Waters of the United States
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has jurisdiction over two broad categories of water: navigable waters of the United States and waters of the United States. More information.
Navigable waters of the United States
Navigable waters of the United States are regulated under Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act. These are waters that are subject to the ebb and flow of the tide and/or are presently used, have been used in the past or could be used to transport interstate or foreign commerce. See a list of Oregon’s navigable riverways, harbors and bays (339kb PDF).
Waters of the United States
These waters are regulated under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. These include navigable waters, lakes, ponds, small streams, some ditches, and adjacent wetlands. Waters of the United States include natural areas as well as areas that are man-made. If you are unclear about whether you have waters of the United States in your project area, please check with your local Corps Project Manager.
The Corps’ regulatory jurisdiction extends to tidal waters of the United States, non-tidal waters of the United States, and territorial seas.
Tidal waters of the United States
Corps jurisdiction over tidal waters of the United States is outlined in Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act and Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. Section 10 says the Corps’ jurisdiction in tidal waterways extends to the mean high water line. The mean high water line is the line on the shore established by the average of all high tides. It is established by survey based on available tidal data, preferably averaged over a period of 18.6 years because of the variations in tide. In the absence of such data, less precise methods to determine the mean high water mark are used, such as physical markings, lines of vegetation or comparison of the area in questions with an area having similar physical characteristics for which tidal data are readily available.
Section 404 says Corps jurisdiction in tidal waters extends to the high tide line. High tide line is the line of intersection of the land with the water’s surface at the maximum height reached by a rising tide. The high tide line may be determined, in the absence of actual data, by a line of oil or scum along shore objects, a more or less continuous deposit of fine shell or debris on the foreshore or berm, other physical markings or characteristics, vegetation lines, tidal gages, or other suitable means that delineate the general height reached by a rising tide. The line encompasses spring high tides and other high tides that occur with periodic frequency but does not include storm surges in which there is a departure from the normal or predicted reach of the tide due to the piling up of water against a coast by strong winds such as those accompanying a hurricane or other intense storm.
Non-tidal waters of the United States
In non-tidal waters of the United States, the Corps’ jurisdiction extends to the ordinary high water mark, a term used by the Corps in reference to the line on the shore of streams and lakes established by fluctuations of water. The physical characteristics of these fluctuations include a clear, natural line impressed on the bank, shelving, changes in the character of soil, destruction of terrestrial vegetation, the presence of litter and debris or other appropriate means that consider the characteristics of the surrounding areas. When adjacent wetlands are present, the Corps’ jurisdiction extends beyond the ordinary high water mark to the limit of the adjacent wetlands. When the water consists only of wetlands, the jurisdiction extends to the limit of the wetland boundary.
The Corps’ jurisdiction in territorial seas begins at the shoreline and extends in a seaward direction a distance of three nautical miles. The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act extends the jurisdiction of the Corps, under Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act, to the seaward limit of the outer continental shelf for the construction of artificial islands, installations, and other devices on the seabed.