The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers evaluates any work or construction proposed in, over or under navigable waters of the U.S., their tributaries, lakes, rivers, streams and adjacent wetlands to ensure natural resources or users of these resources (people, wildlife) are not negatively impacted. Corps project managers work with applicants to ensure impacts are avoided to the most practicable extent possible to preserve our aquatic resources and to aid in efficient application reviews.
Baltimore District's Regulatory jurisdiction includes Maryland, a portion of Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia and military installations in northern Virginia. Our Headquarters is in Baltimore, but we have an additional field office in Maryland’s eastern shore and three field offices in Pennsylvania.
Wetlands serve an important role in the ecosystem. They help filter water and remove pollutants, combat erosion, manage flooding, provide habitat for species, as well as recreational opportunities. Examples of work requiring permits include construction of piers, bulkheads, marinas, boat ramps, groins, breakwaters, levees, weirs and pipeline crossings; dredging and excavation; placement of fill or dredged material; site development for residential, commercial or recreational areas; and shoreline erosion control projects.
Baltimore District authorizes work under four types of permits: State Programmatic General Permits (in partnership with Maryland Department of the Environment and Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection), Nationwide Permits (NWP), Letters of Permission, and Individual Permits. General Permits and NWPs are reserved for more routine activities that fall within certain regional or nationwide thresholds and are anticipated to cause minimal environmental impacts. For projects with potential substantial environmental impacts, we use either Letters of Permission or Individual Permits (IPs), which require coordination with resource agencies and public interest reviews. IPs also require a public notice and comment period. Most projects also require a state Water Quality Certification.
Issues commonly identified include incomplete applications and potential impacts to navigation, recreation, endangered species, historic features and Tribal rights. Resource agency concerns, navigation issues, mitigation for impacted resources, and waterway user conflicts must be addressed prior to a permit decision. Through the public interest review, the Corps considers the need for the proposed work; the practicability of using alternative locations and methods to accomplish the same objective; and the extent and permanence of the effects the proposal.
Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act prohibits the obstruction or alteration of navigable waters of the U.S. without a permit from the Corps. Section 404 of the Clean Water Act prohibits discharge of dredged or fill material into waters of the U.S. without a permit from the Corps. Other laws may also affect the processing of applications, such as the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA); Coastal Zone Management Act; Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act; Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act; and Endangered Species Act. NEPA is the overarching environmental statute requiring the identification of impacts to the quality of the human environment, consideration of alternative options and public involvement.
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