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N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Water Quality - Frequently Asked Questions

Water Quality

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401 & Buffer Permitting Unit

Certifications and Permits
Frequently Asked Questions

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What is a 404 permit?
What is a 401 WQC?
When do I need a 401 WQC?
How much can I impact?
What type of WQC do I need?
Do I always have to apply to DWR to be covered under a 401 WQC?
What if I do not need written approval to be covered under a 401 WQC?
What is an Isolated and Other Non-404 Jurisdictional Wetlands and Waters Permit?
When do I need an Isolated and Other Non-404 Jurisdictional Wetlands and Waters Permit?
How do I apply for a 401 WQC or Isolated and Other Non-404 Jurisdictional Wetlands and Waters Permit?
Where do I send my application packet?
Is there an application fee?
Is there an express review option?
What happens after my application is received by DWR?
How can I track the status of my application?
How can I access the project files?

 

 

What is a 404 permit?

"404" refers to Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is the federal agency responsible for issuing 404 Permits; these permits are required for the discharge of fill material into streams, wetlands and open waters. For more information about 404 permitting, click here.

What is a 401 WQC?

"401" refers to Section 401 of the Clean Water Act. The North Carolina Division of Water Resources (DWR) is the state agency responsible for issuing 401 water quality certifications (WQC). When the state issues a 401 certification (which is required for any federally permitted or licensed activity that may result in a discharge to waters of the U.S.), this certifies that a given project will not degrade Waters of the State or violate State water quality standards.

When do I need a 401 WQC?

A 401 WQC is required for any federally permitted or licensed activity that may result in a discharge to waters of the U.S. Typically, if the USACE determines that a 404 Permit or Section 10 Permit is required because your proposed project involves impacts to wetlands or waters, then a 401 WQC is also required.

Examples of activities that may require permits include:

  • Any disturbance to the bed (bottom) or banks (sides) of a stream.
  • Any disturbance to a wetland.
  • The damming of a stream channel to create a pond or lake.
  • Placement of any material within a stream, wetland or open water, including material that is necessary for construction, culvert installation, causeways, road fills, dams, dikes or artificial islands, property protection, reclamation devices and fill for pipes or utility lines.
  • Temporary impacts including dewatering of dredged material prior to final disposal and temporary fill for access roads, cofferdams, storage and work areas.

How much can I impact?

The best practice is to avoid all impacts to streams, wetlands and open waters when possible. Before you start any project that might have impacts, contact your local USACE or DWR representative to determine whether permits are needed. It is essential that when you plan your project, you seek all practical attempts to avoid or minimize impacts to streams, wetlands and open waters. The permitting process is not automatic – applicants must demonstrate that they have avoided and minimized impacts to the maximum extent practical.

Avoid: Has the project been designed to avoid impacts to wetlands, streams and other natural resources? Have alternative options, designs and locations been considered?

Minimize: Where project impacts are unavoidable, is the project designed such that the impacts have been minimized?

What type of WQC do I need?

The USACE determines which type of permit is required. Once the USACE determines which type of permit, there will be a corresponding water quality certification. Most activities fall under one of our general certifications.

Do I always have to apply to DWR to be covered under a 401 WQC?

No, not all activities require written approval to be covered under a general certification. Once the USACE has determined which type of permit and you have read the application requirements in the corresponding certification, you can determine if written approval is required for your project. Please note that your project is still covered under the 401 WQC and all conditions of that certification must be followed, including the stormwater management plan condition.

What if I do not need written approval to be covered under a 401 WQC?

If written approval is not required, and the project meets all of the conditions of the certification, then you do not need to submit a formal application to DWR, nor will you receive a signed 401 WQC from DWR. Please note that your project is still covered under the 401 WQC and all conditions of that certification must be followed, including the stormwater management plan condition.

What is an Isolated and Other Non-404 Jurisdictional Wetlands and Waters Permit?

An Isolated and Other Non-404 Jurisdictional Wetlands and Waters Permit is a permit for impacts to isolated wetlands or surface waters or any other non-404 jurisdictional wetlands or surface waters.

When do I need an Isolated and Other Non-404 Jurisdictional Wetlands and Waters Permit?

An Isolated and Other Non-404 Jurisdictional Wetlands and Waters Permit is required when a proposed project involves impacts to wetlands or waters that the USACE determines are not jurisdictional under Section 404 of the CWA. For a list of activities that may require a permit, click here.

How do I apply for a 401 WQC or Isolated and Other Non-404 Jurisdictional Wetlands and Waters Permit?

Use the pre-construction notification (PCN) form to apply for general 401 WQCs and Isolated and Other Non-404 Jurisdictional Wetlands and Waters Permit. A different form is required for individual permits.

In addition to the completed PCN Form, at a minimum you should include the following items with your application:

  • A cover letter explaining your project.
  • A vicinity map.
  • A site plan, drawn to scale, depicting all proposed impact areas (temporary and permanent impacts). Please note: DWR can accept full size plan sheets.
  • Any supporting documentation available, such as correspondence received from the USACE or photographs.
  • All additional information requested within the PCN Form.
  • The appropriate application fee.

Where do I send my application packet?

If you have a transportation project please send the application for DWR to: 

        Mailing Address (if sending by first class mail via the US Postal Service):

      NC DWR, Transportation Permitting Unit 
      1617 Mail Service Center
      Raleigh, NC 27699-1617

        Physical Address (if sending by delivery service, UPS, FedEx, etc.):

      NC DWR, Transportation Permitting Unit 
      512 North Salisbury Street
      Raleigh, NC 27604

For all other projects, please send the application for DWR to:

Mailing Address (if sending by first class mail via the US Postal Service):

      NC DWR, 401 & Buffer Permitting Unit 
      1617 Mail Service Center
      Raleigh, NC 27699-1617

Physical Address (if sending by delivery service, UPS, FedEx, etc.):

      NC DWR, 401 & Buffer Permitting Unit 
      512 North Salisbury Street
      Raleigh, NC 27604

Is there an application fee?

Yes. Please see our fee page for more information.

Is there an express review option?

Yes, the Express Review Program offers a more timely review than the traditional permit review process. Participation in the program is voluntary and higher fees are charged.

What happens after my application is received by DWR?

Once your application is received by DWR and determined to be complete, we have 60 days to prepare a response. All applications will be reviewed in the order received. Please note that if your application is determined to be incomplete by DWR, then the 60-day clock has not begun. Many applications are forwarded to the appropriate DWR Regional Office for site-specific review. Once a staff report is submitted, DWR may issue the 401 Certification or may request more information. If we request more information and that information is not provided, the application will be returned.

How can I track the status of my application?

Please go to the DENR application tracker website for more information on the status of your application.  

How can I access the project files?

Please go our electronic document management system to view and print files for projects that include buffer impacts, stream determinations, mitigation and 401 certifications and 401 stormwater management plans. 

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