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Discover
how Wisconsin protects waterways by holding them in trust for everyone to enjoy.
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the permits you need for your waterfront property projects.
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about the permit process that protects public waters.

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 16.

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

Question 2 :

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

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes,”:

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

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

Question 3 :

Which of the following best describes your project:

You've answered I am looking to maintain an existing pond that was previously permitted.

If your answer is “I am looking to maintain an existing pond that was previously permitted,”:

You can go ahead and do work on your existing pond as long as you adhere to the existing permit conditions. This means you cannot make it deeper, wider or larger than the permit specifies.

If your answer is "I am looking to maintain an existing pond that was NOT previously permitted.” go to Question 13.

If your answer is "I am looking to modify or expand the existing pond.” go to Question 4.

Question 4 :

Do any of the following apply?

  • The pond is located in Milwaukee County.
  • The pond was constructed for agricultural use and remains in agricultural use which includes Aquaculture; 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.
  • 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.

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes,”:

You may be exempt from permitting so long as the pond is not located in a wetland. If your project is located in a wetland 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 your answer is "No” go to Question 5.

Question 5 :

Which of these applies to your pond?

  • Natural pond- A body of water that has a history of being or being part of a pond, lake, or stream
  • Stormwater pond- An artificially created pond for the purposes of capturing and retaining stormwater.
  • Artificial pond- A body of water that does not have history of being or being part of a pond, lake, or stream. Typically, these waterbodies were constructed by dredging or excavation.
  • Connected enlargement- A body of water that has a history of being or being part of a pond, lake or stream, but has a modified watercourse caused by dredging, excavation, or the presence of a dam or embankment.

If your answer is "A natural pond” go to Question 10.

If your answer is "A stormwater pond” go to Question 6.

If your answer is "An artificial pond” go to Question 8.

If your answer is "A connected enlargement” go to Question 10.

Question 6 :

Will the pond meet all of the following criteria once the project is completed?

  • 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; and,
  • The project will not impact wetlands.

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

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

Question 7 :

Is the pond designed as a sediment trap draining a maximum of 5 acres or as an infiltration device designed to meet the stormwater performance standards of s. NR 151 or to meet an equivalent local ordinance?

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

If your answer is "No” go to Question 8.

Question 8 :

Is your pond hydrologically connected to a natural navigable waterbody or within 500 feet of a navigable waterbody?

Hydrologically connected- any artificial waterbody that is attached by means of enlargement or by a natural or artificial channel or draining course, or an open or closed conduit, any of which tend to discharge into an existing navigable waterway during normal flow conditions outside of storm events.

You've answered The pond is hydrologically connected to a navigable waterbody.

If your answer is “The pond is hydrologically connected to a navigable waterbody,”:

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, you will need approval. Please see the dam permitting website for more information.

You've answered The pond is within 500 feet of a navigable waterbody.

If your answer is “The pond is within 500 feet of a navigable waterbody,”:

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, you will need approval. Please see the dam permitting website for more information.

You've answered No, my pond is not hydrologically connected or within 500 feet of a navigable waterbody.

If your answer is “No, my pond is not hydrologically connected or within 500 feet of a navigable waterbody,”:

You may be exempt from permitting so long as the pond is not located in a wetland. If your project is located in a wetland 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.

You've answered I don't know.

If your answer is “I don't know,”:

You may utilize our online mapping tool - Surface Water Data Viewer to determine the natural waterbodies in your area and go back and answer this question. If you are unsure of how to use this application, please use our How-To tutorial

Question 9 :

Is the pond within a wetland?

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes,”:

If your project is for wetland conservation, you may able to seek general permit coverage to construct a wildlife pond [PDF]. Otherwise 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.

You've answered No.

If your answer is “No,”:

It is unlikely that a permit will be required for your permit. 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. Also please remember to check with your local zoning office to determine if local permits are required. Please refer to the dam permitting website for more information about dams if applicable. It is not permissible to place fill material in a wetland even on a temporary basis. Please check the website for applicable wetland permits if this will occur.

Question 10 :

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 permitting website for more information.

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

Question 11 :

Would you like to clean out or remove material from your pond?

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes,”:

It is likely that you will need a dredging permit, please see the department's dredging website to learn more about dredging and to find out what type of dredging permit you will need.

If your answer is "No” go to Question 12.

Question 12 :

Would you like to place rock or similar inert materials to help stabilize the banks of the pond?

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes,”:

You may 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,”:

Based on your previous answers, you indicated that you do not want to: clean out your pond, repair/rebuild an embankment, manage vegetation or stabilize your banks. Since your pond either is natural or connected to public water, a permit will be needed to do any work, or place any materials in the pond. Find the activity you want to do to your pond here to obtain any necessary permits.

Question 13 :

Was your pond designated as a private pond by the department?

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes,”:

You can go ahead and do work on your existing pond as long as you do not widen or enlarge the pond.

