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Shoreline Management Program Frequently Asked Questions Banner

Frequently Asked Questions

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    Shoreline Management Plans

    Q. What is a Shoreline Management Plan and what is its purpose?
    A. The Shoreline Management Plan is a part of the Operational Management Plan (OMP) prepared for each project to develop management strategies for existing and anticipated natural resource management activities. The Shoreline Management Plan implements the Shoreline Management Program at the project level, establishing policy and guidelines for the protection and management of the shoreline under Corps jurisdiction to promote the safe and healthful use of the shoreline by the public while maintaining environmental safeguards to ensure a quality resource. The Shoreline Management Plan consists of a map showing the shoreline allocations around the lake (see question 4), related rules and regulations, a discussion of what areas are open or closed to specific activities and facilities, how to apply for permits and other information pertinent to the Corps management of the shoreline.

    Q. Are all projects required to have a Shoreline Management Plan?
    A. No. Only those projects that allow private shoreline uses are required to have a Shoreline Management Plan. Projects not allowing private shoreline uses are required to have a statement of Shoreline Management Policy developed by the District Commander and approved by the Division Commander.

    Q. How frequently are Shoreline Management Plans updated and what is the process?
    A. Shoreline Management Plans are to be reviewed periodically, but at least every five years to determine the need for an update. When changes to the Shoreline Management Plan are needed, the plan will be formally updated through the public involvement process. Maximum public participation should be encouraged throughout the revision process and can be accomplished through focus groups, public workshops, public meetings, comment periods, open houses, and/or other public involvement techniques. Public participation should begin during the initial formulation stage and must be broad-based to cover all aspects of public interest. Special care will be taken to advise citizens, conservation organizations, and other concerned entities regarding a Shoreline Management Plan revision. The Division Commander approves Shoreline Management Plans.

    District Commanders may make minor revisions to the Shoreline Management Plans when the revisions are consistent with policy, and when funds for a complete plan update are not available. The amount and type of public involvement needed for such revision is at the discretion of the District Commander.

    Q. What does the term "shoreline zoning" mean?
    A. Shoreline zoning refers to shoreline allocations. Each project with a Shoreline Management Program is required to designate the shoreline into one of the allocations below. These allocations represent the types of uses that specific areas of public land are allocated for, and directly impact the types of private use facilities/activities that may be permitted on public land.

    • Limited Development Areas - areas where private facilities, activities, and/or vegetative modification may be allowed.
    • Public Recreation Areas - areas designated for commercial concessionaire facilities, Federal, state, or other similar public use. No private shoreline use facilities and/or activities will be permitted within or near designated or developed public recreation areas. No vegetative modification by private individuals or groups is permitted in public recreation areas.
    • Protected Shoreline Areas - areas designated to protect and maintain or restore aesthetic, fish and wildlife, cultural, or other environmental values. May also include areas subject to excessive siltation, erosion, rapid dewatering, or exposure to high wind, wave, or current action and/or in areas in which development would interfere with navigation. No Shoreline Use Permits for floating or fixed recreation facilities will be allowed. Some vegetative modification by private individuals or groups such as clearing a narrow meandering path to the water may be allowed.
    • Prohibited Access Areas - areas which public access in not allowed or is restricted for health, safety, or security reasons, such as hazardous areas near dams, spillways, hydro-electric power stations, work areas, or water intake structures. No Shoreline Use Permits will be issued in these areas.

    Shoreline Management Program

    Q. What is the purpose of the Shoreline Management Program?
    A. The purpose of the Shoreline Management Program is to protect and manage the shorelines of all Civil Works water resource development projects under Corps jurisdiction to promote the safe and healthful use by the public while maintaining environmental safeguards to ensure a quality resource. The objective of all management actions is to achieve a balance between permitted private uses and resource protection for general public use.

    Q. Where does the Corps get the authority for the Shoreline Management Program?
    A. The Shoreline Management Program is established in 36 CFR Part 327.30.

    Q. Why do we allow private use of public land and water?
    A. Private use of public land and water was initially allowed in an effort to encourage recreational use of the projects and to honor prior commitments. During the 1960's, it became apparent that private exclusive use would need to be restricted in order to successfully protect and manage public land and water. As a result, private exclusive use was limited to that which could be permitted under the Shoreline Management Program.

