Many people want to live on a lake or river for swimming, fishing, watching the wildlife, or just getting away from the city. What many people don't realize is that the vegetation found on lake and river lots is what makes all of the natural scenery possible.

Natural vegetation in the form of weeds, or natural grasses, may seem unsightly to some, however it provides habitat and protection for animals and helps to prevent pollutants from entering the water body. Alterations to shorelands increase the potential for erosion, in addition to jeopardizing the scenic qualities that drew you to the property originally.

Minnesota DNR - Lake & Flood Elevations Online                                                 Interactive map to find Ordinary High Water Elevations and Floodplain Info 

Interactive Map                                                     

Bluff Fact Sheet

View the bluff fact sheet (PDF) for more information.


Any alteration to shoreland property requires a permit from the Sherburne County Zoning Office, prior to any work being done.

A Shoreland Alteration Permits Application (PDF) is required prior to any work being conducted on a shoreland property.


Conducting work without obtaining a permit can be costly, with the requirements of an After the Fact Permit fee, reimbursement of County Zoning and Attorney staff time, and the cost of restoring the landscape. Even through the restoration process, it is impossible to regain the original value of damaged shorelands. Failure to comply with county-ordered restoration is a misdemeanor offense which may be prosecuted.

Clear cutting of vegetation and extensive grading is prohibited in the "shore impact zone." This is the area adjacent to the water and covers half of the building setback distance from the water body. In this area, only limited vegetation removal may be allowed.

These restrictions have been enacted to protect the lakes and rivers and are supported by the majority of riparian land owners. Remember that when you alter your landscape, you are also effecting the landscape and value of your neighbors' property. Once vegetation has been removed or altered, it forever changes the shoreline.

More Information

If you are planning any alterations to your lake or river lot, contact the Zoning Office at 763-765-4450 or toll-free at 800-438-0578.

Project Regulation

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) regulates projects involving activity below the Ordinary High Water Level of the water body. Please contact the Zoning Office to be directed to the proper agency for assistance with your project planning.

There are management techniques that will allow you to landscape your lot, while retaining its natural image. Generally they will require less maintenance, which in turn gives you more time to enjoy your lake or river lot!

Shoreland Alteration Permit Requirements

The Sherburne County Planning and Zoning Office administers the Shoreland Ordinance through the issuance of Shoreland Alteration Permits. Shoreland Alteration Permits are required for any:

  • Filling
  • Grading
  • Structural alterations on shoreline properties
  • Vegetation alterations

Sherburne County requires a Major Shoreland Alteration Permit or a Minor Shoreland Alteration Permit depending on the extent of the proposed project. To determine whether your proposed shoreland project requires a Major or Minor permit, please contact the Planning and Zoning Office.