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Dam repair or reconstruction


Dam reconstruction

Many dams in Wisconsin were built in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Over time, water pressure and weathering will slowly break down a dam. Dams need constant maintenance and repairs. If dams are allowed to naturally degrade, they have a greater risk for problems such as sudden breaks during flood conditions. The possibility for loss of life and property makes dam upkeep an important issue. Dams left to deteriorate in place can also pose a threat to the life and health of the public using waterways for swimming and boating.

Plan approvals are required for repair or reconstruction of large and small dams on both navigable and non-navigable watercourses (streams, creeks or rivers). A fee is required.

Exemptions and permits

  • There are no exemptions for dam repair or reconstruction.
  • Water Permits - Select "Dams" in the bottom part of the page.


Most repairs, alterations, additions or modifications to a dam will require review and formal approval prior to starting work. Contact your Wisconsin DNR regional water management engineer to determine whether formal approval is required for your maintenance activity or minor repair. You do not need to call regarding routine maintenance activities identified in your inspection, operation and maintenance plan, such as filling burrow holes, mowing, stoplog replacement without drawdown and replacing chains or cables in kind.


Notice: Federal law requires landowners of construction sites with one acre or more of land disturbance to address erosion control and storm water management. If your project involves the disturbance of an acre or more, please visit Water permits to apply for a storm water permit.


Applicable statutes and codes include Section 31, Wis. Stats. [exit DNR] and Chapter NR 333, Wis. Adm. Code [exit DNR].

Local Permits and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regulations may also apply. We advise you to contact your local zoning office [exit DNR] and your regional U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Office [exit DNR].

Contact information
DNR Dam Safety
DNR Dam Safety Program, WT/3
101 S Webster St
PO Box 7921
Madison WI 53707–7921