    Q. Why do some Corps projects have private development (boat docks, utilities, steps) while others do not?
    A. Private shoreline uses were allowed on many Corps projects prior to the formal establishment of the Shoreline Management Program (formerly referred to as the Lakeshore Management Program) on December 13, 1974. Projects that authorized private shoreline uses as of this date could continue to authorize certain private shoreline uses in accordance with 36 CFR 327.30 and ER 1130-2-406. Private shoreline uses are not allowed on projects where project construction was initiated after December 13, 1974 or on projects where no private exclusive shoreline uses existed as of that date, except to honor written commitments made prior to that date.

    Q. Why does implementation of the Shoreline Management Program vary from project to project?
    A. 36 CFR Part 327.30 and ER 1130-2-406 is the Corps policy for the Shoreline Management Program. However, each project's Shoreline Management Plan governs implementation of the program at a project. These plans are formulated and revised through the public involvement process. Therefore, each plan incorporates items of interest brought out through the public involvement process, creating differences in the program (still within policy) from project to project. These plans also must incorporate or address prior commitments and facilities/activities authorized prior to establishment of the Shoreline Management Program.

    Q. How have the different acquisition policies affected Shoreline Management Program implementation at various Corps Lakes?
    A. Land surrounding Corps Civil Works projects was acquired under one of the following acquisition policies:

    • Pre-1953 Policy (commonly referred to as the Truman Policy) - Prior to 1953 the acquisition of lands by the Corps was largely determined on a case-by-case basis. However, the Corps policy in general was to obtain fee-titled to lands up to the full pool elevation level of the reservoir. Additional lands needed for operations or for other authorized purposes were also acquired in fee.
    • 1953-1962 Policy (commonly referred to as the Eisenhower Policy) - From 1953 to 1962, the Corps acquired fee-titled to lands only to the 5-year flood frequency level. Flowage easements were obtained from this level to the full pool level. Minimum additional lands were acquired in fee where needed for operations or for public access.
    • 1962-1971 Joint Policy - Joint (Department of Interior-Corps of Engineers) acquisition policy. From 1962 to 1971, land was acquired in fee usually with 3 to 5 feet of freeboard above full pool or 300 feet horizontally above the full pool elevation level, whichever resulted in the acquisition of more land.
    • Post 1971 Policy - Acquisition policy from July 1971 to present. In 1971, the implementation of the joint policy was revised in that the guidelines for taking lands for fee acquisition would be a 300 foot block-out of the conservation pool or 3 to 5 feet of freeboard above the full pool level, whichever resulted in the acquisition of more land.
    • Multiple Policies - Land was acquired under more than one acquisition policy.

    The acquisition policy used to acquire project land directly affects the amount of land acquired around each water resource project and therefore greatly influences the Shoreline Management Program at each lake. Generally, the less land acquired at a project, the closer adjacent private property is to the lake, and the greater the pressure for private facilities/activities on public land.

    Q. Does private property extend down to the shoreline?
    A. Except under unusual circumstances, private property does not extend to the waterline (i.e. normal pool levels). Even if private property lines extend into the water, this does not exempt landowners from complying with the rules and regulations regarding Waters of the United States.

    Q. Why does the distance from the government boundary line to the shoreline vary?
    A. The distance from the government boundary line to the shoreline varies based on the acquisition policy (see question 6) in place when project lands were acquired and local topography.

    Q. What do the tree markings along the government boundary mean?
    A. Trees along the government boundary line are painted with orange paint (color may vary by district or project) to "witness" the proximity of the government boundary line. Drawings 1 through 4 illustrate the different types of markings and describe their meaning as to the location of the boundary line. Adjacent property buyers/owners should be advised to obtain the services of a licensed surveyor to verify the exact location of the government boundary line prior to land purchase and/or construction near the line.

    Q. What happens if a tree on government property falls and damages private property?
    A. If a tree on government property falls and damages private property, the owner of the private property may file a claim with the government for damages

    Q. If an individual buys adjacent property with an outstanding encroachment on public land created by the previous owner, is the new owner held accountable for the encroachment?
    A. Yes, the new owner would be responsible for clearing the encroachment unless encroachment authorized through a License.

    Shoreline Use Permits

    Q. What is a Shoreline Use Permit?
    A. A Shoreline Use Permit is an instrument used to authorize private exclusive shoreline facilities/activities in accordance with 36 CFR Part 327.19 and a project's specific Shoreline Management Plan. Such facilities may include floating docks, mooring buoys, vegetative modification, and erosion control. They are usually issued for a term of five years. One-year permits should only be issued when the location or nature of the activity requires annual issuance.

