Frequently Asked Questions About Waterfront Properties
Can I build a dock?
On lakes less than 1000 acres you can have a 4’x24’ seasonal dock only if the shoreline frontage is less than 75 feet. 6’x30’ seasonal dock only for shoreline frontage 75’+. No Permanent Docking structures are allowed on freshwater bodies less than 1,000 Acres.
On lakes over 1000 acres with less than 75’ of frontage a permanent or seasonal dock is permitted as a 4’x24’. Shoreline 75’ or greater you are allowed a 6x40 seasonal dock or a 6’x30’ permanent dock.
Types of seasonal docks- Pipe Docks, Crank Up Docks, Floating Docks, Watercraft + PWC Lifts. Essentially any docks that are completely removed during the non baiting season.
Permanent docks will need a bubbler/circulator/aquatherm (fan that runs on a timer via electric to circulate the water from freezing around it) during the winter season. These need to be registered not with the state but with NH Department of Safety Forms found on the town website ($50).
New docks or additions to existing docks must be located at least 20 feet from abutting property lines, including the imaginary extensions of those property lines over the water. Moreover, any boat secured to a dock may not extend beyond the extension of the abutter's property line. If an applicant proposes to place docking structures within 20 feet of an abutter’s property line or the imaginary extension of the property line over the water, the applicant must provide a signed, notarized letter from the adjacent property owner granting permission for the new docking structure to be placed within 20 feet of his/her property line. Also, at no time can a new docking structure be permitted when the Applicant’s proposed boatslip area would extend over the imaginary property line extending over the waterbody.
If you have an existing, legal dock, a wetlands permit is required prior to making any change to the size, location or configuration (footprint) of the docking structure(s). Changing construction materials, such as replacing wood decking with composite decking or replacing a wood seasonal dock with an aluminum seasonal dock, does not require a wetlands permit provided there are no changes to the size, location or configuration (footprint) of the dock; no work is done to any portion of the structure that is located below the water surface at the time of such repair; and no work is conducted in a tidal area.
A dock is generally recognized as legally existing if the structure was in place prior to any legal requirement to obtain a state permit for the structure AND; has been continuously maintained with no change to its location, size, and configuration or is a legal replacement structure, has not been abandoned for more than five years, is consistent with the public’s right to reasonable use of public waters, as established in New Hampshire case law, is not built on land created by the unauthorized filling of public waters (i.e., converting public waters to land).
The legal requirement to obtain a state permit was established June 22, 1967 for docking structures adjacent to tidal waters, July 2, 1969 for freshwater permanent docking structures, and September 4, 1978 for freshwater seasonal docking structures.
If the shoreline is less than 75’ a single 2x24’ dock, must have abutter’s consent if the dock will be placed closer than 20’ to abutters property line. If the shoreline is75’-149’ = 2 slips, 150’-224’= 3 slips, 225’-299’=4 slips, 300’-374’=5 slips.
Exceptions to the standard size and configuration criteria are permitted. For instance, a longer dock may be permissible if the applicant can demonstrate the water depth, at standard dock length, is too shallow to safely dock a boat.
A boat slip is the volume of water in which a boat is secured to a dock. The size of a boat slip is a predetermined, waterbody dependent, volume of water. For water bodies 10,000 acres or less, a boat slip is a volume of water 20 feet long, 6 feet wide, and 3 feet deep. For water bodies greater than 10,000 acres, a boat slip is a volume of water 25 feet long, 8 feet wide and 3 feet deep. Winnipesaukee is the only lake in NH greater than 10,000 acres.
The department shall not approve any change in size, location, or configuration of an existing structure unless the applicant demonstrates, and the department finds, that the modification is less environmentally‐impacting or provides for fewer boat slips and less construction on surface area over public submerged lands than the current configuration.
Can I dredge the area around a dock?
Permits may be obtained from NHDES to relocate rocks that are navigational hazards. A rock is considered a navigational hazard to the owner if:
- It is within a boat slip or the approach to a docking structure; and
- It is within 3 feet of the water's surface
- Dredging of sediments can be permitted only in and around existing, legal fixed structures such as boathouses or breakwaters which cannot be easily modified to attain necessary water depths for docking.
Is a permit required for a canopy over a boat slip?
- Yes. Only seasonal canopies may be permitted and:
- The canopies must not interfere with boating safety by obstructing lines of sight necessary for navigation.
- All parts of the canopies must be readily removed at the end of the boating season, prior to ice-in.
- And the canopy must not be installed prior to ice-out.
Can I have a boathouse?
- Differs town to town, but the state allows you to permit them if they meet the state condition requirements. They must be built into the land not out over the water. The boathouse then creates new setback lines.
- Grandfathered over the water can be repaired.
- The maximum size is a 900 sq. ft. footprint
- Use for only boats and related accessories
What about creating a view on a waterfront property?
