on the shoreline, please go back to Question 6and choose "No".

Question 7 :

Do you want to repair or replace existing shoreline erosion control, or place brand new shoreline erosion control on the shore where nothing has been done before?

If your answer is "Repair or Replace” go to Question 9.

If your answer is "Place Brand New” go to Question 8.

You've answered I don't know.

If your answer is “I don't know,”:

Take a close look at your shore. Does it appear that some attempt at controlling erosion on your property was undertaken? Some examples are:

If it appears that some attempt was made to control erosion on your shoreline and you just want to fix it up or replace what you had, please go to Question 9.

If it looks like no attempt was made in the past to stop your shoreline from eroding, please go to Question 8.

Question 8 :

What type of new shoreline erosion control are you planning on installing?

Biological shore erosion control: any structure that is made up of biological materials. Biological materials are living or organic materials that are biodegradable like native grasses, trees, live stakes and posts, non-treated wood, mats, fiber rolls, etc. Rip Rap: layers of rock including filter material placed on the bed or bank to prevent erosion scour etc. vegetated armoring is a structure that combines biological and inert materials and includes integrated toe protection, vegetated rip rap, and vegetated geogrids. Seawall: an upright structure that is steeper than 1.5:1 slope and is installed parallel to shore to prevent sliding of the land and to protect adjacent land from waves. These structures are commonly constructed of timber, rock concrete, metal sheet piling and may even have biological components.

If your answer is "New Biological Shore Erosion Control” go to Question 13.

If your answer is "New Rip Rap or Vegetated Armoring” go to Question 18.

If your answer is "A New Seawall” go to Question 19.

Question 9 :

OK, so you have existing shoreline erosion control that needs some fixing up. Are you repairing what you have, or ripping out old and replacing what you had?

If your answer is "Repair existing” go to Question 10.

If your answer is "Replace existing” go to Question 11.

You've answered I don't know.

If your answer is “I don't know,”:

Take a look at your plans. Are you going to completely demo out what you have there now and completely replace it with something new? If you are, go back and choose “Replace existing.” If you are just using existing material to fix up what is there go back and choose “Repair existing.” For example: let’s say you have existing rip rap. If you plan on removing all the rip rap and replacing the filter fabric or putting a new base layer before rebuilding and placing more rock, go back and choose “Replace existing.” If you are not going to do all of this, choose “Repair existing.”

Question 10 :

So you are repairing existing shoreline erosion control. What kind do you currently have?

If your answer is "Rip Rap” go to Question 15.

If your answer is "Vegetated Armoring” go to Question 15.

You've answered Seawall.

If your answer is “Seawall,”:

To repair an existing seawall, please review your existing permit to verify that the permit conditions allow you to repair the current structure without notifying the department. If you do not have a permit for your seawall or cannot find your permit, please apply for a "Lakeshore Erosion Control" individual permit. To apply for an individual permit, please visit the individual permits page.*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].

You've answered I don't know.

If your answer is “I don't know,”:

Take a close look at your shoreline. If you have rip rap, you will have multiple layers of rock (including filter material) placed on the bed or bank to prevent erosion, scour etc. If it looks like you have rip rap please go to Question 15

If you have vegetated armoring, you will have a structure that combines biological and rock materials and includes integrated toe protection, vegetation over your rock rip and maybe even vegetated geogrids. If it looks like you have vegetated armoring, please go to Question 15.

If it looks like you have a structure installed parallel to shore to prevent sliding of the land and to protect from waves constructed of timber, rock concrete, or metal sheet piling. If it looks like you have a seawall, please go to Question 10.

If it appears that you don’t have any rock at all and only biological materials helping to protect your shoreline, please go to Question 13.

Question 11 :

So you are replacing what you have. What kind of shoreline erosion control do you currently have?

If your answer is "Rip Rap” go to Question 16.

If your answer is "Vegetated Armoring” go to Question 16.

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

You've answered I don't know.

If your answer is “I don't know,”:

Take a close look at your shoreline. If you have rip rap, you will have multiple layers of rock (including filter material) placed on the bed or bank to prevent erosion, scour etc. If it looks like you have rip rap please go to Question 16

If you have vegetated armoring, you will have a structure that combines biological and rock materials and includes integrated toe protection, vegetation over your rock rip and maybe even vegetated geogrids. If it looks like you have vegetated armoring, please go to Question 16.

If it looks like you have a structure installed parallel to shore to prevent sliding of the land and to protect from waves constructed of timber, rock concrete, or metal sheet piling. If it looks like you have a seawall, please go to Question 12

If it appears that you don’t have any rock at all and only biological materials helping to protect your shoreline, please go to Question 13

Question 12 :

Are you going to replace your existing seawall with another seawall, riprap, vegetated armoring, or biological shore erosion control?

You've answered Another Seawall.

