What Goes into a 404 Permit Application?

Water Law Resource
May 6, 2013 — 1,425 views  
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One of the ways that the Environmental Protection Agency is safeguarding against damage to wetland areas is through its 404 permit application process. The agency requires land developers and environmental engineers to gain approval for the discharge of dredging material into wetlands, and the 404 permit is currently the only way for that approval to be granted. Generally, the application process itself is quite simple. The information required of the application, however, will usually take quite a bit of time and effort on behalf of developers.

A Look at the 404 Permit Types: Several Different Mechanisms to Apply For

The EPA issues three different types of 404 permits, with each one focusing on a slightly different permission level and a different type of geographic area where the discharge of dredging material is permitted into wetlands. These permits are as follows.

1. The Standard Permit

After a public comment and discussion period with the local community, an accepted application allows the developer or engineer to perform the discharge of dredging material only in the specific area for which the permit was issued.

2. Letter of Permission

This "permit" is actually a mere letter of approval from the EPA, stating that the environmental effects will be so negligible that larger public debate and more official permission is not needed by the developer.

3. The General Permit

The EPA can, at its discretion, issue a general permit that allows the discharge of materials in a larger geographic area. Instead of permitting the practice in just one community, a general permit would apply to a larger region or even the nation as a whole.

Applying for the Permit: What to Include and What to Know

The application process for the EPA's 404 permit is actually rather simple, but it does involve a great deal of research and certification on behalf of the developer or engineer who is performing the discharge of dredging material into wetlands. Generally, an application must include a few essential items in order to be quickly reviewed and ultimately granted.

The first of these things is evidence that the discharged material will have a minimal impact on the wetland environment and the surrounding community. Developers must show that the practice would not lead to a significant degradation in water quality, either in a specific community, a larger region, or nationwide.

As part of the application process, developers will need to show that a number of steps have been taken to minimize the impact on water quality after discharge. This may include restoring existing wetlands or actually expanding an existing wetland territory to cover for any potential effects of the discharge, mitigating them in the eyes of EPA regulations.

Generally, meeting these conditions will lead to a high likelihood of approval. Even so, the EPA does judge each application based on its support by the nearby community, and developers should be prepared to document their meetings with local leaders and officials, community residents, and local wildlife experts. The goal is to make sure the application for the permit can accurately reflect sound environmental protection as well as wide community support.

With a robust application full of the right studies, documented meetings, and impact studies on nearby wetland areas and the water quality of a community at large, developers can expect an approval or denial of their permit application within two to six weeks.

Water Law Resource