We at your Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources want you to know we are here for you and our great state as we go through the COVID-19 public health emergency together.
As state we continue operations, please understand that most of our staff are teleworking and may have limited access to files and delayed online connectivity. We are still available to serve you and apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.
The DNR's transportation liaison staff appreciate the importance of working with WisDOT and municipalities to utilize cost-effective, practical measures to advance transportation projects while protecting the environment.
We are committed to using all available resources to keep projects moving forward and are glad to talk through questions, concerns or permitting issues. We encourage you to e-mail whenever possible to communicate with staff to help facilitate timely responses. Our staff will keep their voicemails and out-of-office messages up to date and will respond as they are able. The DNR's transportation liaison staff assignments and contact information is available as a PDF.
Wisconsin has a comprehensive transportation network that includes roads, highways, airports, railroads and harbors. This system is essential to our economy because it moves workers to jobs, raw materials to factories, finished products to markets and travelers to their destinations. Building and maintaining transportation infrastructure can, however, result in environmental impacts to waterways, wetlands, fisheries, endangered species and other resources.
The DNR's Environmental Analysis and Sustainability program (EAS) works cooperatively with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) and with local highway transportation departments to avoid and minimize environmental concerns with the construction and maintenance of highways, roads, bridges, culverts, airports, railways and harbors. For each county, there is an EAS regional staff person who serves as the transportation liaison contact.
Potential environmental impacts
Crossing waterways and wetlands with roads, bridges, culverts and runways can result in water flow changes and habitat impacts. Aquatic habitat can be lost due to shoreline armoring and dredging activities. Siltation of waterways and wetlands can result from inadequate erosion control measures on construction projects. Fish and other aquatic animals can be blocked from passing through an improperly designed bridge or culvert.
Improper timing of construction and maintenance projects can impact bird, bat and fish reproductive cycles. Invasive species can be spread by construction and maintenance activities, as well as by vehicles using transportation facilities. Habitat fragmentation and disruption of animal movements can also result from siting transportation facilities.
Emergency maintenance and construction
If a flooding or emergency occurs in your municipal transportation system, please contact the DNR transportation liaison for your county. DNR is committed to working with municipalities to provide quick turnaround on decisions and consultation.
- During a flood emergency and times of imminent danger, we understand that some temporary repairs need to take place immediately to open roadways. Those activities can be reviewed after the fact and may still require appropriate authorization for activities in waterways and wetlands.
- Documentation of DNR coordination or approval is a requirement of flood damage aid programs. Flood Damage Funding for Municipal Road Stream Crossings is available.
Research continues to show that structures that do not constrict the width of the stream will pass high flows and debris. Such flood-resilient structures will often result in long-term cost savings for the municipality. To learn more, check out Long Term Cost Considerations and the "Learning" tab on this page.
Municipal highways and permits
Municipal Transportation projects include construction, reconstruction or maintenance of a roadway, bridge, arch or culvert that is being carried out under the direction and supervision of a city, village, town or county, and may impact waterways and/or wetlands.
Best management practices (BMPs)
Best management practices (BMPs) are vital to a successful municipal transportation projects. Please view our presentation for detailed information on municipal highway projects.
Are you working in a road side ditch? Check out BMPs for Ditches.
Also available is Road Right of Way Mowing BMPs.
The 2015 Wisconsin Act 55 included changes to Wisconsin Statute 30.123. The act includes a new exemption for culvert replacements. The act modifies the applicability of the exemption listed in 30.123(6)(d) to read:
The construction or placement and the maintenance of a replacement culvert that is placed in substantially the same location as the culvert being replaced if the replacement culvert is constructed or placed using best management practices to comply with water quality standards under subchapter II of chapter 281.
For a culvert project to be determined to be exempt from permitting, please follow these steps:
- Contact the transportation liaison for the county in which the project is located.
- Use the information worksheet to request an exemption determination. Include photos, if possible.
- WDNR will respond within 15 days regarding eligibility for exemption.
- BMPs for water quality need to be followed before, during and after construction.
Please contact the transportation liaison for the county in which the project is located.
The Transportation Liaison (TL) will discuss the scope of the proposed project with the applicant. The information worksheet can be filled out and given to the TL, or you may fill it out together in the field. This information can be used by the TL to determine if the proposed project qualifies for an exemption. The worksheet can also be used by the applicant to satisfy the requirement described in 2015 Wisconsin Act 55 that created ss. 30.123(9) requiring that municipalities that place culverts that are exempt under 30.123(6) retain a record of the culvert placement. The record should include the date on which the replacement culvert was constructed or placed, the dimensions of the replacement culvert, and the location of the replacement culvert.
Local units of government may need to obtain waterway, wetland and storm water permits for a proposed transportation project. Local transportation officials and their consultants can find permit information and forms below.
Please contact the transportation liaison for your county to determine if your project needs a permit.
Municipal Transportation General Wetland & Waterway Permit (GP)
The WDNR-GP2-2017 General Permit for Municipal Bridges, Arches & Culverts is a general permit (GP) that is available for a discharge to waters and wetlands of no more than 10,000 square feet that is necessary for the construction, reconstruction or maintenance of a roadway, bridge, arch or culvert that is being carried out under the direction and supervision of a city, village, town or county, under s. 30.123, Wis. Stats.
See WDNR-GP2-2017 General Permit Application Checklist for detailed instructions. A complete application for the GP includes information about the applicant, project plans, maps, photos, and an analysis narration that describes what alternatives were considered during the planning process.
All application materials can be sent to the transportation liaison for your county.
