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“The Watchers” is a film adaptation of the 2022 book of the same name by A.M. Shine.
Review: “The Watchers”
Published June 13, 2024

DNR examines dock size restrictions

As docks become part of the backyard, the old rules might need an update.

.ST. PAUL (AP) – As super-sized docks become more and more popular among Minnesota’s lakehome and cabin owners, often in violation of state regulations, the Department of Natural Resources is considering whether it should just give up and relax those rules.

There was a time when folks simply used docks as a place to tie up a boat. But waterfront property owners have been spreading out onto the water, putting grills, picnic tables and even hot tubs on their docks.

“Docks historically have been for getting access to deeper water, but a lot of people are just extending their backyards out over the lake,” said Tom Hovey, public waters hydrologist for the DNR.

Docks are supposed to be no wider than 8 feet in any direction under the state’s rules, but so many docks are bigger than that that the DNR issued a temporary amnesty this year for hundreds of oversized platforms. Officials said the agency did not want to assume the role of dock police.

The DNR is now reassessing those rules and could relax them for 2008.

At five public meetings last summer and in dozens of written comments, the debate has shaped up as one between people who say their rights as taxpayers should allow them to have wider docks for safety and enjoyment, versus those who say huge docks encroach on public waters and harm aquatic vegetation and fish habitat.

The trend toward oversized docks has been strong in the Brainerd lakes area and on Lake Minnetonka, Hovey said. Some lakeshore owners have built platforms 24 feet wide or larger, he said.

The DNR doesn’t have a count on how many oversized docks were on Minnesota’s lakes in 2007, Hovey said, but a recent citizens’ survey of two lakes just north of Brainerd found that about 10 percent of the docks there were larger than the DNR allows.

Russell Larson lives on Big Sandy Lake, where he has a dock with an 8-foot-by-24-foot sun deck.

“As far as entertaining on the dock, it’s a quiet, beautiful place to relax, and absolutely you should be able to do that,” he said.

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