Legislative Alert: “Protect Our Piers” Campaign a Major Success

 July 19, 2021

For 140 years, Wisconsin property owners had the right to place a pier or dock on their property and enjoy access to Wisconsin’s waterways. However, a Wisconsin Supreme Court decision in 2018 put thousands of waterfront property owners in jeopardy of losing their piers because someone else may own the ground under the water. The WRA urged the Wisconsin Legislature to pass legislation, SB 46/AB 46, to restore the right to place a pier in Wisconsin. In May, the legislature passed SB 46/AB 46, and Gov. Evers signed it into law last month.

  • The new law restores the presumption of riparian rights for waterfront property owners, unless those rights are specifically prohibited by the deed to the land, written agreement or other recorded instrument.
  • Existing piers and structures are grandfathered. No fees can be charged unless the fee was authorized as part of an existing agreement.
  • New piers and structures must receive authorization from hydroelectric utilities, but authorization can be denied only if the placement of the structure would violate federal or state law or invalidate a FERC license.  
  • New disclosures are added to the Real Estate Condition Report and Vacant Land Condition Report to make prospective buyers aware of the limited riparian rights possessed by waterfront property owners along flowages with beds owned by hydroelectric utilities. 

The WRA would like to thank Wisconsin lawmakers Sen. Rob Stafsholt (R-New Richmond) and Rep. Rob Brooks (R-Cedarburg) for co-sponsoring this critical legislation to restore pier rights in Wisconsin.

Watch for the August issue of Wisconsin Real Estate Magazine, which will feature a full breakdown of the new law.

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