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WW 01, 03, 14, 15, 16, 17: Chapter 91 Waterways License

You need a Chapter 91 license to build a small residential dock or pier. Municipal harbor plans and dredging projects also need a Chapter 91 license.

MassDEP Waterways Program

The Details

What you need

The Public Waterfront Act ("Chapter 91") and its regulations, 310 CMR 9.00, require a Chapter 91 waterways license or permit for any activity in, under, or over flowed tidelands, filled tidelands, Great Ponds, and certain non-tidal rivers and streams located throughout the Commonwealth. These licenses and permits are necessary to protect the public interest in these water bodies by ensuring that proposed projects and activities do not interfere with navigation and the rights of the public or adjacent waterfront-property owners. 

Chapter 91 authorization is required for the following activities:

  • Placement, construction or alteration of any structure, regardless of size, whether permanent or seasonal.
  • Unauthorized placement of any fill or unconsolidated material that is confined or expected to remain in place in a waterway.
  • Any use of fill or structures not currently authorized.
  • Any use of the authorized premises or structures other than the authorized use, whether expressed or implied.
  • Any change in the dimensions of a structure or fill from the specifications contained in the existing authorization.
  • Demolition or removal of any fill or structures, not previously authorized.
  • Lowering the water level of any great pond unless that body of water is used for agriculture, manufacturing, irrigation, insect control purposes or public water supply and the lowering furthers those activities.
  • Dredging - Removal of materials, including but not limited to rocks, bottom sediments, debris, sand, refuse, plant or animal matter, in any excavating, cleaning, deepening, widening, or lengthening of any waters in the Commonwealth. The Department must also know the location where the removed material will be disposed.
  • Burning of rubbish or other material upon the water.

How to apply

See details in Step 5 below.

Next steps

  1. Review the Instructions

    Guidance on how to prepare your application, including a completeness checklist.

  2. Complete the Application Form

    You may fill out and save the Microsoft Word form on your computer. The PDF version has to be printed out and completed by hand.

  3. Obtain a Transmittal Form and Number

    A unique Transmittal Number is needed for each application you submit to MassDEP.

  4. Look up the Permit Application Fee

    Chapter 91 license fees vary depending on the type of proposed project. See the fee listings beginning on page 67 of the fee schedule below.

  5. Mail your Application and Fee Payment

    Submit the appropriate Chapter 91 Waterways Application fee and a copy of the Transmittal Form to:

    Department of Environmental Protection
    PO Box 4062
    Boston, MA 02211

    For water-dependent applications in MassDEP's Northeast, Central, and Boston regions, and for all non-water-dependent applications, mail the completed Application and Transmittal form to:

    Department of Environmental Protection
    Waterways Regulation Program
    One Winter Street, 5th floor
    Boston, MA 02108

    For water-dependent projects in MassDEP's Southeast and Western regions, mail the completed Application and Transmittal form to the appropriate regional office (see the listing of regional offices below).

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