Processing permits involves evaluation of individual, project specific applications in what can be considered three steps: pre-application consultation, formal project review, and decision making.
Pre-application consultation usually involves one or several meetings between an applicant, the Corps district staff, interested resource agencies (Federal, state, or local), and sometimes the interested public. The basic purpose of such meetings is to provide for informal discussions about the pros and cons of a proposal before an applicant makes irreversible commitments of resources (funds, detailed designs, etc.). The process is designed to provide the applicant with an assessment of the viability of some of the more obvious alternatives available to accomplish the project purpose, to discuss measures for reducing the impacts of the project, and to inform him of the factors the Corpsmust consider in its decision making process.
Once a complete application is received, the formal review process begins. The Corps districts operate under what is called a project manager system, where one individual is responsible for handling an application from receipt to final decision. The project manager prepares a public notice, evaluates the impacts of the project and all comments received, negotiates necessary modifications of the project if required, and drafts or oversees drafting of appropriate documentation to support a recommended permit decision. The permit decision document includes a discussion of the environmental impacts of the project, the findings of the public interest review process, and any special evaluation required by the type of activity such as compliance determinations with the Section 404(b)(1) Guidelines or the ocean dumping criteria.
There are some activities in waters, including wetlands, that may be exempt from permitting requirements. The Corps is responsible for verifying whether a proposed activity qualifies for an exemption. Exempt activities are generally related to normal farming, silviculture and ranching activities such as plowing, seeding, cultivating, minor drainage, and harvesting for the production of food, fiber, and forest products, or upland soil and water conservation practices.
Apart from exemptions, there is also a group of activities that occur in waters, including wetlands that the Corps may not regulate. These activities are reviewed on a case by case basis to determine if the activity would require a permit. These activities may include installation of pilings, mechanized clearing, ground disturbance, excavation, ditching, Section 404 directional boring, and mining. For more information visit our Exempted Activities page.