Do you need a Bulkhead Permit?


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By ScottyMo

Bulkheads, also known as seawalls or retaining walls, are crucial structures for protecting shorelines from erosion and managing water levels. If you’re considering building, repairing, or modifying a bulkhead, it’s essential to understand when you need a permit. Here’s a brief guide:

1. New Construction

Building a new bulkhead generally requires a permit from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) and possibly other local authorities. This is to ensure that the new structure will not negatively impact the surrounding environment or water quality.

2. Repairs and Maintenance

Minor repairs to an existing bulkhead may not require a permit. However, significant repairs that involve replacing large sections, altering the original design, or impacting the shoreline’s stability typically do.

3. Modification and Expansion

If you plan to modify or expand an existing bulkhead, a permit is usually necessary. This includes changing the height, length, or materials of the bulkhead. Modifications can have significant environmental impacts, and regulatory oversight ensures these changes are managed responsibly.

4. Environmental Considerations

Bulkheads located in or near sensitive environmental areas, such as wetlands or protected shorelines, will almost always require a permit. These areas are protected to maintain ecological balance and prevent habitat disruption.

5. Commercial and Public Use

For bulkheads intended for commercial or public use, obtaining a permit is essential. These projects often involve more stringent regulations due to their larger scale and potential environmental impact.

6. Local Regulations

In addition to state permits, local municipalities may have their own permitting requirements. It’s important to check with both state and local authorities to ensure all necessary permits are obtained before starting your project.


Navigating the permitting process for bulkheads can be complex, but it’s a crucial step in protecting both the environment and property. Always consult with the NYSDEC and local authorities to determine the specific permit requirements for your bulkhead project.

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