Local, state, and federal agencies have authority over dams, dam removal, floodplain restoration, road-stream crossings and ecological restoration. As a result, multiple permits are often required to complete a river restoration project. Each permit has a regulatory threshold that specifies whether it is required for a specific project. Not all permits may be required at all river restoration projects, depending on site-specific factors and state and regional regulatory requirements. Usually the more thoroughly prepared the design and permit application, the less time it takes to receive approval. In some cases, regulators may require additional analysis during the permitting process.

Project permitting costs vary widely depending on project complexity. If the work is entirely completed by consultants, including completing paperwork, filing forms, and attending hearings, meetings and site visits, permitting can cost between $1,000 and $50,000 depending on site-specific permit requirements. The proponent can realize significant cost savings by handling the filings and any hearings.

General Recommendations

  • Consult with and work cooperatively with regulatory agencies early in the permitting process
  • Plan sufficient time to complete all the necessary consultations and regulatory processes, typically 3 to 6 months

You will likely need some (but not all) of the national permits mentioned below for a river restoration project:

Clean Water Act Section 401 Water Quality Certification to Work in Navigable Waters of the U.S.

Clean Water Act Section 404 Permit for the Discharge of Dredge or Fill Material into Waters of the U.S.

Endangered Species Act Consultation

National Environmental Policy Act Consultation

National Historic Preservation Act Section 106 Consultation

Rivers and Harbors Act Section 10 Permit for Obstructions to Navigable Waters

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nationwide Permit 27 for Aquatic Habitat Restoration, Enhancement and Establishment Activities

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nationwide Permit 53 for Removal of Low-Head Dams

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Regulatory Guidance Letter: Determination of Compensatory Mitigation Credits for the Removal of Obsolete Dams and Other Structures from Rivers and Streams

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Section 408 Permit for Corps Constructed Projects

The following resources will provide some guidance on the topic of permitting restoration projects:

Overcoming Policy and Permitting Challenges to Implementing Natural Infrastructure Solutions (Natural Floodplain Functions Alliance)

Permits for Voluntary Wetland Restoration: A Handbook (Association of State Wetland Managers)

Permitting: The State of (Several) States (American Rivers)

State Department of Transportation permit for road-stream crossings