Shoreland Management & Regulations


The rapid increase of shoreland development in the 1960s raised concerns that unplanned growth was negatively affecting shoreland character, animal habitat, and clean water important to all Minnesotans. In the late 1960s, researchers, business leaders, local governments, builders and legislators worked together to pass the 1969 Shoreland Management Act. This act was one of the first state efforts in the nation to protect shorelands and, along with the Floodplain Management Act, the first time Minnesota guided local land use for resource protection.

The Shoreland Act resulted in statewide regulations that guide development of land along lakes and rivers through local zoning ordinances. The purposes was to minimize development impacts to water quality, habitat and lakeshore character. The regulations include standards for minimum lot size, structure and septic system setbacks from lakes and rivers, building height, and vegetation and land alteration. Prior to the Shoreland Act, land development around lakes and rivers was unregulated.

State and Local Governments = Partners in Shoreland Management

Under the Shoreland Management Act, the DNR establishes shoreland regulations. Counties and cities implement those regulations through local zoning. The day-to-day work of cities and counties guide shoreland property owners to make the best possible development decisions. It’s a difficult job but their efforts protect shoreline resources for the benefit of all Minnesotans. Many counties are going over and beyond the minimum shoreland regulations, and have adopted higher standards in their zoning ordinances.

Local Government Rules for Work in Shoreland Areas


Becker County Planning & Zoning FAQ
Becker County Planning & Zoning Ordinance
Becker County Planning & Zoning Forms


City of Detroit Lakes Ordinance


PRWD Permits


CLWD Permits

Natural Shores = Healthy Shores

There is a lot that shoreland property owners can do to create healthy shores.

Making of Minnesota’s 1969 Act and the Shoreland Program

Minnesotans came together in the 1960s to ensure that development protected natural lake and river shorelines that are central to our identify as Minnesotans and for future Minnesotans.


Minnesota’s Shoreland Management Program guides land development along Minnesota’s lakes and rivers to protect their ecological, recreational, and economic values. The state shoreland rules (MR 6120.2500 – 6120.3900  ) establish minimum standards to protect habitat and water quality and preserve property values. These standards are implemented through local shoreland ordinances.

Anyone who owns land along a lake or river should contact their local county, city, or township with questions about the standards and permit requirements that apply to their property.

The DNR’s role is to ensure that local shoreland ordinances comply with the state shoreland rules and to provide technical assistance and oversight to these local governments.

Local Government Administrative Resources

Model Shoreland Ordinance

Updated January 2017, the model serves as a tool for local governments to develop new or amend existing shoreland ordinances.

Shoreland Ordinance Review and Approval

The DNR must review and approve all local shoreland ordinances and amendments.

Variances in Shoreland, Floodplains and other DNR-protected Waterways

The DNR, League of Minnesota Cities and the Minnesota Association of County Planning and Zoning Administrators developed resources for local governments to promote variance decisions that protect environmental resources, property values, and keep communities out of legal trouble.

Bluff and Slope Protections

Resources are available for development standards on or near bluffs and mitigation strategies to help local governments identify bluffs meeting the shoreland definition in their communities.

Model Buffer Language and Guidance

The DNR and the Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) have developed model ordinance language and guidance for implementing the buffer law (MS 103F.48  ). Counties electing jurisdiction to enforce this law have a selection of implementation options and model language that is simple, consistent, and complies with state law on buffers, shorelands, and public ditches:

Mandatory Environmental Review in Shoreland

Mandatory environmental review is required for some projects in shoreland. The goal of environmental review is to obtain useful information about potential environmental effects of proposed projects and how they can be avoided or mitigated during zoning and building permit review and approvals. Because of the sensitive nature and ecological value of shoreland, the thresholds for development in shoreland are lower than in nonshoreland areas.

Instructions for developing Environmental Review Assessments is available through the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board .

Additional Resources

Fact Sheets