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Video: Your guide to the Corps’ permitting process

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Produced by the Portland District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, this video explains the whys and hows of the Corps’ permitting process, covering everything from project planning and types of permits, to the laws and regulations that guide Corps permitting decisions. It is intended to support applicants’ efforts to submit a complete permit application package, making the review process more effective and efficient.

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This work, Your guide to the Corps’ permitting process, by Michelle Helms, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.

Date Taken:09.22.2011

Date Posted:03.9.2012 2:55PM


Video ID:139307




Location:PORTLAND, OR, USGlobe

More Like This

  • Produced by the Portland District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, this video explains the whys and hows of the Corps’ permitting process, covering everything from project planning and types of permits, to the laws and regulations that guide Corps permitting decisions. It is intended to support applicants’ efforts to submit a complete permit application package, making the review process more effective and efficient. THIS VIDEO IS CLOSED CAPTIONED
  • This video is an introduction to Regulatory Process 101. For detailed information on this topic, please visit the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' website.

The regulatory mission of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is to protect the nation’s aquatic resources while allowing reasonable development through fair, flexible and balanced permit decisions.  
If a proposed project, big or small, has potential to impact waters of the United States, then a permit must be requested from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 made the Corps responsible for providing protection and maintenance of the nation’s navigable waterways.  This act also authorized the Corps with regulatory responsibility for the nation’s navigable waterways.

According to the Clean Water Act of 1972, the Corps was authorized to be the regulatory body for dredging and filling of waters of the United States, including many wetlands. Additionally, the Corps was given regulatory authority under Section 103 of the Marine Protection Research and Sanctuaries Act.

The regulatory process is by no means a “cookie cutter” approach.  Every project is unique.  Every permit application is reviewed within the same laws and regulations.     

The Corps supports a strong partnership with the state in regulating water resource development . The Corps works cooperatively with states in reviewing the environmental impacts of proposed projects.
One form of permit authorization used by the Corps is the Individual Permit. There are three distinct steps in the process of reviewing individual, project-specific applications. These are pre-application, or pre-app, a formal review, evaluation and decision.

Major project proposals typically include pre-application consultation, with meetings between the applicant, Corps, resource agencies and others.  The pre-app gives the applicant a general idea of the feasibility of available alternatives to accomplish the overall project.

It also allows discussions about measures to reduce impacts on the aquatic environment.

The consultation between the applicant and the Corps informs the applicant about factors the Corps considers in the decision-making process, which enables more efficient processing of the application.
A formal review follows submission of a completed application for a permit, during which the Corps determines if it has geographic and activity jurisdiction, or authority, over a proposed project and consults with local, state and federal agencies. 

Shortly after receiving a complete permit application, the Corps issues a public notice about the proposed project, opening a public comment period. A permit application is considered complete only when all relevant information and documents have been provided by the applicant. Sometimes the Corps must request additional information and hold its evaluation until that information is received.

During the public comment period, members of the public may review a project proposal and submit comments to the Corps, either opposing or supporting the project. The Corps considers these comments as it reviews all applicable material during its evaluation of the application.

The project manager evaluates the impacts of the project and all comments received, negotiates modifications, if necessary; and drafts the required documentation to support a recommended permit decision. 

Evaluation may include a discussion of the environmental impacts of the project; findings of the public interest review process, and inclusion of any special evaluation required by the type of proposed activity, such as compliance with ocean dumping criteria or impact on endangered species or historic properties.

When all considerations are satisfied and all documentation is completed, the district commander, having responsibility for the geographic area in which the proposed project resides, makes a decision to issue or deny a Department of the Army permit.

The Corps makes every effort to process Individual Permits within 120 days of receipt of the complete application.

Some controversial projects, or projects dealing with special considerations, such as endangered species, may take longer.  Special conditions, such as compensatory mitigation, may be applied to a permit when it is issued.