General permit WDNR-GP2-2012 authorizations are provisional and require that project proponents obtain any other local, state or federal permits before any work may proceed. Please contact the county zoning administrator to determine if permits are needed.
Municipal Transportation Individual Wetland & Waterway Permit (IP)
Please contact the transportation liaison for your county to set up a pre-application meeting before applying for an individual permit. See the Municipal Transportation Pre-Application Meeting Checklist to adequately prepare the necessary materials for initial consultation.
See Municipal Transportation Projects Individual Permit Checklist for detailed instructions.
Municipal Transportation individual permit applications need to use the WRAPP to begin the process.
All application materials can be sent to the transportation liaison for your county.
Storm water permitting
The Wisconsin Pollutant Elimination Discharge System (WPDES) Notice of Intent Permit process is used to regulate all storm water discharges that result from disturbing one or more acres of land. This permit is needed for both transportation and non-transportation related projects. See Construction site storm water permits for more information.
United States Army Corps of Engineers wetland permits are required for discharges to federal wetlands. For public transportation projects, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has issued general permit GP-003-WI. This federal general permit may be used for activities whose purpose is to construct, expand or improve transportation projects (e.g., roads, highways, railways, airport runways and taxiways) in waters of the United States.
WisDOT storm water discharges
Streamlining the environmental review process
The effort to expedite permit processes using inter-agency cooperation and synchronized environmental review is growing nationwide. However, in Wisconsin, this is not a new idea nor effort. In fact, WisDOT and WDNR have synchronized environmental reviews and worked collaboratively using a cooperative agreement since 1976. Under Chapter 30.2022, Wisconsin Statutes, the cooperative agreement's "liaison process" exempts WisDOT from specific administrative and procedural requirements associated with DNR regulatory authorities including various permit processes. This exemption and a commitment to collaborate throughout planning, design, construction and maintenance helps ensure Wisconsin’s infrastructure is built and maintained as economically and as environmentally-friendly as possible.
Storm water discharges from transportation projects
An exception to this permit exemption was promulgated by Wisconsin Legislature in 2016 to regulate WisDOT under a Wisconsin Pollution Discharge Elimination System Transportation Construction General Permit (WPDES-TCGP). The statutory modification and permit development was initiated in response to direction provided by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
EPA has delegated the administration of the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) to DNR under the Wisconsin Pollution Discharge Elimination System (WPDES), which is authorized under Chapter 283, Wisconsin Statutes. DNR regulates the general public under the WDPES and EPA determined DNR did not have the authority to exempt WisDOT from this federally required permit. In response, DNR and WisDOT drafted WPDES-TCGP and EPA accepted it on April 2, 2018. WisDOT and DNR have incorporated the TCGP into the existing liaison process. More specifically, the Cooperative Agreement remains the governing document WisDOT and WDNR use to ensure the TCGP process is implemented and that each agency's mission is accomplished.
Transportation Construction General Permit links
- WisDOT Construction Site Storm Water Runoff General Permit No. WI-S066796-1
- Notice of Final Determination WisDOT General Permit Apr 2018
- Response to Public Comments WisDOT General Permit Apr 2018
- Water Permit Applications (online Notice of Intent or Notice of Termination)
- Transfer of Coverage form (3500-125)
- Delegation of Signature Authority (DSA) (3500-121)
- Inspections (optional) Construction Site Inspection Report (3400-187)
- Inspections photo log (optional) Construction Site Inspection Corrective Action Photos (3400-187A)
Stream crossings under public roads are an important link in the stream habitats that weave under the roads throughout Wisconsin. If the structure at the road-stream crossing is not sized properly or placed at the appropriate elevation, it can be detrimental to the stream system, and more prone to flood damage during storm events. Use Field Indicators of Flood Prone Road Stream Crossings to determine if a local public road structure may be at risk.
To assess a stream crossing under a public road, please use the Municipal Supplemental Worksheet.
DNR staff may also be available to teach data collection methods. For assistance training volunteers, contact:
Culvert inventoriesCulvert inventories can be used to prioritize, leverage cost share and save money. Building a low impact and flood resilient road system cannot be done site by site. A culvert inventory helps take a system wide approach to identify and address the highest priority stream crossing structures for broad benefits and reduced long term costs. Use Benefits of Culvert Inventories and inventory instructions to help guide your city, village, town or county with inventory methods that identify the highest priorities and increase the chances of cost share assistance. There are also funding opportunities and stakeholders that can help conduct culvert inventories. DNR staff are available to help get you started, In southern Wisconsin, contact Bobbi Jo Fischer and in northern Wisconsin, contact Jon Simonsen.
Using LiDAR data for screening structuresLiDAR data can be used as an excellent screening method for identifying fish passage barriers at road crossings. Check out the LiDAR RSX Report to access information about using LiDAR-Derived elevation data to determine if the road structures in your area may be barriers to fish and to find sites that are more likely to have flooding and maintenance problems.
Road/Stream Crossing Workshop 2018
A Road Stream Crossing workshop was held October 2- 4, 2018 at UW-Platteville. All workshop presentation materials are available at the links below. If you have questions contact Maureen Millmann at Maureen.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Funding for projects to improve stream connectivity
There are many opportunities to secure additional funding for projects that strive to strive to improve flood resiliency and stream connectivity. Opportunities include:
- inventories of streams within a watershed,
- replacing barriers on trout streams,
- replacing barriers near lakes,
- projects in flood damaged areas,
- projects in the Great Lakes watershed, and
- replacement of high priority barriers to stream connectivity.
For more information: