Sacramento District Header Image

SACRAMENTO DISTRICT

Home
Home > Missions > Regulatory > FAQ
image - Sacramento waterfront

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Collapse All Expand All

Q. Why does the Corps of Engineers regulate work in wetlands?

A. The Corps has been involved in regulating activities by others in navigable waterways through the granting of permits since passage of the Rivers & Harbors Act (Section 10) of 1899. At first, this program was meant to prevent obstructions to navigation, although an early 20th century law gave us regulatory authority over the dumping of trash and sewage. Passage of the Clean Water Act (Section 404) in 1972 greatly broadened this role by giving the Corps authority over dredging and filling in the "waters of the United States," including many wetlands.

Q. Why does the Corps of Engineers regulate work in wetlands?

A. The Corps has been involved in regulating activities by others in navigable waterways through the granting of permits since passage of the Rivers & Harbors Act (Section 10) of 1899. At first, this program was meant to prevent obstructions to navigation, although an early 20th century law gave us regulatory authority over the dumping of trash and sewage. Passage of the Clean Water Act (Section 404) in 1972 greatly broadened this role by giving the Corps authority over dredging and filling in the "waters of the United States," including many wetlands.

Q: What work requires a permit?

A. 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.
Navigable waters of the United States (33 CFR Part 329) 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.

Typical activities requiring Section 10 permits include:

  • Construction of piers, wharves, breakwaters, bulkheads, jetties, weirs, dolphins, marinas, ramps, floats, intake structures, and cable or pipeline crossings.
  • Work such as dredging or disposal of dredged material. 
  • Excavation, filling, or other modifications to navigable waters of the U.S.

Section 404 of the Clean Water Act requires approval prior to discharging dredged or fill material into the waters of the United States.

Waters of the United States (33 CFR Part 328) include essentially all surface waters, including all navigable waters and their tributaries, all interstate waters and their tributaries, all impoundments of these waters, all wetlands adjacent to these waters, and certain isolated wetlands.

The term "wetlands" means those areas that are inundated or saturated by surface or ground water at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions. Wetlands generally include tundra, permafrost areas, swamps, marshes, bogs, and similar areas.
Recognizing Wetlands is a brochure containing more information on wetland identification.

The 1987 Wetland Delineation Manual, and the associated regional supplements are the technical resources used to delineate wetlands and specify the criteria for an area to be classified as a wetland.

Typical activities requiring Section 404 permits include:

  • Discharging fill or dredged material in waters of the U.S., including wetlands. 
  • Construction of residential, commercial, institutional or recreational developments. 
  • Construction of revetments, groins, breakwaters, levees, dams, dikes, and weirs. 
  • Placement of riprap and road fills. 
  • Installation of underground utility lines

Certain activities are exempt (33 CFR 323.4) from Section 404 permit requirements.

Section 103 of the Marine Protection Research and Sanctuaries Act requires approval for the transportation of dredged material for the purpose of dumping it in ocean waters.

Q. When do I need a permit from the Corps of Engineers?

A. There are generally two types of activities which require a permit from the Corps of Engineers. The first includes activities within navigable waters. Activities such as dredging, construction of docks and bulkheads and placing aids to navigation 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 part of the program, Section 404 of the Clean Water Act of 1972 regulates activities in waters of the US. A major aspect of the Regulatory program under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act is determining which areas qualify for protection as wetlands. In reaching these decisions, the Corps uses its 1987 Wetland Delineation Manual and associated regional supplements.

Q. What types of permits are issued by the Corps?

A. The Corps of Engineers issues the following types of permits: Nationwide Permits, General or Regional Permits, Letters of Permission and Standard Permits. .

Q. Who should obtain a permit?

A. Any person, firm, or agency (including Federal, state, and local government agencies) planning to work in navigable waters of the United States, or discharge (dump, place, deposit) dredged or fill material in waters of the United States, including wetlands, 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.

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 Permits have fees of $10 for individuals and $100 for businesses, once the permit has been issued and accepted by the permittee. There are no fees charged to other governmental bodies.

Q. When should I apply for a Corps permit?

A. Since two to three months is normally required to process a routine application involving a public notice, you should apply as early as possible to be sure you have all required approvals before your planned commencement 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, don't hesitate to call a district regulatory office.

Q: I have obtained permits from local and state governments. Why do I have to get a permit from the Corps of Engineers?

A. It is possible you may not have to obtain an individual permit, depending on the type or location of work. The Corps has many general permits which authorize minor activities without the need for individual processing. Check with your Corps district regulatory office for information on general permits. More information can be found here. When a general permit does not apply, you may still be required to obtain an individual permit.

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 and/or requirements to restore the area.

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 the nearest district regulatory office. It could save a lot of unnecessary trouble later.

Q. How can I obtain further information about permit requirements?

A. Information about the regulatory program is available from any Corps district regulatory office. You can find the contact information for you local Corps office here. Information may also be obtained from the water resource agency in your state.

Q. Why should I waste my time and yours by applying for a permit when you probably won't let me do the work anyway?

A. Nationwide, only three percent of all requests for permits are denied. Those few applicants who have been denied permits usually have refused to change the design, timing, or location of the proposed activity. When a permit is denied, an applicant may redesign the project and submit a new application. To avoid unnecessary delays pre- application conferences, particularly for applications for major activities, are recommended. The Corps will endeavor to give you helpful information, including factors which will be considered during the public interest review, and alternatives to consider that may prove to be useful in designing a project.

Q. What is a wetland and what is its value?

A. Wetlands are areas that are periodically or permanently inundated by surface or ground water and support vegetation adapted for life in saturated soil. Wetlands include swamps, marshes, bogs and similar areas. A significant natural resource, wetlands serve important functions relating to fish and wildlife; food chain production; habitat; nesting; spawning; rearing and resting sites for aquatic and land species; protection of other areas from wave action and erosion; storage areas for storm and flood waters; natural recharge areas where ground and surface water are interconnected; and natural water filtration and purification functions.

Although individual alterations of wetlands may constitute a minor change, the cumulative effect of numerous changes often results in major damage to wetland resources. The review of applications for alteration of wetlands will include consideration of whether the proposed activity is dependent upon being located in an aquatic environment.

For more information on wetlands see our wetland delineation webpage, the 1987 Wetland Delineation Manual, the Arid West Regional Supplement , the Western Mountains, Valleys and Coast Regional Supplement, or the brochure Recognizing Wetlands.

