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New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services

Frequently Asked Questions
  • Is a permit required to install or construct a new dock?
    Yes, RSA 482-A:3 requires anyone planning to install or construct a new dock (including any docking structure such as a boathouse) within or on the banks of surface waters of New Hampshire to first obtain a wetlands permit. This on-line tool helps determine which wetlands permit application form is the most appropriate.
  • Why do I need a permit to install a dock?
    Installing a dock disturbs lands that are subject to RSA 482-A. The law was originally enacted over 50 years ago to protect commerce, navigation, and recreation as well as habitats and reproduction areas for plants, fish, and wildlife. Applying for a permit allows NHDES to work with you to minimize any adverse impacts.
  • I have a dock and I only want to change it a little, do I need a permit?
    If you have an existing, legal dock, a wetlands permit is required prior to making any change to the size, location, or configuration of the docking structure(s). Changing construction materials, such as replacing wood decking with composite decking or replacing a wood seasonal dock with an aluminum seasonal dock, does not require a wetlands permit provided no changes occur to the size, location, and configuration ("footprint") of the dock.
  • Is a wetlands permit required to repair my dock?
    Existing, legal docks require a wetlands permit for any repairs that result in any changes to the footprint of the dock. Repairs that do not change the size, location, and configuration ("footprint") of the dock and do not occur within the water, do not require a wetlands permit. Allowable work that can be performed without a wetlands permit includes repairs to portions of permanent docks that are only exposed (in "the dry") during seasonal draw-down periods, provided you do not disturb the lake bed.
  • How long can my dock be?
    On shoreline frontage of at least 75 feet in length, a seasonal dock can be 6 feet by 40 feet long on a lake 1,000 acres or larger. The standard size for docks on smaller lakes is 6 feet wide by 30 feet long. On shoreline frontages less than 75 feet long, the standard size for a dock is 4 feet wide by 24 feet long.
  • Can I install a piling or crib dock?
    Permanent docks are permitted only on lakes greater than 1,000 acres in size and only in areas where wind or wave conditions prevent the use of a seasonal dock. Seasonal docks are less intrusive on lakes as they are removed during the winter months and do not require the use of aerators to protect them from ice damage. The use of aerators disrupts normal lakes cycles and creates dangerously thin ice, a hazard to snowmobilers and ice fisherman.
  • Can I dredge the area around my dock?
    Permits may be obtained from NHDES to relocate rocks that are navigational hazards. A rock is considered a navigational hazard to the owner if it is within a boatslip or approach to a dock, is within 3 feet of the waterís surface, and is within 50 feet of the shoreline. Dredging of sediments is permittable only in and around fixed structures such as boathouses or breakwaters which cannot be easily modified to attain necessary water depths for docking.
  • Do I need a permit for a boat lift or a jet ski lift?
    Yes, a wetlands permit is required to install all boat lifts and jet ski lifts, including all seasonal boat and jet ski lifts. One boat lift or jet ski lift is equivalent to a single boat slip.
  • Is a permit required for a canopy over a boat slip?
    Seasonal canopies may be permitted in areas where they do not obstruct views from adjacent properties. Canopies must be constructed of a removable frame and the fabric must be removed during the winter.
  • Does the permit transfer ownership of the land under or around my dock?
    No. If the dock will be on a lake or pond over 10 acres in size -- a "great pond" -- the lake bed is owned by the State and the permit grants permission for the dock to be installed over/on the Stateís land. For other freshwater lakes, ponds, and rivers, the State holds the waters in trust for the public and the permit grants permission for the dock to interfere with the publicís rights to the waters. Ownership of the bed of such a lake/pond/river is determined by several factors, the most important of which is what the deed to the property abutting the waters conveys.
  • How does NHDES determine if a permit can be issued?
    NHDES uses the criteria set out within the Wetlands Administrative Rules to balance rights the applicant may have to wharf out over a waterbody with the impact of the project on waters and other interests of the state. NHDES evaluates dock dimensions based on lake size, shoreline frontage, and impacts to neighboring properties and the environment.
  • Is it possible for my dock to be grandfathered?
    "Grandfathered status" is defined as a structure that was in place prior to any requirement to obtain a permit under RSA 482-A:3, I, or its predecessor statute, RSA 483-A:1, I, AND that has been continuously maintained with no change to its location, size, and configuration, AND that has not been abandoned. The permit requirement was established June 22, 1967 for docking structures adjacent to tidal waters, July 2, 1969 for freshwater permanent docking structures, and September 4, 1978 for freshwater seasonal docking structures.
  • What if my grandfathered docking structure is associated with filled land in public waters?
    Structures associated with or that constitute fill in public waters (converting public waters to land) may require a Grant of Right from Governor and Council pursuant to RSA 482-A:17.



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NH Department of Environmental Services | 29 Hazen Drive | PO Box 95 | Concord, NH 03302-0095
(603) 271-3503 | TDD Access: Relay NH 1-800-735-2964 | Hours: M-F, 8am-4pm

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