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Development in State Waters and Tidal Wetlands

Piers and Shore Erosion Control Measures (Revetments, Bulkhead Replacement, Living Shorelines)

All development in waters of the State and tidal wetlands requires authorization from the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) - Water Management Administration, Wetlands and Waterways Programs, Tidal Wetlands Division. County approval is also required for piers and any structure located at or above mean high water.

Application Requirements

A person with a riparian interest in private tidal wetlands or upland adjacent to State tidal wetlands, or an agent of such person, may apply for a joint federal and State tidal wetlands license or permit. Applications may be obtained online at MDE, from the Baltimore District office of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, or from the Water Management Administration at MDE in Baltimore.

Pre-application meetings are required and MDE coordinates the scheduling of these meetings with the Critical Area Commission, the County, and the applicant.

BMPs are required for any disturbance to land, and these plans must be submitted to MDE as part of the application. MDE forwards a copy of the proposed BMP to the Critical Area Commission and the Commission in turn forwards a copy and any comments to the County. The County approves the final BMP.

Specific requirements applicable to shoreline stabilization measures can be found in COMAR and, or by contacting MDE.


Mitigation may be required by MDE for the alteration of tidal wetlands resulting from work done under a shoreline stabilization license (COMAR The County requires mitigation for any disturbance above mean high water or to the Critical Area Buffer.

Private, Non-Commercial Piers

Each legally subdivided lot or parcel of record may have one pier in accordance with COMAR and §51.3.113 and §71.9 of the County’s Ordinance. Piers, pilings, and boat ramps are prohibited on individual lots in subdivisions created after March 27, 1990 where community piers or community boat ramps exist or are planned for future construction.

The width of the main section of a pier may not exceed six feet. Up to two, three-foot (3ˊ) wide finger piers may be constructed on the landward side of the end of the main pier. A pier is limited to a maximum of six mooring piles, four boat lifts or hoists, or four boat slips.

No piers, T-heads, L-heads, mooring piles, slips, or boathouses shall be constructed within 25 feet of the extended property line. (See §71.9.6 of the Ordinance to determine the useable waterway and required setbacks.) The extended property line setback may be reduced if a signed affidavit is obtained by the applicant from the adjacent property owner.

When written notarized permission cannot be obtained from the adjoining property owner, an applicant may apply to the Board of Appeals for a variance to encroach into the extended property line setback or to cross an extended property line.

Mitigation is required at a ratio of 1:1 for authorized disturbances above mean high water during construction of a pier.


Routine repair and maintenance of existing boathouses is exempt under COMAR, if there is no increase in width, length, height, or channel-ward encroachment. Except at commercial marinas, a person may not construct a new boathouse in or over State or private wetlands.