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CWA §401 Certification - New

On June 1, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized the Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 401 Certification Rule (40 CFR Part 121) to update and clarify the procedural requirements for water quality certification under CWA §401. Additional information, including the full text of the Final Rule is available on EPA's website. The Final Rule became effective on September 11, 2020.

If you are required or have been notified that your project requires that you request a water quality certification under CWA §401 from DEC for any activity that may result in a discharge to waters of the United States, then in accordance with 40 CFR §121.4 you must request a Pre-Filing Meeting with DEC at least 30 days prior to submitting a certification request.

To request a Pre-Filing Meeting Request, complete the Pre-Filing Meeting Request form and email to DEC-401Cert@alaska.gov. Include in the subject line the following "Pre-filing Meeting Request - CWA §401 Certification - [project title]". Include as much information about your project as possible, and identify if you have any particular issues you wish to bring to DEC’s attention. While DEC is not obligated to grant the request, you may not file a request for certification from DEC until you have filed a Pre-Filing Meeting request with DEC and 30 (thirty) days have passed.

To request a CWA §401 certification, complete the CWA §401 Request for Certification form and email to DEC-401Cert@alaska.gov along with the federal permit application and support materials. Include in the email subject line the following: “CWA §401 Certification Request - [Federal Agency and permit number or license number] - [project title]". It is important that you have allowed 30-days to have passed from requesting a prefiling meeting request. DEC does charge a fee for processing CWA §401 certifications, see Permit Fees website.

Several federal and state agencies are involved in Section 404 permitting.

Roles of Various Federal and State Agencies and Local Governments

Permitting Construction in Wetlands

Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (referred to as Section 404) established a permitting program to regulate any person, company, tribe, or government agency planning to work in waters of the United States (U.S.) or to discharge dredged or fill material into waters of the U.S. The regulated activities typically requiring a Section 404 permit include:

  • Discharging dredged or fill material in waters of the U.S., including wetlands;
  • Site improvement fill for residential, commercial, or recreational development;
  • Construction of revetments, groins, breakwaters, levees, dams, dikes, and weirs; and
  • Placement of riprap and fill material for roads, airports, or buildings.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - Alaska District Regulatory Division

Section 404 of the Clean Water Act requires that any person, company, tribe, or government agency planning to work in waters of the U.S. must obtain a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) before initiating any regulated activity. The Corps is the lead agency, in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), responsible for implementation of the 404 program in Alaska. Corps staff works with applicants to assist them in the permitting process.  See the links below for specific information on the permit application and issuance process.

Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation - Division of Water - Wastewater Discharge Authorization Program

Section 401 of the Clean Water Act provides states with the legal authority to review an application or project that requires a federal license or permit (in this case a 404 permit) that might result in a discharge into a water of the U.S. The applicant must apply for and obtain a Certificate of Reasonable Assurance from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to conduct a regulated activity. DEC will review the project; coordinate with other state and federal agencies and local governments; review any public comments; and either approves, approves with conditions, waives, or denies the project based on compliance with the Clean Water Act, state water quality standards, and other applicable state laws. DEC charges a fee to develop the Certificate of Reasonable Assurance. See the above information regarding CWA §401 Certification Rule requirements for submitting a pre-filing meeting request and subsequent request for a CWA §401 Certificate, and below for more specific information.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency - Region 10 - Alaska Operations Office

The Corps is the lead agency, in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in implementing the 404 wetlands program in Alaska. EPA works with the Corps to develop guidance and environmental criteria used in evaluating permit applications. EPA staff in Alaska review projects and has the authority to prohibit, deny, or restrict the use of any defined area as a disposal site. EPA enforces Clean Water Act Section 404 provisions.

Local Governments

Several local governments have developed local wetlands management plans. See the links for the following communities.

Alaska Wetlands

The State of Alaska includes approximately 63% of the nation's wetland ecosystems (Hall et al. 1994). Estimates place the total acreage at approximately 130 million acres or about one-third of the State. Wetlands help maintain water quality by slowly filtering excess nutrients, sediments, and pollutants before water seeps into rivers, streams, and underground aquifers. They also offer a breeding ground and/or habitat for fish, wildlife, and plants. Wetlands are areas that are inundated or saturated by surface or ground water at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions. Wetlands generally include tundra, permafrost areas, marshes, bogs, and similar areas.

The following reports describe wetlands in Alaska:

Functional Assessment Guidebooks

The hydrogeomorphic (HGM) assessment approach for wetlands is presented in three regional functional wetland assessment guidebooks for understanding Alaska wetlands and assessing wetland impacts and functions. The hydrogeomorphic approach is a rapid assessment tool specifically developed for the dominant type of wetlands in three regions of the state: Interior, Southcentral and Southeast Alaska. These guidebooks provide methods and resources for assessing the wetland functions for planning, permitting and mitigation. These were cooperatively developed by 23 state and federal agencies and organizations.

Cook Inlet Basin Ecoregion Wetland Functional Assessment Guidebook for Slope/Flat Wetland Complexes

Contacts

For More Information, Contact:

Staff (click to email) Position Phone
Jim Rypkema Program Manager, Storm Water and Wetlands 907-334-2288
Angela Hunt Environmental Program Specialist IV 907-269-7599
Teri Buck Environmental Program Specialist III 907-334-2281

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