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 avoids wetlands or other waterbodies. In the vicinity of fresh water, stay above the ordinary high water mark and avoid wetlands adjacent to the stream or lake. Also, it is possible that your activity is exempt and does not need a Corps permit or that it has been authorized by a nationwide or regional general permit. So, before you build, dredge or fill, contact the Corps district regulatory office in your area for specific information about location, exemptions, and regional and nationwide general permits

 

 

Q. What are a Regional and Programmatic General Permits?

A.  Regional General Permits (RGPs) and Programmatic General Permits (PGP) is a type of general permit developed on a regional basis to avoid unnecessary regulatory control over activities that do not justify individual control or which are adequately regulated by another agency. These permits are issued for a category or categories of activities when:
(a) those activities are substantially similar in nature and cause only minimal individual and cumulative environmental impacts; or
(b) the RGP/PGP would result in avoiding unnecessary duplication of the regulatory control exercised by another Federal, state, or local agency provided it has been determined that the environmental consequences of the action are individually and cumulatively minimal.

The major difference between a RGP and a PGP is that a PGP is founded on an existing state, local or other Federal agency program and designed to avoid duplication with that program.

In order to issue an RGP or PGP, the proposed RGP/PGP must go through a public interest review, including a public notice, and comply with other applicable laws.

Q. How do I know if I qualify for the use of an RGP or PGP?

A.  A description of each RGP and PGP currently valid within the Sacramento District is located here . In order to qualify for a specific NWP, your project must meet all of the terms and conditions of the RPG or PGP. In some cases, you must submit a permit application to the appropriate District office for verification prior to commencement of any construction activities in waters of the U.S. If you have questions on whether your project may qualify for a NWP, you may contact your local District office for assistance. Contact information on the Sacramento District offices may be found here. It is extremely important that you carefully read and comply with all of the terms and conditions of the RGP and/or PGP. If you are unable to comply with any of the terms and/or conditions of the RGP/PGP, your project does not qualify for authorization under the RGP/PGP, and must be evaluated for authorization under a Nationwide Permit, Letter of Permission or Standard Permit .

Q.  What RGPs/PGPs does Sacramento District have

A.  RGP 01: Minimal Impact Activities within the Plan Area of the East Contra Costa County Habitat Conservation Plan/Natural Community Conservation Plan: Issued May 4, 2012 and expires May 4, 2017.

RGP 07: Construction and Maintenance of Flood Control Facilities Clark County, Nevada: Issued September 1, 2007, and expires September 1, 2012

RGP 12: Aquatic Habitat Improvement for Stream Channels in Colorado: Issued October 11, 2011, and expires October 11, 2016.

RGP 37: Stream Stabilization Western Colorado: Issued May 1, 2008, and expires May 1, 2013.

PGP 40: Minimal Impact Activities Under the Stream Alteration Program in the State of Utah: Issued January 3, 2011, and expires January 3, 2016.

RGP 57: Projects Beneficial to the Recovery of the Upper Colorado Endangered Fish Species: Issued December 2, 2008, and expires December 2, 2013 

RGP 60: Repair and Protection Activities in Emergency Situations: Valid for California, Utah and Nevada; Issued December 2, 2008, and expires December 2, 2013 

Q.  How long is an RGP/PGP valid?

A.  RGPs and PGPs are issued for no more than 5 years. The time limit for completing an activity under the authority varies per RGP/PGP. Review the applicable RGP/PGP to determine the time limit for completing an activity.

Q.  What fees are required for an RGP or PGP?

A.  There are no fees associated with the verification of an RGP or PGP.

Q.  What is a Letter of Permission?

A.  A Letter of Permission (LOP) is a type of individual permit issued through an abbreviated processing procedure which includes coordination with Federal and state fish and wildlife agencies, and a public interest evaluation, but without the publishing of an individual public notice. The LOP cannot be used to authorize the transportation of dredged material for the purposed of dumping it in ocean waters.

LOPs may be used:

  1. In those cases subject to Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899, when the Corps determined the proposed work would be minor, would not have significant individual or cumulative impacts on environmental values, and should encounter no appreciable opposition. Examples of activities that may qualify for a Section 10 LOP include: fixed or floating small private boat docks, private piers, maintenance dredging using existing disposal sites, etc. 
  2. In those cases subject to Section 404 of the Clean Water Act after: 
    1. The district engineer, through consultation with Federal and state fish and wildlife agencies, the Regional Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency, the state water quality certifying agency, and, if appropriate, the state Coastal Zone Management Agency, develops a list of categories of activities proposed for authorization under LOP procedures; 
    2. The district engineer issues a public notice advertising the proposed list and the LOP procedures, requesting comments and offering an opportunity for public hearing; and 
    3. A 401 certification has been issued or waived and, if appropriate, CZM consistency concurrence obtained or presumed either on a generic or individual basis. 

Q. Does Sacramento District have LOPs for Section 404 actions?

A.  Yes. The Sacramento District has developed Section 404 LOP procedures for activities in California, Nevada and Utah . The Section 404 LOP procedures can also be used to authorize associated Section 10 activities.

Q.  How do I apply for a Section 10 only LOP?

A.  In order to apply for a Section 10 only LOP, you must complete and submit a signed Department of the Army (DA) ENG Form 4345 , as well as associated drawings of the project. Instructions on how to fill out the ENG Form 4345 can be found here . The Sacramento District has developed a checklist of all information required for a complete application, which can be found here.

Q.  How do I apply for a Section 404 LOP?

A.  If you think that your proposed project qualifies for a Section 404 LOP, the first step is to schedule a pre-application meeting with the Corps. The pre-application coordination should also include the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) and other appropriate state and local resource agencies.

  1. Two weeks prior to the pre-application meeting, you must submit the following information to us and other agencies: 

    A delineation of wetlands and other waters of the U.S. for the proposed activity site; 
  2. A location map and appropriate aerial and other imagery of the activity site and a vicinity map showing the proposed site and its geographical, physical and environmental context; 
  3. A complete description of the proposed activity, including as much of the information identified under 33 CFR 325.1(d) “Content of application” as is available, including plan and profile views of the proposed work relative to potential waters of the U.S., showing areas, types and acreages of aquatic resources proposed to be impacted; 
  4. Draft information, in report form, concerning off-site and on-site practicable alternatives and the relative environmental impacts of those alternatives as compared to the environmental impacts of the proposed activity, in accordance with 33 CFR 325.1 (e) and 323.6 (a). The information must address compliance with the Environmental Protection Agency’s 404(b)(1) Guidelines at 40 CFR part 230, and; 
  5. An explanation of how impacts associated with the proposed activity are to be avoided, minimized, and compensated for, and a draft compensatory mitigation plan for the impacts and losses of waters of the U.S., in accordance with 33 CFR part 332.

