Aquatic plant removal may require a permit

(Released May 8, 2014)

Shoreline property owners may need a permit from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to remove aquatic plants, which serve important functions in lakes and rivers.

By taking due care, property owners can avoid harming a nearby lake or river, and DNR staff can help answer questions about what’s allowed, said Steve Enger, supervisor of the DNR’s aquatic plant management program.

“Aquatic plants prevent shoreline erosion, stabilize bottom sediments, provide habitat for fish and wildlife, and tie up nutrients that might otherwise grow algae,” Enger said. “We encourage shoreline property owners to disturb as little near-shore vegetation as possible. Removing too many aquatic plants can impair their ability to provide these important functions.”

Property owners sometimes do not need permits for smaller-scale removal of plants for recreational reasons such as swimming or boat docking. However, permits are generally required for more intensive plant removal. And some removal methods are not allowed.

AQUATIC PLANT REMOVAL WITHOUT PERMIT

Shoreline property owners can, without a DNR permit, mechanically control a modest area of aquatic plants. However, regulations vary slightly on submerged vegetation compared to floating leaf vegetation.

Managing submerged vegetation like pondweeds, watermilfoil or coontail by cutting, pulling, raking, or harvesting the vegetation is allowed under the following conditions:

  • The cleared area may not exceed 2,500 square feet.
  • The cleared area may not extend more than 50 feet along the shore, or more than one half the frontage width, whichever is less.
  • If the cleared area does not reach open water, a 15-foot wide channel to open water may be added.
  • The cut or pulled vegetation must be removed from the water.

Managing floating leaf vegetation like white or yellow water-lilies by cutting or pulling is allowed for property owners looking to clear a 15-foot-wide channel extending to open water, under the following conditions:

  • The cleared channel must remain in the same place from year to year.
  • The vegetation that is cut or pulled must be removed from the water.

AQUATIC PLANT REMOVAL PERMIT REQUIRED

A DNR aquatic plant management permit is required, for a $35 fee, if plans include the following:

  • Using herbicides or algicides.
  • Removing emergent vegetation, like bulrush, cattails or wild rice. Emergent plants are rooted in the lake or river bottom, but their leaves and stems extend out of the water.
  • Installing or operating an automated plant control device, such as the Crary WeedRoller, BeachGroomer or Lake Sweeper.
  • Removing floating leaf vegetation, in an area larger than a 15 foot wide channel (see above).
  • Controlling submerged vegetation in an area wider than one-half the width of your frontage or 50 feet, whichever is less (see above).
  • Removing or relocating a bog of any size.

NOT ALLOWED 
These activities are not allowed by DNR aquatic plant management regulations:

  • Excavating the lake bottom for aquatic plant control.
  • Use of hydraulic jets.
  • Using lake-bottom barriers to destroy or prevent the growth of aquatic plants.
  • Removing aquatic vegetation within posted fish-spawning areas.
  • Removing aquatic plants from undeveloped shoreline.

For more information, see the DNR website, or call 651-296-6157 or 888-646-6367.