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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

Water Resources - Frequently Asked Questions

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What are waters of the State?
What is a stream?
What is the difference between a modified natural stream and a ditch or canal?
Who determines if a stream is jurisdictional?
What does the term blue-line stream mean?
Do streams have to be on a map to be regulated?
What is a wetland?
What is an isolated wetland?
Who determines if a wetland is jurisdictional?

  

What are waters of the State?

Waters of the State include any stream, river, brook, swamp, lake, sound, tidal estuary, bay, creek, reservoir, waterway, or other body or accumulation of water. They can be surface or underground, public or private, natural or artificial. Finally, they must be contained in, flow through, or border upon any portion of this State (including any portion of the Atlantic Ocean over which the State has jurisdiction). G.S. 143-212(6)

 

What is a stream?

A stream is a body of concentrated flowing water in a natural low area or natural channel on the land surface (15A NCAC 02B .0233(2)). There are three stream types: ephemeral, intermittent, and perennial. 
Ephemeral streams are features that only carry stormwater in direct response to precipitation. They may have a well defined channel and they typically lack the biological, hydrological, and physical characteristics commonly associated with intermittent or continuous conveyances of water. These features are typically not regulated by NC DWR or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 
Intermittent streams have a well-defined channel that contains water for only part of the year (typically during winter and spring). The flow may be heavily supplemented by stormwater. When dry, they typically lack the biological and hydrological characteristics commonly associated with continuous conveyances of water. These features are regulated by NC DWR and typically regulated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 
Perennial streams have a well-defined channel that contains water year round during a year with normal rainfall. Groundwater is the primary source of water, but they also carry stormwater. They exhibit the typical biological, hydrological, and physical characteristics commonly associated with the continuous conveyance of water. These features are regulated by NC DWR and typically regulated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

 

What is the difference between a “modified natural stream” and a “ditch” or “canal”?

A modified natural stream means the channelization or relocation of a stream. Consequently, the flow is relocated. They exhibit the typical biological, hydrological, and physical characteristics commonly associated with the continuous conveyance of water. These features are regulated by NC DWR and typically regulated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
A ditch or canal means a man-made channel other than a modified natural stream. They are constructed for drainage purposes and typically dug through inter-stream divide areas. They may exhibit hydrological and biological characteristics similar to streams. These features are typically not regulated by NC DWR or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

 

Who determines if a stream is jurisdictional?

Division of Water Resources (DWR) determines the presence and location of waters of the State, including streams. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers determines waters of the U.S. In areas where there are riparian buffer protection programs, other entities may make stream determinations for the buffer rules only (see buffer FAQs). To schedule a stream determination, please contact our Regional Offices.

 

What does the term “blue-line stream” mean?

“Blue-line stream” means that a stream appears as a broken or solid blue line (or a purple line) on a USGS topographic map. Streams do not have to be “blue-line” to be considered waters of the State.

 

Do streams have to be on a map to be regulated?

NO!!! While topographic maps and soil surveys may be helpful for some streams, a stream does not have to appear on a map to be regulated (see buffer FAQs for map requirements).

 

What is a wetland?

Wetlands are the interfaces between land and water. They are characterized by having hydric soils, hydrophytic plants and wetland hydrology (for more information about wetlands, please click here). Wetlands are regulated by NC DWR and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

 

What is an isolated wetland?

An isolated wetland is a wetland; however, it is not regulated under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers makes this determination. Isolated wetlands are regulated by NC DWR.

 

Who determines if a wetland is jurisdictional?

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers determine the presence and location of wetlands that are jurisdictional under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act.

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