Water Quality Certification (401) Process Explained

This is an example for a Corps of Engineers 404 Permit process and describes the joint process used in South Carolina.

  1. Applicant obtains and completes application form.
  2. Submits original to the US Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), Charleston District.
  3. Corps reviews application for completeness.
  4. Corps mails completed Joint Public Notice to appropriate individuals and agencies.
  5. DHEC receives Joint Public Notice from Corps.
  6. DHEC sends applicant copy of fee ($100 or $1000) and public notice requirements.
  7. DHEC evaluates the information provided and determines if additional information needed. If so, applicant is contacted.
  8. DHEC waits for: 30 day comment period to end, receipt of fee, affidavit of public notice and any requested information.
  9. DHEC prepares staff assessment of water quality and wetland impacts.
  10. DHEC-EAmails Notice of Proposed Decision (NOPD) to applicant, adjacent property owners, agencies, and commentors; DHEC-OCRM receives recommendation from DHEC-EA, makes permit decision, mails draft to applicant.
  11. DHEC-EA waits 15 day appeal period; DHEC-OCRM waits 10 day appeal period.
  12. If no appeals received, DHEC mails appropriate final State Certification or permit to the applicant and the Corps.

The Department may waive, issue with conditions, or deny a 401 Water Quality Certification. Certification is denied if the activity will have permanent adverse effects on existing or designated uses. The federal 404 Permit from the Corps will not be issued without the associated state action of a Section 401 Water Quality Certification and/or a Coastal Zone Consistency determination. Section 401 Certification considers:

  • whether the activity is water dependent
  • the intended purpose of the activity
  • whether there are feasible alternatives to the activity
  • all potential water quality impacts associated with to the project, both direct and indirect, over the life of the project, including impacts on existing and classified uses; physical, chemical, and biological impacts, including cumulative impacts; the effect on circulation patterns and water movement; and the cumulative impacts of the proposed activity and reasonably foreseen similar activities of the applicant and others.