Certain activities are exempt from Clean Water Act Section 404 permit requirements (33CFR 323.4). Because the requirements associated with exemptions are very complicated, do not attempt to determine by yourself if a proposed activity is exempt. To avoid a potential violation, contact us to help you determine if your project is exempt before you perform any work. If we determine that your project is exempt, we will provide you written documentation verifying that the work is exempt. The following activities are designated as exempt and do not require a Section 404 permit unless one of the triggers discussed below are met:

  • Normal farming, silviculture, or ranching practices that are part of an established, ongoing operation. Practices that are not considered normal, such as deep ripping are not exempt and require a permit. Activities conducted for new operations also require a permit. For example, a landowner would need a permit to construct a fish farming pond on land that had not previously been used for fish farming.
  • Maintenance of structures, such as dikes, dams, levees, breakwaters, causeways, or bridge abutments (maintenance does not include modifications to the character, scope, or size of the original fill design).
  • Construction or maintenance of farm or stock ponds or irrigation ditches, or the maintenance (but not construction) of drainage
  • Construction of temporary sedimentation basins on a construction site that does not involve the placement of fill material in protected waters.
  • Construction or maintenance of farm or forest roads, or temporary roads for moving mining equipment, as long as such roads comply with best management practices and detailed requirements set forth in the regulations.

These activities described above will not be exempt and will require a Section 404 permit if either of the following apply: 

    1) The discharge contains a toxic pollutant. 
    2) The purpose of the activity is to convert waters into a new use where the flow or circulation of water may be impaired or the reach of such waters reduced. The water's flow or circulation is presumed to be impaired if the discharge will cause significant discernable alterations to flow circulation. This includes the construction of structures designed to drain or otherwise significantly modify wetlands and other protected waters.

There are no exemptions in Section 10 waters (i.e., navigable and tidal waters).  For a complete list of Section 10 navigable waters in Washington State click here.