Friday, May 9, 2008

Season Opener

Goodbye to boatslips?
We have finally arrived at that time of year in Minnesota when Winter loosens its grip and we return to our enjoyment of Minnesota’s lakes in their liquid form. This year, many of us have a choice to make when installing dock structures in the admittedly public waters:
(a) Do we limit the configuration of dock platforms to fall within the 170 s.f. (including last dock extension) maximum allowed under the D.N.R.’s General Permit 2008-0401 and avoid the necessity of applying for a special permit from the D.N.R.?
(b) Do we apply for a special permit from the D.N.R. seeking permission to re-install our dock platform that exceeds the 170 s.f. limit allowed under the D.N.R’s General Permit?
(c) Do we attempt to fly below the radar and install a dock platform that exceeds the 170 s.f. without applying for a special permit and hope that the D.N.R. will not seek to enforce existing regulations making the platform illegal absent a special permit?

Since the last blog posting, a number of P.O.P.U.L.A.R. members have expressed problems when going through the permit application process. No one has contacted us to indicated that their application for a special permit has been approved. On the other hand, the difficulties described by members whose permit applications were denied, or not processed, seem to have involved extraneous issues that most lakeshore owners will not face.

Official Position
Assistant D.N.R. Commissioner Larry Kramka still insists that lakeshore owners wishing to install dock platforms in excess of 170 s.f. should apply for a special permit and that owners of “legacy docks”, i.e., structures utilized since before the 2004 season when the existing regulations first went into effect, should highlight that status in the application in order to receive most favorable consideration. Commissioner Kramka underscores the importance of fulfilling all the requirements of the special permit application and suggests contacting the local hydrologist to review the application for completeness and likelihood of approval before officially submitting it with the non-refundable $150 fee. Finally, Commissioner Kramka clarified that a special permit need only be applied for once (if approved) and that the $150 is not an annual expenditure. You can obtain the list of local hydrologists by clicking here.

Real World Considerations
It would be extremely helpful if P.O.P.U.L.A.R. members would keep us posted on the status of their experience with applying for a special permit. Generally, only Part I of the special permit application needs to be completed, the balance deals with more extensive impacts on the aquatic environment. No approval from the Army Corps of Engineers is required, despite confusing language in the special permit to the contrary. Maps of the location required under Section 3 of the permit application can be generated online from or Be sure to include a drawing of the project with dimensions as required in Section 5 of the permit application.

When considering whether or not to apply for a special permit legally required given the size of your dock platform, assume that the larger your platform, the more likely that you will be cited by the D.N.R. for violating existing regulations if no permit is obtained. We have no indication that the D.N.R. will be applying a full court press to assure 100% compliance with its regulations. We have no indication that counties will agree to prosecute citations for violations of D.N.R. regulations governing dock platform sizes. However, we have no reliable indication that the D.N.R. will continue to look the other way with respect to violations of existing regulations or that county attorneys will refuse to prosecute and cannot, as a matter of P.O.P.U.L.A.R. policy, advise against complying with the regulations.

This brings up another consideration and a renewed call for support. Expect that the D.N.R. will prioritize enforcement based on complaints received. If you have neighbors inclined to report problems they perceive with your use of your lakeshore property, expect the D.N.R. to respond. Also, expect that the lobby behind Senator Mary Olson’s legislation to repeal General Permit 2008-0401 upon the issuance of new regulations that will, in their view, at worst require everyone to limit their dock size to no more than 8 feet in any one direction, to be clamoring for the D.N.R. to enforce existing regulations, including the limits imposed by the General Permit.

Although we were able to buy some time before the commencement of new rulemaking on “private structures in public waters”, the D.N.R. has made it clear that the process will start next year. If we wait until next year to prepare, we will find ourselves playing catch-up as was the case this year responding to the work of the D.N.R.’s Dock Advisory Committee that resulted in the issuance of the General Permit with its “aquatic impact area”.

If you are satisfied being told by the D.N.R. that you can utilize no more than 50% or 50 feet of your lakeshore, whichever is less, do nothing. If you are willing to have the D.N.R. dictate how much lineal footage of dock you can install, do nothing. If you are willing to limit or even eliminate your use of boatlifts on your property, do nothing. If you don’t need a boat canopy, or, at least, more than one boat canopy, do nothing. If you don’t mind the inability to moor more than one boat at your lakeshore property, do nothing. If you think it’s okay for lakeshore communities to impose property taxes at a premium on lakeshore that you will be prohibited from impacting, do nothing.

The choice is clear. We can do nothing and watch as each of the consequences described above are incorporated into new rules designed to limit property owners’ use and enjoyment of their lakeshore to a “minimal impact” standard found in existing regulations but clarified for purposes of future enforcement. Or, for those of us who find such post facto government intrusion into property rights unacceptable, we can ready ourselves for forthcoming hearings before the D.N.R., the legislature and, if necessary, the courts.

The Ask
The publicity, the research, the legal representation, the organization, the education, and the persuasion to “ready ourselves” all costs money. Those of you who decide to “do nothing” need read no further. Those of you who believe that by acting together, the thousands of impacted lakeshore property owners can protect their investments and lake use heritage, while continuing to be good stewards of the public waters need to step up and make a financial commitment to allow the work of P.O.P.U.L.A.R. to go forward.

P.O.P.U.L.A.R. is in the process of applying for 501(c)(4) non-profit status. Contributions are not tax deductible. However, we can use our official position to influence the implementation of regulations. We are establishing a board to oversee the direction of our efforts and assure the efficient expenditure of donations. Informational meetings will be held soon in the Twin Cities and in the Brainerd Lakes area. We will continue to pressure the D.N.R., the legislature and the Pawlenty administration to protect our interests.

Or, we can do nothing.

Please send your checks made payable to P.O.P.U.L.A.R. to:
c/o Samuel L. Stern
247 Third Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55415

Thank you for your support. Please pass on the link to this blog to interested parties.

"Minimal Impact" as envisioned by opponents of P.O.P.U.L.A.R.

1 comment:

Tom L said...


Please read the following job decription & announcement posted at the LMCD website. The links are copied below. The LMCD is obviously planning stricter code enforcement this season which will surely include dock platforms.
Quotes from the LMCD site:

"This position will assist full time LMCD staff on the 2008 LMCD Code Enforcement and Shoreline Inventory Projects."

"Ability to operate a hand-held Global Positioning System and digital camera."

The beaurocrats at the LMCD would rather spend are hard earned tax dollars enforcing dock restrictions then hiring more water patrol to ticket speeders, wreckless jet skiers, DUI's, etc, or spend money fighting Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS), etc. That would make too much sense.