Environmental Protaction
Offica of Wetlands, Ocaans,
and Watersheds (A-104 F)
                          March 1993
                   WETLAN DS  FACT SH EET # 7
                   Clean Water Act 404:  Overview
      Section 404 of the Clean Water Act estab-
lishes a program  to regulate the discharge of
dredged and fill material into waters of the United
States, including wetlands.  Activities in waters
that are typically  regulated under Section 404
include  fills for development, water resource
projects (e.g., dams and  levees), infrastructure
development (e.g., highways and airports), and
conversion of wetlands to uplands for farming
and forestry.
   Since its enactment by Congress in 1972, Sec-
tion 404 of the Clean Water Act (33 U.S.C.  1344)
has evolved through a series of statutory amend-
ments, regulatory changes and key court deci-
sions into the primary Federal regulatory pro-
gram providing protection for the Nation's  re-
maining wetlands. EPA and the Army Corps of
Engineers (Corps) jointly administer the Section
404 program.   In addition, the US. Fish and
       day-to-day program administration
        (e.g. including individual permit decisions
        and jurisdictional determinations)
       development of policy and guidance

       develop and interpret the environmental criteria
        used in evaluating permit applications
        (i-e., the Section 404(b)(l) Guidelines)
       determine the scope of geographic jurisdiction
       approve and oversee State assumption
        of the program's administrative responsibilities
       identify activities that are exempt under 404(0
       review and comment on individual permit appli-
       404(c) authority to veto Corps' permit decisions
       404(q) case specific elevation
Wildlife Service, the National Marine Fisheries
Service, and State resource agencies have impor-
tant advisory roles.
   The basic premise of the Section 404 program
is that no discharge of dredged or fill material can
be permitted if there is a practicable alternative
that is less damaging to the aquatic environment
or if the discharge would result in significant
degradation of our Nation's waters.
     An applicant must demonstrate that
     steps nave been taken to avoid wet-
     land impacts where it is practicable.
In addition, applicants are required to minimize
potential impacts to wetlands, and finally to pro-
vide compensation for any remaining unavoid-
able impacts through wetland restoration or cre-
ation activities.

   For projects involving potentially significant
impacts, authorization must usually be sought
through an "individual permit" review process.
However, for the great majority of discharges, i.e.,
those activities that will have only minimal ad-
verse environmental effects, authorization is of-
ten granted up-front through "general permits."
General permits may be issued by the Corps on a
nationwide, regional or State basis for particular
categories of activities (e.g., minor road crossings,
utility line backfill, and bedding) as a means of
expediting the permitting process.  Moreover,
Section 404(f) exempts other activities from regu-
lation under Section 404, including many on-go-
ing farming, ranching and silviculture practices.
     FOR MORE INFORMATION: "call the-EPA Wetlands Hotline* at 1-800-832-7828
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