The Corps of Engineers is responsible for administering Federal regulations under two separate authorities: Section 404 of the Clean Water Act of 1972 and Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899.
Section 404 of the Clean Water Act of 1972 (PL 92-500), as amended, is the primary federal statute regulating the discharge of dredged or fill material into waters of the United States. Section 404 applies to the disposal of dredged or fill material into lakes, rivers and wetlands. The Corps manages the permit program under Section 404 in cooperation with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA). Federal regulations on the Corps' permit program are contained in 33 CFR Parts 320-331 (Regulatory Programs of the Corps of Engineers).
Section 404 permits are issued through Corps district offices (see list below). Some nationwide and regional permits have been issued to cover specific types of discharges. Section 404(g) of the Clean Water Act allows the USEPA to transfer a portion of the regulatory program for Section 404 to a qualifying state or Indian Tribe. Only one Great Lakes state (Michigan) has been transferred 404 permitting responsibilities. Permit applicants must provide sufficient information to complete a 404(b)(1) evaluation, which is prepared by the permitting office.
Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (CWA) is a holistic regulation. The final determination of acceptability of any proposed discharge of dredged or fill material considers the probable impact, including cumulative impacts of the proposed discharge, on the public interest. The CWA directs that 404(b)(1) Guidelines be promulgated by the Administrator of the USEPA in conjunction with the Corps.
In addition to dredged or fill discharge permits, the Corps also issues permits for any structures or work that impact the course, capacity, or condition of a navigable water of the United States under Section 10 of the Rivers & Harbors Act of 1899 (33 CFR 403). The permit program for Section 10 permits is managed by the same Corps districts as the Section 404 permits. Permits for Section 10 and Section 404 of the Clean Water Act are typically handled jointly. The Corps coordinates Section 10 permits with the U.S. Coast Guard, which issues a notice to navigation.