Public Waters Work Permits Program

Division of Ecological and Water Resources (Waters)


Definition of public waters

Public waters are designated as such to indicate which lakes, wetlands, and watercourses over which DNR Waters has regulatory jurisdiction. The statutory definition of public waters includes public waters and public waters wetlands.

Minnesota Statute 103G.005, Subdivision 15

  1. Public Waters means:
    1. water basins assigned a shoreline management classification by the commissioner, under sections 103F.201 to 103F.221, except wetlands less than 80 acres in size that are classified as natural environment lakes;
    2. waters of the state which have been finally determined to be public waters or navigable waters by a court of competent jurisdiction;
    3. meandered lakes, excluding lakes that have been legally drained;
    4. water basins previously designated by the commissioner for management for a specific purpose such as trout lakes and game lakes pursuant to applicable laws;
    5. water basins designated as scientific and natural areas under Section 84.033;
    6. water basins located within and totally surrounded by publicly owned lands;
    7. water basins where the State of Minnesota or the federal government holds title to any of the beds or shores, unless the owner declares that the water is not necessary for the purposes of the public ownership;
    8. water basins where there is publicly owned and controlled access that is intended to provide for public access to the water basin;
    9. natural and altered watercourses with a total drainage area greater than 2 square miles in area;
    10. natural and altered watercourses designated by the commissioner as trout streams; and
    11. public waters wetlands, unless the statute expressly states otherwise.
  2. Public waters are not determined exclusively by the proprietorship of the underlying, overlying, or surrounding land or by whether it is a body or stream or water that was navigable in fact or susceptible of being used as a highway for commerce at the time this state was admitted to the union.

Minnesota Statute 103G.005, Subdivision 15a

  1. Public Waters Wetlands means:
All types 3, 4, and 5 wetlands as defined in United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Circular No. 39 (1971 edition), not included within the definition of public waters, that are ten (10) or more acres in size in unincorporated areas or 2.5 acres or more in incorporated areas.