D-1 - Determining if your project will affect "waters of the U.S."
D-2 - Agency Coordination, Permitting, and Evaluation of Alternatives
D-3 - How to Address Adverse Effects
D-4 - How to Provide Relevant and Helpful Support Documentation
Section D: Waters of the U.S. and Wetlands
There are a range of laws and executive orders that are designed to protect the nation’s water resources. Over a century ago, the Rivers and Harbors Act was enacted to address the need to maintain the navigability of the nation’s waterways. Under the Act, regulations and procedures were implemented to control proposed development on or around navigable channels. More recently, the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, later to be called the Clear Water Act, tackled issues associated with cleaning up and maintaining the water quality of the nation’s waters by setting up a permit system under the direction of the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). Any entity, Federal or non- Federal, who is developing in or around “waters of the US” (which includes wetlands), is required to contact the USACE about the need for a permit. If a permit is required, it must be obtained and the permit conditions complied with.
In addition to the Clean Water Act and the Rivers and Harbors Act, many states have permitting requirements associated with work in wetlands or streams, along stream banks, or in floodplains. You should check with your state and local authorities regarding these requirements before undertaking any work in these areas.
In addition to the laws enacted by the Congress there are executive orders (EO) issued by the President that relate to actions and funding undertaken by the administrative branch of the Federal government. In particular, EO 11990, Protection of Wetlands, requires that all Federal agencies consider alternatives for proposed actions or funding of actions that would be in or otherwise adversely affect the natural or beneficial functions of wetlands. Where reasonable alternatives are not available, then minimization of impacts must be considered.
The questions and guidance in this section are designed to provide information useful in determining if your proposed project is likely to trigger any of these laws or executive orders and if so, steps and costs that might be involved in reducing the potential impacts.