Do I need a permit?
Docks and Shoreline Structures:
Most all work in-the-water requires a permit. The NH Wetlands Bureau jurisdiction extends to the “top of the bank” so all work either in or adjacent to the water will require a Wetlands permit. Typically, this includes: boatlifts, PWC lifts, beaches, docks, rock removal, dredging, walls and/or rip-rap, seasonal canopies, and dock repairs which require work in the water (pile driving, crib repairs, etc.).
You can repair structures above the water without a permit so long as there is no change in "...size, location, or configuration..." such as replacing deck boards or repairing stringers.
When in doubt, we suggest seeking a permit!
Hand raking of debris from a beach area less than 900 sq. ft does not require a permit (see Env-Wt 303.05 for guidance).
Boat moorings, swim rafts, or swim lines do not need a Wetlands Permit although in many cases these will require a NH Dept. of Safety (or other) permit(s).
Shoreland Projects and New Construction:
Effective July 1, 2008, most all work within 250 ft of the water will require a Shoreland Permit (WQSPA) permit. This includes the land area within 250 ft of the reference line (full lake, highest tide line, etc.).
Simple, low impact projects now qualify for Permit by Notification (PBN). NH DES has a very simplified form the can be used for these minor projects and repairs. Small projects, of limited impact, are generally exempt from the standard permit process, but will require this notification.
The Shoreland Permit process will require analysis of the impervious surfaces, disturbed areas, and a possible tree inventory of the waterfront buffer (50 ft) both as existing and proposed after project completion. It is imperative that you plan ahead as each impact will affect your future use of the property.
How many docks can I have?
“Docks” and “boat slips” are two different issues under NH Wetlands Administrative Rules and Statute. Each individual residential property is “allowed” a number of “boat slips” under Rule Env-Wt 402.12 (known as “The 75 ft Rule”). For the first 75 ft of average frontage there are two allowed boat slips and each additional 75 ft of average frontage adds one more boat slip. For example, a lot with 75 ft average frontage is allowed two boat slips (which is one dock with a “slip” on each side). A lot with 150 ft average frontage is allowed three boat slips which is typically called a “U” shaped dock ( two finger piers separated by the allowed slip width in the middle of the “U”). Boat slips are waterbody dependent (see below).
Existing docks and grandfathered non-conforming structures may be added to, or modified, however, there can be no increase in surface area impacts and/or no additional boat slips created. Each of these types of projects must be analyzed individually to determine impacts and modification potential (see Env-Wt 402.21).
There are no “rights” to dockage on lots less than 75 ft although smaller than standard, 4 ft x 24 ft, docks can usually be permitted pending abutter setbacks and other issues. Lots with less than 75 ft frontage need to be dealt with on an individual basis.
How do I calculate "average frontage?”
Frontage, according to Wetlands Rules, is calculated as “average frontage.” This number is determined by averaging the actual shoreline frontage (following the full lake contour) and the pin-to-pin straight-line frontage of the property adjacent to the waterbody. For example; if you have 100 ft pin-to-pin and 123 ft along the full lake shoreline, your frontage is calculated as 111.5 ft average frontage (100 + 123 = 223 / 2 = 111.5). See Env-Wt 101.82.
Note that under the Shoreland Protection Act (RSA 483-B) frontage is calculated as the actual frontage measured along the "reference line" (actual shoreline).
How big a dock or docks can I build?
Docks, which are different than “boat slips” are allowed as standard sizes based upon the lake where the property is located and the type of dock construction (tidal waters have different standards). There is some confusion on these descriptions and the sizes are summarized below (please contact us regarding tidal waters standards):
Lakes Less Than 1,000 Acres
Seasonal Docks 6 ft x 30 ft
Permanent Docks (no longer allowed)
Lakes Over 1,000 Acres
Seasonal Docks 6 ft x 40 ft
Permanent Docks 6 ft x 30 ft
Lakes Less Than 10,000 Acres
“Boat slip” Definition 20 ft L x 6 ft W x 3 ft Deep
Allowed Slip Width = 10 feet
Lakes Over 10,000 Acres
“Boat slip” Definition 25 ft L x 8 ft W x 3 ft Deep
Allowed Slip Width = 12 feet
We believe an error was made when RSA 482-A:2,VIII was changed to reflect the above “boat slip” definitions and this is why the lake sizes for slips are referenced in relation to 10,000 acres and dock sizes are referenced in relation to lakes of 1,000 acres. This might have been a typo, or it could have been on purpose, but it creates a lot of confusion…See Env-Wt 402.02.
What is “grandfathered” as it relates to docks and shoreline structures?
Your existing structures are considered “grandfathered” if constructed prior to certain dates. Refer to the chart below for guidance, however, all circumstances are unique, so further investigation is usually necessary. Old photographs and plans are usually a necessity in proving “grandfathered status.”
