Shorefront Property Owner Information

How Do I...

Welcome shorefront property owners! Whether you live along a lake, stream, river, wetland or bay, you have a wonderful resource right outside your door. Here are tips to help keep that water clean, resources to assist you, and regulations that might affect you.

Protecting clean water

When it rains or snow melts, stormwater runoff picks up various pollutants such as dripped or spilled petroleum products, soil, fertilizer, pesticides, and animal waste and carries them to the nearest ditch, storm drain or stream and then on to lakes, rivers and bays. Individually small amounts of pollutants may seem insignificant, but collectively they add up to create the largest source of pollution to Maine’s waters. How can we keep these pollutants out of our waters? By reducing the source of pollutants and by capturing the stormwater before it moves off your property. 

Regulations (the most common rules and laws but by no means a complete list of regulations that potentially could affect shoreland owners)

The Natural Resource Protection Act (NRPA) focuses on protecting natural resources, including significant wildlife habitat, wetlands, great ponds (generally, lakes over 10 acres) and rivers, streams and brooks.  A permit is required when an activity will be:

  • Located in, on or over any protected natural resource, or
  • Located adjacent to A) a coastal wetland, great pond, river, stream or brook or significant wildlife habitat contained within a freshwater wetland, or (B) certain freshwater wetlands.

Permit by Rule is a simplified NPRA process for activities taking place in or adjacent to wetlands and waterbodies that should not significantly affect the environment if carried out according to the standards contained in the regulations

Shoreland Zoning Law requires municipalities to protect shoreland areas through adopting maps and ordinances. Shoreland areas include areas within 250 feet of any great pond, river or saltwater body, upland edge of wetland areas except in certain situations, and areas within 75 feet of a stream. The law is primarily administered through each municipality, and the local code enforcement officer is usually the first point of contact on shoreland zoning issues. A recent study of 36 lots developed in compliance with Maine’s Shoreland Zoning concluded that lakeshore development in conformance with Maine’s law was as effective at protecting aquatic habitat as forested, non-developed lots,

Erosion and Sedimentation Control Law The Erosion Control Law requires everyone to prevent erosion.

Maine’s Overboard Discharge (OBD)Program is responsible for regulating discharges of sanitary and household wastewater generated at residential or commercial locations to Maine waters. All OBDs must be approved by the DEP through a licensing process.

Shorefront friendly-living practices

  • Prevent soil erosion. Dirt/soil is the number one pollutant to Maine’s waters so keep it under cover - covered by grass, shrubs and trees so the rain doesn’t have a chance to get at it and move it. Use thick mulch or stone paths if traffic is too heavy to allow grass to grow. Erosion is of such concern that the Maine legislature passed the Erosion and Sedimentation Control Law (Erosion Control Law) which requires everyone to prevent erosion from occurring, for projects of all sizes.
  • Properly maintain Camp (unpaved) roads which are often a major source of pollution.
  • Reduce fertilizer use. Applying too much fertilizer or applying it at the wrong time can create a problem.
  • Capture stormwater runoff by using nature’s own filtration system. Plant ribbons of trees, shrubs and/or groundcover to intercept and infiltrate runoff.
  • Direct water from roofs and driveways into a stable vegetated area where the dirt can get trapped and the water can soak in.
  • Maintain your septic system. Pump your system’s tank every two to three years. Systems are made to be pumped out periodically to keep the solids in the tank from being carried into the leach bed where it clogs the pipes and soils creating a malfunction.
  • Pick up after pets. Pet waste should be disposed of in the garbage or a pet waste composter. 
  • Use practical and easy-to-follow yard care conservation practices to help protect your water resource. 
  • Opening and closing the camp. Things to consider and steps to take when opening a camp in the spring and closing a camp for the winter.
  • Outdoor home heating oil tanks. Protecting your oil tank from leaks and spills.
  • Choose a certified contractor. Given the high rate of erosion that occurs at areas disturbed by construction, the use of effective erosion and sediment control practices is critical to protecting the quality of Maine waters. DEP trains and certifies contractors in the most protective practices for erosion and sediment control and encourages you to select from one of these certified contractors for projects on your property.
    There are many benefits to hiring a certified contractor to conduct your project, not the least of which is having some assurance that the excavation work will be done in an environmentally-sound manner. Those who are certified have higher compliance rates with state environmental regulations and in some cases, certified contractors may be able to get your project completed more quickly since the department has afforded them the ability to forgo the 14-day waiting period for Stream Crossing Projects under the Permit-by-Rule program. In short, by hiring a certified contractor, you are sending the message that water quality protection is important to you, while expediting the work. Please note that under a law passed in 2008, as of January 1, 2013, a person certified by the DEP in erosion control best practices must be on-site of any activity that disturbs more than one cubic yard of soil -including earth moving, logging or landscaping operations- in the shoreland zone until work is complete and the site stabilized. Find a certified contractor nearest you.


DEP lakes page: Information for lake users.
Lake topics: appearance of the water, fish consumptions, herbicides, water levels…
Rivers and Streams
Coastal waters

Off Site links

Soil & Water Conservation Districts
Maine Lakes Society
Lakes Environmental Association
Maine Rivers
Casco Bay Estuary Partnership
Friends of Casco Bay
Maine Association of Wetland Scientists