Land & Water FAQ

Marl, Sand, Gravel, Shell or Mudshell Permits

Is a permit required to dig in a stream bed?

Perhaps. If the stream is perennial (flows most of the time), or is more than 30 feet wide between the banks (even if it is dry most of the time), the State claims the bed and the sand and gravel in it as State-owned. A permit from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is required to "disturb or take" streambed materials from a streambed claimed by the State. Contact the Wetlands Conservation Program at 512/389-4583.

If I live along a stream claimed by the State, can I dig up sand and gravel to landscape my yard or to fill holes in my driveway?

While small amounts may not pose a threat to the fishery or to wildlife habitat, the law does not differentiate on the size of a project. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department evaluates a project based on its probable impact, and authorizes small projects without a lengthy permitting process, but a general permit fee of $250 must be submitted for such a permit. It may be easier and less expensive to obtain such a small amount of material from a lumber yard.

How can I be sure whether the State claims the stream bed?

In many cases, TPWD will be able to answer this question. However, TPWD may need to draw on the expertise of the Texas General Land Office. Contact the Surveying Section, 512-463-3493 for a definitive answer. You may also contract with a registered state land surveyor who is qualified to perform such surveys if time is a critical factor.

Do I need a permit to disturb the bed of any water in the State, no matter how small?

No. The State’s jurisdiction under chapter 86 is limited to those waterways that are navigable or otherwise public. The bases for state jurisdiction are discussed in articles at the following links:

I have a deed that shows I own the bed of the river where I want to dig. Does that mean I don’t need a permit?

Not necessarily. Even if you have a valid deed to the streambed, if the stream is navigable, the State retains the right to the sand and gravel. The law that governs this is called the “Small Bill.”

How close to the stream bed may I remove sand and gravel without a permit?

Generally, the line between state and private land at the edge of a waterway is the “gradient boundary.”Useful discussions on the meaning of this term can be found at the following links:

How is the Marl, Sand, Gravel, Shell or Mudshell Permit Applicable?

Pursuant to chapter 86, subtitle F, of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Code, The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission shall manage, control, and protect marl and sand of commercial value and all gravel, shell, and mudshell located within tidewater limits of the state, and on islands within those limits, and within the freshwater areas of the state not embraced by a survey of private land, and on islands within those areas.

§ 86.002. Permit required; penalty.
  1. (a) No person may disturb or take marl, sand, gravel, shell, or mudshell under the management and protection of the commission or operate in or disturb any oyster bed or fishing water for any purpose other than that necessary or incidental to navigation or dredging under state or federal authority without first having acquired from the commission a permit authorizing the activity.
  2. (b) Each day’s operation in violation of this section constitutes a separate offense.
§ 86.003. Application for permit.
  1. (a) A person desiring a permit may apply to the commission.
  2. (b) The application must be in writing and must describe the area in which authorization to operate is sought.

What types of permits are available?

There are two types of permits –General Permit (31 TAC § 69.115) and Individual Permit (31 TAC §69.105). For an overview, please refer to 31 TAC chapter 69, subchapter H; and Texas Parks & Wildlife Code chapter 86.

How does one obtain a permit?

An application must be filed with the Department, including information on the size of the stream, the nature of the banks and the bed of the stream, the amount of material to be disturbed or removed, the adjacent landowners, and the probable effects on the stream and its other users. A fee, ranging from $250 to $1200 must accompany the application. The Department evaluates the probable impact to the environment of the activity, and grants a permit if no significant damage is anticipated. Individual permit applications require a hearing before the permit is issued.

Which forms need to be filled out and submitted?

  1. PWD-994 Permit Application (PDF)
    See PWD-994A Instructions (PDF) for filling out General Sand and Gravel Permit Application.
  2. Sand, Gravel and Marl Dredger's Report (PWD-1308) (.xls)

Where do I submit the forms?

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
ATTN: Inland Fisheries: Sand & Gravel Permitting Coordinator
4200 Smith School Rd, Austin, TX 78744-3291

Who needs to fill out the forms?

A person or the agent of a person who intends to disturb or take marl, sand, gravel, shell, or mudshell under the management and protection of the commission or operate in or disturb any oyster bed or fishing water for any purpose other than that necessary or incidental to navigation or dredging under state or federal law.

How long does it take to obtain a permit?

It varies, depending on the size and complexity of the project. A small project with no serious impacts and no neighbors objecting may take as little as 60 days, while a large commercial project might take several months. If there is substantial local objection, that could lengthen the process. If requests are received for a "contested case hearing" it will be referred to the State Office of Administrative Hearings and the matter could take several years to resolve. There is no guarantee that an application will result in a permit being issued.

What is the application processing fee?
Is the fee refundable if my application is denied?

The fee is $250.00 for a general permit; $500 for a non-revenue individual permit; and $1200 for a revenue-producing individual permit. Application fees are waived for some public entities. See 31 Texas Administrative Code (TAC) chapter 69, subchapter H; Texas Parks & Wildlife chapter 86. Application processing fees are nonrefundable even if your application is denied.

What are the applicable statutes and rules?