Types of Structures - Grandfathered if before:
Permanent Structures – Tidal - June 22, 1967*
Permanent Structures – Fresh Water - July 2, 1969*
Seasonal Structures – All Waters - Sept. 4, 1978*
Shoreland Structures (50 ft of ref. line) - Nov. 26, 1996** this should only be used as a guide… much more info may be necessary…
What type of permit do I need to file?
There is no easy or quick answer to this question. Please refer to the NH DES Wetlands Bureau website for guidance. All the permit packages listed below are delivered to your local Town or City Clerk with 4 copies. The Town or City Clerk will file the permit paperwork with DES via certified mail according to the permit process requested.
If you are repairing an existing permitted or grandfathered structure, you can most likely file a Permit by Notification Permit (PBN). The PBN is a quicker process that does not require the review necessary for minimum, minor, or major projects. After either 10 or 21 days, if “complete” and “accepted,“ your file number and name will show on the NH DES Wetlands Website as “accepted.” No permit is issued.
If you are proposing minimum impacts, you can file the Minimum Impact Permit Application (Minimum). The Minimum application is reviewed in 30 days but must be signed-off by the local Conservation Commission before being sent to the Wetlands Bureau.
All other projects which will be reviewed under minor or major project status must file the Standard Dredge and Fill Application (Standard). Even though this says “Dredge and Fill” it is the proper document to file for docks and other structures. Standard Dredge and Fill applications are reviewed for completeness within 14 days and are reviewed for permitting within 75 days (or 105 days if more than 1 acre of impact).
Do I need to file my own permit application?
No. You can have Watermark act as your agent for the purposes of seeking a Wetlands or Shoreland permit.
Also, there are many other excellent consultants who can complete the process for you. For example, we typically act as agent for 80 – 90 percent of our projects. Some types of projects and permit applications require formal surveys, engineering, and perhaps even legal guidance. We are glad to coordinate, assist, or simply consult, on these types of projects as necessary. Once the project is delineated, we can assist in defining a course of action that will best suit your particular needs.
What is the NH Natural Heritage Bureau?
The NH NHB process is a requirement of permit applications to see if there are any endangered and/or exemplary species of both plant and/or wildlife that will be affected by your project. If Watermark acts as your agent, this is part of our services. If you are completing the process yourself, you should contact NHNHB and/or complete the on-line request for information (NHNHB On-line).
The NHNHB process must be completed prior to submitting the permit package and information contained in a “no hit” report, or further details, must be included in the permit paperwork. If the NHNHB has no information (“no hit”), then there is no fee. If further information is required, a fee of $25.00 is required.
Unfortunately, NH DRED no longer accepts credit cards, so this payment must be sent via “snail-mail” and this can make a “quick” permit process a bit longer. Plan ahead! See the NHNHB website for more details…
Can I build a permanent dock?
The short answer is, maybe.
Your site will have to be on a lake over 1,000 acres. Your site must be exposed to fetch over 1 mile generally northerly and/or 2 miles generally southerly (wind over open water) pursuant to Env-Wt 402.05. You can also prove the exposure of the site to 1 ft wave action by documenting the wave activity.
We suggest lots of dated photographs showing the waves with some sort of scale such as rocks, docks, or boats so there is no doubt as to the size of the waves. Do not just take a picture of a wave and try to describe it as 1 ft tall. This documentation must meet the criteria of Env-Wt 402.06.
I have shallow water – Can I build a longer than standard dock?
Yes. However, you will have to prove you “need” a longer dock by documenting water depth contours.
This is accomplished by measuring the water depth until you reach 3 ft of water adjusted to full lake level. From this point, you can go “out” either 20 ft or 25 ft depending on the “boat slip” definition of the waterbody.
For example; if you obtain the 3 ft depth contour (adjusted to full lake level) 20 ft from shore on Lake Winnipesaukee, you can seek a permit for a 45 ft long dock (20 ft + 25 ft boat slip = 45 ft). For clarity, unless you are surveying contours, the Bureau prefers that you document water depths at 5 ft intervals alongside the dock and adjust to full lake level. See Env-Wt 402.02.
Can I build a beach?
Yes, but there are limits. While there is no rule or definition of “perched beach”, the Bureau will only permit a “perched beach” which is a sandy area separated from the water by a low wall. This typically includes a set of granite steps into the water, however, the steps must be set “in the bank” and cannot extend into the waterbody. The existing natural shoreline must remain intact.
Beaches are limited in maximum size under the Shoreland Protection Act (WQSPA) to 900 sq. ft and may only be constructed on slopes less than 25% grade. Under Wetlands Rules, beaches are limited to 900 sq. ft and/or 50 ft wide or 20% of the frontage. Beach replenishment is limited to once every 6 years. See Env-Wt 304.08.
Most beach construction will be limited to a maximum of 10 cubic yards of sand.