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Boathouse repair

Waterway protection

Boathouse repair

 

State law generally prohibits the construction of a new “wet” boathouse either on or over a lake, flowage, river, creek or streambed. A “wet” boathouse is a boathouse built entirely or partially below the Ordinary High Water Mark (OHWM).

A certification (which is like a permit) from the department IS required for construction, reconstruction, repair and maintenance of certain “wet” boathouses located below the OHWM. These activities must meet specific conditions and require certification to qualify for the statutory exception.

  • Boathouse built before December 1979 and the repair or maintenance does not affect size or location and does not result in conversion to living quarters.
  • Boathouse has historical or cultural value as determined by the state historical society or local or county historical society.
  • Single story boathouse over an authorized waterway enlargement.
  • Boathouse that was damaged by a violent wind, vandalism, or fire (damage must have occurred after January 1984).
  • Boathouse used exclusively for commercial purposes in a harbor or a river that is a tributary to the Great Lakes or on an outlying water and the work is limited to the expansion, repair or maintenance of an existing boathouse.

Do I Need a Permit?

This is a text version of our boathouse repair interactive question and answer module to help you understand if you need a permit to have a pier, dock or wharf on your property. If you see 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 boathouse 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 choose the description that best describes your project

If your answer is “I would like to construct a boathouse,” go to Question 2.

If your answer is “I would like to maintain or repair an existing boathouse,” go to Question 8.

Question 2 :

Will your boathouse be above or below the Ordinary High Water Mark?

You've answered Above.

If your answer is “Above,”:

If the answer is above, you will not need a permit from the DNR, but many counties and some cities and villages have zoning ordinances regulating the construction of boathouses. Please check with your local county, city or village to determine if there are any restrictions on construction of your boathouse.

If your answer is “Below” go to Question 3.

Please take a look at the Ordinary High Water Mark brochure [PDF] and then come back to this question.

Question 3 :

In the previous question, you indicated you would like to construct a boathouse below the Ordinary High Water Mark. Please choose the category that best describes your new boathouse.

  • Construct a boathouse over an authorized enlargement. Note: An enlargement is an area of open water that was constructed above the Ordinary High Water Mark but is connected to the navigable waterway.
  • Reconstruct a boathouse that was damaged by violent wind, vandalism or fire after January 1, 1984.
  • Construct a boathouse for commercial purposes.

If your answer is “Construct a boathouse over an authorized enlargement proceed” go to Question 4.

If your answer is “Reconstruct a boathouse that was damaged” go to Question 5.

If your answer is “Construct a boathouse for commercial purposes,” go to Question 6.

You've answered None of the above.

If your answer is “None of the above,”:

State statute s. 30.121(2) prohibits the construction of new boathouses below the Ordinary High Water Mark after December 16, 1979, unless you fall into one of the categories listed in question 3.

If you would still like to build a new boathouse and the new boathouse will not be over an authorized enlargement, will not involve the reconstruction of a boathouse that was damaged, or will not be boathouse used exclusively for commercial purposes, please consider building a boathouse above the Ordinary High Water Mark. Talk with your local county, city or village zoning departments to determine if they have local ordinances regulating the construction of boathouse.

Question 4 :

Can you document that the DNR authorized the enlargement? Note: An enlargement is an area of open water that was constructed above the Ordinary High Water Mark but is connected to the navigable waterway.

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes,”:

Based on your answer, you may be eligible for a boathouse certification to allow the construction of a new boathouse over an authorized enlargement. Please apply for a boathouse certification. *Please note: WAMS ID and password needed to apply. If you do not have a WAMS ID, you must register for one before proceeding.

Please also be aware there are additional certification standards:

  1. The boathouse must be a single story.
  2. The boathouse must cover the entire enlargement and cannot extend beyond the connected enlargement into the navigable public waterbody.
  3. The boathouse may not be constructed with living quarters or plumbing fixtures.

