Federal, state, and possibly local permits are required for construction in, across, under, or on the
banks of navigable waters of the United States. Federal permits are coordinated by the applicant and the
states through division and district offices of the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers. The authority for the
Corps' permit program is derived basically from two laws: Section 10 of the River and Harbor Act of
1899 and Section 404 of the Clean Water Act of 1977, as amended.
Section 10 of the 1899 Act requires permits for structures and dredging in navigable waters of
the United States, which are those coastal waters subject to tidal action shoreward of the mean high water
line, and inland waters that have been used, are now used, or may be used in the future for interstate or
foreign commerce. On the Great Lakes, permits are required under this section for construction lakeward
of the highwater mark, the definition of which varies from state to state, and often with the federal
definition. Where doubt exists, an appropriate local state agency or Corps district office can provide
Section 404 of the Clean Water Act mandates a Corps permit for placement of dredged or fill
material in waters of the United States. In this case, "waters of the United States" includes navigable
waters as under Section 10 permits, as well as tributaries and wetlands adjacent to navigable waters of
the United States. Jurisdiction extends to the high water line, except that where wetlands are present they
are included also.
A standard application form (ENG Form 4345) must be obtained from the local Corps district
office. The application must include a description of the proposed construction, including "necessary
drawings, sketches, or plans; the location, purpose, and intended use of the proposed activity; scheduling
of the activity; the names and addresses of adjoining property owners; the location and dimensions of
adjacent structures; and the approvals required by other federal, interstate, state or local agencies for the
work, including all approvals received or denials already made" [U.S. Army, Corps of Engineers
When the District Engineer receives the application, he will check it for completeness and will
generally issue a public notice inviting comments on the application. The comment period is generally
30 days, although it may be longer or shorter depending on the circumstances. Permit applications are
generally coordinated with the appropriate federal, state, and local agencies as well as adjoining property
owners. As a result of that coordination, comments may be presented which would require modification
of the original proposal. Beyond these possible modifications, if the comments received and the study
conducted by the Corps reveal no overriding public interest or environmental problems, the application
would then be approved and a permit issued. Although it may vary considerably, a routine permit
application normally requires 75 to 90 days for approval.
The Corps has adopted a number of conditional general permits on a regional and nationwide basis
to reduce red tape and paperwork. No separate application is required for activities where general
permits have been issued. Applicants should check with the local District Engineer to determine if the
proposed work is covered by a general permit and what conditions may apply.
Additional information pertinent to local areas is available -through Corps of Engineers' district
offices or through certain state and local agencies.