Marina Design & Construction Permitting


Learn everything you need to know about marina design and construction permitting and find a contractor near you today.

Marina Design & Construction Permitting Overview

What Is Marina Design & Permitting?

Marina design and permitting refers to the planning stages of building a marina. The existing structure of your site as well as the state you live in will affect the design and what kind of permits are required.

What Problems It Solves:

A marina provides a space for boats and yachts to be stored and easily accessed by their owners and/or crew. A thoughtfully designed marina mitigates the level of site erosion, ecosystem disturbance, and unnecessary amounts of pollution.

Images Of Marina Design & Construction Permitting

Advantages & Disadvantages Of Marina Design & Construction Permitting


The advantages of a well-designed marina include:

  • Decreased chance of erosion: Proper pier or dock placement can mitigate erosion by reducing the level of impact waves have on the shore. Wave attenuators (which can only be installed in areas of water with a fetch of 3–5 miles or less) can also decrease the power of incoming waves, minimizing the effects of erosion, maintaining the integrity and property value of the land.
  • Keeping boaters safe: The design of an easily navigated dock system can provide safety to boaters in the case of an emergency evacuation due to a storm or other hazard.
  • Structural maintenance, made easy: Your marina dock design matters. The implementation of floating docks, rather than fixed, can save you lots of money in repairs or eventual replacement. This type of dock can be easily removed in the winter to prevent harmful ice damage. While out of the water, it can be easily cleaned, preventing years worth of buildup of organisms like zebra mussels. If the floating dock is resting over an area of piping that needs to be examined, being able to easily and quickly remove a piece makes the process much more efficient.
  • Minimization of dredging: An important part of building a marina is dredging: the removal of sediment. To limit the harmful effects it can have on spawning fish, and to prevent unnecessary erosion, find a site for your marina that has more abundance of naturally deep waters for your docks and larger boat slips, which will require less dredging. Consult with your local wildlife authorities on what time of year will have the smallest impact on fish spawning.
  • Maintaining water quality: Keeping water circulating is an important part of an effective marina design. Proper circulation reduces the buildup of pollution. If circulation is naturally poor, a mechanical aeration system can be installed to increase circulation, mitigating pollution build up. To further avoid pollution build up, avoid blocking sunlight to aquatic vegetation that resides on the bottom of the basin; pick docking that maximizes sunlight penetration.


A marina that does not consider what impact it is having on the surrounding environment can be extremely harmful. The possible outcomes of a poorly-designed marina include:

  • Increased erosion: Poor marina design can actually increase the power of the waves entering the marina basin, resulting in the increase of harmful and costly erosion. This can also increase shoaling, which can be harmful to water crafts and negatively alter water circulation.
  • Harm to the ecosystem: An over-dredged marina can be extremely damaging to spawning fish—as the sediment is disturbed, particles can migrate to the surrounding areas, landing in fragile nests of fish eggs. This can have a significant impact on endangered species spawning seasons, negatively impacting the entire food chain of your local area.
  • Increased levels of pollution: Without proper circulatory systems in place, pollutants can build up in the sediment, leading to inferior water quality. This negatively affects both the ecosystem and aesthetic value of your marina.

Marina Design & Construction Permitting Process


While there are many steps to go through before your marina will be up and running, it will be worth the effort.


In the beginning phases of your project, you will have a few tasks to check off. What kind of marina do you want to build? This will determine the amount of funding necessary for the marina.

Next, you will need to find a designer to help make the blueprints based both on your site and the capacity you wish to provide. In the planning process, it will benefit you to become aware of the types of permits necessary for your build, which are both federally mandated and state specific.

Locating A Contractor

Finding a reputable contracting team via Marine Matcher is as easy as it is important. A great contractor will guide you through best practices on the build so you know what to expect each step of the way. They will be able to offer advice on what building materials and structures best suit your site’s needs.

Beginning The Build

This is the manifestation of months of planning and awaiting permits. Your builder will implement your ideas as well as provide maintenance for a specific period once the build is complete.


Utilize materials that won’t release harmful chemicals or residue into the water. Make sure to pick materials that are incredibly durable, limiting the potential cost of repairs or replacements in the future. Good options include coated steel, reinforced concrete, recycled plastic, and vinyl sheet piling.

Avoid wood, which can deteriorate more quickly, and stay away from using coal tar sealing on paved areas, which contain chemicals that are harmful to people and wildlife.

Permitting Process

Before the building can begin, you must apply for and receive approval of both federal and state permits. Your state will have specific regulations for altering tributaries as well guidelines for erosion control.

Some permits will also require sketches of the building design and/or sediment testing prior to the dredging stage. For projects being built along the Great Lakes, a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is required before beginning.

Common Problems

There are a few common problems that occur during the construction of marinas. They are, however, able to be overcome with proper planning.

Dredged sediment: When sediment is removed, it needs to be properly disposed of, based on its makeup. This must be done in a way that does not affect public safety or the environment. Possible ways to utilize sediment include mine reclamation and golf course shaping.

Delayed permits: Government agencies work on their own timeline. Make sure you request permits far in advance to ensure they are not holding up the beginning of construction.

Financing issues: Marinas are a large undertaking, and building in water can be costly. The fluctuating cost of materials and labor can greatly affect the money required to complete a project.

Questions To Ask Contractors

Creating a detailed checklist of points to discuss with your potential contractor will make sure you find the right fit. Good questions include:

  • How long have you been in the business of marina construction?
  • What is the expected timeline?
  • How does the site environment affect the type of seawall required?
  • How can we make the project LEED certified?
  • Do you utilize low-turbidity dredging and silt curtains?
  • How do you ensure the toe of the rock revetment is being properly excavated and installed?

Different Types Of Marina Design & Construction Permitting

There are many different kinds of marinas and seawalls you can construct. While the type of seawall you employ (hard structure or soft vegetation) will greatly depend on the guidance of a coastal engineer, the type of marina you build will depend on what clientele you are looking to serve.

Common Types Of Marinas

  • City marinas: These government-led marinas offer 24 boat slips for vessels between 33 feet and 55 feet.
  • Boatyards: These marinas feature boat lifts to remove boats from the water, leaving them ready for necessary repairs, regular maintenance, or storage.
  • Tiki bars: This type of marina will bring all local, boaters and non boaters, to enjoy a cocktail with a view. Make sure to add a kitchen to your design plans if you want to offer food to your patrons.
  • Resort-style: If you’re looking to charge substantial slip fees and cater to a high-end clientele, a resort-style marina may be a great option. These can often include a pool, cafe, gym, state-of-the-art locker rooms, and incredible services like premium waxing.

Costs Of Marina Design & Construction Permitting

The cost of your marina will be determined by the hours put into the design and construction, the equipment required, the number of people involved in the planning and construction crew, and the type of materials you use.

Bid & Buying Solicitation

A good rule of thumb? Don’t go with the first and cheapest option. Take your time in comparing service providers to find a team that matches exactly what you’re looking for.

Marine Matcher can help you solicit the best estimates and bids for your marina construction project. Get started today—enter your type of project, project timeline, location, and budget to be matched with contractors that fit your needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where Can I Find Permits Needed For Marina Construction?

Your local government website will offer a space for you to apply for your marina construction permits.

How Long Does The Marina Design Process Take?

The design process can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, as it can depend on the input and approval from many parties.

How Expensive Is The Marina Design Process?

Cost of the design process is specific to the team involved. At Marine Matcher, we can help you to find a variety of professionals at various price points.

How Expensive Are Permits For Marinas?

The cost of a permit varies between states—contact your building authorities for more information.