When you are ready to submit a complete LOP application, the following information must be submitted.

  1. A cover letter from the applicant requesting an LOP under the Minor Impact LOP procedures for the proposed activity, Referencing the Corps’ identification number and including contact information for the applicant and their designated agents or primary points-of-contact. This must include mailing and e-mail addresses and telephone and fax numbers; 
  2. A completed Department of the Army Engineering Form 4345, which refers to the Corps’ identification number. Instructions on how to fill out the ENG Form 4345 can be found here . The Sacramento District has developed a checklist of all information required for a complete application, which can be found here; 
  3. An approved or preliminary Corps’ jurisdictional determination for the activity area, including a copy of the delineation map/drawing; 
  4. Site location map(s),including the proposed activity (and where appropriate, mitigation) site(s) clearly outlined on USGS 7.5’ quad sheet drawings, with latitudes and longitudes for the site(s), name of the quad sheet(s) and directions to the site, as well as all appropriate aerial and other imagery available. 
  5. A complete description of the proposed activity, including all of the information identified under 33 CFR 325.1 (d) “Content of application”, including plan and profile views of the proposed work, relative to potential or approved waters of the U.S. (e.g., wetlands and open waters below the Ordinary High Water Mark), showing areas, types and acreages of waters and other aquatic resources to be impacted by the proposed activity. All available drawings must be provided and must show proposed impacts and mitigation and be on appropriately scaled figures, generally 1”=200’ and no larger than ledger (11”x17”) size. Pre-construction, color, ground photographs of the site and representative aquatic resources, taken from appropriate locations that are identified on plan-view drawing(s) or aerials must also be provided; 
  6. The total area (acreage) and types of aquatic resources to be directly and/or indirectly affected by the proposed activity, the volume (in cubic yards) and type of material to be placed into the aquatic resources., a description of habitat types, including plant communities, within and surrounding the activity site, and a description of how the proposed activity would affect all of the above resources; 
  7. A description and graphical representation of how impacts to aquatic resources and their functions (e.g., water quality and habitat) have been avoided and minimized to the maximum extent practicable and proposed compensatory mitigation for unavoidable impacts, in accordance with 33 CFR part 332. This must identify all best management practices proposed to be employed before, during and after construction to control siltation and erosion and avoid and minimize impacts to the environment; 
  8. A description of potential cumulative, secondary and/or indirect impacts to aquatic resources and the human environment in the watershed and vicinity of the proposed activity; 
  9. Proposed construction schedule; 
  10. Documentation and record of all pre-application coordination with the District and other agencies (if conducted), including any activity-specific comments or concerns made by each agency, as well as the applicants responses to the comments or concerns. If coordination with any of the other agencies did not occur, the applicant must explain why such coordination was not done and identify potential responses to general agency concerns, if known; 
  11. Information, in report form, concerning off-site and on-site practicable alternatives and the relative environmental impacts of those alternatives as compared to the environmental impacts of the proposed activity, in accordance with 33 CFR 325.1 (e) and 323.6 (a). The information must address compliance with the Environmental Protection Agency’s 404(b)(1) Guidelines at 40 CFR part 230; 
  12. A compensatory mitigation plan, in accordance with 33 CFR 332 and the District’s Mitigation and Monitoring Guidelines. If compensatory mitigation is proposed at an approved mitigation bank, the proposed bank and type of credits to be obtained must be identified; 
  13. Copies of state and local approvals, pending applications or approvals, and any other evidence that the proposed activity has been or is currently being reviewed by the appropriate state and local agencies and is consistent with their land use plans and policies, particularly wetland policies, programs, ordinances and/or laws. For all proposed activities, evidence of application for or issuance of a Section 401 Water Quality Certification or waiver for the proposed activity must be submitted; 
  14. Three copies of a biological assessment (BA) prepared in accordance with 50 CFR 402 and the District’s requirements for consultations. The biological assessment must include a description of: (1) the action to be considered, (2) the specific area that may be affected by the action, (3) any listed species or critical habitat that may be affected by the action, (4) the manner in which the action may affect any listed species or critical habitat, (5) and an analysis of any cumulative impacts. The BA must identify and include relevant reports, the proposed mitigation plan, and any other relevant available information on the action and its effects on listed species and/or their critical habitat; 
  15. Two copies of a cultural resources report completed in accordance with the District’s guidelines for compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, As Amended”. This must be provided as a separate hardcopy and PDF for confidentiality. 

Q.  What happens if I don’t submit all of the information required for a complete application?

A.  Within 15 days of receipt of an LOP application, we will determine whether the LOP application is complete. If the LOP application is deemed incomplete, you will be notified by letter and/or email that the application is incomplete and what information is still required. You will be given 30 days to provide the requested information. If the information is not received within 30 days, or you do not request an extension, the LOP application will be withdrawn. If the application is withdrawn, once the requested information is received, the application will be re-opened. Unless the proposed project has been modified or substantial time has passed since the request for information was sent, you only need to submit the requested information, not a new LOP application. 

Q.  My application is complete. Now what?

A.  If the application submitted is complete, but the Corps determines that the activity cannot be authorized by a LOP, you will be notified within 15 calendar days of the determination and the Corps will proceed to an alternate permitting process (e.g. Nationwide Permit, General Permit or Standard Permit ).

If the application is determined to be complete and appears to meet LOP criteria, the District will notify the applicant that the proposed activity is being evaluated for LOP authorization and post the complete application and all appropriate supporting documents to an FTP site within fifteen (15) calendar days. The District will notify the state and Federal coordination agencies via e-mail of the proposed LOP for the activity, and request any comments within fifteen (15) calendar days of such notice. The District will also initiate consultation(s) as necessary with other agencies.

The District will review the comments received and, if otherwise complete (e.g., ESA, EFH, NHPA consultations and 401 Water Quality Certification done), make a determination within 30 calendar days after the close of the comment period as to whether LOP authorization is warranted, and whether special case-specific conditions are needed. If the activity meets the criteria for LOP authorization and would have an overall minimal effect on aquatic resources and the human environment, an LOP will be issued. 

Q.  One of the requirements for a complete application is information addressing compliance with the EPAs 404(b)(1) Guidelines. What are these?

