Legislative Alert: The WRA Seeks Legislation for Right to Place a Pier on Man-Made Waterways


 December 09, 2019
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For over 140 years, Wisconsin law has recognized that owners of waterfront property have riparian rights, including the right to place a pier. However, in January 2018, the Wisconsin Supreme Court, in Movrich v. Lobermeier, held that riparian owners on a flowage do not have a right to place a pier. 

Background: 

This decision could impact thousands of waterfront property owners by limiting their access to the water and significantly decreasing the value of their property.

  1. Wisconsin has approximately 260 flowages.
  2. Thousands of lakes in Wisconsin are considered man-made or artificial, resulting from the raising of water levels or damming of rivers or streams.
  3. The court’s ruling applies broadly to all piers, including floating piers and existing piers that have been placed for decades, and waterfront property assessed for property tax purposes as having pier rights.
  4. Some property owners may be forced to remove their pier or pay a dock license fee to keep their existing pier.  

What’s in play: New legislation has been introduced to restore the affected waterfront property owners’ rights that existed prior to the Movrich case. AB 551/SB 501 is sponsored by Rep. Rob Stafsholt (R-New Richmond) and Sen. Pat Testin (R-Stevens Point). The WRA will work over the next three months to pass this legislation so Gov. Evers can sign it into law.

Legislation status: This legislation has been introduced. 

See additional details about the Movrich case in ‚ÄúPierless in Paradise‚ÄĚ in the April 2018 Wisconsin Real Estate Magazine at www.wra.org/WREM/Apr18/Piers.

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