    Q. What is a Consolidated Permit?
    A. A Consolidated Permit is a combination of a Shoreline Use Permit authorizing floating facilities, erosion control structures, or vegetative modification and a Real Estate License authorizing land-based support facilities such as improved walkways, steps, and utility rights-of-ways or grandfathered or public law protected facilities such as boat ramps, roads, and turnarounds. In districts where there is an agreement between Operations Division and Real Estate Division, Natural Resource Management personnel issue consolidated permits. In districts without such an agreement, the Natural Resource Management personnel issue the Shoreline Use Permit for the dock and/or vegetation modification and Real Estate personnel issue a License for the land-based activities.

    Q. How does the public apply for a Shoreline Use Permit?
    A. Permit applications along with plans and specifications of the proposed facility should be submitted to the Operations Project Manager or his/her authorized representative prior to the start of construction of the facility. Submissions should include, but not limited to, engineering details, structural design, anchorage method, construction materials, ownership of the facility, expected duration of use, and an indication of the willingness to abide by the applicable regulations, term and conditions of the permit. Permit applications also should identify and locate any land-based support facilities and any specific safety considerations.

    Q. Can anybody get a Shoreline Use Permit on a Corps lake?
    A. No. Shoreline Use Permits will only be issued to applicants with legal right of access to public land (generally an adjacent property owner), meeting the criteria in a project's Shoreline Management Plan.

    Q. What determines if adjacent private property qualifies for a Shoreline Use Permit?
    A. Whether adjacent private property qualifies for a Shoreline Use Permit depends on the shoreline allocation, as documented in the shoreline management plan, of public land adjacent to the private property in question and on the criteria of the Project's Shoreline Management Plan.

    Q. If there is a dock and/or other permitted facilities already in place at a particular site, can the Shoreline Use Permit be transferred or automatically permitted to a new purchaser of the private property?
    A. No. Shoreline Use Permits are non-transferable. They become null and void upon the sale or transfer of the permitted facility or the death of the permittee and his/her legal spouse. The vast majority of permitted facilities/activities on public land may be permitted to a new owner of adjacent private property; however, there are cases where facilities/activities authorized by a project's previous Shoreline Management Plan, but not allowed under the current plan, cannot be permitted to a new owner.

    Q. What is a "grandfathered" facility?
    A. A "grandfathered facility" is one that no longer meets the criteria in a project's Shoreline Management Plan. It is allowed to remain on public land for varying periods of time in accordance with specified conditions.

    Q. What are Public Law 99-662 protected facilities?
    A. A Public Law 99-662 protected facility is one that was authorized under a valid Shoreline Use Permit as of November 1986, but exists in an area where the current project Shoreline Management Plan prohibits new facilities of this type.

    Q. Can the Corps require the removal of a Public Law 99-662 protected facility?
    A. No. In general, the Corps cannot require the removal of any authorized facilities that existed as of 17 November 1986 if: a) such property is maintained in a usable and safe condition, b) such property does not occasion a threat to life or property, and c) the holder of the lease, permit, or license is in substantial compliance with the existing lease or license except where necessary for immediate use for public purposes or higher public use or for navigation or flood control project.

    Q. When can a Shoreline Use Permit be revoked and what is the process for revoking a Shoreline Use Permit?
    A. Shoreline Use Permits may be revoked by the District Commander or his authorized representative when: a) the public interest requires such revocation or b) the permittee fails to comply with the terms and conditions of their permit, the Shoreline Management Plan, 36 CFR 327.30 or ER 1130-2-406.

    The District Commander or his authorized representative will mail a revocation notice that specifies the reason for the revocation to the permitee by certified letter. The permittee may request a hearing with the District Commander or his authorized representative in writing through the Operations Manager within 30-days of the revocation. If the permittee requests a hearing, it shall be granted at the earliest opportunity, but in no event shall the hearing date be more than 60 days from the date of the hearing request. Following the hearing, a written decision will be rendered and a copy mailed to the permittee by certified letter. The District Commander or his authorized representative may summarily revoke a Shoreline Use Permit when emergency circumstances dictate.

    Q. How are Shoreline Use Permit fees set and are they consistent nationwide?
    A. Shoreline Use Permit fees (floating facilities and vegetative modification) are set in 36 CFR 327.31 and should be consistent nationwide. Fees for other facilities (e.g., utilities, steps, walkways, etc.) are set by HQ USACE Real Estate Directorate.

