Permitting Overview

Any person, firm, or agency (including Federal, state, and local government agencies) planning to work in navigable waters of the United States, or discharge (dump, place, deposit) dredged or fill material in waters of the United States, including wetlands, must first obtain a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Permits, licenses, variances, or similar authorization may also be required by other Federal, state and local statutes.

The Corps has many general permits, which authorize minor activities without the need for individual processing. Visit our General Permits page for information. When a General Permit (GP) does not apply, you may still be required to obtain an Individual Permit (IP).   

For further information on Corps permits and exemptions, please visit any of the 'Related Pages' on the right side of the screen.  Information on how to apply for a permit or a permit exemption verification can be found on our 'E-Submittal Applications Page'. 

General Permits

GPs are permits issued for projects similar in nature with only minimal impacts to the aquatic environment. Typically, once the Corps receives a complete application, it takes about 45 days to process a GP. The Savannah District currently has the following types of GPs: Nationwide Permits, Regional Permits, and Programmatic General Permits.

Nationwide Permits are commonly issued for projects such as wetland fills of less than a half-an-acre, and, or stream impacts of less than 300 linear feet in non-tidal areas.

Examples of Nationwide projects include, minor road crossings, buried utility lines, private residences, bank stabilization, and commercial and residential development.

Regional General Permits are similar to the Nationwides but are specific to the Savannah District. These projects may cover boat docks, roads and bridges, recreation ponds, and county road improvements.

Programmatic General Permits, similar to Nationwide and Regional General Permits, can also cover dredging, private boat docks, bank stabilization projects, debris removal and boat ramps, however they are delegated to another agency, like U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Savannah River Lake Offices and the Georgia Power Company for issuance.

Individual Permits

There are two types of IPs in the Savannah District: Letter of Permission and Standard Permit

Letters of Permission are an abbreviated process used to authorize minor projects with no significant environmental impacts, and should encounter no substantive opposition. Examples of projects include, a small community dock or a large private single family dock. They typically take 60 days to process from the time a complete application is received by the Corps.

Standard Permits on the other hand, are issued for projects that could have more than a minimal impact on the environment, for example, a large commercial development. Simple individual permits typically take 120 days to process from the time a complete application is received by the Corps.
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.

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