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Shoreland FAQ

What is considered shoreland?

Shoreland includes land located within the following distances from public waters:

  • 1,000 feet from the ordinary high water mark of a lake, pond or flowage; and
  • 500 feet from a river or stream, or the landward extent of a floodplain designated by ordinance on such a river or stream, whichever is greater.

What is the shore impact zone?

The shore impact zone is land located between the ordinary high water level of a public water and a line parallel to it at a setback of 50 percent of the structure setback.

Do I need a permit to do projects near the lake?
  • A Shoreline Alteration Permit is required for any type of landscaping, construction, dirt work or excavation within the shore and/or bluff impact zones including vegetation removal, access paths, stairways, platforms, retaining walls, removal of spoil material from harbors, or ice ridge alterations.
  • Shoreland Alteration or Conditional Use Permits are also required for the movement of soil, depending on quantities.
Do I need a permit to install rip-rap or retaining walls?
  • Pope County requires a permit for rip rap above the OHWL.
  • Retaining walls are discouraged, particularly on relatively undeveloped lakes.
  • Planting vegetation for erosion control is preferred; rip rap (coarse stones, boulders, or rock placed against the bank or shore) may be allowed without requiring a DNR permit if specific conditions are followed in installation.
  • A DNR public waters work permit is required to build a retaining wall along your shoreline if the structure is proposed below the OHWL.

How much vegetation can I remove so I can see the lake?
  • It is a good idea to arrange a site visit with a Land and Resource Management Land Use Specialist before beginning any shoreline work. You can do this by calling (320) 634-7791.
  • Removal of vegetation below the ordinary high water level (OHWL) is regulated by the MN Department of Natural Resources.
  • Above the OHWL intensive vegetation removal is not allowed.
  • Limited clearing (25% or up to 25 feet of the shoreline frontage) is allowed with a Shoreline Alteration Permit issued by Pope County Land and Resource Management.
My lot has an ice ridge in front. Can I flatten it out?
  • If the ice ridge was pushed up the previous winter, an individual permit is not required from the MN DNR for work done below the OHWL provided that certain conditions are met (see site for details).
  • For work being conducted above the OHWL a Pope County Land & Resource Management shoreline alteration permit is required.
  • See MN DNR: Ice Damage to Shoreline Property page for further information.
What is a bluff and how does it affect building on my lot?
  • A bluff is a very steep hill facing the lake that is 25 feet or greater in height above the lake and has a 30% or greater slope.
  • Because these areas are fragile and highly erodible, they are afforded greater protection under the shoreland standards.
  • No vegetative clearing is allowed in a bluff area except pruning to afford a view.
  • There is also a building setback of 30 feet from the top of the bluff.