If your answer is "No” go to Question 14.

If your answer is "I don't know” go to Question 14.

Question 14 :

Does your pond meet any of the following conditions?

  • The pond was previously a natural waterway;
  • The pond has public access; or
  • The pond has prescribed rights.

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

You've answered No.

If your answer is “No,”:

You can go ahead and do work on your existing pond as long as you do not widen or enlarge the pond.

Question 15 :

Do any of the following apply?

  • The pond is located in Milwaukee County.
  • The pond was constructed for agricultural use and remains in agricultural use - Aquaculture; 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.
  • 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 8.

Question 16 :

Do any of the following apply?

  • The pond is located in Milwaukee County.
  • The pond was constructed for agricultural use - Aquaculture; 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.
  • The pond was constructed by DOT as a borrow pit.

If your answer is "Yes” go to Question 17.

If your answer is "No” go to Question 19.

Question 17 :

Will your pond be constructed by digging out a navigable waterway? For more information about navigability please see the navigability factsheet [PDF].

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes,”:

It is likely that you will need a dredging permit, please see 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.

If your answer is "No” go to Question 18.

Question 18 :

Will your pond be constructed by:

You've answered Digging out a navigable waterway and creating a connected enlargement.

If your answer is “Digging out a navigable waterway and creating a connected enlargement,”:

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, you will need approval. Please see the dam permitting website for more information.

You've answered Digging into a wetland complex.

If your answer is “Digging into a wetland complex,”:

You will need to apply for a wetland disturbance permit unless your pond is a farm pond or fish rearing pond in which case you are exempt from permitting.

You've answered Placing a dam* across a watercourse (stream, ditch, swale, channel, etc…).

If your answer is “Placing a dam* across a watercourse (stream, ditch, swale, channel, etc…),”:

Placing a dam* across a watercourse (stream, ditch, swale, channel, etc…)- You will need approval to construct a dam. Please see the dam permitting website for more information.

*A "Dam" is "any artificial barrier in or across a watercourse which has the primary purpose of impounding or diverting water." For more information about navigability please see the navigability factsheet [PDF].

You've answered A different method.

If your answer is “A different method,”:

Based on your answers, a permit is not required for this project. You may proceed with the project.

Question 19 :

Will you be constructing a dam* across a watercourse (stream, ditch, swale, channel, etc…) to create your pond?

*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 permitting website for more information.

If your answer is "No” go to Question 20.

Question 20 :

Will the pond be located within 500 feet of a navigable waterbody?

If your answer is "Yes” go to Question 21.

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

You've answered I don't know.

If your answer is “I don't know,”:

You may utilize our online mapping tool - Surface Water Data Viewer to determine the natural waterbodies in your area and go back and answer this question. If you are unsure of how to use this application, please use our How-To tutorial.

Hydrologically connected - any artificial waterbody that is attached by means of enlargement or by a natural or artificial channel or draining course, or an open or closed conduit, any of which tend to discharge into an existing navigable waterway during normal flow conditions outside of storm events.

Question 21 :

Which pond type best describes the pond you would like to construct:

If your answer is "A stormwater pond” go to Question 22.

If your answer is "A pond within a wetland” go to Question 9.

You've answered A fish rearing pond.

If your answer is “A fish rearing pond,”:

Aquaculture ponds are exempt from permitting. Other fish rearing ponds that are not raising fish for aquaculture purposes require 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.

You've answered A non-metallic mining pond.

If your answer is “A non-metallic mining pond,”:

You will need to apply for an individual non-metallic mining 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 Another type of pond.

If your answer is “Another type of pond,”:

You may able to seek general permit coverage to construct a landscape pond if you can meet all eligibility requirements of the general permit. Otherwise 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.

Question 22 :

Are you constructing a stormwater pond that will meet one of the following conditions?

  • The pond will be constructed sediment trap draining a maximum of 5 acres to meet the performance standards of s. NR 151.11(6) or to meet an equivalent local ordinance, OR
  • The pond will be constructed as an infiltration device designed to meet the stormwater performance standards of s. NR 151.12(5)(c) or to meet an equivalent local ordinance.

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.

Question 23 :

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.

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

You've answered I don't know.

If your answer is “I don't know,”:

You may utilize our online mapping tool - Surface Water Data Viewer to determine the natural waterbodies in your area and go back and answer this question. If you are unsure of how to use this application, please use our How-To tutorial.

Question 24 :

Will the pond be designed to prevent fish entrapment and inflow from the navigable waterway up to the 10-year, 24 hour rain event?

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.

Question 25 :

Will the pond meet all of the following criteria once the project is completed?

  • 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 is not within 100 feet of a public rights feature; and,
  • The project will not impact wetlands.

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes,”:

You may qualify 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.

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.

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].

Sample drawings and other materials

Last revised: Friday September 29 2017