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The permit process

Waterway protection

Placement of structures, dredging and activities that impact navigable waters often require permits from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Wisconsin implements a three-tier system of authorization based on the expected level of environmental impact: exemptions, general permits and individual permits.

Please visit Water permit applications if you would like to start an application. Select the "Waterway and Wetland” tab, and choose your general or individual permit activity.

All waterway permit applications require a fee under state law. See "Waterway Permit Fees" in our fee sheet [PDF].

Exemptions

Chapter 30, Wis. Stats. provides permit exemptions for a small group of activities in navigable waters. By law, most exemptions are not allowed in areas of special natural resource interest (ASNRI). These areas include state natural areas, trout streams, outstanding or exceptional resource waters and other waters designated by the DNR as having significant scientific value.

  1. Determine the location of your project. To determine if your project site is an ASNRI or public rights feature (PRF), visit the designated waters mapping site, enter the information about your waterway and record any designations that it may have. See the designated waters search tutorial to learn how to use this tool.
  2. Determine your project needs and design. You may wish to consult professionals and contractors for ideas.
  3. Review the exemption checklist for your project type below to determine if your project qualifies for an exemption.
  4. If you determine that your project is exempt from permit requirements, you can implement the project. Please be aware that for some activities DNR stormwater permits or other federal or local authorizations may be required.

Waterways Exempt Project Checklists:

General Permits

A variety of waterways projects have a general permit option available if your project meets specific size, design and technical requirements. The general permit process generally takes 30 days after the application has been submitted.

General Permit Process

  1. Review General Permit Checklist to determine if your project meets all the requirements.
  2. Use the DNR ePermitting System to begin and complete a General Permit application.
  3. The DNR has 30 days to review the application for completeness and notify the applicant. The DNR can request additional information one time within these 30 days, which would pause the 30-day period until all information requested is received.
  4. After the 30-days total review time, the DNR will communicate a permit decision to you.

General Permit Process Timeline [PDF]

 

Individual Permits

For a waterways project that does not offer an exemption or general permit option, or that does not meet the requirements of those options, you may submit an individual permit application to the DNR. The individual permit process takes longer and involves a public comment period and potentially a public hearing. The review process typically takes 105-135 days to complete.

Individual Permit Process

  1. Use the DNR ePermitting System to begin and complete an Individual Permit application.
  2. The DNR has 30 days to review the application for completeness and notify the applicant. The DNR can request additional information one time within these 30 days, which would pause the 30-day period until all information requested is received.
  3. The DNR has 45 days to provide a public comment period.
  4. If requested by the public or by the DNR, the DNR has 30 days to provide a public hearing.
  5. The DNR has 30 days from the end of the public comment period to communicate a decision to you about the permit application.