The department has developed a checklist [PDF] describing the information necessary to submit a complete application for a boathouse certification. Please review this checklist [PDF] before applying to ensure you have all of the necessary information.

As always, before starting any project, please make sure that there are no federal or local regulations for the construction of a boathouse in your location.

You've answered No.

If your answer is “No,”:

Your project is ineligible for an exception to the prohibition in State statute s. 30.121(2). The statute prohibits the construction of new boathouses below the Ordinary High Water Mark after December 16, 1979. If you would still like to build a new boathouse, the department recommends you consider building a boathouse above the Ordinary High Water Mark. Talk with your local county, city or village zoning departments to determine if they have local ordinances regulating the construction of a boathouse.

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 and zoom to the location of your project and click on the Waterway and Wetland Alterations layer to see if any permits have been issued in the past near the location of your proposed project. Then go back and answer this question. If you are unsure of how to use this application, please use our “How-to” tutorial.

Question 5 :

Can you document that the boathouse was damaged by violent wind, vandalism or fire after January 1, 1984, and provide photographs that depict the boathouse before and after damage?

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes,”:

Based on your answer, you may be eligible for a boathouse certification to allow the re-construction of a boathouse that was damaged. Please apply for a boathouse certification. *Please note: WAMS ID and password needed to apply. If you do not have a WAMS ID, you must register for one before proceeding.

Be aware that any new structures that were not present before the damage occurred and that are placed below the Ordinary High Water Mark, such as pilings used to support the boathouse, would require an individual permit from the department.

The department has developed a checklist [PDF] describing the information necessary to submit a complete application for a boathouse certification. Please review this checklist [PDF] before applying to ensure you have all of the necessary information.

As always, before starting any project, please make sure that there are no federal or local regulations for the construction of a boathouse in your location.

You've answered No.

If your answer is “No,”:

Your project is ineligible for an exception to the prohibition in State statute s. 30.121(2). The statute prohibits the re-construction of boathouses below the Ordinary High Water Mark after December 16, 1979, if it's not due to wind, fire or vandalism. If you would still like to reconstruct a boathouse, the department recommends you consider building a boathouse above the Ordinary High Water Mark. Talk with your local county, city or village zoning departments to determine if they have local ordinances regulating the construction of a boathouse.

Question 6 :

Will the boathouse be used exclusively for commercial purposes and be located on land that is either:

  • Zoned exclusively for commercial or industrial purposes.
  • A brownfield site, as defined in 238.13(1)(a), Wis. Stats. or blighted area, as defined in s. 66.1331(3)(a), Wis Stats.

If your answer is “Yes,” go to Question 7.

You've answered No.

If your answer is “No”:

Your project is ineligible for an exception to the prohibition in State statute s. 30.121(2). The statute prohibits the construction of new boathouses below the Ordinary High Water Mark after December 16, 1979. If you would still like to build a new boathouse, the department recommends you consider building a boathouse above the Ordinary High Water Mark. Talk with your local county, city or village zoning departments to determine if they have local ordinances regulating the construction of a boathouse.

Question 7 :

Will your boathouse be constructed in a harbor that is:

  • being operated as a commercial enterprise,
  • be located on a river that is a tributary to Lake Michigan or Lake Superior, or
  • involve the expansion, repair, or maintenance of an existing boathouse located on an outlying water?

(“Outlying Water” means Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, Green Bay, Sturgeon Bay, Sawyer's Harbor and the Fox River from its mouth up to the dam at De Pere.)

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes,”:

Based on your answer, you may be eligible for a boathouse certification to allow the construction of a commercial boathouse. Please apply for a boathouse certification. *Please note: WAMS ID and password needed to apply. If you do not have a WAMS ID, you must register for one before proceeding.

The department has developed a checklist [PDF] describing the information necessary to submit a complete application for a boathouse certification. Please review this checklist [PDF] before applying to ensure you have all of the necessary information.

