Owning Lakeshore in Douglas County

Owning lakeshore can be the most rewarding experience of a lifetime. From the peaceful sound of the lake lapping at the shore to the fabulous sunsets over the horizon, being near water is relaxing and nurturing.

The Douglas County Lakes Association wants your entire experience to be a positive one so we have compiled some of the NEED TO KNOW items regarding your lakeshore ownership responsibilities. To avoid confusion about who does what, know that the County has jurisdiction over anything from the Ordinary High Water level landward and the DNR jurisdiction is from the OHW forward.

First you must determine what the Ordinary High Water Level (OHWL) is on your lake. Your Lake Association or Julie Aadland, DNR in Fergus Falls, 218-739-7576, can help you with this. The OHWL is not where the water level is now, but rather where the DNR has established the highest level to be. Lake levels fluctuate continuously so don't trust your judgment - get the facts!

There is a little known, often violated Zoning Ordinance in Douglas County, Section V. F.5.c .This Ordinance prohibits contiguous lots owned by the same person, that do not meet today's minimum size standards, from being sold individually, without first obtaining a variance.


Bluff Impact Zone
The Bluff Impact Zone is the bluff and land located within 30' of the top of the bluff. Buildings, accessory structures and walkout basements are not allowed in the bluff impact zone. This determination may be difficult, please contact the Land and Resource Department

Shore Impact Zone
is defined as the area extending landward from the OHWL, half of the distance of the structure setback. This area is the most sensitive area of lake property and requires the most protection. Buildings and accessory structures are not allowed in this area.

Impervious Surface Coverage:
25% is the maximum amount of land that may be covered by surfaces that repel water. (This includes buildings, sidewalks, decks, landscaping, and driveways, gravel or otherwise, etc.)

Shoreland District:
Any land within 1000' of a lake, 300' from a river or stream and the designated flood plain regulated by the Shoreland Management Act.

Wetlands are protected either by the MN DNR or the MN Wetland Conservation Act. Wetlands on your property are regulated from filling and draining and have setbacks of either 25 or 50 feet depending on the type of wetland. Wetlands could range from a depression area that might hold water for a few weeks in the spring to an open water pond. If you question if a wetland exists on your property call SWCD @ 763-3191 ext3.


Shoreland Alteration Permits are required for: 

  • Construction of retaining walls
  • Repair or reconstruction of existing retaining walls
  • Movement of less than ten cubic yards of fill or soil in the impact zones or on steep slopes
  • Movement of more than fifty cubic yards of fill or soil outside of the impact zones in a residential shoreland district
  • Ice ridge removal
  • Sand beach area construction
  • Stairs, patios, decks
  • Removal of any trees, shrubs or vegetation

Conditional Use Permits are required for: 

  • Movement of more than ten cubic yards of fill or soil in the impact zonesor on a steep slope
  • Movement of more than fifty cubic yards of fill or soil outside of the impact zones in a residential shoreland district
  • Retaining wall & landscape projects of 25' in length or more

When in doubt, check it out!
Violations carry serious consequences. After-the-Fact Permits are $900, plus you may have to restore your project to the original condition!! Your contractor or landscaper should be knowledgeable about the required permits!
Land and Resource Department 320-762-3863

More To Know:

Use of a fertilizer containing phosphorus is not allowed in the State of Minnesota.

When any work is being done erosion control methods must be used to prevent erosion into public waters. All landscapers must be licensed by the County. Check first before you hire.

Burning is not allowed within 100 feet of the lake. Only campfires three feet or less are allowed near the lake but in a ring to prevent ash from escaping to the lake.

Removing aquatic plants or altering shoreline will require a permit from the Minnesota DNR. Aquatic plants and natural shorelines provide habitat for fish and wildlife, help maintain water clarity and protect shorelines from erosion.

While cutting a small area of submerged aquatic plants for recreational activities is allowed without a permit, the following require an Aquatic Plant Management Permit. Cost is $35 and is valid for ONE YEAR: < br/>

  • Using herbicides or algaecides to control aquatic plants in public waters
  • Removing emergent vegetation, like bulrush, cattails or wild rice
  • Removing floating leaf vegetation, like water lilies, in an area larger than a channel 15 feet wide extending to open water
  • Cutting, pulling or mechanically controlling vegetation in an area larger than 2,500 square feet or wider than 50 feet;
  • Removing or relocating a bog of any size that is free floating or lodged in any area other than its original location;
  • Installing or operating an automated plant control device (such as the Crary WeedRoller, Beachgroomer or Lake Sweeper). Call Glenwood DNR @320-634-4573
Scroll to Top