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The Department of Natural Resources is responsible for the regulation of the majority of dams in the state of Wisconsin. The authority of the state to regulate dams is based in the Public Trust Doctrine which emanates from Article IX, Section 1 of the Wisconsin Constitution. It states that all rivers, lakes and navigable waterways are under the jurisdiction of the state of Wisconsin. Any structure which is built on a waterway impacts the public rights to that waterway and needs to be monitored by the state of Wisconsin to assure safety, water quality and public access, and monitor its impact on Wisconsin wildlife. Wisconsin Constitution [exit DNR]

Chapter 31

Chapter 31, Wis. Stats., created in 1917 under the Water Power Law, was developed to ensure that dams are safely built, operated and maintained. Chapter 31, Wis. Stats. [exit DNR] covers:

  • dam permitting;
  • dam construction;
  • dam safety, operation and maintenance;
  • alteration or repair of dams;
  • dam transfer and dam removal;
  • water level and flow control; and
  • required dam inspections.

NR 330

Chapter NR 330, Wis. Adm. Code [exit DNR] provides signing and portage requirements for dams in the state.

NR 333

Chapter NR 333, Wis. Adm. Code [exit DNR] provides design and construction standards for large dams.

NR 335

Chapter NR 335, Wis. Adm. Code [exit DNR] covers the administration of the Municipal Dam Grant Program.

NR 336

Chapter NR 336, Wis. Adm. Code [exit DNR] covers the administration of the Dam Removal Grant Program.

Required permits or approvals

Permits or approvals are required or may be required for various activities associated with dams including:

  • building a new dam;
  • repairing or reconstructing an existing dam;
  • raising and enlarging an existing dam;
  • transferring ownership of a dam;
  • removing a dam; and
  • altering the water level being held by a dam.

Information about the dam permitting and approval process are available at dam permits.

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