The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) Regulatory Program involves the regulating of discharges of dredged or fill material into waters of the United States and structures or work in navigable waters of the United States, under section 404 of the Clean Water Act and section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899. A proposed project’s impacts to these areas will determine what permit type is required.
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There are three types of general permits: nationwide permits, regional general permits, and programmatic general permits. General permits are not normally developed for an individual applicant, but authorize activities the Corps has identified as being substantially similar in nature and causing only minimal individual and cumulative environmental impacts. General permits may authorize activities in a limited geographic area (e.g., county or state), a particular region of the county (e.g., group of contiguous states), or the nation. A regional or programmatic general permit is issued by the division or district engineer that has regulatory jurisdiction over the geographic area in which the general permit will be used. The issuance process for a general permit closely parallels the issuance process for individual permits, with a public notice, opportunity for a public hearing and detailed decision documentation. Activities that qualify for general permit authorization may proceed, provided the terms and conditions of the general permit are met. However, some general permits may require review of the proposed work by district engineers before the project proponent can begin construction of the project
An Individual Permit is a form of Department of the Army authorization that has undergone a full public interest review. This includes a 30-day public notice period in which a copy of the permit drawings and a description of the project are forwarded to all interested parties, adjacent property owners, and the State and Federal agencies for review and comment. Processing time for these types of permits is usually 60 to 120 days from the receipt of a complete application for non-controversial projects. Controversial or complex projects, including those that require a public hearing or an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), will generally take longer.
The Letter of Permission (LOP) is a type of individual permit used for Section 10 authorizations where the proposed project involves a lesser degree of impact to aquatic resources. LOP be used where, in the opinion of the district engineer, the proposed work would be minor, would not have significant individual or cumulative impacts on environmental values, and should encounter no appreciable opposition. In such situations, the proposal is coordinated with Federal and state resource agencies, and in most cases, adjacent property owners who might be affected by the proposal. However, the public at large is not notified. The public interest review process is central to the decision-making process for letters of permission. The LOP involves a 30-day comment period or a 15-day comment period in cases where the proposed impacts are minor and non-controversial. State and Federal agencies and the adjacent property owners are provided a project description and a copy of project plans. A final decision on the LOP permit application is usually reached 45 to 60 days from the date a complete application is received by the Corps' office.
Nationwide permits are general permits issued nationwide to authorize categories of similar activities with minor impacts. The Honolulu District has developed Regional Conditions in order to provide additional protection for the aquatic environment within the Pacific region. All persons wishing to perform work under the nationwide permits must provide written notification to the Corps prior to the start of work. The Regional Conditions provide a list of the information necessary to submit a complete Pre-construction Notification (PCN). After a review of the project, the Corps will issue a verification letter pursuant to the applicable Nationwide Permit(s).