Public boating access support facilities such as toilets, waste containers, lights, etc., shall be provided where necessary for public safety, or to protect resources or resolve conflicts with affected property owners.
Public boating access shall, at a minimum, be open during normal operating hours for outdoor public recreational facilities in the vicinity and year-round unless public safety requires closure. An exception may be made when public boating access is provided through agreement with a private provider. Any boat launched during operating hours may not be denied egress from the water at any time through the public boating access. Any designated parking unit when found unoccupied shall be considered available for use regardless of prior occupancy, except those designated for handicap use.
Public boating access shall provide for use which is consistent with protection of navigable water and generally enjoyed by all users.
Local units of government or the department may pursue more public boating access to waters than is required in sub. (4)
. The department may pursue public boating access to achieve the maximums in par. (b)
unless local governments or the department adopt and implement a plan.
The department has determined that granting permits for boating access on bodies of water where the maximum access standards are exceeded will materially impair navigation and is detrimental to the public interest. The department may not pursue public boating access development nor may it approve permits or provide financial assistance for public boating access beyond the levels described in this subsection unless greater levels are established in a plan.
- See PDF for table
(6) Alternative public boating access and waterway protection plans. NR 1.91(6)(a)(a)
Natural resource enhancement services may be provided for waters that have less public boating access than that in sub. (4) (d)
, and public boating access may be developed that exceeds levels in sub. (5) (b)
only if local governments or the department implement a plan. Plans developed by local governments require written approval by the department prior to adoption.
Plans shall identify and assess the effects of waterway use on natural resources, describe mechanisms to protect public safety and natural resources, and identify public boating access that meets the objectives of s. NR 1.90
. Plans may apply to individual waters or groups of similar waters. Plans shall consider environmental as well as social and developmental factors which may include:
Nature and composition of fish, wildlife and presence of threatened or endangered resources.
Ability of the municipality to regulate land use and development.
Ability of the municipality to enforce public safety regulations.
Trespass problems associated with increased access on rivers and streams.
Appropriate levels and types of public access based on a consideration of the issues in subds. 1.
Ability of the municipality to effectively implement the plan.
The department shall approve proposed plans and implementing ordinances if it determines that the plans and implementing ordinances are consistent with protection of public health, safety and welfare, the objectives of s. NR 1.90
and include an accurate analysis of the issues in par. (b)
. Department decisions related to plan approval may be appealed under ch. 227
, Stats. The department shall withhold enhancement services until an approved plan is fully implemented. Public boating access site development shall comply with any approved plan. The department may not approve grants and permits if the decision would conflict with an approved plan.
The sponsor of an approved plan shall publish a summary of the plan as a class I legal notice.
The department may waive the minimum reasonable access standards or the need for an alternative plan where it finds that this would not serve to protect the public rights and interest in the waterway.
(7) Private providers.
Privately owned public boating access shall be included in any determination of access availability for purposes of compliance with ss. NR 1.91
and provision of resource enhancement services if:
It is provided free or for a reasonable fee, as defined in sub. (11)
The owner furnishes an irrevocable contract with the state, agreeing to provide specified public boating access facilities for not less than 5 years, and
Facilities meet the public boating access site development standards under sub. (8)
(8) Public boating access site development standards.
In addition to other state and federal requirements, including but not limited to the uniform federal accessibility standards (UFAS) published by the architectural and transportation barriers compliance board (ATBCB), the Americans with disabilities act (P.L. 101-336
) accessibility guidelines (ADAAG) and the state of Wisconsin building codes (chs. SPS 361
), the following standards shall apply to acquisition, development and maintenance of boating access sites for the purpose of determining compliance with ss. NR 1.90
Natural shoreline beauty shall be protected by preserving or creating adequate vegetative screening for facilities and parking.
The sum of all public boating access sites on a water body shall accommodate multiple types of use appropriate for the waterway. Individual access sites shall be designed to minimize conflicts between uses at the site and on the water body.
The site and support facilities shall be designed and located so as to avoid damage to critical habitat and other environmentally sensitive areas.
Each site shall be designed to provide barrier-free public boating access for persons with disabilities.
Each site shall be clearly marked at public roadways. Fees and hours of operation shall be clearly posted.
(9) Financial assistance programs.
