A Guide for Buying and Managing Shoreland

Section 14: Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers Shoreland Standards

Also see the Wild and Scenic Rivers Program.

What rivers and adjacent lands are preserved and protected under the Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers Program?

Since 1973, several rivers in Minnesota have been designated as Wild and Scenic. Check the list and map of wild and scenic rivers in Minnesota.

The protected Wild, Scenic, and Recreational Land Use District cannot include more than 320 acres of land per river mile on both sides of the river. This generally follows the road or property line nearest to an imaginary "line of sight", the approximate distance that a person can see back from the river. Check with your local zoning official on whether your property is included within this land use district.

Portions of a designated river may be managed under three different classifications. The Wild River classification is applied to those portions that exist in a free-flowing state (i.e. without significant artificial modification) with excellent water quality and adjacent lands which are essentially primitive. Scenic Rivers are those rivers that exist in a free flowing state with adjacent lands which are largely undeveloped. Recreational Rivers are those rivers that may have undergone some impoundment or diversion and that have considerable developed adjacent lands, but are still capable of being protected and preserved.

What zoning controls affect my property?

The local unit of government adopts zoning controls which specify allowable land uses (i.e. residences, campgrounds, temporary docks, etc.), regulate subdivisions, and require special permits for alterations of the natural landscape, such as grading, filling, and vegetation removal. The local county zoning ordinance will also include dimensional standards at least as restrictive as those in Tables 4 and 5. Most municipalities on rivers other than the St. Croix will have less restrictive standards. If you cannot meet the dimensional standards for your property, you must apply for a variance from the local zoning authority. Variances are granted only under certain conditions and must be approved by both the local unit of government and the DNR.

Always remember to check with the local zoning authority to see what specific ordinance provisions apply to your property.

Can improvements be made to an existing home?

Existing structures that do not meet wild and scenic zoning standards are allowed to remain as they are. However, no additions or alterations to an existing house can be made that would increase its substandard dimensions, unless a variance is approved. Ordinances for the lower St. Croix River have additional conditions for alterations. Replacement of substandard structures are controlled by local ordinances.

What other management programs affect river property?

There are special management programs for the Mississippi River Headwaters Area, the Mississippi River Critical Area in the metropolitan area, portions of the central Minnesota River, and portions of the Big Fork River. Information on the programs is available from local zoning officials.

Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers Minimum Standards

 

Wild

Scenic

Recreational

Lot Size

6

4

2

Lot Width at Water Line and Building Line (feet)

300

250

200

Structure Setback From: (feet)

   - Ordinary High Water Level (OHWL)

200

150

100

   - Designated Tributary

100

100

100

   - Bluffline

40

30

20

Sewage Treatment Setback From: (feet)

   - OHWL

150

100

75

   - Designated Tributary

75

75

75

Lower St.Croix National Scenic Riverway minimum standards

 

Districts

 

Rural

Urban

 

 

Unsewered

Sewered

Lot Size (acres)

2 1/2

1

20,000 sq. ft.

Lot Width at Water Line and Building Line (feet)

200

150

100

Structure Setback From: (feet)

   - Ordinary High Water Level (OHWL)

200

100

100

   - Bluffline

100

40

40

Sewage Treatment System Setback From: (feet)

   - OHWL

200

100

NA

   - Bluffline

40

40

NA