Docking Structures and Shoreline Stabilization

Permitting and best practices for shoreline stabilization projects and docking structures.

New Hampshire’s natural resources provide the foundation for many activities that drive New Hampshire’s economy. Residents, businesses, and visitors enjoy New Hampshire’s lakes, streams, wetlands, and the seacoast because of their natural beauty and recreational opportunities.

Unregulated removal of shoreland vegetation and fill, excavation, and construction in our shorelands can deteriorate water quality and affect the beauty of our landscapes.

Shoreline stabilization projects and docking structures are regulated under RSA 482-A and associated rules because they involve dredge, fill, or the placement of structures in tidal and fresh waters and associated banks.

Specific examples of regulated shoreline stabilization and docking structure projects include:

  • Installing docks, boathouses, jet ski lifts and breakwaters.
  • Filling and excavating shorelines for stabilization using vegetation and hardscape measures.
  • Installing dock canopies.
  • Some docking structure repairs.
  • Removal of materials from the waterbody.

These activities require a permit from the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services Wetlands Bureau. There are various types of wetlands permits based on the proposed impacts for stabilization and/or dock size and location. In some instances, a separate shoreland permit may also be required.

The Wetlands Frequently Asked Questions provides answers to the most common questions related to shoreline stabilization, docks, boat lifts, jet ski lifts and canopies. If you have additional questions, please contact the Wetlands Bureau at (603) 271-2147. 

Wetlands Permitting: Avoidance and Minimization

Projects within the banks and beds of waterbodies in New Hampshire must avoid and minimize impacts to aquatic resources, surface waters, and associated banks. This fact sheet explains the role that avoidance and minimization plays in wetlands permitting.

Learn more about avoidance and minimization in wetlands permitting.

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Did you know?

Did you know?

Pending changes to rules regulating overwater structures and shoreline stabilization can be found on the Administrative Rules webpage. Proposed administrative rules changes  

Photograph of a dock and water.

Permitting for Private, Non-Commercial Freshwater Docking Structures 

All new docking structures, including seasonal and permanent docking structures, as well as all boat and jet-ski lifts, require wetlands permits. Repair and modification of docking structures can also require wetlands permits.  

Learn more about getting permits for docking structures  

Photograph of a bank stabilization project taken post-construction. Logs at the bottom of the slope, as well as live fascines are visible, created a shady area above the water. A well-developed shrub layer is visible. 

Shoreline Stabilization Projects in Non-Tidal Areas

Projects involving shoreline stabilization, including vegetative stabilization, bioengineering, rip-rap, and retaining walls, must meet specific requirements. For example, a retaining wall cannot be built for shoreline stabilization if stabilization can be achieved through the planting of vegetation.  

Learn more about state requirements 

Illustration (as viewed from above) of a pile-supported fixed pier perpendicular to the shore, that connects to a ramp, that connects to a float. These structures are located in the ocean. 

Docking structures in tidal waters have unique requirements that inform their design. You must build them to accommodate the rise and fall of the tide. They also must be able to withstand wave energy and winter ice flow. The fact sheet in the link below gives an overview of some permits required for residential tidal docks.  

Learn more about getting permits for tidal docks  

Need to repair a dock?

Voluntary dock registration provides a streamlined permit option to repair or replace existing non-tidal permanent docking structures. It also offers an easier way to prove compliance with state statutes when buying or selling a property that includes a seasonal docking structure.

Coastal Projects

Projects that might impact tidal wetlands or work within the 100-foot upland tidal buffer zone must consider resiliency in the face of future flood risks and sea level rise projections.

Protected Shoreland

As communities grow and landscape changes, the quality of our public waters depends on managing vegetation and development within the “protected shoreland.”

Shoreland Supervisor