DNR Dredging Proposal Comment Submitted

Below is PCALR’s comment submitted to the Wisconsin DNR regarding the proposed statewide waterway general permit (GP) for dredging of lakes and streams in Wisconsin. Once in place, individual riparian property owners can apply to dredge up to 25 cubic yards from inland lakes and streams, or up to 100 cubic yards from Lake Superior or Lake Michigan, over a five-year period.

To all concerned:

Polk County Association of Lakes and Rivers (PCALR) is unalterably opposed to the statewide waterway General Permit for small scale dredging of lakes and streams by riparian owners in Wisconsin.

At first glance, it appears that all the proper restrictions and requirements are in place to protect our lakes and streams from the harmful effects of dredging, while allowing property owners to improve “recreation and navigation” by dredging to a water depth up to 5 feet in front of their property, removing up to 25 cubic yards (100 for the Great Lakes) in total over a 5-year period. 


  • With the permit, dredging can be done repeatedly, in multiple locations along the riparian property over a 5 year period and without DNR oversight, other than notification to DNR and posting of the permit, allowing repeated assaults on the lakebed;
  • Fish habitat appears to be protected with restrictions during a narrow window for spawning times, but because dredging affects the entire aquatic food web, and especially since aquatic plants are allowed to be removed with this permit without event oversight, destruction of fish habitat is inevitable; 
  • The threat of introducing invasive species looms large. DNR decontamination BMPs are recommended but there are no requirements for such in the permit and this oversight, along with selection of a contractor or equipment, is left up to the property owner who is likely without expertise in the matters AIS prevention and regulation;
  • Other concerns include wildlife habitat destruction, suspension of nutrients held in sediments, lack of equipment and contractor licensing requirements, spills of fuel and hydraulic fluids into the water, and potential conflicts between neighbors;
  • DNR holds no liability for damages to the waterbody as a result of the actions allowed with this general permit leaving our lake organizations to correct the potentially catastrophic acts of individual property owners, e.g. introduction of an invasive species, algae blooms, loss of habitat;
  • Above all, this general permit puts alterations to the lake, stream or riverbed in the hands of property owners serving their own interests while affecting water quality for everyone. Wisconsin’s Public Trust Doctrine states the waters of Wisconsin and the substrate beneath them belong to all people. Individual riparian property owner rights stop at the ordinary high water mark.


PCALR lake organization members have had experience with the current Individual Permit for dredging and have found the process accessible, responsible and effective in protection of our lakes. We find the proposed General Permit contrary to our mission to promote and preserve the natural, recreational, aesthetic and ecological qualities of our lakes, rivers and streams.

Respectfully submitted,

Karen Engelbretson
Polk County Association of Lakes and Rivers (PCALR)