The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) recently proposed to reissue its Nationwide Permits (NWPs), with modifications to the NWP general conditions and definitions, and adoption of several new NWPs. Those planning to undertake activities that will disturb wetlands or waterways are often required to obtain a Nationwide Permit from the USACE, depending on project specifications.  NWPs are general permits which cover defined types of activities and are considerably easier to obtain than project-specific permits.  The NWPs issued by the USACE are typically effective for five-year periods.  The current NWPs were issued in 2017 and have a March 2022 expiration date.  The USACE’s proposed rule, released well in advance of the typical reissue schedule, indicates that the 2017 NWPs would expire on the day before the new NWPs become effective. 

Some of the major proposed changes to the NWPs are listed below:

  • Addition of NWPs A and B that authorize seaweed and finfish mariculture activities within navigable waters of the US, which also include federal waters along the outer continental shelf. The existing NWP only applies to shellfish farming.
  • Limiting pre-construction notification (PCN) requirements to non-federal permittees.
  • Modifications to NWP 12 which limits oil and natural gas activities
    • Issuing (2) new NWPs: NWP C, which would authorize electrical utility line and telecommunications activities (NWP C); and NWP D, which would apply to other utility lines not covered by NWP C.  The USACE solicited public input on best management practices that could be added to these NWPs.                 
  • Revising the following NWPs to remove the 300 linear foot limit for losses of stream beds and instead rely on the 0.5-acre limit and PCN requirements to limit environmental impacts:
    • NWP 21 (surface coal mining), NWP 29 (residential development), NWP 39 (commercial and institutional developments), NWP 40 (agricultural activities), NWP 42 (recreational facilities), NWP 43 (stormwater management facilities), NWP 44 (mining activities), NWP 50 (underground coal mining activities), NWP 51 (land-based renewable energy generation facilities), NWP 52 (water-based renewable energy generation pilot projects).
  • Modifications to other NWPs include:
    • NWP 3 (maintenance), NWP 13 (bank stabilization), NWP 14 (linear transportation projects), NWP 17 (hydropower projects), NWP 19 (minor dredging), NWP 21 (surface coal mining activities), NWP 27 (aquatic habitat restoration, enhancement, and establishment activities), NWP 41 (reshaping of existing drainage and irrigation ditches), NWP 48 (commercial shellfish mariculture activities), NWP 49 (coal remining activities).

The list above is not comprehensive and each NWP sub-category includes specific requirements that would apply to particular types of activities, as detailed in the proposed NWP modifications.  The USACE has solicited comments and input from the public and industry groups on the proposed NWP conditions.  The USACE will consider the issues raised by commenters with respect to how the proposed NWPs would impact various industries and regions of the country, as permit restrictions and best management practices are not one size fits all.   The USACE has not published a timeline for finalizing the NWPs.

Walden Environmental Engineering is monitoring the on-going NWP modifications and industry reactions to the proposed NWPs, as well as potential impacts on environmental projects.  Once the NWPs are finalized, Walden will evaluate how the changes will affect our clients.  Please contact Walden today to learn more about the proposed NWP revisions.