The Section 404(b)(1) Guidelines (Guidelines) are regulations developed by the USEPA for the Specification of Disposal Sites for Dredged or Fill Material (40 CFR 230). The Guidelines state that no discharge of dredged and/or fill material shall be permitted if there is a practicable alternative which would have less adverse impacts on the aquatic ecosystem, so long as the alterantive does not have other significant adverse environmental consequences. An alternative is practicable if it is available and capable of being done after taking into consideration cost, existing technology and logistics in light of the overall project purpose. Practicable alternatives include, but are not limited to: (1) activities which do not involve a discharge of dredged or fill material into WOUS or ocean waters, (2) discharges of dredged or fill material at other locations in WOUS. If it is an otherwise practicable alternative, an area not presently owned by the applicant which could reasonably be obtained, utilized, expanded or managed in order to fulfill the basic purpose of the proposed activity may be considered. In addition, for discharges proposed within special aquatic sites (e.g. wetlands), that do not require access or proximity to or siting within the special aquatic site (i.e. the project is not water dependent), it is presumed that practicable alternatives exist that do not involve special aquatic sites, unless clearly demonstrated otherwise. 

What kind of information do I need to provide regarding compensatory mitigation?

On March 31, 2008, the Corps and USEPA issued regulations regarding compensatory mitigation for authorized impacts to waters of the U.S. (Mitigation Rule). The Mitigation Rule is located at 33 CFR 332. Before a permit decision can be made, the Corps must determine the appropriate compensatory mitigation required to off-set the unavoidable loss of waters of the U.S. In order for an application to be deemed complete, you must submit a conceptual compensatory mitigation plan to this office. This plan will be included in the public notice. The Mitigation Rule has a general preference for the use of a mitigation bank, as there are reduced risks, uncertainty and temporal loss of resource functions and services associated with a mitigation bank. However, the Corps must also take into account other factors in determining appropriate compensatory mitigation, including, but not limited to the watershed in which the impacts and compensatory mitigation would occur, adjacent land uses, ecological benefits, cumulative impacts, etc.

Before an LOP can be issued for the proposed project, for compensatory mitigation proposed to be met through the purchase of mitigation bank credits, you must provide the Corps with the name of the mitigation bank proposed to be utilized, as well as the number of credits proposed to be purchased.

Before an LOP can be issued for a proposed project, for compensatory mitigation proposed to be met through permittee responsible mitigation (i.e. on-site or off-site, in-kind or out-of-kind establishment, re-establishment, enhancement, rehabilitation or preservation) you must provide a draft mitigation plan to the Corps for review. After addressing any comments provided by the Corps, you must prepare and submit a final mitigation plan, which must be approved by the Corps before the issuance of an LOP. Click here to learn more about the final mitigation plan. 

Q.  Is there anything I can do to make the LOP evaluation faster?

There are several things that you can do to ensure that the LOP process moves as quickly as possible. 

  1. Attend a pre-application meeting: Pre-application meetings are extremely beneficial to both you and the Corps. Within the pre-application meeting, the project manager will learn about the project and become familiar with the site. In addition, you will be informed of any concerns that the Corps and other agencies have with the project. This will help you further refine the design of the proposed project. 
  2. Make sure that the LOP application addresses any concerns raised at the pre-application meeting: If concerns were raised by the Corps and/or other agencies at the pre-application meeting, if those concerns are not addressed within the application they will still exist. One of the best ways to prevent longer processing times of your application is to address the concerns within the submitted LOP application. 
  3. Ensure that you have avoided and minimized impacts on the aquatic environment to the maximum extent practicable: During the processing of an LOP application, it can take several months to resolve concerns regarding the impacts of a proposed project on the aquatic environment. If you submit an application for a project that has avoided and minimized impacts to the maximum extent practicable, this could substantially decrease processing times. 
  4. Provide all of the required information for a complete LOP application, including a preliminary or approved jurisdictional determination, a complete mitigation plan, alternatives information, and information regarding compliance with Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), Section 401 of the Clean Water Act and the Section 404(b)(1) Guidelines with the LOP application: Submittal of all information required for a complete LOP application will allow for faster processing of the application and reduce the likelihood of the Corps requesting additional information. In addition, submittal of information necessary for compliance with Section 7 and Section 106 will enable the Corps to consult with the appropriate agencies in a timely manner. 
  5. Provide any requested information within 30 days of receipt of the request: In some cases, one month or more of the permitting process is spent waiting for applicants to provide the additional information requested. This slows down the processing of the permit application. 
  6. Talk to the other agencies: If you know that your proposed project is highly controversial or if other agencies raised concerns during the pre-application meeting, it would likely be beneficial for you to schedule meetings with these entities. These meetings would provide additional information on the project, and may allow for some concerns to be resolved. Resolution of these concerns may assist in decreasing review times. 

Q.  What fees are required for an LOP?

A.  There are no fees associated with the issuance of an LOP. 

Q.  How long will my LOP be valid?

A.  Generally, an LOP is valid for 3 to 5 years. In some instances, such as maintenance dredging, the LOP may be valid for up to 10 years. The LOP will specify the expiration date. An authorization or construction period will automatically expire if you fail to request and receive an extension of time, prior to the expiration date. If your LOP will expire and work will not be completed, you must submit a request for an extension of the LOP in writing, at least 30 days prior to the expiration of the LOP. You may choose to submit the request for a time extension sooner than 30 days prior to expiration, particularly if the request would involve additional modifications to the terms and conditions of the authorized work. Please note, however, that a request for a time extension will generally not be considered more than one year prior to the expiration date. The request for a time extension should explain the basis of the request. A request for an extension of time will usually be granted unless the Corps determines that the time extension would be contrary to the public interest.

Q.  I received an LOP for my project, but now the project has changed. What do I do?

The LOP describes the authorized activity, the acreage and cubic yards of impacts (if applicable), the purpose of the authorized activity, as well as any special conditions required. If there are any changes to the project, including those associated with a change of use of the project, you must contact the Corps in writing to request a modification to the LOP. Your request should specify which portions of the LOP you are proposing to modify (e.g. project description, expiration date, special conditions), as well as the basis of the request. The request to modify the LOP may be submitted at any time, but must be submitted at least 30 days prior to the expiration date of the LOP. The Corps will review the request and determine whether the proposed modifications are minor, or if the proposed modifications are significant enough to require a new public notice. It is recommended that a request for modification involving more than just a time extension be submitted at least 120 days before the expiration date of the LOP.

