The Permitting Process for Water Supply Reservoirs

The construction of water supply reservoir projects requires a Clean Water Act Section 404 permit for “the discharge of the dredged or fill material in waters of the U.S.” resulting from building the dam and control structures.

EPA and the Corps of Engineers’ responsibility in the Section 404 permit process is to ensure that any proposed project is consistent with the Section 404(b)(1) regulations which provide that “…no discharge of dredged or fill material shall be permitted if there is a practicable alternative to the proposed discharge which would have less adverse impact on the aquatic ecosystem…” and that no permit shall be issued unless the potential impacts to waters of the U.S. be minimized to the degree practicable.

With reservoir projects, this includes impacts from both the dam construction and flooding of upstream areas.  If required, under Section 404(q) EPA may elevate a proposed permit to higher levels of management review within EPA and in the Corps.

EPA’s objective is to ensure that alternatives that support sustainable water resource management and minimize environmental impacts through effective water efficiency and water conservation practices are employed to the maximum extent practicable at the project design stage of the proposal.

To ensure alternatives are being addressed and impacts are avoided or minimized, EPA Region 4 developed water supply reservoir permitting guidelines.