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What is the Regulatory Program?

What Work Requires a Permit?

Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 requires approval prior to the accomplishment of any work in, over or under navigable waters of the United States, or which affects the course, location, condition or capacity of such waters. Typical activities requiring Section 10 permits are:

  • Construction of piers, wharves, bulkheads, dolphins, marinas, ramps, floats, intake structures, and cable or pipeline crossings

  • Dredging and excavation

Section 404 of the Clean Water Act Act requires approval prior to discharging dredged or fill material into the waters of the United States. Typical activities requiring Section 404 permits are:

  • Mechanically clearing, leveling or other filling in wetlands.
  • Site development fill for residential, commercial, or recreational developments.
  • Construction of revetments, groins, breakwaters, levees, dams, dikes, and weirs.
  • Placement of riprap and road fills.

Who Should Obtain a Permit?

Any person, firm, or agency (including Federal, state, and local government agencies) planning to work in navigable waters of the United States, or dump or place dredged or fill material in waters of the United States, must first obtain a permit from the Corps of Engineers. Permits, licenses, variances, or similar authorization may also be required by other Federal, state and local statutes.

Waters of the United States

Waters of the United States includes essentially all surface waters such as all navigable waters and their tributaries, all interstate waters and their tributaries, most natural lakes, all wetlands adjacent to these waters, and all impoundments of these waters.

"Wetlands" are areas characterized by growth of wetland vegetation (bulrush, cattails, rushes, sedges, willows, bottom hardwoods) where the soil is saturated during a portion of the growing season or the surface is flooded during some part of most years. Wetlands generally include swamps, marshes, bogs, and similar areas.

The Corps' provides a brochure on Recognizing Wetlands.

The landward regulatory limit for non-tidal waters (in the absence of adjacent wetlands) is the ordinary high water mark. The ordinary high water mark is the line on the shores established by the fluctuations of water and indicated by physical characteristics such as:

  • a clear natural line impressed on the bank;
  • shelving;
  • changes in the character of the soil;
  • destruction of terrestial vegetation;
  • the presence of litter and debris;
  • or other appropriate means that consider the characteristics of the surrounding areas.

Navigable waters of the United States are defined as waters that have been used in the past, are now used, or are susceptible to use as a means to transport interstate or foreign commerce up to the head of navigation. Section 10 and/or Section 404 permits are required for construction activities in these waters. A complete list is available in the District Office.

Pre-Application Consultation

You are encouraged to contact the Corps of Engineers for proposed work in waters in your area. Exemptions, nationwide, regional and individual permit requirements will be reviewed. By discussing all information prior to application submittal, your application will be processed more efficiently.

An official determination as to the need for a Department of the Army permit will be provided upon request.

You Can Help

The understanding and support of the American people is vital to the success of this program. To protect our nation's water resources and assure their use and enjoyment for future generations, we must all join this vital effort. We ask your help in "passing the word" to others concerning the permit requirements outlined in this brochure and solicit your views and comments on better ways of attaining the goals of this program. Your comments, questions, and suggestions should be directed to one of our regulatory offices.

For additional information or to apply for a permit, please contact:

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
700 W. Capitol Ave.
Little Rock, AR 72203-3221

Phone: (501) 324-5295  Fax: (501) 324-6013

Video Library

Learn more about the Regulatory Program and Permitting Process by watching the videos posted in the Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System Library.