Wetlands and Subaqueous Lands Section: Permitting Information
Authorization from the Wetlands and Subaqueous Lands Section (WSLS) is required for activities in tidal wetlands as well as tidal and non-tidal waters in the State of Delaware.
For a more detailed description of the types of activities and construction projects that may need a permit, visit What is Regulated and Where is It Regulated.
The WSLS issues various types of authorizations depending upon the location and type of activity that is being proposed. Application forms for these authorizations can be found below.
The application fees and other fees are summarized on our fee sheet. These fees were established by the Delaware General Assembly as H.B. 360, adopted June 30, 1991.
Wetlands and Subaqueous Lands Permit Application
A person or organization seeking a Permit, Lease or other authorization from the Department should complete the Basic Application Form and appropriate Appendix selected from the list below. In addition to these forms, a location map, plan and section view drawings of the proposed project, a certified copy of the deed and property survey, application fee and any other supporting information as required by the department shall be provided.
Basic Application Form
Other permitting forms
Repair Statewide Activity Approval- This authorization applies to repair work on qualifying docks, piers, boat ramps, pilings, bulkheads and other similar structures. To see if your project qualifies, pleas review the Repair Statewide Activity Approval Link (SAA) link below. If the project qualifies, you can use the Repair SAA Permit Application Form below.
Lagoon Statewide Activity Approval- This authorization applies to certain activities in qualifying lagoons in Delaware. To find out more and apply using this form, please select the link below.
Jurisdictional Determination and Map Changes- Use this form to request a stream Jurisdictional Determination, a Mean High Water Determination or a Wetland Map Change
The permits, certifications and leases that may be required include:
Subaqueous Lands Permit—This authorization is required for dredging, filling, or the placement of any structure in, on, over or under privately owned underwater lands in the State of Delaware. These lands can generally be classified as lands under most non-tidal waters in the State, or lands located below the mean low water line in tidal artificial lagoons and other tidal waterways that were created by excavating private lands and wetlands.
Subaqueous Lands Lease—A Lease (renewable on a 20-year term) is required for the placement of any structure (dock, pier, pipeline, shoreline stabilization, etc.) or any fill placed in underwater lands channelward of the mean low water line. Projects that involve fill below the mean low water line are also subject to an annual lease fee. All tidal underwater lands within the State of Delaware below the mean low water line, except those underwater lands specifically granted by the State to a private owner, are considered to be Public Subaqueous Lands held in trust by the State of Delaware for all Delaware citizens.
Wetlands Permit—This authorization is required for any activity taking place in State-regulated wetlands in the State of Delaware. Please refer to "Are There Wetlands on My Property" for further explanation of which wetlands fall under the jurisdiction of the State.
Water Quality Certification—Section 401 of the Clean Water Act requires states to certify that activities authorized by the federal government pursuant to Section 404 of the Clean Water Act will not violate the State Water Quality Standards. A project specific application for Water Quality Certification is generally required for all projects requiring an Individual Permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, as well as for certain projects that qualify for a Corps Nationwide Permit but are located in environmentally sensitive areas. Applicants can use the same WSLS Joint Application Form for projects that require this type of Water Quality Certification review. Contact the Wetlands and Subaqueous Lands Section at 302-739-9943 if you are unsure whether Water Quality Certification is required.
Marina Permit—A Marina Permit is required for the construction of new marinas or alterations to existing marinas within the State of Delaware.
Letter of Authorization to Repair/Replace —The WSLS issues these authorizations for the replacement of existing structures on private or public subaqueous lands. In order to be eligible for this authorization, which has an abbreviated processing procedure, the existing structure must be serviceable and it must be replaced in the exact footprint of the current structure.
Statewide Activity Approvals (SAAs) — These authorizations have an abbreviated processing procedure and can be used to for various activities which have been determined to have minimal adverse impacts, including many projects in privately owned tidal, artificial lagoons, shoreline stabilization projects which utilize vegetation, the repair and/or replacement of docks and piers and certain other activities.
Jurisdictional Determination —This letter can be obtained from the WSLS so that a property owner has written confirmation regarding the extent of State jurisdiction in wetlands or waters on their property. Jurisdictional Determinations or requests to transfer existing authorizations to a new property owner can be obtained by submitting a letter of request to the WSLS.
Jurisdictional Determination and Map Change Request Form
In order to obtain an authorization from the Wetlands and Subaqueous Lands Section (WSLS) to do work in waters or wetlands, a permit application (link), along with the corresponding project-specific appendices (link) must be submitted to the WSLS office with the appropriate application fee. The fee amounts can be found on our Fees and Charges page. The Statewide Activity Approval for work in artificial lagoons has its own application form available.
Once the application is received, it is assigned to a WSLS scientist who will review the application and visit the project site. Most projects are then be required to be put on public notice by advertising a basic project description in the newspaper and then waiting for a period of twenty days to receive public comments and potentially, requests for a public hearing. Statewide Activity Approvals, Jurisdictional Determinations, and Letters of Authorization do not require a public notice period and thus have an abbreviated processing time.
Once the 20-day comment period has passed, the project is given a final review by the staff scientist and any public comments or concerns that the Department may have are addressed. For Subaqueous Lands Permits and Water Quality Certifications, a final permit decision is made and if the project is approved, the Permit and/or Certification is prepared and issued.
For projects requiring a Subaqueous Lands Lease, the lease is first sent to the applicant to be signed and notarized and is then returned to the Department for the Cabinet Secretary’s signature. Once the final lease document is signed by all of the parties, it must then be recorded at the Recorder of Deeds Office in the appropriate county in order to be considered valid.
The processing time required to issue authorizations that requires public notice is approximately 60-90 days. For projects that do not require a public notice, the processing time is generally from one to four weeks.
Major new marinas or marina alterations have a more complicated process requiring two separate public notice periods. Such projects typically require four to six months to process. Projects for which a public hearing is requested will also require a longer processing time.
The Boat Docking Facilities Guidance Document can be used by applicants to help design boating access projects. Projects that are designed to meet these guidelines generally move through the process more quickly and increase the likelihood of approval. This guidance document is used by WSLS staff to make permitting decisions more consistent and predictable.