As always, before starting any project, please make sure that there are no federal or local regulations for the construction of a boathouse in your location.

You've answered No.

If your answer is “No,”:

Your project is ineligible for an exception to the prohibition in State statute s. 30.121(2). The statute prohibits the construction of new boathouses below the Ordinary High Water Mark after December 16, 1979. If you would still like to build a new boathouse, the department recommends you consider building a boathouse above the Ordinary High Water Mark. Talk with your local county, city or village zoning departments to determine if they have local ordinances regulating the construction of a boathouse.

Question 8 :

Will your boathouse be above or below the Ordinary High Water Mark?

You've answered Above.

If your answer is “Above,”:

If the answer is above, you will not need a permit from the DNR, but many counties and some cities and villages have zoning ordinances regulating the maintenance of boathouses. Please check with your local county, city or village to determine if there are any restrictions on the maintenance of your boathouse.

If your answer is “Below” go to Question 9.

You've answered I don't know.

If your answer is “I don't know,”:

Please take a look at the Ordinary High Water Mark brochure [PDF] and then come back to this question.

Question 9 :

Has the state, local or county historical society determined that your boathouse has historical or cultural value under section 44.03, Wis. Statutes?

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes,”:

Based on your answer, you may be eligible for a boathouse certification to allow maintenance and repair of your boathouse. Please apply for a boathouse certification. *Please note: WAMS ID and password needed to apply. If you do not have a WAMS ID, you must register for one before proceeding.

Please note that any new structures below the Ordinary High Water Mark, such as pilings used to support the boathouse, would require an individual permit from the department.

The department has developed a checklist [PDF] describing the information necessary to submit a complete application for a boathouse certification. Please review this checklist [PDF] before applying to ensure you have all of the necessary information.

As always, before starting any project, please make sure that there are no federal or local regulations for the construction of a boathouse in your location.

If your answer is “No,” go to Question 15.

Question 10 :

Is the boathouse over an authorized enlargement? An authorized enlargement is an area of open water that was permitted by the department to be constructed above the Ordinary High Water Mark but is connected to the navigable waterway.

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes,”:

Based on your answer, you may be eligible for a boathouse certification to allow maintenance and repair of a boathouse over an authorized enlargement. Please apply for a boathouse certification. *Please note: WAMS ID and password needed to apply. If you do not have a WAMS ID, you must register for one before proceeding.

Please also be aware there are additional certification standards:

  1. The boathouse must be a single story.
  2. The boathouse must cover the entire enlargement and cannot extend beyond the connected enlargement into the navigable public waterbody.
  3. The boathouse may not be constructed with living quarters or plumbing fixtures.

The department has developed a checklist [PDF] describing the information necessary to submit a complete application for a boathouse certification. Please review this checklist [PDF] before applying to ensure you have all of the necessary information.

As always, before starting any project, please make sure that there are no federal or local regulations for the construction of a boathouse in your location.

If your answer is “No,” go to Question 11.

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 and zoom to the location of your project and click on the Waterway and Wetland Alterations layer to see if any permits have been issued in the past near the location of your proposed project. Then go back and answer this question. If you are unsure of how to use this application, please use our “How-to” tutorial.

Question 11 :

Can you document that the boathouse was damaged by violent wind, vandalism or fire after January 1, 1984, and provide photographs that depict the boathouse before and after damage?

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes,”:

Based on your answer, you may be eligible for a boathouse certification to allow the reconstruction of a damaged boathouse. Please apply for a boathouse certification. *Please note: WAMS ID and password needed to apply. If you do not have a WAMS ID, you must register for one before proceeding.

The department has developed a checklist [PDF] describing the information necessary to submit a complete application for a boathouse certification. Please review this checklist [PDF] before applying to ensure you have all of the necessary information.

As always, before starting any project, please make sure that there are no federal or local regulations for the construction of a boathouse in your location.

If your answer is “No,” go to Question 12.