Within 50’ of the shoreline, no ground cover or shrubs may be removed, converted to lawn or landscaped. However, shrubs can be trimmed to a minimum height of 3’ and can be removed to create a single 6’ wide walkway to the waterbody or water dependent structure such as a dock, beach or boathouse.
Trees may be removed within 50’ of the shoreline without the need for a permit if they are dead, dying, diseased or unsafe because of a structural defect or pose an imminent hazard.
Stumps do need to remain in place but can be cut flush to the ground or stump ground unless they are being replaced in the same location with new trees or in the way for a proposed structure.
Healthy trees can be removed but there are limitations on a tree grid and point score system. It is important to document trees you remove with before and after photos and a letter from a certified arborist describing the trees defects to help assist with any questions the town or state may have.
State grids are 25’ along shoreline x 50’ back, starting at the NE corner of the shoreline. Each grid must maintain at least 25 points. Trees are measured at 4’ off the ground.
1-3” = 1 point | 3-6” = 5 points | 6-12” = 10 points | 12”+ = 15 points
Can I put sand on my beach or can I build a new beach?
Must be located at least 10’ from abutting properties. Unless a written permissions obtained from affected abutters.
No more than 10 cubic yards allowed on new beaches every 6 years (can be replenished) at a max depth of 6” with a state wetlands permit.
You can no longer build a new walk-in sandy beach. Must be “perched” and located entirely out of the water,
Perched Beach can be built with a wetlands permit if it meets the following requirements. Width along the shoreline cannot be more than 20% of the linear frontage. Built on a slope of 25% or less. Max sq ft size allowed is equal to: Linear frontage x 7.5 divided by 2. It is also important to know that other existing waterfront features and lakeside patios come off of this total allowed sq. footage.
Can I get a Mooring?
Are not subject to state permits, however, must be applied for by application at Marine Patrol Facility and must meet the NH DOS rules for moorings.
The property owner, group or association which owns the shorefront must appl. Moorings are not granted for deeded beach rights or right of ways
The applicant must demonstrate there is a need, such as no other docking facilities for their boat(s).
Costs $125 for the first year of the permit, following years is $25/year.
Can I have a fence?
- Yes, but the last 20’ to the shoreline must be see through/non-privacy.
I want a Patio…
Max. sq. ft size allowed within the 20-50’ setbacks is equal to: Linear frontage x 7.5 less any water access structure (ie. Perched beach) or other accessory structure such as sheds, walkways, patios, etc.
Must be permeable. Local regulations may differ from state regulations. Local regulations trump state regulations
Patios directly under house decks are allowed since the deck is already considered impermeable.
How can I get a lawn?
- If there is no existing lawn inside the 50’ setback the lawn must start behind 50’ from the water.
Can I have a Pergola and/or Deck?
To protect the water quality and wildlife habitat: within 50’ ground cover and shrubs cannot be removed and replaced with landscaping or lawn. They may only be removed to construct a 6’ wide foot path to water or to waterfront structures.
Max sq ft size allowed within the 20-50’ setbacks is equal to: Linear frontage x 7.5 less any water access structure (ie. Perched beach). Many local regulations view decks and pergolas as structures and therefore generally have large setbacks such as behind 50’ or like the town of Meredith, behind 65’.
Converting the old decking to new decking can be done without a state permit as long as there is no change to the size or location. It must be within the exact same footprint.
You may be able to extend or add a deck off the house as long as it is behind 50’ and within the side setbacks from abutters (state is 20’). The proposed deck area must also be added to the lot coverage calculation which needs to stay below 20%.
What does the word Grandfathered mean?
For shoreland it must have been existing prior to state shoreland protection laws in 1991.
For Permanent Fresh Water Docks prior to 1969.
For Seasonal Fresh Water docks prior to 1978.
What is the difference between pervious versus impervious?
Pervious or permeable means that storm water can infiltrate through a surface during a rain event. In order for it to meet a permeable status it has to have a specific rate of percolation. Gravel driveways may infiltrate water but are not considered permeable by state and local standards. Decks also fall under a surface that is not considered permeable.
Impervious or impermeable means that storm water CANNOT infiltrate through at the required rate and generally will run off of a surface. This storm water runoff created by impermeable/impervious surfaces is the biggest contributor to erosion and silt and nutrient deposits into the lake.
- Permeable / Pervious
- Pervious pavers or natural stone patios
- Pervious asphalt
- Green space (lawns, gardens, etc.)
- Impermeable / Impervious
- Standard patios without porous base and joint material
- Asphalt driveways
- Gravel driveways
Can I pull weeds out of the water?
- Yes, no permit is necessary for this, but it must be by hand.
Can I rebuild the shoreline wall?
- Yes, as long as it was legally installed or grandfathered and has not been in disrepair for more than 5 years. You would need a wetland permit with the state.
Helpful sites to visit for more information: