Answer:  Maybe.

Dock permits are issued by RI's Coastal Resources Management Council. The CRMC classifies all RI's coastal waters, and they allow residential docks in some types of waters and prohibit them in others.

The first step in determining whether you can build a dock is learning the water classification in your area.  Water classifications are designated in the CRMC Rules and Regulations, also called the CRMC Redbook.

In Type 2, 3, and 4 waters residential docks are allowed.  There are specific rules and requirements for locating a dock, but you can submit an application if your property abuts these waters.  In Type 1 waters, however, docks are prohibited.  Some people have grandfathered docks in Type 1 waters, which leads many to assume additional docks might be approved.  The truth is if you are in Type 1 water, and there is no grandfathered dock on your property already, you won't get permission to build a new one.

If your water classification is 2, 3 or 4, then you can move ahead, design your dock and include the plans with your application.  Scott Rabideau of Natural Resource Services has helped many of our clients navigate through the permitting process which can be long and complex.

You never know for sure until your CRMC permit is in hand, but this primer will help you understand CRMC's basic criteria for a residential dock.

Posted by Leslie Hogan on


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1) Is 20' setback from neighbor's property line or neighbor's dock?

2) Is it required that owner obtain permission from both adjacent neighbors to install a dock:
a) If 20' setback can be maintained?
b) If 20 ' setback cannot be maintained?

2) If 20' setback cannot be mintained from neighbor, can a variance be requested?

Thank you kindly as I am trying to get the facts and not make decisions on peoples' thoughts,

Posted by CAK on Thursday, July 9th, 2015 at 11:56am

Hello CAK, I'm afraid that's beyond my level of expertise. I would contact Natural Resource Services as they deal with these questions all the time (see link above for contact info). You might also contact Larry Ahearn of Reagan Marine Construction 401-640-5429. They build docks and would know all the rules. Good luck with your research.

Posted by Leslie Mathieu Hogan on Thursday, July 9th, 2015 at 4:20pm

Hi. I just happened across this post, and would offer the following, if it's not too late! My name is Ken Anderson, and I was the Supervising Civil Engineer for permit reviews at the CRMC for 29 years. I am currently working with Harbor Engineering LLC, a full service Waterfront Planning, Permitting, and Design firm. My response to your questions is below, or feel free to contact Harbor Engineering directly at 401-829-4870.

(1)- The CRMC requires a 25' (side) setback from your Property Line Extension (PLE) for your boating facility (RICRMP Sect. 300.4.C.1).

(2)- If you maintain the 25' side setback from the PLE, no "permission" is required from the abutter(s) (though they still have the right to object to your proposal during the public notice period). If your facility is proposed within 25', a letter of no objection must be submitted with the application to CRMC, otherwise a setback variance must be sought, and CRMC will evaluate the impacts from the reduced setback in considering the variance. (Sect. 300.4.E.3.(k), and Sect. 120). The CRMC has allowed variances to the 25' offset, in extenuating circumstances, though you must satisfy the variance criteria.

Posted by Ken Anderson P.E. on Wednesday, September 16th, 2015 at 6:22pm

Thank you, Ken! Very helpful and I'm happy to have your contact information for future marine construction questions!

Posted by Leslie Mathieu Hogan on Wednesday, September 16th, 2015 at 6:31pm

I didn't realize that you would need a permit to build a dock on your own property. What is it about certain waters that would make it so you couldn't build a dock? We are looking for a waterfront home, so I'll make sure to keep this information in mind. We wouldn't want to get one and then find out we had no lake access! Thanks for this information.

Posted by April Cook on Monday, August 1st, 2016 at 10:36am

All the water in RI is classified into categories, and each category has it's own guidelines and restrictions. Lakes and freshwater are generally (though not always) regulated by the RI Department of Environmental Management. It's best to check with the state to make sure you understand what is allowed on your waterfront property. Your real estate agent should be able to point you in the right direction. Let us know if you need more help getting to the right folks in RI.

Posted by Leslie Mathieu Hogan on Monday, August 1st, 2016 at 11:06am

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