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Water Resources frequently asked questions

1. What are the hours of operation for Water Resources?

The Office of Water Resources is open from 8:30 am to 5:00 PM, Monday through Friday except on certain holidays or during Governor-approved weather emergencies.

2. What are the hours of operation for Stratton Lock and dam?

The Lock at Stratton Lock and Dam is open from May 1st to October 31st through all weather conditions. Hours of operation from May 1st to September 30th are 8:00 AM to Midnight. During the month of October, Lock hours are 8:00 am to 8:00 PM. The Lockmaster can be reached at: (815) 385-2848

3. Why is the Fox River / Fox Chain of Lakes high / low?

The Stratton Lock and Dam regulates pool levels on the Fox Chain of Lakes, drawing down in spring when flooding is most likely to occur. Status of the Dam Operations can be found on the Stratton Operations Update website.

4. When is a permit required?

Construction in the floodways of the rivers, lakes and streams of the state requires a permit from the Division of Water Resource Management. The Division's jurisdiction includes all streams in urban areas where the stream drainage area is one square mile or more and all streams in rural areas where the drainage area is ten square miles or more. Construction includes such activities as the placement, construction or reconstruction of any building or structure, filling, excavating, modifying channels, storing materials, constructing levees, bridges, culverts and roads and other similar activities.


The floodway is the channel and the adjacent portion of the floodplain that is needed to safely convey and store flood waters. The floodway can often be found on the local Flood Insurance Rate Map for that community or county. If no delineated floodway is shown, the Division generally requires permits for work anywhere in the floodplain.

Permits are also required to construct, modify, remove and operate all dams (except certain low hazard potential dams) independent of drainage area.

5. What other approvals do I need?

The standard State of Illinois joint application form includes copies for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. Consultation with the Illinois Historic Preservation Division of IDNR and the IDNR Office of Realty and Environmental Planning is also required.


In addition to State of Illinois floodway permit requirements, nearly every community in Illinois has adopted local floodplain management regulations. These regulations are applicable to the entire floodplain. Therefore, you should also contact your local governing body to determine if they have additional permit requirements.

6. Are dam permits different?

Yes. In addition to permits being required for constructing and modifying dams, permits are required for transferring ownership of dams and removing dams. Due to the complex nature of dam projects, you should contact the Division early in the design process. For new dam construction, a preliminary design report should generally be submitted before an application.

7. What is a Statewide Permit?

Some common minor construction activities have been identified that have been determined to be permissible if the project meets certain limitations. For those activities, a statewide permit has been issued. All individual projects that are within the listed limitations for the permit are automatically authorized. If the applicant determines that his proposed work is within the limitations, his project is approved under the statewide permit and he does not need to contact the Division for further approval. Generally the statewide permits are applicable in floodways in downstate counties and in non-delineated floodways in northeastern Illinois counties.


These permits cover only the IDNR permit requirements. Therefore, you should still contact the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and your local governing body to determine if they have additional permit requirements.

8. What types of projects are covered by Statewide Permits?

Projects such as utility crossings, boat docks, maintenance dredging, streambank stabilization and bridge replacements that are limited in scope and have little potential to obstruct flood flows are covered. There are 14 statewide permits.

9. What is a Regional Permit?

The Division issued Regional Permit No. 3 to automatically authorize certain minor construction activities in designated floodways in northeastern Illinois (Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will Counties). Subsequent to the issuance of Regional Permit No. 3, it is not necessary to submit permit applications to, or obtain individual permits from, the Division for specified construction activities which meet the applicable terms and conditions. Types of projects that may be authorized by Regional Permit No. 3 include underground and overhead utilities, outfalls, streambank protection, and non-commercial boat docks. For a copy of Regional Permit No. 3 click here. Please note that Regional Permit Nos. 1 and 2 are administered by the Illinois Department of Transportation, Division of Highways.

10. What is a General Permit?

General permits have been adopted to expedite the processing of applications for parallel shoreline protection projects in Lake Michigan (General Permit No. 1-LM). Contrary to statewide permits and Regional Permit No. 3, a permit application must be submitted to the appropriate OWR office along with all additional information required to show compliance with the particular general permit. Construction should not be started on the project until written confirmation of compliance with the permit has been provided by the Office of Water Resources.

11. What is the Delegation Program?

Some communities in northeastern Illinois have been delegated the authority to issue floodway permits on behalf of the Department. The delegation program is applicable to floodway construction activities in designated floodways only. It is not applicable to other floodways, public waters or dams. To be eligible to participate in the delegation program, a community must be in good standing with the National Flood Insurance Program, must have and enforce an ordinance which meets minimum State and Federal standards, and must have a professional engineer on staff or under contract to review the proposed floodway construction activity. Contact the Northeastern Illinois Regulatory Programs Section for a list of delegated communities

12. I Need a permit but do not qualify for a Statewide Permit or Regional Permit # 3. What do I do next?

You'll need to submit a completed application for permit form to the appropriate Office of Water Resources office along with the plans and information discussed in the rules. These instructions will indicate where to send your application. Since many activities regulated by the Division also require review by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, the application package is jointly used by all three agencies. Completed applications should generally be sent to each agency. The application package is also available from any of the OWR offices, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and many local government building and zoning offices. To have an application package mailed to you call 217/782-3863.

