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Apply for a permit

Regulatory image of scenic lakeThe mission of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Regulatory offices is to protect the nation’s aquatic resources, while allowing reasonable development through fair, flexible and balanced permit decisions. The United States Congress authorizes the Corps to regulate activities that may impact wetlands and waters of the United States.

 

The Corps’ permit application process gives applicants the opportunity to demonstrate that they have avoided and minimized impacts to waters of the United States as much as possible. As an applicant, you can make the permitting process easier by first taking time to consider how your project will impact the environment.

Related laws

Clean Water Act, Section 402

Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972

Deepwater Port Act of 1974

Federal Power Act of 1920

Fish & Wildlife Coordination Act

Interstate Land Sales Full Disclosure Act

Marine Mammal Protection Act

Marine Protection Research & Sanctuaries Act of 1972, Section 302

Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918

National Environmental Policy Act

National Fishing Enhancement Act of 1984

Native American Graves Protection & Repatriation Act

Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion Act of 1980

Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act of 1953 (as amended)

Wild & Scenic Rivers Act

Related Regulations

36 CFR Part 800-899 - Advisory Council on Historic Preservation

40 CFR Part 22 - Administrative Assessment of Civil Penalties and the Revocation or Suspension of Permits

40 CFR Part 230 – Clean Water Act Implementing Regulations and 404(b)(1) Guidelines

40 CFR Part 233 - State Program Regulations

40 CFR Part 233G - Tribal Regulations

40 CFR Part 1500 et seq - Council on Environmental Quality

50 CFR Parts 400-499 - Endangered Species Regulations

50 CFR Part 600 - Essential Fish Habitat Regulations

How to apply for a permit

Before a permit is issued or verified, the Corps must ensure that we've met all of our obligations under any related federal and state laws. The amount and complexity of any additional information needed depends on the project type and location. This means the Corps may ask for more information from the applicant, or the applicant may need to give more information to another agency. In some cases, it's solely the applicant’s responsibility to obtain other authorizations. When related to the Corps authorization, the Corps will inform you of other agencies’ requirements as soon as possible and work with you to fulfill those requirements as expeditiously as possible.

The Corps and the Oregon Department of State Lands offer a joint permit application that allows you to complete one permit application that satisfies both agencies’ requirements. If your project does not require a permit from the DSL you may complete the Corps’ permit application. A complete application must include a location map, site plan and cross-section drawings. All drawings should be clear, legible and formatted to fit on 8 1/2 by 11-inch paper. These items can be submitted electronically. Use the fewest number of sheets necessary for your drawings or illustrations.

We recommend permit applicants who are planning projects in or near Portland Harbor review the Portland Harbor Permitting Guide. The Corps, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed this guide to enhance interagency coordination when reviewing permit applications. It provides information to help permit applicants: 
• Understand the agencies’ permitting processes
• Understand various permit requirements
• Identify some potential permitting hurdles
• Provide technical resources that support best practices when designing projects

You are encouraged to submit your Corps permit application digitally. All electronic documents should be submitted as Adobe Acrobat PDF files. Files up to 10 MB can be emailed to PortlandPermits@usace.army.mil. Application packages containing documents over 10 MB can be submitted through AMRDEC, a secure file transfer site located at https://safe.amrdec.army.mil/safe/. On the AMRDEC homepage, begin by clicking the blue "Click Here" box on the right under “Non-CAC Users."  Enter your name and email address, then click the "Choose File" button to select the file(s) that you are sending.  In the "Description of File(s)" field, include the county where the project is located; this field cannot be left blank. Enter "PortlandPermits@usace.army.mil" under "Recipient Information" and click the blue "Add" button. After your file has been uploaded, you will receive an email to verify your email address and send the documents.  Files will not be sent until this step is completed. 

Hardcopy applications and documents can also be mailed to the appropriate office on a CD or DVD.

USACE Portland District
Attn: CENWP-OD-G
P.O. Box 2946
Portland, OR 97208-2946
USACE Eugene Field Office
211 E. Seventh Avenue,
Suite 105
Eugene, OR 97401-2722

The Corps may require a document that clearly defines the boundaries of any waters that might be affected. This is called a wetland delineation report. It includes all wetlands, streams and other bodies of water in your project area.  Completing a wetland delineation requires expertise and may require professional assistance. Contact your local Corps office for more information on wetland delineations.

Different types of permits

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General permits authorize activities that are similar in nature and cause only minimal adverse environmental impacts to aquatic resources, separately or on a cumulative basis. There are two types of general permits: nationwide permits and regional general permits.

Nationwide permits are issued by the Corps on a national basis and are designed to streamline Department of the Army authorization of projects such as commercial developments, utility lines or road improvements that impact the nation's aquatic environment.

To ensure activities authorized by nationwide permit cause only minimal adverse environmental effects, Corps division engineers are authorized to add regional conditions to protect local aquatic ecosystems. Nationwide permits are proposed, issued, modified, reissued or extended, and revoked from time to time, after the opportunity for public notice and comment.