    Q. Can refunds be made if the permit is revoked?
    A. If the permit is revoked for operational or emergency reasons, the inspection fee for the remaining term of the permit is refundable. The administrative fee is not refundable. If the permit is revoked for noncompliance to the permit, no refund will be made.

    Q. Since permitted boat docks are located on public property, does that mean that anybody can use the land and water around the dock?
    A. Yes. The issuance of a private Shoreline Use Permit does not convey any real estate, personal property rights, or exclusive use rights to the permit holder. The public's right of access and use of the permit area must be maintained and preserved. Public access to Corps managed land and water is based on one premise; these lands are owned by the public. That means anyone can use any portion of public land not designated as a restricted area. The general public is welcome to walk on public land adjacent to private property, including any established paths to facilities on public land as well as fish around floating facilities. A boat dock, however, is a private facility. While people can be on the land or water around a boat dock, they cannot be on or in a facility or vessel without the permission of the owner. Owners of permitted facilities may take necessary precautions to protect their property from theft, vandalism or trespass, but may in no way preclude the public right of pedestrian or vessel access to the water surface of public land adjacent to the facility.

    Q. Is it possible to have a storage facility connected to a dock that is covered under a permit?
    A. Boat dock facilities are limited to the mooring of the permittee's watercraft and the storage, in enclosed locker facilities, of his/her gear essential to the operation of the watercraft.

    Q. What responsibility does the Corps accept in the protection of the permittee's property?
    A. The Corps accepts no responsibility in the protection of privately owned property. Local law enforcement agencies are responsible for investigating thefts and vandalism to personal property.

    Q. Do adjacent private property owners have the right to restrict access to their private floating facilities under permit from the Corps?
    A. Permittees have the right to take reasonable and prudent action to prevent theft, vandalism, and unauthorized use of their personal property. Any method of restricting the use of the floating structure from the public must not impede or inhibit the free and open use of government land by the visiting public. Specific methods of restricting public access must be coordinated with the Operations Project Manager.

    Q. Can a dock permittee charge a fee for use of vacant boat slips under his/her permit and used by other individuals?
    A. No. That would be considered a commercial activity and is prohibited by 36 CFR 327.18, 36 CFR 327.30, and ER 1130-2-406.

    Q. What is meant by the phrase "...create the appearance of private ownership?"
    A. "Create the appearance of private ownership" refers to activities/actions taken by adjacent property owners making it appear they own public land. Activities creating the appearance of private ownership include but are not limited to establishment of grass lawns, flowerbeds, or other landscaping activities on public land and/or the placement of personal items, such as storage sheds, lawn furniture, or boat trailers on public land.

    Q. Are owners of duck blinds and temporary ice fishing shelters required to obtain a permit?
    A. If the duck blind or temporary ice fishing shelter is regulated by a state or another federal agency program a Shoreline Use Permit is not required. If however, they are not regulated by another agency, a permit is required.

    Q. What type of Regulatory functions falls under Shoreline Management and how are they administered/coordinated?"
    A. Dredging, construction of fixed structures, including fills and combination fixed-floating structures and the discharge of dredged or fill material in waters of the United States will be evaluated under authority of Section 10 of the River and Harbor Act of 1899 (33 USC 403) and Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (33 USC 1344). Minor dredging of silt material, not to exceed 25 cubic yards may be permitted by the Operations Project Manager in accordance with Nationwide Permit No. 19. Minor shoreline protection activities, involving less than 1 cubic yard of fill per linear foot may be authorized by the Operations Project Manager in accordance with Nationwide Permit No. 13. Major activities such as dredging and riprapping (in excess of above limits), construction of outfall lines, water intakes and other fixed structures (including seawalls), fills in navigable waters of the United States and the discharge of dredged or fill material into the waters of the United States would require an individual Department of Army permit pursuant to Section 10 of the River and Harbors Act of 1899 (33 USC 403) and Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (33 USC 1344). Permit applications for these activities must be submitted to the appropriate Regulatory Office for processing after review and approval by the Operations Manager.

    Specified Acts Permit

    Q. What is a Specified Acts Permit and its purpose?
    A. A Specified Acts Permit is a type of Shoreline Use Permit used to authorize one-time requests for vegetative modification or other such activity on public land. Many times it is used to authorize an activity for health and safety considerations that would not normally be allowed under the Shoreline Management Program and a project's Shoreline Management Plan such as the one-time removal of large dead or dying trees that threaten private property. It will contain specific conditions outlining the activity that is authorized and how and when it is to be accomplished.

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