Q. What is a Standard Permit?

A.  A Standard Permit (SP) is one which has been processed through the public interest review procedures, including public notice and receipt of comments. Review through the SP process is done for activities that do not qualify for authorization under a Regional or Programmatic General Permit, Nationwide Permit or Letter of Permission . The impacts associated with an SP are generally greater than the other types of permits. The SP process is the most time consuming and stringent process utilized by the Corps. You will be required to submit more information during the SP process than any other Corps permit process. 

Q.  What is a Public Notice?

A.  A Public Notice is a notice to all adjacent property owners, interested members of the public and Federal, state and local agencies, describing the proposed project under evaluation. The Public Notice provides members of the public a minimum of 15 days to provide comments on the proposal. The Public Notice is part of the public interest review procedures, and all comments that are received are considered during the decision making process. 

Q.  How do I apply for a SP?

A.  A complete permit application for an SP involves completing and submitting a signed Department of the Army (DA) ENG Form 4345 , as well as associated drawings of the project. Instructions on how to fill out the ENG Form 4345 can be found here . The Sacramento District has developed a checklist of all information required for a complete application, which can be found here. 

Q.  What happens if I don’t submit all of the information required for a complete application?

A.  Within 15 days of receipt of a permit application, we will determine whether the permit application is complete. If the permit application is deemed incomplete, you will be notified by letter and/or email that the application is incomplete and what information is still required. You will be given 30 days to provide the requested information. If the information is not received within 30 days, or you do not request an extension, the permit application will be withdrawn. If the application is withdrawn, once the requested information is received, the application will be re-opened. Unless the proposed project has been modified or substantial time has passed since the request for information was sent, you only need to submit the requested information, not a new permit application. 

Q.  My application is complete. Now what?

A.  If the application submitted is complete, within 15 days of receipt of a permit application, we will deem the application complete and issue a public notice on the proposed project. 

Q.  Do I get to see what comments were submitted on my proposed project?

A.  Yes. Generally within 30 days following the close of the public notice comment period, we will forward the comments to you for review. At this time we may request additional information on the proposed project, and may request that you provide a response to specific comments. 

Q.  There is specific information required for a complete application. Is there any other information required to make a permit decision?

A.  Yes. The information required for a complete application is generally not sufficient to make a permit decision. When the public notice comments are forwarded to you, you will be requested to submit additional information required to make a permit decision. This requested information includes, but is not limited to: information regarding compliance with Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act , information regarding compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act , information regarding the Section 401 Water Quality Certification , information regarding the proposed compensatory mitigation for the project, and alternatives information for compliance with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (USEPA) Section 404(b)(1) Guidelines. 

Q.  What are the Section 404(b)(1) Guidelines?

A.  The Section 404(b)(1) Guidelines (Guidelines) are regulations developed by the USEPA for the Specification of Disposal Sites for Dredged or Fill Material (40 CFR 230). The Guidelines state that no discharge of dredged and/or fill material shall be permitted if there is a practicable alternative which would have less adverse impacts on the aquatic ecosystem, so long as the alterantive does not have other significant adverse environmental consequences. An alternative is practicable if it is available and capable of being done after taking into consideration cost, existing technology and logistics in light of the overall project purpose. Practicable alternatives include, but are not limited to: (1) activities which do not involve a discharge of dredged or fill material into WOUS or ocean waters, (2) discharges of dredged or fill material at other locations in WOUS. If it is an otherwise practicable alternative, an area not presently owned by the applicant which could reasonably be obtained, utilized, expanded or managed in order to fulfill the basic purpose of the proposed activity may be considered. In addition, for discharges proposed within special aquatic sites (e.g. wetlands), that do not require access or proximity to or siting within the special aquatic site (i.e. the project is not water dependent), it is presumed that practicable alternatives exist that do not involve special aquatic sites, unless clearly demonstrated otherwise.

In order to provide for reduced permit processing times, you are encouraged to provide information on alternatives to the proposed project, which would have less adverse impact to the aquatic ecosystem, with the permit application. This information will be needed prior to a permit decision. 

Q.  What kind of information do I need to provide regarding compensatory mitigation?

A.  On March 31, 2008, the Corps and USEPA issued regulations regarding compensatory mitigation for authorized impacts to waters of the U.S. (Mitigation Rule). The Mitigation Rule is located at 33 CFR 332. Before a permit decision can be made, the Corps must determine the appropriate compensatory mitigation required to off-set the unavoidable loss of waters of the U.S. In order for an application to be deemed complete, you must submit a conceptual compensatory mitigation plan to this office. This plan will be included in the public notice. The Mitigation Rule has a general preference for the use of a mitigation bank, as there are reduced risks, uncertainty and temporal loss of resource functions and services associated with a mitigation bank. However, the Corps must also take into account other factors in determining appropriate compensatory mitigation, including, but not limited to the watershed in which the impacts and compensatory mitigation would occur, adjacent land uses, ecological benefits, cumulative impacts, etc.

Before an SP can be issued for the proposed project, for compensatory mitigation proposed to be met through the purchase of mitigation bank credits, you must provide the Corps with the name of the mitigation bank proposed to be utilized, as well as the number of credits proposed to be purchased. Before an SP can be issued for a proposed project, for compensatory mitigation proposed to be met through permittee responsible mitigation (i.e. on-site or off-site, in-kind or out-of-kind establishment, re-establishment, enhancement, rehabilitation or preservation) you must provide a draft mitigation plan to the Corps for review. After addressing any comments provided by the Corps, you must prepare and submit a final mitigation plan, which must be approved by the Corps before the issuance of an SP. Click here to learn more about the final mitigation plan. 

