Lands Now or Formerly Underwater
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Overview

Title of the bed of numerous bodies of water is held in trust for the people of the State of New York under the jurisdiction of the Office of General Services. Structures and utilities, including fill, located in, on, or above state-owned lands now or formerly underwater are regulated under the Public Lands Law. Permission may be required to build on these lands, including docks, boathouses or marinas, or to install utilities over or through.

General guidelines and forms are shown below. For questions about the use of lands under water, contact OGS at 518-474-2195 or email [email protected]

Residential Guidelines

For Building a Dock, Boathouse or Retaining Wall

A license, easement or permit may be required to build a dock, boathouse, or retaining wall in, on or over state-owned water bodies. 

Find out if you must apply for a residential permit:
  1. Download the Joint Application Form (JAF)  and fill it out according to the JAF Instructions for permits for activities affecting streams, waterways, water bodies, wetlands, coastal areas, and other sources of water. 
  2. Submit the Joint Application Form – along with plans, pictures, and associated material – to: 
    • Bureau of Land Management, 39th Floor, Corning Tower, Albany, NY 12242

OGS will review your application and determine if you need a license, easement or permit. If you are required to, see below for how to apply for a License, Easement or Permit. OGS may request additional documents for review. 

 

Apply for a License, Easement or Permit: 

If OGS determines you must apply for a license, easement or permit, use the following applications:

 

 

 

Commercial Guidelines

For Building or Operating a Marina or Business

A license, easement or permit is required to build or operate a commercial marina or business on a state-owned waterbody. 

Fill Out and Submit an Application Form:
  1. Download the Joint Application Form (JAF)  and fill it out according to the JAF Instructions for permits for activities affecting streams, waterways, water bodies, wetlands, coastal areas, and other sources of water. 
  2. Submit the Joint Application Form – along with plans, pictures, and associated material – to: 
    • Bureau of Land Management, 39th Floor, Corning Tower, Albany, NY 12242

OGS will review your application and determine if you need a license, easement or permit. If you are required to, see below for how to apply for a License, Easement or Permit. OGS may request additional documents for review. 

 

Apply for a License, Easement or Permit: 

If OGS determines you must apply for a license, easement or permit, use the following applications:

Utility Guidelines

For Utility Cables, Pipelines or Conduits

An easement is required to install utilities above or below lands now or formerly under the waters of state-owned waterbodies. 

Fill Out and Submit an Application Form:
  1. Download the Joint Application Form (JAF)  and fill it out according to the JAF Instructions for permits for activities affecting streams, waterways, water bodies, wetlands, coastal areas, and other sources of water. 
  2. Submit the Joint Application Form – along with plans, pictures, and associated material – to: 
    • Bureau of Land Management, 39th Floor, Corning Tower, Albany, NY 12242

OGS will review your application and determine if you need an easement. If you are required to, see below for how to apply for an easement. OGS may request additional documents for review. 

 

Apply for an Easement: 

If OGS determines you must apply for an easement, use the following applications:

Riparian/Littoral Guidelines

The Office of General Services is responsible for responding to Navigation Law (Section 32) riparian/littoral complaints. This law refers to the interference with the free and direct access to navigable waters. 

NYCRR Part 274 outlines the complaint process and survey principles used in determining riparian or littoral boundaries. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Where does state-owned land begin?

Generally, the boundary between state-owned lands underwater and the upland of a private owner is determined by the last known natural location, prior to the placement of any fill, of the:

  • Low water mark for navigable lakes;
  • Mean high water mark for tidal waters; or
  • Ordinary high water mark for non-tidal rivers. 
 
Is there a list of state-owned water bodies available for review? 

No, we do not maintain a list of state-owned water bodies for public use since each body of water can be a mix of public and private ownership. We encourage individuals to contact us directly regarding a specific area of interest. 

 
Are there prohibited uses for state-owned under lands?

The state discourages non-water dependent uses of public lands, which are uses that could take place on the adjoining upland, such as storage areas, living quarters, etc. 

Application Forms

  •  

    Joint Application Form

    Joint DEC, OGS, and Department of State application for permits for activities affecting streams, waterways, water bodies, wetlands, coastal areas, sources of water, and endangered and threatened species. 

     

    Download

  •  

    Joint Application Form Instructions

    Instructions for joint DEC, OGS, and Department of State application for permits for activities affecting streams, waterways, water bodies, wetlands, coastal areas, sources of water, and endangered and threatened species. 

     

    Download