Seawalls & Permits in Indiana

Work completed on the shoreline of a public freshwater lake often requires a permit. Landowners are responsible for obtaining all necessary permits and approvals before installation of the project. To assist you in determining whether your project requires a permit, we have included the following flowchart adapted from the Indiana Lakescaping Addendum. To obtain a Lake Preservation Act (LPA) permit application from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, go to www.in.gov/dnr/water/4953.htm or call the IDNR Department of Water at (317) 232-4160. Permits cost $100 (which is NOT eligible for reimbursement under the grant) and require public notice to be posted. Permits may take several months to be finalized. With this in mind, we encourage you to begin the permit application process as soon as possible.   

 
Indiana Lakeshore Permit Flow Chart
 
By Indiana law, the shoreline along your lakefront property is classified into one of four categories. Similar to zoning regulations, these categories determine the type of material that can be used for seawall construction. The following information provides definitions and examples of the categories and lists their seawall requirements according to Indiana Code. The information and photos come from a brochure created by the Indiana Lakes Management Society, Skinner Lake Homeowners Association, and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
 
Natural ShorelineCategory 4: “Natural shoreline”
 
means a continuous section of unaltered shoreline or water line where the distance between lawful permanent structures [seawalls] is at least 250 feet.
 
 
 
 
Significant WetlandCategory 3: “Significant wetland”…
means a transitional area between terrestrial and deep-water habitats containing at least one of the following:
(1) At least 2,500 square feet of contiguous, emergent vegetation or rooted vegetation with floating leaves landward or lakeward of the shoreline or water line. The areal extent of the vegetation is independent of ownership.
(2) Adjacent wetland areas designated by a federal or state agency.
(3) The existence of a species listed in the Roster of Indiana Animals and Plants that are Extirpated, Endangered, Threatened, or Rare.
 
Area of Special ConcernCategory 2: “Area of special concern”…
means an area that contains at least one of the following:
(1) An altered shoreline where bulkhead seawalls are at 250 feet apart.
(2) Bogs, fens, muck flats, sand flats, or marl beaches identified by the IDNR Division of Nature Preserves in the Natural Community Classification System.
(3) More than 625 square feet of contiguous emergent vegetation or rooted vegetation with floating leaves.
 
 
Developed Shoreline
Category 1: “Developed area”…
means the upland side or sides of a manmade channel or an area that does not contain any of the following:
(1) An area of special concern.
(2) A significant wetland.
(3) A natural shoreline.
 
 
 
 

If you plan to install a new glacial stone or bioengineered seawall, you will need to obtain a permit as required by law:

A written license under IC 14-26-2 and this rule is required for the construction or placement of a seawall within or along the shoreline or water line of a public freshwater lake.
 
(b) If a new seawall is to be placed in a significant wetland or along a natural shoreline, the seawall must be comprised of bioengineered materials.
(c) If a new seawall is to be placed in an area of special concern, the seawall must be comprised of either or both of the following:
        (1) Bioengineered materials.
        (2) Glacial stone.
(d) If a new seawall is to be placed in a developed area, the seawall must be comprised of one or any combination of the following:
        (1) Bioengineered material.
        (2) Glacial stone.
        (3) Riprap.
        (4) Concrete.
        (5) Steel sheet piling.
(e) For a new seawall comprised of glacial stone or riprap, the base of the wall must not extend more than 4 feet lakeward of the shoreline or water line.
(f) The lakeward face of the new seawall must be located along the public freshwater lake’s shoreline or water line as determined by the department.
(g) The lakeward extent of bioengineered material must be coordinated with the department before filing the license application.
(h) The director or a delegate may not issue a license for the placement of an impermeable material behind or beneath a new seawall.
(i) Filter cloth placed behind or beneath a new seawall must be properly anchored to prevent displacement or flotation.
(j) Erosion from disturbed areas landward of the shoreline or water line must be controlled to prevent its transport into the lake.
 

If you plan to re-face an existing seawall with glacial stone, you do NOT need to obtain a permit, provided you comply with the specifications in 312 Indiana Code 11-3-1.

General licenses for qualified temporary structures; dry hydrants; glacial stone refaces:
 
(e) In order for the placement of glacial stone on the lakeward side of a seawall that is located within or along the waterline or shoreline of a public freshwater lake to qualify, the glacial stone reface must satisfy each of the following:
  1. The seawall reface must be comprised exclusively of glacial stone.
  2. The reface must not extend more than four (4) feet lakeward of the waterline or shoreline at the base of a lawful seawall.
  3. A walk or structural tie must not be constructed on the existing seawall in combination with the glacial stone reface.
  4. An impermeable material must not be placed behind or beneath the glacial stone.
  5. Filter cloth placed behind or beneath the glacial stone reface must be properly anchored to prevent displacement or floatation.
  6. Erosion from disturbed areas landward of the waterline or shoreline must be controlled to prevent its transport into the lake.