Question 12 :

Is the boathouse used exclusively for commercial purposes and be located on land that is either:

  • Zoned exclusively for commercial or industrial purposes OR
  • A brownfield site, as defined in 238.13(1)(a), Wis. Stats. or blighted area, as defined in s. 66.1331(3)(a), Wis Stats.

If your answer is “Yes,” go to Question 13.

If your answer is “No,” go to Question 14.

Question 13 :

Is the boathouse in a harbor that is:

  • being operated as a commercial enterprise, or
  • located on a river that is a tributary to Lake Michigan or Lake Superior, or
  • involve the repair or maintenance of an existing boathouse located on an outlying water?

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes,”:

Based on your answer, you may be eligible for a boathouse certification to allow the maintenance and repair of a commercial boathouse. Please apply for a boathouse certification. *Please note: WAMS ID and password needed to apply. If you do not have a WAMS ID, you must register for one before proceeding.

The department has developed a checklist [PDF] describing the information necessary to submit a complete application for a boathouse certification. Please review this checklist [PDF] before applying to ensure you have all of the necessary information.

As always, before starting any project, please make sure that there are no federal or local regulations for the construction of a boathouse in your location.

If your answer is “No,” go to Question 14.

Question 14 :

Was the boathouse you want to maintain and repair constructed before 1979 and located on any navigable waterway?

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes,”:

Based on your answer, you may be eligible for a boathouse certification.

Please also be aware there are additional certification standards:

  • Repair and maintenance may not affect the size or location of the boathouse.
  • The boathouse may not be converted to living quarters.

Please apply for a boathouse certification. *Please note: WAMS ID and password needed to apply. If you do not have a WAMS ID, you must register for one before proceeding.

The department has developed a checklist [PDF] describing the information necessary to submit a complete application for a boathouse certification. Please review this checklist [PDF] before applying to ensure you have all of the necessary information.

As always, before starting any project, please make sure that there are no federal or local regulations for the construction of a boathouse in your location.

You've answered No.

If your answer is “No,”:

Based on the answers to your question, your boathouse was built after 1979 and you do not fall under any of the boathouse exceptions. The repair and maintenance of an existing boathouse on a navigable waterway that was built after December 16, 1979, may not exceed 50% of the assessed value or current fair market value of the boathouse. The 50% limitation on repairs is cumulative over the life of the structure. This means that when you apply, you must provide the department with:

  1. a statement of all needed maintenance or repair items; and
  2. an estimate of labor and material cost associated with the items (See cost estimate sample worksheet [PDF]).

Please apply for a boathouse certification. *Please note: WAMS ID and password needed to apply. If you do not have a WAMS ID, you must register for one before proceeding.

Please also be aware there are additional certification standards.

  • Repair and maintenance may not affect the size, location or configuration of the boathouse.
  • The boathouse may not be converted to living quarters.
  • Any new structures placed below the Ordinary High Water Mark, such as pilings used to support the boathouse, would require an individual permit from the department.

Question 15 :

Is your existing boathouse currently listed on the National Register of Historic Places in Wisconsin or the State Register of Historic Places?

If your answer is “No,” go to Question 10.

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes,”:

You may go ahead and do the work with no Department authorization. The requirement to obtain a boathouse repair certification does not apply to any structure listed on the National Register of Historic Places in Wisconsin or the State Register of Historic places. If your boathouse is currently on one of these lists, please provide documentation to your Water Management Specialist before starting construction.

You've answered I don't know.

If your answer is “I don't know,”:

Exemptions

  • There are no boathouse repair exemptions.

Construction of new “dry” boathouses built on upland may be constructed and repaired above the OHWM if they meet local zoning requirements. Local zoning permits are required for any construction, additions or repairs to a boathouse located above the OHWM. Contact your city village or county zoning office for more information.

Laws

Applicable statutes and codes include Section 30.121, Wis. Stats. [PDF exit DNR] and Chapter NR 325 [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].