A quicker, less expensive permit process would allow lakefront property owners statewide to more quickly and easily create fish habitat near their shoreline under a state proposal.

Comments on the proposed statewide general permit are being accepted through Oct. 24, 2013 with the Department of Natural Resources hoping to have the permit finalized and available for property owners to use by Thanksgiving.

In recent years, fish habitat projects that add clusters of large trees to lakes, also called “fish sticks,” have become more popular among staff and non-DNR groups. However, these groups have had concerns about the cost of permits, the time it takes to go through the permitting process, and inconsistencies in the permit approvals among different parts of the State. In response, the DNR created a Lean Six Sigma Fish Sticks Team to improve the process for permitting fish sticks habitat projects in lakes.

The proposal would allow property owners on lakes to have a streamlined permitting process to submerge groups of trees near their shoreline, says Martye Griffin, the DNR waterway science policy coordinator who, with the Fish Sticks Team, developed the new general permit. “The streamlined permit process is less costly and can be reviewed in less time,” he says. It also allows for fish sticks sites constructed in later years and by different property owners on the same lake to “add on” to the existing approved permit without a new application fee – something the DNR has never done before.

Trees in the near-shore areas of lakes play a crucial role in a lake’s ecosystem. These areas provide shelter and feeding areas for a diversity of fish species and may also provide nesting and sunning areas for birds, turtles, and other animals above the water.

The proposed general permit identifies the location, design, and other standards and conditions these beneficial projects must meet to qualify for the general permit and to ensure minimal impacts to public rights in the waterway.

After the general permit is on the books, people who apply for the permit would receive a decision within 30 days and the permit would be good for five years, Griffin says.

That contrasts with the individual permits that were previously the only option available for lakefront properties. Such individual permits required a 30-day public comment period for each application. Individual permits would still be required for projects that do not meet the general permit standards and conditions, he says.

DNR has prepared an environmental assessment of the general permit and has made a preliminary determination that an environmental impact statement is not required because the general permit is not expected to result in significant environmental impacts, Griffin says.

To view a copy of the proposed statewide general permit and environmental assessment, go to DNR’s website, dnr.wi.gov and search for “fish habitat.”

Public comments are being accepted through October 24, 2013. For more information or to submit written comments on the draft general permit or environmental assessment, contact Martin Griffin (WT/3), DNR Headquarters, 101 S. Webster, P.O. Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707-7921, or via email at: MartinP.Griffin@wisconsin.gov.

Logo courtesy Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

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