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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 Stream realignment and enclosure

Stream Realignment

Stream Realignment

A permit is required to alter the course of stream. This means if you want to relocate a stream, enclose a waterway into a pipe drain, conduit, or storm sewer a permit is needed.

Because of the potential impacts to the public's interest in the waterways, review of projects of this type will require an engineering analysis and an Environmental Assessment (EA). Please visit Wisconsin Environmental Policy Act (WEPA) compliance for more information.

Typically the purpose of realigning a stream is to restore the proper stream function and form along a critical reach of stream.

Determine permit required

This is a text link version of our stream realignment 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 stream realignment 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 choose the answer that best describes your project:



For more information about navigability please see the navigability fact sheet [PDF].

If your answer is "I would like to realign or move a navigable stream,” go to Question 2.

If your answer is "I would like confine a navigable stream into a pipe, storm sewer or a similar structure,” go to Question 4.

For more information about navigability please see the navigability fact sheet [PDF].

Question 2 :

Is the stream located on municipal or county-owned lands in Milwaukee County?

If your answer is "Yes,” :

You've answered Yes:

Your project is exempt from permitting under s. 30.195, Wis. Stats, but you may need a dredging permit. Please see the DNRs webpage for dredging for more information.

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

Question 3 :

Are you the riparian property owner and will you realign the stream on property you own?

If your answer is "Yes,” :

You've answered Yes:

You may be eligible for an individual permit for stream realignment. 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 also be aware there are additional permit standards you must meet before the department may approve the realignment of a stream. For example:

  1. The proposed realignment of the stream will improve the economic or aesthetic value of the applicant's land.
  2. The proposed realignment of the stream will not adversely affect the flood flow capacity of the stream or otherwise be detrimental to the public interest.
  3. The proposed change of course or straightening of the navigable stream will not be detrimental to the rights of other riparian owners located on the stream or all of these riparian owners have consented to the issuance of the permit.

Please note that to meet the additional permit standards one component of a complete application for stream realignment is a hydrologic and hydraulic analysis for the existing and proposed channel that looks at the design storms of the two year and 100 year events. If the 100 year flood profile raises the flood elevation on property owned by someone else, you must provide flooding easements from all affected owners.

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 [PDF] prior to applying for a permit.

As always, before starting any project, please make sure that there are no federal or local regulations for your proposed project.

If your answer is "No,” :

You've answered No:

You will not be eligible for a permit from the DNR unless you obtain written permission from the riparian owner(s), where the stream is currently located and where the stream will be relocated to.

Question 4 :

Are you a municipality? In other words a town, village, city or county?

If your answer is "Yes,” :

You've answered Yes:

You may be eligible for an individual permit to enclose a stream under s. 30.196, Wis. Stats, and select miscellaneous structures. To apply for an individual permit, please visit the individual permits page and select miscellaneous structures.*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 also be aware there are additional permit standards you must meet before the department may approve the enclosure of a stream. For example:

  1. The proposed enclosure of the stream must be in the public interest,
  2. The proposed enclosure of the stream may not violate public rights,
  3. The proposed enclosure will not endanger life, health or property.

Please note that to meet the additional permit standards one component of a complete application for stream enclosure is a hydrologic and hydraulic analysis for the existing and proposed channel that looks at the design storms of the two year and 100 year events. If the 100 year flood profile raises the flood elevation on property owned by someone else, you must provide flooding easements from all affected owners.

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 [PDF] prior to applying for a permit.

As always, before starting any project, please make sure that there are no federal or local regulations for your proposed project.

If your answer is "No,” :

You've answered No:

You are not eligible for a permit under s. 30.196, Wis. Stats.


Wetland or floodplain project site

In order to find out if your project site is in a wetland or a mapped floodplain, and to find out if local zoning restrictions could affect your project, contact the Water Management Specialist covering the county where your project is located BEFORE filing your permit application.

Enclosure

Under state law, only municipalities can apply to enclose a waterway, and because of this special standards apply. If you are a municipality and want to enclose a waterway, contact your local Water Management Specialist for more information.

Exemptions

  • There are no exemptions for stream realignment.

Laws

Applicable statutes and codes include Section 30.195 and Section 30.196, Wis. Stats. [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