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Q. What activities require a Corps permit?
A. There are generally two types of categories of work which require a permit from the Corps of Engineers. The first includes activities within navigable waters. Activities such as dredging, construction of docks (piers, ramps, and floats) and bulkheads and placing navigation aids require review under Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 to ensure that they will not cause an obstruction to navigation. The second major part of the Corps permitting program is Section 404 of the Clean Water Act of 1972. Section 404 of the Clean Water Act regulates certain activities in waters of the United States and requires approval prior to discharging dredged or fill material into waters of the United States. Typical activities requiring Section 404 permits are: depositing fill or dredged material in open waters of the U.S. or adjacent wetlands for site development for roads or residential, commercial, or recreational developments, construction of bulkheads, or placement of riprap. A permit is typically required regardless of whether the work is permanent or temporary.
Q. Who should obtain a permit?
A. Any person, firm or agency (including Federal, state, and local government agencies) planning to do work in navigable waters of the United States or discharge dredged or fill material in waters of the United States, including wetlands must obtain a permit from the Corps of Engineers. Permits, licenses, variances, or similar authorizations may be required by other Federal, state, and local statutes.
Q. What types of activities are a "discharge of dredged or fill material"?
A. Any disturbance to the soil or substrate (bottom material) of a wetland or waterbody, including a stream bed, is discharge. Typical activities include placing dirt, gravel or rock, mechanized land clearing of woody vegetation, grading, or excavation.
Q. I have obtained permits from local and states governments. Why do I have to get a permit from the Corps?
A. Local and state governments issue permits to ensure compliance with local and state laws and regulations. The Corps permit program is in place to ensure you comply with Federal laws and regulations, which are very different than local and state laws.
Q. What will happen if I do work without getting a permit from the Corps?
A. Performing unauthorized work in waters of the United States or failure to comply with the terms of a valid permit can have serious consequences. You would be in violation of Federal law and could face stiff penalties, including fines, legal action or imprisonment and/or requirements to restore the area and mitigate for the impacts. Enforcement is an important part of the Corps regulatory program. Corps surveillance and monitoring activities are often aided by various agencies, groups, and individuals, who report suspected violations. When in doubt as to whether a planned activity needs a permit, contact us. It will save a lot of unnecessary trouble (and costs) later.
Q. What types of permits are issued by the Corps?
A. The Corps of Engineers issues the following types of permits: Letter of Permission, Nationwide Permits, General or Regional Permits, and Standard Individual Permits. For more information on these permits types, please view our Permit Guidebook
Q. When should I apply for a Department of the Army (Corps) permit?
A. Since three to four months at a minimum is normally required to process a routine application, you should apply as early as possible to be sure you have all required approvals before your planned construction date. For a large or complex activity that may take longer, it is often helpful to have a "pre application consultation" or informal meeting with the Corps during the early planning phase of your project. You may receive helpful information at this point which could prevent delays later. When in doubt as to whether a permit may be required or what you need to do, contact us.
Q. How much does it cost for a permit?
A. Most permits issued by the Corps of Engineers, such as Letters of Permission, Nationwide and General Permits do not have a permit fee. Standard Individual Permits have fees of $10 for individuals and $100 for businesses, once the permit has been issued and accepted by the applicant. There are no fees charged to other governmental agencies.
Q. How much of a wetland or stream can I impact?
A. The best practice is to avoid all impacts to streams and wetlands as these are considered valuable resources. When impacts are unavoidable, contact us to determine how to minimize the area impacted and whether a permit is needed. Stringent limits are placed on activities that may cause anything other than minimal impacts to the waterbody or aquatic environment. There are additional prohibitions and limitations on special aquatic resources, including wetlands. The national policy regarding wetlands is to prevent any further net loss. To meet this goal, if you have avoided and minimized impacts, you may still be required to compensate for the loss of aquatic resources through compensatory mitigation.
Q. How can I design my project to eliminate the need for a Corps permit?
A. If your activity is located in an area of tidal waters, the best way to avoid the need for a permit is to select a site that is above the high tide line and avoid adjacent wetlands. In the vicinity of fresh water, stay landward of the ordinary high water mark and avoid wetlands adjacent to streams, rivers, or lakes. Before you work in or near water or wetlands, contact us for specific information about permitting requirements.