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Regulatory Branch

Regulatory Branch

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been involved in regulating activities in the nation's waters since 1890. These include issuing permits related to waters of the United States, which are considered to include all surface waters such as all navigable waters and their tributaries, all wetlands adjacent to these waters, and all impoundments of these waters. Water is one of our nation's most valuable resources. It is becoming increasingly important that we protect the quality of our inland waters and wetlands for the use and benefit of future generations. A significant component of the Corps of Engineers' Regulatory program is to ensure that the physical, biological, and chemical quality of our nation's water is protected from irresponsible and unregulated discharges of dredged or fill material that could permanently alter or destroy these valuable resources. If you are planning work in a river, stream, wetland or pond, a Corps permit may be required.


The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been regulating activities in the Nation's waters since the late 1800's. Until the 1960's, the primary purpose of the regulatory program was to protect navigation. Since then new laws and court decisions have broadened the program. The regulatory program now considers the full public interest for both the protection and utilization of water resources.

Statutory Authority

The following laws define the regulatory authorities and responsibilities of the Corps of Engineers:

Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 (33 U.S.C. 403) prohibits the obstruction or alteration of navigable waters of the United States without a permit from the Corps of Engineers.

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 (33 U.S.C. 1344) prohibits the discharge of dredged or fill material into waters of the United States without a permit from the Corps of Engineers. The phrase "waters of the United States" includes navigable waters, but also includes non-navigable waterbodies, perennial and intermittent streams, wetlands, mudflats, and ponds.

Typical activities, although not entirely inclusive, that would require Section 404 permits are the depositing of fill or dredged material in waters of the U.S., for such things as:

Utility installations, stream relocations or culverting
Site development fills for residential, commercial, or recreational developments
Construction of revetments, groins, breakwaters, levees, dams, dikes, and weirs
Placement of riprap and road fills

Section 103 of the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act of 1972, as amended (33 U.S.C. 1413) authorizes the Corps of Engineers to issue permits for the transportation of dredged material for the purpose of disposal within ocean waters.

Other laws which may also affect the processing of your application are described below.

Section 401 of the Clean Water Act requires applicants to obtain a certification or waiver from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation for any activity that may result in a discharge of a pollutant into waters of the United States, including any dredged or fill materials. This agency reviews the effect on water quality standards.

Section 307(c) of the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972, as amended, requires applicants to obtain a certification or waiver that the activity complies with the state's coastal zone management program for activities affecting a state's coastal zone.


Types of permits include Individual, Nationwide and Regional. Contact the Corps of Engineers for proposed work in waters in your area. Exemptions, nationwide, regional and individual permit requirements will be reviewed. Discussing all information prior to application submittal will aid in your application being processed more efficiently.

Depending upon the type of and amount of proposed impacts within waters of the United States, including wetlands, the applicant may need to propose compensatory mitigation to offset adverse impacts to waters.

You can review the information and links on this Web site, including our listing of monthly Permit Decisions, to familiarize yourself with the issues and what may be required for your particular permitting process. For more information on the Corps of Engineers Regulatory Program and avatars to assist in completing the permit application, visit the Corps of Engineers Headquarters Regulatory website.