Q.  Is there anything I can do to make the permit evaluation faster?

A.  There are several things that you can do to ensure that the permit process moves as quickly as possible. 

  1. Attend a pre-application meeting: Pre-application meetings are extremely beneficial to both you and the Corps. Within the pre-application meeting, the project manager will learn about the project and become familiar with the site. In addition, you will be informed of any concerns that the Corps and other agencies have with the project. This will help you further refine the design of the proposed project. 
  2. Make sure that the permit application addresses any concerns raised at the pre-application meeting: If concerns were raised by the Corps and/or other agencies at the pre-application meeting, if those concerns are not addressed within the application they will still exist. One of the best ways to prevent longer processing times of your application is to address the concerns within the submitted permit application. 
  3. Ensure that you have avoided and minimized impacts on the aquatic environment to the maximum extent practicable: During the processing of a permit application, it can take several months to resolve concerns regarding the impacts of a proposed project on the aquatic environment. If you submit an application for a project that has avoided and minimized impacts to the maximum extent practicable, this could substantially decrease processing times. 
  4. Provide information regarding Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), Section 401 of the Clean Water Act and the Section 404(b)(1) Guidelines with the permit application, if possible: Although this information is not required for an application to be deemed complete and a public notice to be issued, submittal of this information with the permit application (or soon after) will decrease processing times. The sooner we receive information on ESA and NHPA, the sooner we can initiate consultation, and the sooner the consultations will be completed. Similarly, the sooner you provide evidence of compliance with Section 401 of the Clean Water Act, the sooner we can make a permit decision. Finally, the sooner you provide information on compliance with the 404(b)(1) Guidelines, the sooner we can coordinate with you to ensure the proposed project is the least environmentally damaging practicable alternative. 
  5. Provide any requested information within 30 days of receipt of the request: In some cases, one month or more of the permitting process is spent waiting for applicants to provide the additional information requested. This slows down the processing of the permit application. 
  6. Talk to adjacent property owners, members of the public and other agencies: If you know that your proposed project is highly controversial to the adjacent property owners, members of the public or other agencies, it would likely be beneficial for you to schedule meetings with these entities. These meetings would provide additional information on the project, and may allow for some concerns to be resolved. Resolution of the concerns of the public or other agencies may assist in decreasing review times. 

Q.  What fees are required for an SP?

A.  The fees required for and SP are minimal. Collection of the fees is deferred until a decision is made that the proposed activity is not contrary to the public interest. In these cases, a fee of $100.00 will be assessed when the planned or ultimate purpose of the project is commercial or industrial in nature. A $10.00 fee will be charged for permit applications when the proposed work is non-commercial in nature and would provide personal benefits that have no connection with a commercial enterprise. No fee will be charged if the applicant withdraws the application at any time prior to issuance of the permit, or if the permit is denied. No fees will be charged to agencies or instrumentalities of federal, state or local governments. No fees will be charged for time extensions or minor permit modifications. Any permit modification significant enough to require publication of a public notice will require the same fees identified above (e.g. $100.00 for commercial/industrial projects, $10.00 for private projects). 

Q.  How long will my SP be valid?

A.  Generally, an SP is valid for 3 to 5 years. In some instances, such as maintenance dredging, the permit may be valid for up to 10 years. The permit will specify the expiration date. An authorization or construction period will automatically expire if you fail to request and receive an extension of time, prior to the expiration date. If your permit will expire and work will not be completed, you must submit a request for an extension of the permit in writing, at least 30 days prior to the expiration of the permit. You may choose to submit the request for a time extension sooner than 30 days prior to expiration, particularly if the request would involve additional modifications to the terms and conditions of the authorized work. Please note, however, that a request for a time extension will generally not be considered more than one year prior to the expiration date. The request for a time extension should explain the basis of the request. A request for an extension of time will usually be granted unless the Corps determines that the time extension would be contrary to the public interest. 

Q.  I received a permit for my project, but now the project has changed. What do I do?

A.  The Corps permit describes the authorized activity, the acreage and cubic yards of impacts (if applicable), the purpose of the authorized activity, as well as any special conditions required. If there are any changes to the project, including those associated with a change of use of the project, you must contact the Corps in writing to request a permit modification. Your request should specify which portions of the permit you are proposing to modify (e.g. project description, expiration date, special conditions), as well as the basis of the request. The request to modify the permit may be submitted at any time, but must be submitted at least 30 days prior to the expiration date of the permit. The Corps will review the request and determine whether the proposed modifications are minor, or if the proposed modifications are significant enough to require a new public notice. It is recommended that a request for modification involving more than just a time extension be submitted at least 120 days before the expiration date of the permit.

Q.  What is mitigation?

A.  Compensatory mitigation involves actions taken to offset unavoidable adverse impacts to wetlands, streams and other aquatic resources authorized by Clean Water Act section 404 permits and other Department of the Army (DA) permits. As such, compensatory mitigation is a critical tool in helping the federal government to meet the longstanding national goal of ‘‘no net loss’’ of wetland acreage and function. For impacts authorized under section 404, compensatory mitigation is not considered until after all appropriate and practicable steps have been taken to first avoid and then minimize adverse impacts to the aquatic ecosystem pursuant to 40 CFR part 230 (i.e., the CWA Section 404(b)(1) Guidelines). 

Q.  What is compensatory mitigation?

A.  Compensatory mitigation is required in order to offset the unavoidable loss of functions and services of waters of the U.S. There are many types of compensatory mitigation: 

  1. Establishment (creation): The manipulation of the physical, chemical, or biological characteristics present to develop an aquatic resource that did not previously exist at an upland site. Establishment results in a gain in aquatic resource area and functions. 
  2. Re-establishment: The manipulation of the physical, chemical, or biological characteristics of a site with the goal of returning natural/historic functions to a former aquatic resource. Re-establishment results in rebuilding a former aquatic resource and results in a gain in aquatic resource area and functions. 
  3. Enhancement: The manipulation of the physical, chemical, or biological characteristics of an aquatic resource to heighten, intensify, or improve a specific aquatic resource function(s). Enhancement results in the gain of selected aquatic resource function(s), but may also lead to a decline in other aquatic resource function(s). Enhancement does not result in a gain in aquatic resource area. 
  4. Rehabilitation: The manipulation of the physical, chemical, or biological characteristics of a site with the goal of repairing natural/historic functions to a degraded aquatic resource. Rehabilitation results in a gain in aquatic resource function, but does not result in a gain in aquatic resource area. 
  5. Preservation: the removal of a threat to, or preventing the decline of, aquatic resources by an action in or near those aquatic resources. This term includes activities commonly associated with the protection and maintenance of aquatic resources through the implementation of appropriate legal and physical mechanisms. Preservation does not result in a gain of aquatic resource area or functions.

Compensatory mitigation may be accomplished through permittee-responsible compensatory mitigation, payment into an in-lieu fee fund, or purchase of credits from a Corps approved mitigation bank. Compensatory mitigation may be either in-kind or out-of-kind. In-kind mitigation would occur if impacts to forested wetlands were being compensated through the creation of forested wetlands. Out-of-kind mitigation would occur if impacts to forested wetlands were being compensated through the creation of non-forested wetlands. 

Q.  Who determines the appropriate compensatory mitigation for a project?

A.  The Corps makes a final determination of the appropriate compensatory mitigation required in order to ensure no net loss of aquatic resources functions and services. In making a determination on the appropriate type and amount of compensatory mitigation, we will perform an evaluation, commensurate with the level of impacts, of your proposed mitigation plan. We will compare functions and services of the aquatic resource to be lost to the functions and services of the proposed compensatory mitigation aquatic resource. We will also consider any temporal loss of aquatic resource area or function, difficulties in replacing the aquatic resource, location of the impact vs. compensatory mitigation area, and whether the proposed compensatory mitigation is in-kind or out-of-kind. 