Providing public boating access is a partnership program between state and local units of government. The department may only provide financial assistance for projects which comply with ss. NR 1.90
and other applicable state and federal requirements. The department shall assist municipalities in applying for state financial assistance for renovation, operation or maintenance expenses if the maximum allowable launch fees do not provide enough revenue to pay for these access site expenses.
(10) Maintenance agreements.
When in the best interests of the state, the department may engage the services of others, by written agreement, with or without compensation, for maintenance of state-owned or funded public boating access sites.
(11) Boat launching fees.
The department encourages free boat launching. A reasonable launch fee may be charged under authority of s. 30.77
, Stats., for the purpose of operating and maintaining a boat access site owned or operated by municipalities, lake management districts and other access providers meeting the provisions of sub. (7)
. Charging excessive, unjustified or unreasonable boat launching fees restricts or prohibits public boating access and use of navigable waters in the state. A reasonable launch fee for the purposes of s. 30.77
, Stats., is one that does not exceed the maximum allowable amount under the following criteria:
(a) Base fee.
A base is that fee that is charged a state resident vehicle for entrance to the state parks.
(b) Public boating access surcharges.
Municipalities, lake management districts and other public boating access providers that maintain any of the following services may add to the base fee not more than the following surcharges for vehicles with trailers. No more than the base fee may be charged for non-motorized or non-trailered boats.
Boats 20 ft. in length or more but
less than 26 ft.
.30 X Base
(c) Daily launch fee.
The total of base fee and all applicable surcharges, rounded to the nearest quarter of a dollar, shall constitute the daily launch fee. A daily launch fee that is paid shall be valid for all boat access facilities provided by the issuing authority for that day. If different fees are charged by the issuing authority for different access sites, the higher fee shall be allowed for use of all the sites.
(d) Season pass.
If a launch fee is charged, a season pass at a fee not to exceed 10 times the daily launch fee shall be provided for both residents and non- residents. A mechanism to obtain a season pass shall be provided by the public access provider at the launch site.
(e) Prior approval required.
Each public boating access provider charging a launch fee in excess of the resident state park daily entrance fee shall provide its fee schedule to the department for approval prior to its adoption. The fee schedule shall be submitted on department forms available from [the] department's central office. Department approval shall be based solely on demonstration that the provider maintains the facilities or services described in par. (b)
that justify charges in excess of the resident state park daily entrance fee and that a season pass is available.
NR 1.91 Note
Note: A missing word is shown in brackets.
NR 1.91 Note
Note: The department's mailing address is: Department of Natural Resources, P.O. Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707.
(f) Existing approved fee structures.
Reasonable fees under pars. (a)
, do not apply to access sites which the department has determined in a written decision to have a reasonable fee prior to the effective date of this rule.
(g) Differential fee based on residency.
Local units of government, including lake management districts, which maintain and operate public boating access sites, may charge differential fees on the basis of residency within the unit of government maintaining or operating the access. If a fee is charged, the fees for a nonresident may not exceed 150% of the fee charged a resident and nonresident fees may not exceed the maximum allowable amounts except when par. (b) 4.
NR 1.91 Note
Note: For example, with a daily resident entrance fee of $4.00 for state parks, at an access site on an inland lake with an attendant on duty and toilet facilities, a launch fee for an 18 foot boat may be as high as $5.50 (4 + 0.2 (4) + 0.2 (4), rounded to nearest 0.25) for both residents and non-residents, and for a 26 foot boat as high as $8.00 (4 + 0.2 (4) + 0.2 (4) + 0.6 (4), rounded to nearest 0.25) for residents and $12.00 (8 x 1.5, rounded to nearest 0.25) for non-residents.
NR 1.91 History
Cr. Register, October, 1977, No. 262
, eff. 11-1-77; r. and recr. Register, March, 1994, No. 459
, eff. 4-1-94; am. (2) (d), Register, June, 1995
, eff. 7-1-95; correction in (6) (a) and (8) (intro.) made under s. 13.93 (2m) (b) 7., Stats., Register, September, 1999, No. 525
; correction in (8) made under s. 13.93 (2m) (b) 7., Stats., Register September 2004 No. 585
; correction in (8) made under s. 13.92 (4) (b) 7., Stats., Register February 2012 No. 674
; CR 19-078: am. (2) (d) Register May 2020 No. 773, eff. 6-1-20.
