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Utility permitting

Department and PSC staff inspect construction of a transmission line through a wetland.
Department and PSC staff inspect
construction of a transmission line
through a wetland.

The DNR's Environmental Analysis and Sustainability program (EAS) is responsible for coordinating the review and permitting of energy and utility projects in the state. EAS provides project management within DNR, acting as the main point of contact for project applicants, the Public Service Commission (PSC), other DNR programs and affected stakeholders.

Installation of new utility facilities, or maintenance of existing utility facilities, in or adjacent to navigable waters or wetlands often require permits from the DNR. EAS staff focus on ways to simplify and streamline the permit process for electric, natural gas and telecommunication projects. EAS staff also routinely work on electric generation, petroleum pipeline and other complex projects that require other DNR permits or are regulated by federal agencies.

The oversight of routine water main, storm sewer, and sanitary sewer projects is handled by the regional DNR water regulation staff.

The DNR Bureau of Natural Heritage Conservation works with project proponents to consider the potential impacts of utility projects on rare and sensitive species and habitats very early in the project planning process. The bureau's goal is a cooperative, partnership-based approach to land use and management in Wisconsin that proactively and effectively conserves Wisconsin's natural resources. The bureau's review program helps customers and partners comply with Wisconsin's endangered species laws and helps conserve the rare plants, animals and habitats found in Wisconsin.

Under provisions of §44.40, Wisconsin Statutes, archaeological investigations will be required if previously recorded sites occur within the parcel, or if there's an extant, recorded archaeological site and/or historic building for which National Register of Historic Places eligibility has not been assessed.

Please see our Power plants, Wind power and Hydroelectric pages for more information on those kinds of projects.

Permit Process

Applicants should contact EAS prior to submitting permit applications.

General permits are available for projects that meet design, construction and location specifications. Once all required items have been submitted, and the plans and location match the General Permit specifications, the permit is granted in 30 days.

Individual Permits are required when a project cannot meet the eligibility standards or conditions in the General Permits. Because these projects are not pre-approved designs, a more detailed application is required. The DNR reviews local fishery, wildlife and water quality data, and visits the site to observe navigation patterns, habitat and similar features of the site.

Utility General Permit

The Utility General Permit (WDNR-GP3-2023) is only for utility projects that meet all of the eligibility criteria and permit conditions. The Utility GP covers the placement of fill in wetlands, the placement of structures on the bed of waterways, the placement of temporary bridges across waterways, the removal of bed material from waterways, and driving on the bed of waterways.

Other General Permits

Additional General Permits are available for other project activities. See our All About General Permits page for more information.

Individual Permits

Individual permits may be required when projects cannot meet general permit requirements. Please visit our All About Individual Permits page to learn how to apply.

Permit application fees

All waterway and wetland permit applications require a fee under state law, except:

  • waterway projects funded in whole or in part by any federal or state agency; and
  • dam or wetland projects conducted by any federal or state agency.

The fee information at the link below pertains to paper application materials and fees sent manually to the DNR.

If you are submitting permit applications through our online system, please be aware that additional fees may apply.

Additional resources

Contact information

For information on energy and utility projects, contact:

Kyle McLaughlin
Section chief
Integration Services Section
Macaulay Haller
Wetland & waterway permits
Geri Radermacher
Wetland & waterway permits
Samantha Whitens
Erosion control & storm water management
Stacy Rowe
Endangered & threatened resources review