An activity may be authorized under a nationwide permit only if it meets both the national and regional conditions of the permit, including compliance with the Endangered Species Act and any special conditions added by the Corps. If the Corps finds that the proposed activity would have more than minimal individual or cumulative net adverse impact on the environment, or may be contrary to the public interest, you would need to modify your proposal to reduce or eliminate those adverse effects, or apply for a standard individual permit.

 

A regional general permit is issued for a specific geographic area by an individual Corps District. Each regional general permit has specific terms and conditions, all of which must be met for project-specific actions to be verified.

If your project does not comply with all of the terms and conditions, authorization may be granted by another type of Department of the Army permit, however, the process will likely take longer. Therefore, to expedite review of your application, we recommend modifying projects to meet all terms and conditions of the applicable RGP.

 

Individual permits are for activities that do not fit the guidelines for a nationwide permit or regional general permit. There are two types of individual permits: standard individual permits and letters of permission.

 

A standard individual permit is required for activities having more than minimal impacts and/or for activities that do not qualify for a nationwide permit or regional general permit. An important distinction between an individual permit and a nationwide permit or regional general permit is the public interest review requirement. Nationwide permits and regional general permits undergo public review as part of their development process; however, project-specific actions can be authorized by nationwide permit or regional general permit without further public review.

A standard individual permit is subject to the public interest review process on a project-specific basis. A public notice will be issued for a standard individual permit application to allow federal, state and local agencies, adjacent property owners and the general public an opportunity to review and comment on the plan or to request a public hearing. Applications involving public notices are typically completed within four to six months. However, some complex activities, issues or legal requirements may require additional review and take more time.

Upon receipt of your permit application, you will be sent an acknowledgement of receipt and a Corps reference number specific to your file. You should refer to this number when inquiring about your application. If your application is incomplete, the Corps will request the additional information needed to continue its review. The project will be reviewed, balancing the need and expected benefits against the probable impacts of the work, taking into consideration all comments received and other relevant factors.


A letter of permission is a type of individual permit issued through a more streamlined process. Letters of permission are typically for activities subject to Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act. Individual Corps districts may develop letter of permissions applicable for work subject to Section 404 of the Clean Water Act after coordinating with state and federal agencies and allowing the opportunity for public comment.

A letter of permission may be issued for projects where proposed work would be minor, would not have significant individual or cumulative impacts on environmental values, and isn’t expected to encounter appreciable opposition. These types of projects usually include minor dredging and construction, maintenance, or replacement of piers, mooring buoys, piles, or floats. Compliance reviews under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act and Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act still apply for a letter of permission.


The Corps characterizes an emergency as a situation which would result in an unacceptable hazard to life, a significant loss of property, or an immediate, unforeseen and significant economic hardship if no action is taken. In these situations, the District Engineer can authorize expedited reviews of permit applications.

You must notify the Corps of the need to perform emergency work before taking any action, if possible. Call the Corps Regulatory specialist for your county as soon as possible to discuss the situation. Alternatively, you can contact the Portland or Eugene Section chief for assistance.

The Corps has the responsibility to determine if the proposed work is consistent with the Corps' definition of an emergency, whether authorization is needed, and if so, which type of authorization is required. Unauthorized work may be subject to enforcement action.

The Corps may not view an action as an emergency if the applicant has known of the deficient condition of the failing structure and has not made reasonable attempts to secure appropriate permits and conduct timely repairs. Emergency declarations by the state or a county government do not mean all repair activities qualify as emergency situations.

All permit reviews, including emergency reviews, require coordination with tribes and state and federal agencies. In an emergency, reasonable effort will be made to receive comments from interest groups and others who may be affected by the action.

There are no fees for general permits and letters of permission issued by the Corps.  The following fees apply when a project has been approved and a standard individual permit is issued by the Corps and accepted by the applicant:

  • $10 for individuals (non-commercial activities)
  • $100 for businesses (commercial and industrial activities)
  • No fees are charged to governmental agencies

 

Permit regulations

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Requires approval prior to the accomplishment of any work in or over navigable waters of the United States, or work which affects the course, location, condition or capacity of such waters. Projects typically requiring Section 10 permits include construction of piers, wharves, bulkheads, dolphins, marinas, ramps, floats intake structures, and cable or pipeline crossings; dredging and excavation; and Overhead transmission lines, tunnels, or directional bore holes.

 

Requires approval prior to discharging dredged or fill material into the waters of the United States. The Clean Water Act aims to protect the physical, chemical and biological integrity of water quality in the United States. Increased surface runoff from development has the potential to cause significant changes in aquatic ecosystems. Discharges of runoff may carry pollutants such as eroded soil, oil, metals, and pesticides that adversely affect oceans, streams, wetlands, lakes, and groundwater.

 

As amended (33 U.S.C. 1413), authorizes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to issue permits for the transportation of dredged material for the purpose of dumping it into ocean waters.