In making its decision, the Corps considers the value of the aquatic ecosystems involved, the views of federal, state and local agencies and interest groups, and 21 public interest factors.

Some minor activities in the United States and its territories may be authorized through a General Permit.  General Permits are issued on a nationwide or regional basis for projects that are substantially similar in nature and cause only minimal individual or cumulative impacts. These types of permits are reviewed every five years.

Some of the types of activities that may be authorized with a General Permit are aids to navigation, bank stabilization, aquatic habitat restoration, boat ramp construction and modifications to existing marinas.

The Corps’ professional, well-trained team of specialists, many who have academic degrees in biology and environmental sciences, are dedicated to public service. The Corps’ regulatory mission is their mission, and they all strive to achieve fair and equitable decisions; reasonable use of private property;
infrastructure development; economic growth and the offsetting of impacts to the aquatic environment through restoration, enhancement and the creation and preservation of aquatic functions and services.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ regulatory program includes alternative analysis considerations, evaluating individual as well as cumulative impacts and potential impacts to endangered species and cultural resources; and requiring compensatory mitigation when necessary.  In its evaluation process, the Corps delineates, or identifies, wetlands, reviews projects relative to 21 public interest factors and follows Clean Water Act guidelines. 

Each of these topics will be introduced further in a series of companion videos, and I invite you to view each of them and learn more about the Corps’ regulatory program and how the Corps works to serve the public and protect the environment.

Before beginning any project in waters of the United States, be sure to find out if a Department of the Army permit is required. While this video attempts to give a general overview of the regulatory process, viewers should refer to the actual laws, regulations and guidance for complete and current information.
  • In the interest of public service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers places a high degree of importance on balancing public interest factors when evaluating applications for Department of the Army permits.
The Corps considers 21 distinct and individual public interest factors in its review of every permit application.  They include:

Conservation, economics, aesthetics, general environmental concerns, wetlands, historic properties and cultural values, fish and wildlife values, flood hazards, floodplain values, land use, navigation, shore erosion and accretion, recreation, water supply and conservation, water quality, energy needs, safety, food and fiber production, mineral needs, consideration of property ownership, and the needs and welfare of the people.
  • The preservation of our nation’s history and culture is critical for the education, development and appreciation of future generations. 

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 historic property is any prehistoric or historic district, site, building, structure or object included in, or eligible for inclusion in, the National Register of Historic Places.  

The term includes properties of traditional religious and cultural importance to an Indian Tribe or Native Hawaiian organization. Such properties also meet the National Register criteria. 

Some historic properties are well known, while others have yet to be discovered.  

With about 100,000 permit applications each year, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers understands the need for a process that meets the intent of the National Historic Preservation Act.

Building a boat dock or housing development that affects wetlands may also impact archeological sites or historic buildings. Therefore, the Corps considers the potential impacts that proposed projects may have upon historic properties.

An important part of this process involves consultation with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, the State Historic Preservation Officer, the permit applicant, Indian Tribes, interested parties and the public.

Adverse effects on historic properties may be direct or indirect. Projects may adversely affect historic properties if: 

They cause physical destruction or damage;
They alter or relocate the property;

They change the character of the property’s use or setting; or 

They introduce incompatible visual, atmospheric or audible elements.

As with all permit evaluations, the process includes consideration of alternatives that will reduce the adverse effects on historic properties.

If a project has unavoidable adverse impacts on a historic property, and it is determined that it is in the public’s interest to authorize the project, a Memorandum of Agreement is developed to address resolution of the adverse effects.

[Interview]: “There’s a great potential for the country to have better understanding of this particular continent if they would listen to the Native American people who lived here for millennia before the arrival of the Europeans. And I believe that this tribal liaison office is a very important aspect for creating that communication and understanding between them.”

Through the preservation of our nation’s history and culture, future generations will learn from, appreciate and value our heritage. This is just one of the many factors that the Corps considers and must balance in evaluating permit applications. Available in High Definition.


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