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United States Army Corps of Engineers § 404 Permit

Updated: Jul 9, 2020

By Ashley Ellixson

Grapes hanging from a tree in front of silos (Photo by Edwin Remsberg).

Today I will be continuing the discussion on water permits. Another important wetlands permit is the United States Army Corps of Engineers Section 404 Permit. Section 404 of the Clean Water Act establishes a program to regulate the discharge of dredged or fill material into waters, including wetlands such as those found in Maryland. Activities that are regulated under the program, that require a permit, include fill for development, water resource projects (such as dams and levees), infrastructure development (such as highways and airports) and mining projects. Fortunately, certain farming and forestry activities are exempt from Section 404 regulation and do not require a permit.

Why do I need this approval?

You do NOT generally need a permit under Section 404 if your discharges are related to “normal farming,” ranching, and forestry activities such as plowing, cultivating, minor drainage, and harvesting for the production of food, fiber, and forest products. Basically, this exemption applies to “normal farming” and harvesting activities that are part of an ongoing farm or forestry operation.

Machine spraying pesticides (Photo by Edwin Remsberg).

If your activity is an exempt use but is a NEW use of water, and the activity would result in a REDUCTION or IMPAIRMENT of the flow of regulated waters, your activity will not be exempt and you will be required to obtain a permit. Both conditions, new use and reduction/impairment of flow, must be met in order for the activity to be non-exempt. Generally, any activity that transforms a wetland into upland is not exempt and will require a Section 404 permit.

How do I apply for the permit?

You will work with your local soil conservation district to complete the Section 404 application. In order to expedite the application process, state and federal permits are processed jointly. Your application should be submitted to the Maryland Department of the Environment. The Department will distribute all copies of your application to the proper federal authorities for review.

How long will it take to get permit approval?

It will take approximately 45-90 days to process your applications and sometimes longer for more complex projects.


Usually there are no fees but can range between $10-$100 for some projects.

Machine harvesting potatoes (Photo by Edwin Remsberg).

How long will my permit be valid?

Your permit, if approved, will be valid for three to five years.

To determine whether your specific activities are exempt and for further help with your Section 404 application process, please contact your local Corps or EPA office.

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