If your answer is “Another Seawall,”:

You may be eligible to receive a general permit for your project. Please visit the General permits page to apply for a "Lake shore erosion control - Seawall Replacement" 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].

Also be sure to review the seawall replacement sample drawing [PDF] for this activity.

Don’t Forget!

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

If your answer is "Biological Shore Erosion Control” go to Question 13.

You've answered Rip Rap or Vegetated Armoring.

If your answer is “Rip Rap or vegetated Armoring,”:

You may be eligible to receive a "Lake shore erosion control - Seawall replacement with rip rap" general permit for your project. 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].

Don’t Forget!

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

Question 13 :

Is your project located in an ASNRI?

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes,”:

You may be eligible to receive a general permit for your project. Please visit the General permits page to apply for a "Lake shore erosion control - Biological" 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].

Don’t Forget!

Most of our general permits require re-vegetation of the project site. Please refer to the Shoreland Habitat: Wisconsin Biology Technical Note 1 [PDF] or the NRCS Conservation Practice Standard 643A: Shoreland Habitat [PDF] to see the recommended practice standards for stabilizing the shoreline and establishing native vegetation. On your application, list the types of plants and the seeding or planting density.

Don’t Forget!

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

You've answered No.

If your answer is “No,”:

You may be exempt from permitting requirements. If your project can meet the exemption standards listed on the exemption checklist [PDF], you do not need to apply for a permit.

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 plan to do your project. Visit the search page below, enter the information about your waterway, and record any designations that it may have.

Once you do that, please go back to Question 13 and answer appropriately. If you have questions about using the Designated Waters Search tool, you may visit our Designated Waters Search Tutorial to learn how.

Question 15 :

Is your project located in an ASNRI?

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes,”:

You may be eligible to receive a general permit for your project. Please visit the General permits page to apply for a "Lake shore erosion control - Rip rap repair" 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].

Also be sure to review the rip rap repair sample drawing [1] [PDF], rip rap repair sample drawing [2] [PDF] for this activity.

Don’t Forget!

Most of our general permits require re-vegetation of the project site. Please refer to the Shoreland Habitat: Wisconsin Biology Technical Note 1 [PDF] or the NRCS Conservation Practice Standard 643A: Shoreland Habitat [PDF] to see the recommended practice standards for stabilizing the shoreline and establishing native vegetation. On your application, list the types of plants and the seeding or planting density.

Don’t Forget!

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

You've answered No.

If your answer is “No,”:

You may be exempt from permitting requirements. If your project can meet the exemption standards listed on the riprap repair exemption checklist [PDF], you do not need to apply for a permit.

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 plan to do your project. Visit the search page below, enter the information about your waterway, and record any designations that it may have.

Once you do that, please go back to Question 15 and answer appropriately. If you have questions about using the Designated Waters Search tool, you may visit our Designated Waters Search Tutorial to learn how.

Question 16 :

Is your project located in an ASNRI?

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes,”:

You may be eligible to receive a general permit for your project. Please visit the General permits page to apply fro a "Lake shore erosion control - Rip rap replacement" 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].

Also be sure to review the rip rap replacement sample drawing [1] [PDF], rip rap replacement sample drawing [2] [PDF] for this activity.

Don’t Forget!

Most of our general permits require re-vegetation of the project site. Please refer to the Shoreland Habitat: Wisconsin Biology Technical Note 1 [PDF] or the NRCS Conservation Practice Standard 643A: Shoreland Habitat [PDF] to see the recommended practice standards for stabilizing the shoreline and establishing native vegetation. On your application, list the types of plants and the seeding or planting density.

Don’t Forget!

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

You've answered No.

If your answer is “No,”:

You may be exempt from permitting requirements. If your project can meet the exemption standards listed in the rip rap replacement exemption checklist [PDF], you do not need to apply for a permit.

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 plan to do your project. Visit the search page below, enter the information about your waterway, and record any designations that it may have.

Once you do that, please go back to Question 16 and answer appropriately. If you have questions about using the Designated Waters Search tool, you may visit our Designated Waters Search Tutorial to learn how.

Question 18 :

Please calculate the wave energy at your site. What is the wave energy at your site?

You've answered Low.

If your answer is “Low,”:

This means that using the online storm-wave height calculator, or by calculating your erosion intensity [PDF], your wave energy was low. You will need to apply for an 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.

However, keep in mind that construction of new rip rap at a low energy site will only be authorized if:
the bank edge recession is more that half- a foot per year OR
the Erosion Intensity is calculated to be 40 or higher.

To learn how to calculate the energy along your shoreline, please visit our online erosion energy calculator and Erosion Intensity Worksheet [PDF]. Once completed, print them out and submit them with your application.

You've answered Moderate.

If your answer is “Moderate,”:

This means that using the online storm-wave height calculator, or by calculating your erosion intensity [PDF], your wave energy was moderate. You may be eligible to receive a rip rap general permit for your project. Please visit the General permits page to apply for a "Lake shore erosion control - Rip rap" 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].