Q.  What type of compensatory mitigation should I propose?

A.  The type of compensatory mitigation that should be proposed will depend on a variety of factors, including the type of aquatic resource proposed to be impacted, the cumulative impacts of the area, the location of available mitigation sites, etc. Generally, Corps regulations at 33 CFR 332 have a preference for the use of mitigation banks and in-lieu fee programs for compensatory mitigation, due to reduced risk, uncertainty, and temporal loss of establishing resource functions and services. However, the regulations also state, whenever possible, compensatory mitigation should be located within the same watershed as the impact site. There is not one type of mitigation that is appropriate for all projects. When developing your proposed compensatory mitigation plan, please refer to 33 CFR 332 for guidance. 

Q.  What mitigation banks are available?

A.  The Regulatory In-lieu Fee and Bank Information Tracking System (RIBITS) provides the most up-to-date information on Corps approved mitigation banks and in-lieu fee programs. RIBITS is available to the public and you do not have to become a member or login to access this site. 

Q.  Why does my permit say that I have to do more compensatory mitigation than I proposed?

A.  The determination on the appropriate amount and type of compensatory mitigation is based on numerous variables, and is designed to ensure no net loss of aquatic resources functions and services. Although in some cases we may determine that the compensatory mitigation plan proposed with the permit application is appropriate to meet this goal, in other cases we may determine that additional compensatory mitigation is necessary. If you have concerns regarding any of the requirements for compensatory mitigation, please contact your local Corps district office. 

Q.  How do I prepare a mitigation and monitoring plan (MMP) and/or operations and management (OMP) plan for my proposed compensatory mitigation

A.  The requirements for a complete MMP and/or OMP can be found within the Corps’ regulations at 33 CFR 332 and within the December 30, 2004 Mitigation and Monitoring Proposal Guidelines , issued by the Sacramento and San Francisco Districts. If you have any questions regarding the completion of the MMP or OMP, please contact your local Corps district office.

Q.  What is a jurisdictional determination?

A.  A jurisdictional determination (JD) is the procedure of identifying and locating jurisdictional waters of the US regulated by the Corps under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and Section 10 of the Rivers & Harbors Act of 1899 is commonly referred to as the “JD process”, a “wetland determination” or “delineation”. This survey procedure establishes a line that identifies and separates the Corps regulated areas from non-regulated areas. Regulated (i.e., jurisdictional) areas can include wetlands, stream channels, rivers, lakes, ponds and coastal and offshore waters. The JD process is essential when investigating, planning, designing, or submitting an application for a permit from the Corps to determine if the proposed work will occur in wetlands or waters of the US. 

Q.  What is a water of the U.S.?

A.  The definition of waters of the U.S. can be found within our regulations, at 33 CFR 328.3(a). This definition includes the definition of navigable waters, which is also found within the Corps’ regulations at 33 CFR 329.4:

From 33 CFR 328.3

a. The term “waters of the United States” means

1. All waters which are currently used, or were used in the past, or may be susceptible to use in interstate or foreign commerce, including all waters which are subject to the ebb and flow of the tide. (Note: these are navigable waters subject to Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899. For a list of navigable waters within the Sacramento District, click here ).

2. All interstate waters including interstate wetlands

3.  All other waters such as intrastate lakes, rivers, streams (including intermittent streams), mudflats, sandflats, wetlands, sloughs, prairie potholes, wet meadows, playa lakes, or natural ponds, the use, degradation or destruction of which could affect interstate or foreign commerce including any such waters:

i. Which are or could be used by interstate or foreign travelers for recreational or other purposes; or

ii. From which fish or shellfish are or could be taken and sold in interstate or foreign commerce; or

iii. Which are used or could be used for industrial purpose by industries in interstate commerce;

4. All impoundments of waters otherwise defined as waters of the United States under the definition;

5. Tributaries of waters identified in paragraphs (a)(1)-(4) of this section;

6. The territorial seas; (Note: these are navigable waters subject to Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899).

7. Wetlands adjacent to waters (other than waters that are themselves wetlands) identified in paragraphs (a)(1)-(6) of this section.

8. Waters of the United States do not include prior converted cropland. Notwithstanding the determination of an area's status as prior converted cropland by any other federal agency, for the purposes of the Clean Water Act, the final authority regarding Clean Water Act jurisdiction remains with the EPA.

Waste treatment systems, including treatment ponds or lagoons designed to meet the requirements of CWA (other than cooling ponds as defined in 40 CFR 423.11(m) which also meet the criteria of this definition) are not waters of the United States.

In some cases, the delineated aquatic features may not have a hydrologic connection or significant nexus to navigable waters of the U.S. In these cases, the Corps must determine that the aquatic features are either isolated, intrastate waters with no interstate or foreign commerce connection or they are features not currently subject to Corps jurisdiction. Once you have received written verification from the Corps that the waters are not currently regulated, you may proceed with the proposed discharge of dredged and/or fill material. However, these waters may be subject to additional Federal, state or local laws. Therefore, prior to conducting work in these waters, you should contact other applicable wildlife and resource agencies.

Q.  How do I know if I have waters of the U.S. on my property?

A.  In order to determine if there are waters of the U.S. on a property, a wetland delineation must be conducted. The wetland delineation should show all wetlands and other aquatic features on the site, including streams, rivers lakes, oceans, lakes, ponds, etc. The Corps can conduct wetland delineations. However, due to limited staff and resources, the response time for the Corps to conduct a wetland delineation can be several months or longer. In order to expedite the process, we encourage you to use a consultant to conduct a preliminary wetland delineation, especially for large and/or complex areas. A list of wetland consultants can be found here . The list of consultants is arranged in alphabetical order and is provided purely as a convenience for members of the public. The Government makes no warranties, representations, or guarantees about the qualifications, experience, or competence of any individual or company whose name appears on the list. The Government assumes no liability for any damages suffered by anyone doing business with a person or company named on this list.

A preliminary wetland delineation conducted by a consultant should then be submitted to the Corps for review and verification. All preliminary wetland delineations submitted must meet the Sacramento District’s Minimum Standards for Acceptance of Preliminary Wetland Delineations .

Following receipt of the preliminary wetland delineation, the Corps will issue an approved or a preliminary jurisdictional determination.