Abandonment of access. NR 1.92(1)(1)
Notice of intent to abandon an access. NR 1.92(1)(a)
Any municipality subject to s. 66.1006
, Stats., which proposes to abandon or discontinue any highway, street, alley or right-of-way, which provides public access to a navigable waterway, shall provide a copy of the resolution or ordinance and notify the department at least 10 working days prior to acting on a resolution or ordinance to abandon or discontinue. Within 10 working days of enacting an ordinance or resolution subject to approval under s. 66.1006
, Stats., the municipality shall submit a copy of the ordinance or resolution to the department. Upon receipt of the ordinance or resolution, the department shall publish a notice of the proposed abandonment pursuant to the procedures in s. 31.06
, Stats. If no hearing is requested, the department shall proceed under sub. (2)
to grant or deny the petition.
If a hearing is requested, the department shall hold the hearing as a class 1 contested case in the county in which the public access is proposed to be abandoned. The department shall make its decision based on the standards in sub. (2)
(2) Findings for granting.
The department may grant the petition to abandon or discontinue the public access only if:
Any access sites or part thereof proposed to be abandoned or discontinued is replaced prior to granting the petition; or
The department finds that the access proposed to be abandoned does not contribute to the quality or quantity of public access on the body of water.
(3) Approval conditions.
The department may order conditions of approval including, but not limited to, a showing of financial capability of the petitioner to provide and maintain an equivalent or superior replacement public access site, and other conditions related to assurance of protection of the interest of the public in the body of water.
(4) Environmental degradation.
Access sites may also be abandoned where environmental degradation is occurring at the site as a result of existing use, and abandonment of the access will reduce or eliminate the degradation without reducing public interests in access to that body of water.
NR 1.92 History
Cr. Register, April, 1975, No. 232
, eff. 5-1-75; renum. from NR 1.32, Register, October, 1977, No. 262
, eff. 11-1-77; r. and recr. Register, March, 1994, No. 459
, eff. 4-1-94; corrections in (1) (a) made under s. 13.93 (2m) (b) 7., Stats., Register April 2005 No. 592
Access in platted subdivisions.
Under s. 236.16 (3)
, Stats., the department has authority to recommend wider access at less frequent intervals than are prescribed in the statutes. The department shall consider waiver of the 60-foot access requirement only where the department determines:
It will be advantageous to public interests in navigable water;
Adequate space for access users and adequate buffering for private property is assured by access wider than 60 feet where possible; and
The access that would result provides an equal or greater opportunity for public access than would be provided by dedication at statutorily prescribed intervals and the 60-foot width.
NR 1.93 History
Cr. Register, January, 1980, No. 289
, eff. 2-1-80; am. (2) (a) and (2) (b) 7., r. and recr. (3), r. (4) (a) 3., Register, October, 1982, No. 322
, eff. 11-1-82; r. and recr. Register, March, 1994, No. 459
, eff. 4-1-94.
Wetlands preservation, protection, restoration and management. NR 1.95(1)(1)
It is the intent of the natural resources board to establish rules policy for the preservation, protection, restoration and management of wetlands in the state of Wisconsin. The administrative rules regarding wetlands shall be applied in such a manner as to avoid or minimize the adverse effects on wetlands due to actions over which the department has regulatory or management authority and to maintain, enhance and restore wetland functions and values. Proposals for administrative rules and for legislation shall include appropriate provisions, consistent with this section, except as otherwise provided by law.
The department, under existing law, has the responsibility of making and enforcing regulatory and management decisions which, directly or indirectly, affect the quantity and quality of many Wisconsin wetlands.
Wisconsin has a history of active water resource protection under the public trust doctrine which originated in the northwest ordinance of 1787, the enabling act under which Wisconsin became a state, and the Wisconsin constitution.
The department is designated under s. 281.11
, Stats., as the central unit of state government responsible for protecting, maintaining and improving the quality of the waters of the state. Department actions must be consistent with the goal of maintaining, protecting and improving water quality.
Under the Wisconsin environmental policy act, s. 1.11
, Stats., the department is required to study, develop and describe appropriate alternatives to recommended courses of action for proposals which involve unresolved conflicts concerning alternative uses of available resources and to make decisions with the knowledge of their effects on the quality of the human environment.