The objective of the Clean Water Act (CWA) is to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters. Toward achievement of this goal, the CWA prohibits the discharge of dredged or fill material into waters of the United States unless a permit issued by the Army Corps of Engineers or approved State under CWA Section 404 authorizes such a discharge.
For every authorized discharge, the adverse impacts to wetlands, streams and other aquatic resources must be avoided and minimized to the extent practicable. For unavoidable impacts, compensatory mitigation is required to replace the loss of wetland and aquatic resource functions in the watershed.
Compensatory mitigation refers to the restoration, establishment, enhancement, or in certain circumstances preservation of wetlands, streams or other aquatic resources for the purpose of offsetting unavoidable adverse impacts.
Of great importance to the project evaluation is the Corps public interest balancing process. The public benefits and detriments of all factors relevant to each case are carefully evaluated and balanced. Relevant factors may include conservation, economics, aesthetics, wetlands, cultural values, navigation, fish and wildlife values, water supply, water quality, and any other factors judged important to the needs and welfare of the people. The following general criteria are considered in evaluating all applications:
- The relevant extent of public and private needs;
- Where unresolved conflicts of resource use exist, the practicability of using reasonable alternative locations and methods to accomplish project purposes; and
- The extent and permanence of the beneficial and/or detrimental effects the proposed project may have on public and private uses to which the area is suited.
No permit is granted if the proposal is found to be contrary to the public interest.
Source: USACE New Orleans Website
Typical Processing Procedure for a Standard Individual Permit
- Pre-application consultation (optional)
- Applicant submits ENG Form 4345 to district regulatory office*
- Application received and assigned identification number
- Public notice issued (within 15 days of receiving all information)
- 30 day comment period depending upon nature of activity
- Proposal is reviewed by Corps** and:
- 1. Public
2. Federally Recognized Tribes
3. Special interest groups
4. Local agencies
5. State agencies
6. Federal agencies
- Corps considers all comments
- Other Federal agencies consulted, if appropriate
- District engineer may ask applicant to provide additional information
- Public hearing held, if needed
- District engineer makes decision
- Permit issued
- Permit denied and applicant advised of reason
*A local variation, often a joint federal-state application form may be submitted.
** Review period may be extended if applicant fails to submit information or due to requirements of certain laws.
Obtain instructions and application forms to permit your project from the appropriate USACE district website:
New Orleans District