Q.  What is the difference between an approved JD and a preliminary JD?

A.  An approved jurisdictional determination (JD) is an official Corps determination that jurisdictional “waters of the U.S.” or “navigable waters of the U.S.,” or both, are either present or absent on a particular site. An approved JD precisely identifies the limits of those waters on the project site determined to be jurisdictional under the Rivers and Harbors Act and the Clean Water Act. 

A preliminary JD is a “…written indication that there may be waters of the United States, including wetlands, on a parcel or indications of the approximately location(s) of waters of the United States or wetlands on a parcel.” Preliminary JDs are non-binding and advisory in nature, and cannot be appealed. (See 33 CFR 331.2).

In most cases, a preliminary JD is the most efficient type of JD for a given study area. In these cases, the Corps reviews the preliminary wetland delineation prepared by the applicant or their consultant, and, if we concur with the location and acreage of aquatic features identified, will prepare a one page JD form, make an assumption that all of the aquatic features within the study area are “waters of the U.S.” (i.e. are not isolated), and will send the applicant a written letter with our determination. A preliminary JD is generally used when the applicant voluntarily waives or sets aside questions regarding Corps jurisdiction over a site, which is generally in the interest of allowing the applicant to move ahead expeditiously to obtain a Corps permit authorization where the party determines that it is in his or her best interest. Although a preliminary JD is not appealable, the applicant can request an approved JD at any time.

An approved JD is appealable and would be used if the applicant requests an approved JD, if the applicant contests jurisdiction over a particular water body or wetland, and where the Corps is allowed access to the property and is able to produce an approved JD; or when the Corps determines that jurisdiction does not exist over a particular waterbody or wetland. If the site contains isolated waters not under the Corps jurisdiction, this determination can only be made in an approved JD.

Q.  Should I request an approved JD or a preliminary JD?

A.  The most suitable type of JD to be used for a given survey area depends on the site. Generally, if you do not specifically request an approved JD, the Corps will complete a preliminary JD.

If all parties agree that the aquatic features likely contain a hydrologic connection or significant nexus to a water of the U.S., and are therefore subject to the Corps jurisdiction, then a preliminary JD would most likely be the appropriate type of JD. In this case, the process is more efficient, and it allows us to proceed with the permitting process for any activities impacting waters of the U.S. on the site.

You may request that we conduct an approved JD at any time. However, an approved JD is most commonly (only) used if the parties believe the survey area contains isolated waters. If we conclude that the study area does contain isolated waters, an approved JD would most likely be the appropriate type of JD. Draft approved JD’s must be forwarded to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Corps headquarters for a 15-20 day comment period, prior to their finalization. Generally the approved JD process is more time consuming because of the significant-nexus determination for each aquatic feature and the documentation that goes along with that process. It is recommended that an applicant only request an approved JD if they have sufficient information to document that the study area contains isolated, intrastate waters with no interstate or foreign commerce connection. 

Q.  Should I submit information regarding the jurisdictional status of the aquatic resources on my site?

A.  You are not required to submit information on whether or not the aquatic resources within the study area are jurisdictional waters of the U.S. However, if you are requesting an approved JD, any information you can provide regarding the hydrologic regime, chemical, physical, and biological characteristics of the aquatic resources would be beneficial. This information may identify the flow route of water from the aquatic resource into a navigable water of the U.S., if the aquatic resource contains habitat for wildlife or aquatic organisms, the chemical composition of the aquatic resource, etc. This information will assist us in completing a significant nexus determination for the approved JD in a timely manner. 

Q.  How do I conduct a wetland delineation?

A.  A wetland delineation must be conducted in accordance with the 1987 Wetland Delineation Manual, as well as any regional supplements, which, for the Sacramento District, includes the Arid West Regional Supplement and/or the Western Mountains, Valleys and Coast Regional Supplement.

During a wetland delineation, you will be examining the hydrology, vegetation and soils within a particular study area. Under normal circumstances, if an area displays wetland hydrology, hydrophytic vegetation and hydric soils, that area would be considered a wetland. In addition, you will also survey the site to determine if other waters of the U.S. are present (e.g. lakes, rivers, oceans, streams, ponds, etc.). Other waters of the U.S. can be delineated by locating their Ordinary High Water Mark (OHWM), defined in 33 CFR Part 328.3 as the line on the shore established by 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 terrestrial vegetation, or the presence of litter and debris.

After the survey is complete, all aquatic features, including wetlands and other waters, should be identified on a map and described in a wetland delineation report, which meets the Sacramento Districts Minimum Standards for Acceptance of Preliminary Wetland Delineations , and submitted to the appropriate district office.

Q.  How do I know if an area contains wetland hydrology?

A.  Identification of wetland hydrology within the Arid West region can be difficult, particularly during the summer, when the majority of aquatic resources do not contain water. In cases where there is not a direct observation of surface water or saturated soils, you must examine the area for primary or secondary indicators. The presence of one primary indicator is sufficient to conclude that wetland hydrology exists. The presence of two or more secondary indicators is sufficient to conclude that wetland hydrology exists. Examples of primary and secondary indicators include but are not limited to: surface soil cracks, inundation available on aerial photography, water stained leaves, water marks, sediment deposits, drainage patterns, hydrogen sulfide odor, oxidized rhizospheres along living roots, and shallow aquitard. For a complete list of primary and secondary hydrology indicators, review the 1987 Wetland Delineation Manual, and the Arid West Regional Supplement and/or the Western Mountains, Valleys and Coast Regional Supplement.

Q.  How do I know if an area contains hydrophytic vegetation?

A.  For all wetland delineations conducted after June 1, 2012, identification of hydrophytic vegetation must be conducted utilizing the 2012 National Wetland Plant List (NWPL). Generally, if the majority of plant species within the study area have an indicator status of OBL, FACW or FAC, the area contains hydrophytic vegetation. The identification of hydrophytic vegetation must be conducted as described in the 1987 Wetland Delineation Manual, and the Arid West Regional Supplement and/or the Western Mountains, Valleys and Coast Regional Supplement. 

Q.  How do I know if an area contains hydric soils?

A.  Indicators of hydric soils varies depending on the location of the proposed project area and the types of soils that occur within the study area. Some examples of hydric soil indicators include, but are not limited to: histosols, histic epipedon, hydrogen sulfide odor, stratified layers, sandy gleyed matrix, sandy redox, loamy mucky mineral, depleted matrix, and red parent material. For a complete description of hydric soil indicators, review the 1987 Wetland Delineation Manual, and the Arid West Regional Supplement and/or the Western Mountains, Valleys and Coast Regional Supplement.