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Storm water runoff Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

General storm water questions

My land is being flooded by water draining from another property. Can the DNR do something about it?

No. The DNR’s authority is limited to regulating the pollutants carried in storm water runoff and it does not include regulation over local drainage or flooding issues. Water drainage is sometimes regulated by a local municipal ordinance and is also governed by common law. For a more complete explanation, see Chapter 7 in Wisconsin’s Water Law – A Guide to Water Rights and Regulations [PDF exit DNR] also available at the UWEX web site [exit DNR].

Don’t our storm sewers go to the wastewater treatment plant?

In most municipalities, no. Most storm sewer systems in Wisconsin discharge runoff to the nearest stream, lake, or wetland and can pollute these waterbodies with sediment and chemicals. Only a portion of a few cities have "combined" sewer systems, which carry both wastewater and rain water to a waswtewater treatment plant. For more information see What is storm water? See What can you do to help? for tips on how to prevent pollution in storm water runoff at your home, business and in your community.

Our homeowner’s association has a storm water pond in back of our house. Who is responsible for maintaining the pond? Can we do anything about the algae and the geese?

Maintenance responsibility for storm water ponds is usually determined during the planning and construction process. In some cases, a homeowners’ association may be the responsible party for maintenance. In other cases, the municipality may be responsible for maintenance. Check with your local municipality to find out more information on who is responsible for your pond.

There are ways to maintain a pond to keep it looking visually attractive to people and less attractive to geese. The easiest way is to stop mowing the grass close to the edge of the pond and instead maintain a tall vegetated buffer around the pond. Geese prefer open, short grassy areas, rather than brushy, tall grass areas where predators may be lurking. Maintaining wet meadow and prairie plantings as a vegetated buffer reduces the need for mowing and provides habitat for birds, butterflies, and other wildlife. The vegetated buffer also helps to filter runoff that flows over land into the pond.

Storm water ponds are designed to collect excess nutrients from surrounding land uses, so growth of plants and algae are a result of those nutrients. If excessive algae or nuisance aquatic plants are a problem, a licensed chemical applicator can apply an herbicide or an algaecide to reduce the amount of plant material in the pond. A permit is required for any chemical addition to the water.

For additional information on storm water pond maintenance and natural landscaping please see "Storm Water Basins: Using Natural Landscaping for Water Quality & Esthetics." [PDF exit DNR]. For general stormwater pond information, see Whose pond is it anyway?

What is a storm water utility? Does the DNR require this?

Under state law, a municipality has the authority to decide whether or not it will establish a storm water utility. A storm water utility is established to collect a user fee to manage storm water runoff similar to that charged by a municipality for providing drinking water or treating wastewater. Under state law [PDF exit DNR] the collected revenue must be used for storm water management which includes both flood control and water quality related needs. The DNR does not direct how a municipality pays for its storm water management program and infrastructure, nor does it regulate or oversee storm water utilities. See the Wisconsin Chapter of the American Public Works Association (APWA) storm water user charge document [PDF exit DNR] for information on municipalities with storm water utilities. Please note that this document is maintained by the APWA, not the DNR.

There is an unknown liquid running down the street and into the storm sewer. Should I call someone about this?

Yes. If something other than rain water is flowing down the street and into the storm sewer, then it’s probably making it into the nearest stream, lake or wetland. Please contact your local municipality, or call the DNR’s 24–hour tip–line at 1-800-TIP-DNR to report this possible illicit discharge.

I am concerned about wet detention ponds and West Nile Virus. Where do I find more information about this issue?

See the West Nile virus and storm water management page.

Construction permits

Is a Notice of Intent (NOI) for a construction site amendable and/or transferable? Are there additional fees?

The erosion control and storm water management plans are amendable pursuant to s. NR 216.50 [exit DNR], Wis. Adm. Code. The department must be notified five working days prior to making changes to the plan(s).

The NOI is transferable pursuant to s. NR 216.54 [exit DNR], Wis. Adm. Code. The entire permit (original project scope and extent) must be transferred.

Project permit coverage is limited to three years beginning at the NOI effective date of coverage (also called the Start Date of permit coverage). If the permit is transferred within the three year period, there will not be any additional fees. If the permit is being transferred after the three year period, then a fee must be sent in with a permit renewal (NOI). The fee would be the same as the original application fee.

If the owner filing the NOI for a construction site has fulfilled the requirements to file an Notice of Termination (NOT), does the local community have the ability to stop or delay that filing? Can they cause additional inspections that are not required under the DNR policy potentially adding costs?

If the conditions of s. NR 216.55(1) [exit DNR], Wis. Adm. Code, have been met, it is appropriate to submit an NOT to the department, and therefore, the local community does not have the ability to stop or delay the filing of an NOT to the department. If the conditions of s. NR 216.55(1) [exit DNR], Wis. Adm. Code, have not been met, the NOT submittal is invalid.

Again, depending on the local level’s authority, they can determine how and when to inspect, which may include additional inspections even if the department has processed an NOT.

If a Notice of Termination (NOT) for a construction site is filed, will this flag communities at the local level to conduct additional inspections by an engineering department and/or a third party consultant of individual building sites and therefore add costs to the building process?

Section NR 216.55(1) [exit DNR] states that an NOT shall be filed when a construction site has undergone final stabilization, temporary erosion and sediment control measures have been removed and all storm water discharges associated with construction site activities that required permit coverage have ceased. The department may do an inspection once the NOT is filed to verify the site has been stabilized and meets the conditions of s. NR 216.55(1) [exit DNR]. Once a NOT is filed, accepted, and permit coverage terminated by the department, there is no need for the department to continue to inspect a site for which permit coverage is terminated. At the local level, communities have their own ordinances and permit process which determine how and when to inspect. The department does not terminate permit coverage to areas of a site in a piecemeal fashion.

If the NOT for a construction site is filed, will this flag communities at the local level to conduct additional inspections by an engineering department and/or a third party consultant of individual building sites (potentially add costs to the building process)?

Section s. NR 216.55(1) [exit DNR], Wis. Adm. Code, states that an NOT shall be filed when a construction site has undergone final stabilization, temporary erosion and sediment control measures have been removed and all storm water discharges associated with construction site activities that required permit coverage have ceased. The department may do an inspection once the NOT is filed to verify the site has been stabilized and meets the conditions of s. NR 216.55(1) [exit DNR], Wis. Adm. Code. Once an NOT is filed, processed, and permit coverage terminated by the department, there should be no need for the department to inspect a site for which permit coverage is terminated. At the local level, communities have their own ordinances and permit process which determine how and when to inspect.

Can a portion of a site be terminated before the entire project is complete?

The department does not terminate permit coverage to areas of a site in a piecemeal fashion.

Will the DNR be sending an NOT acceptance letter confirming the acceptance of the NOT filed?

The department does send a termination of coverage letter in response to the NOT and as such discharge of construction site runoff is no longer authorized.

Last revised: Wednesday February 08 2017