 

Specifically addresses the discharge of pollutants by ensuring compliance with effluent limitations, new source performance standards, toxic pollutant limitations and other appropriate requirements of law or regulation. Section 401 water quality certifications are issued by state water pollution control agencies. This authority is delegated directly from the U.S. Congress to the states, and allows each state to establish policies to ensure that approved activities will meet applicable water quality standards. When you apply for a permit from the Corps, you are often required to obtain Section 401 water quality certification from the appropriate state agency. On tribal lands, Native American tribes or the Environmental Protection Agency have Section 401 certification authority. In most cases, Section 401 certification is conducted at the same time as the Corps’ review. The Section 401 certification can cover both the construction and operation of the proposed project. Conditions of the Section 401 certification become conditions of the permit issued by the Corps.

  • Section 10 permits also require Section 401 DEQ water quality certifications.
  • The Nationwide Permits have the 401 water quality certifications wrapped into them in most cases, but a project must meet specific design standards to obtain this.

 

The purpose of the Endangered Species Act is to protect and recover many of our nation’s native plant and animal species that are in danger of becoming extinct. This protection extends to the habitats upon which they depend. The ESA is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service. The USFWS consults on birds, terrestrial animals, plants, amphibians and most freshwater fish. The NMFS consults on salmon, marine fish, marine mammals and marine reptiles. 

When a proposed project will affect a species listed under the Endangered Species Act, the Corps is required to consult with the NMFS and/or the USFWS and cannot issue a permit until that consultation is complete.  A Corps tool designed to expedite the consultation is called Standard Local Operating Procedures for Endangered Species. SLOPES allows for a streamlined formal consultation process by timing projects to avoid critical life history windows; by minimizing aquatic resource, species and designated critical habitat impacts; and by improving the environmental baseline through site-specific habitat improvements.

 

Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 requires federal agencies to take into account the effects of their undertakings on historic properties. A Department of the Army permit is considered to be such a federal undertaking. Historic properties, commonly referred to as cultural resources, are archaeological sites, historic districts, buildings or structures, and traditional cultural properties that are included in the National Register of Historic Places, or meet the criteria for inclusion in the National Register. The term encompasses artifacts, records and human burials related to and located within such properties. If there are indications your project has the potential to effect historic properties, you may be asked to complete a cultural resource assessment, which may include a historic property or cultural resource survey.

 

The federal government’s unique relationship with Native American tribes is embodied in the U.S. Constitution, treaties, court decisions, federal statues and executive orders. Native American treaties are not a granting of rights, but a protection and preservation of land and certain rights retained by the tribes when they sign treaties. Treaties with tribes are equal to federal laws passed by Congress. As a federal agency the Corps has federal trust responsibility to ensure that Native American rights reserved by treaties are not compromised as part of our permit application review.

 

Some projects will require additional evaluation under other related laws and regulations. The lists below are not exhaustive. They are provided to make you aware of other laws which affect our program. Some of these laws apply regularly and some of them are rarely applicable.

How the permit process works

Permit applications received by the Corps of Engineers are given identification numbers and reviewed for completeness. A request for additional information may be sent if necessary. A public notice initiating a 15- or 30-day public comment period will be issued within 15 days of receiving all the required information. After the comment period, the Corps will review all of the comments and consult with other state and federal agencies and Native American tribes as appropriate. The Corps may ask for additional information at this time and a public hearing may be conducted if one has been specifically requested or determined to be necessary. When all considerations are satisfied, the District Engineer will make a decision to either issue or deny the permit application. If a permit is denied, the applicant will receive a written explanation.

The Corps’ goal is to decide on all applications within 60 days after receipt of a complete application for minor permits and 120 days for individual permits, unless: a decision is precluded as a matter of law or procedures required by law; the case must be referred to higher authority; the comment period of a public notice is extended; a timely submittal of information or comments is not received from the applicant; the processing is suspended at the request of the applicant; or information needed by the district engineer for a decision on the application cannot reasonably be obtained within the 60-day period.

Pre-application consultation

permit application requires a clear description of the proposed project, to include drawings, maps and other supporting documents. One of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ goals is to help you understand what you should be thinking about while you’re planning and designing your project, before you apply for a permit. Something as easy as changing the types of materials you propose to use, or the time of year you plan to do the work can affect the time it takes to review your permit application.

The easiest way to ensure your project complies with state and federal agency requirements is to find out what they are  when you are planning your project and incorporate design elements that minimize environmental impact. This often expedites the permitting process. If you want to set up a pre-application meeting when planning of your project, contact your local Corps Regulatory project manager.

Permit evaluation factors

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The mission of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Regulatory offices is to protect the nation’s aquatic resources, while allowing reasonable development through fair, flexible and balanced permit decisions. The Corps’ permit application process gives applicants the opportunity to demonstrate that they have avoided and minimized impacts to waters of the United States as much as possible.

 

  • the relative extent of the public and private need for the proposed activity;
  • the practicability of using reasonable alternative locations and methods to accomplish the objective of the proposed activity;
  • the extent and permanence of the beneficial and/or detrimental effects which the proposed activity is likely to have on the public and private uses to which the area is suited.
Aesthetics
Conservation
Considerations of private ownership
Cultural values
Economics
Energy needs
Fish and wildlife values
Flood hazards
Floodplain values
Food and fiber production
General environmental concerns
Land use
Mineral needs
Navigation
Needs and welfare of the people
Recreation
Safety
Shore erosion and accretion
Water quality
Water supply and conservation
Wetlands