Also be sure to review the sample drawing [1] [PDF], sample drawing [2] [PDF] for this activity.

Don’t Forget!

Most of our general permits require re-vegetation of the project site. Please refer to the Shoreland Habitat: Wisconsin Biology Technical Note 1 [PDF] or the NRCS Conservation Practice Standard 643A: Shoreland Habitat [PDF] to see the recommended practice standards for stabilizing the shoreline and establishing native vegetation. On your application, list the types of plants and the seeding or planting density. Please visit invasive species for more information.

Don’t Forget!

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

You've answered High.

If your answer is “High,”:

This means that using the online storm-wave height calculator, or by calculating your erosion intensity [PDF], your wave energy was high. You may be eligible to receive a rip rap general permit for your project. Please visit the General permits page to apply for a "Lake shore erosion control - Riprap" 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].

Also be sure to review the sample drawing [1] [PDF], sample drawing [2] [PDF] for this activity.

Don’t Forget!

Most of our general permits require re-vegetation of the project site. Please refer to the Shoreland Habitat: Wisconsin Biology Technical Note 1 [PDF] or the NRCS Conservation Practice Standard 643A: Shoreland Habitat [PDF] to see the recommended practice standards for stabilizing the shoreline and establishing native vegetation. On your application, list the types of plants and the seeding or planting density. Please visit invasive species for more information.

Don’t Forget!

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

You've answered I don't know.

If your answer is “I don't know,”:

To learn how to calculate the energy along your shoreline, please visit our online erosion energy calculator and Erosion Intensity Worksheet [PDF]. Once completed, print them out and submit them with your application. Once shoreline energy is calculated, go back to Question 18 and answer appropriately.

You've answered Why do I have to do this?.

If your answer is “Why do I have to do this?,”:

The type of shoreline erosion control structure needed is based on the conditions at your site and the erosive energy at your site. In some cases shore protection by vegetation alone may be inadequate to protect the shoreline. In these cases a combination of vegetation and technical structures may be necessary (e.g., vegetated armoring).
Engineers have determined that, of the factors that cause bank erosion, wind-driven waves are the predominant factor in determining the severity of erosion. This determination uses the longest fetch (distance that wind can blow waves across the lake to a site), the average depth along the fetch (depth determines the height waves can reach before breaking), and storm wind speed (highest wind that occurs in 99.6 percent of the wind events measured in Wisconsin).

Question 19 :

Please calculate the wave energy at your site. What is the wave energy at your site?

You've answered Low.

If your answer is “Low,”:

This means that using the online storm-wave height calculator, or by calculating your erosion intensity [PDF], your wave energy was low. You will need to apply for an 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].



However, keep in mind that new seawalls are only allowed at low energy sites if the location is either:

  • part of a municipal or commercial marina where vertical docking facilities are practical after considering the public interest,
  • a navigational channel used as an active thoroughfare where the slopes are steeper that 1.5 vertical feet to one foot horizontal ratio.

To learn how to calculate the energy along your shoreline, please visit our online erosion energy calculator [PDF] and Erosion Intensity Worksheet [PDF]. Once completed, print them out and submit them with your application.

You've answered Moderate.

If your answer is “Moderate,”:

This means that using the online storm-wave height calculator, or by calculating your erosion intensity [PDF], your wave energy was moderate.

You will need to apply for an 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].

Don’t Forget!

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

You've answered High.

If your answer is “High,”:

This means that using the online storm-wave height calculator, or by calculating your erosion intensity [PDF], your wave energy was high.

You will need to apply for an 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].

Don’t Forget!

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

You've answered I don't know.

If your answer is “I don't know,”:

To learn how to calculate the energy along your shoreline, please visit our online erosion energy calculator and Erosion Intensity Worksheet [PDF]. Once completed, print them out and submit them with your application. Once shoreline energy is calculated, go back to Question 19 and answer appropriately.

You've answered Why do I have to do this?.

If your answer is “Why do I have to do this?,”:

The type of shoreline erosion control structure needed is based on the conditions at your site and the erosive energy at your site. In some cases shore protection by vegetation alone may be inadequate to protect the shoreline. In these cases a combination of vegetation and technical structures may be necessary (e.g., vegetated armoring).
Engineers have determined that, of the factors that cause bank erosion, wind-driven waves are the predominant factor in determining the severity of erosion. This determination uses the longest fetch (distance that wind can blow waves across the lake to a site), the average depth along the fetch (depth determines the height waves can reach before breaking), and storm wind speed (highest wind that occurs in 99.6 percent of the wind events measured in Wisconsin).

Exemptions

  • Exemptions for this and other activities - choose riprap repair or replacement.

Laws

Applicable statutes and codes include Section 30.12, Wis. Stats. [PDF exit DNR] and Chapter NR 328-Subchapter I, 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 October 13 2014