13. Do I always need to submit to the Office of Water Resources a Copy of the permit application?

No. If your project meets the terms and conditions of a statewide permit or Regional Permit No. 3 or is permitted by a delegated community, the Office of Water Resources copy of the joint application form does not need to be submitted. However, if you are not familiar with the OWR regulatory programs and are not sure whether an individual OWR permit is necessary, you should submit the application to the appropriate OWR office.

14. Is there a permit application fee?

If a permit is required for an activity that is not already authorized by a Statewide or Regional Permit, permit applicants must pay a non-refundable permit application review fee of up to $5000 per application. Applicants will be notified in writing of the required fee after the Department's initial review of the application. Please see the Permit Application Fee FAQ's and the Permit Application Fee Notice for additional information about this fee.

15. How long does it take to get a permit?

The time required to review a permit application varies based on things like the complexity of the construction, the need to issue a public notice, the completeness of the initial application and other factors. Generally, the Division will respond to the initial application within 60 days. In some cases the initial response will include a permit.

16. Did my neighbor get a permit?

To determine if construction projects have received the required authorization, you must send a written request to the Division. You should include the name of the property owner/permittee, a description of the work, and a detailed location map. We will research our records to determine if a permit has been issued, contact the property owner for more information or visit the construction site as necessary. State law prohibits the release of the name of a person who reports a violation.

17. I want to build a dock, or house, do I need a permit?

Maybe. Resource Management handles all OWR permits and their web page includes lists of the kinds of permits available, as well as downloadable application forms.

18. When do I need flood insurance?

Flood insurance is required if you have a federally insured or a direct federal mortgage to buy or build a new home or other structure in an area identified as a regular floodplain.


Standard homeowners' policies do not cover flood damage. Therefore, all property owners, whether they live in an identified floodplain or not, should consider the purchase of flood insurance. Flood insurance is available anywhere within a community that participates in the National Flood Insurance Program. To purchase flood insurance call any licensed insurance agent or the NFIP Referral Call Center at 1-800-427-4661 or go to FEMA's How To Buy Flood Insurance.

19. How do I tell if I am in a regulated floodplain?

Most regulated floodplain areas are identified on the Flood Insurance Rate Map for your county or community. Your local building official should have a copy of the Flood Insurance Rate Map for your community and can help you determine if your site is located in or near a floodplain. You can also view the floodplain maps on the Federal Emergency Management Agency website.


Some floodplain areas regulated by the Office of Water Resources have not been identified on the flood insurance rate mapping. Whether or not a floodplain area has been mapped, the Office of Water Resources regulates construction in the floodways of all streams in urban areas where the stream drainage area is one square mile or more and all streams in rural areas where the stream drainage area is ten square miles or more.

20. Is the Office of Water Resources involved in floodplain mapping?

Yes. The Division of Resource Management must concur with floodway mapping and flood profiles resulting from new floodplain studies, and also with proposed revisions to current effective designated floodways and/or flood profiles in northeastern Illinois. After concurrence by the Division, approval from the Federal Emergency Management Agency is needed. The Division is not involved in changes to the mapping of flood fringe areas or other Special Flood Hazard Areas not involving a designated floodway.

21. I have a Boating question.

The Office of Land Management oversees recreational water usage in Illinois, including Boating. For information on dams and rivers in the Chicago area, try the Chicago Area Fishing & Paddling Guide.

22. I have a question about fish, fishing, pond restocking or algae.

Try the Office of Land Management, Fisheries Division. They can help you deal with all things fish and have publications on algae, plus handle working with chemicals.

23. I want to purchase River maps or charts.

The Office of Water Resources does not carry maps, but the USGS does. Bathymetric style maps, river maps, satellite mapping, anchorages, marinas, rapids, floodplains etcetera are available from the USGS online store.

24. I am looking for information concerning the impoundment of water in regard to irrigation.

If the problem is generated as a result of construction activity by a private individual, the solution may be referred to the OWR's Permit Section for enforcement action. An OWR permit is required for work on Illinois streams if a mapped floodway exists at the project site or if the drainage area at the proposed work is greater than 1 sq. mi. in urban/urbanizing areas, or 10 sq. mi. in rural areas. See Resource Management, and the Permits section for more information.

25. I am concerned about the water quality near my home.
26. Does Illinois have a law governing how resulting water runoff from processes should be disposed of?

Yes it does, contact the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency's Regulations page, and visit this page, which tells you when a permit is needed.

27. Where can I look up water well information for any well in Illinois?

Information on community wells was available on the USGS/IEPA sourcewater protection web page, but, since 9/11/2001 it has been taken offline. Limited information on private wells is still available on the Illinois State Water Survey 's web site. Probably the best way to get detailed information on a private well is to request a copy of the original well log from the ISWS Groundwater information office (217-333-2210 or through the web address above.) You need to know the exact legal description of the well location, from county, range, township, down to 1/4 1/4 1/4 Section. Street addresses are usually inadequate. There is a small fee for securing this, but it will give you the original drillers log with more information than is on the web. If the well has been drilled since 1988, you may also ask at your local health department for a copy of the well log.

28. I would like to get information regarding a pipeline that runs through the State of Illinois.

IDNR's Division of Oil and Gas does not regulate pipelines and OWR does not deal with pipelines at all. You may wish to check with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency or the Illinois Commerce Commission for information.

29. I have a product that I think you'd like to know about!

The State website policy is not to promote products and so as useful as your product or website may be, we cannot link to or address it.

30. Have more questions?

Questions can be directed to the Division of Water Resource Management