The Regulatory Branch's jurisdiction is subject to the River and Harbors Act and the Clean Water Act. Section 9 & 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 includes all navigable waters. This includes the territorial seas and those waters of the United States that are subject to the ebb and flow of the tide shoreward to the mean high water mark, and/or are presently used or have been used in the past, or may be susceptible to use to transport interstate or foreign commerce.
Section 404 of the Clean Water Act regulates discharges of dredged/fill material into waters of the United States. "Waters of the United States" is broadly defined to include waters whose alteration could or does influence interstate and international commerce. These waters include navigable waters, interstate waters, intrastate lakes, rivers, streams (including intermittent streams), mud flats, sand flats, wetlands, sloughs, prairie potholes, wet meadows, playa lakes, or natural ponds. This section 404 jurisdiction is defined as encompassing Section 10 waters plus their tributaries, adjacent wetlands and isolated waters. Final authority regarding Clean Water Act jurisdiction remains with the Environmental Protection Agency.
A Jurisdictional Determination (JD) is the procedure of identifying and locating jurisdictional waters of the United States regulated by the Corps of Engineers under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and Section 10 of the Rivers & Harbors Act of 1899, and is commonly referred to as the “JD process”, a “wetland determination” or “delineation”. This process is essential when investigating, planning, designing, or submitting an application for a permit from the Corps to determine if the proposed activity will impact jurisdictional waters of the United States.
The Corps receives thousands of requests each year to perform JDs. Due to limited staff and resources, response time can be several months or longer. To expedite the JD process, we encourage applicants (commercial or private) to use a consultant to conduct wetland delineations whenever possible, especially for project areas greater than 5 acres. The consultant will delineate the extent of wetlands and other waters of the United States within the project area. The consultant should then submit the delineation report to the Corps for concurrence. Once a JD is completed for the project area, a determination of permit requirements can be made at that time.
To request a Jurisdictional Determination prior to submitting a permit application, please complete the ENG 6247 Form. In most cases, a Preliminary Jurisdictional Determination is the most efficient type of JD for a given site. Preliminary JDs are non-binding and advisory in nature and cannot be appealed, while an Approved JD is appealable.
8 September 2023 - EPA and the Army Issue Final Rule to Amend 2023 Rule
On August 29, 2023, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of the Army (the agencies) issued a final rule to amend the final “Revised Definition of ‘Waters of the United States’” rule, published in the Federal Register on January 18, 2023. This final rule conforms the definition of “waters of the United States” to the U.S. Supreme Court’s May 25, 2023, decision in the case of Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency. Parts of the January 2023 Rule are invalid under the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Clean Water Act in the Sackett decision. Therefore, the agencies have amended key aspects of the regulatory text to conform it to the Court’s decision. The conforming rule, "Revised Definition of 'Waters of the United States'; Conforming," published in the Federal Register and became effective today 8 September 2023.
Where the January 2023 Rule is not enjoined, the agencies are implementing the January 2023 Rule, as amended by the conforming rule. In the jurisdictions and for the parties where the January 2023 Rule is enjoined, the agencies are interpreting the phrase “waters of the United States” consistent with the pre-2015 regulatory regime and the Supreme Court’s decision in Sackett. A map illustrating which definition of “waters of the United States” is generally operative in each state across the country as a result of litigation challenging the 2023 Rule is available on EPA's website at https://www.epa.gov/wotus/definition-waters-united-states-rule-status-and-litigation-update. As the litigation continues, EPA will update the map, when possible, to reflect the most current information that is made available to the EPA and the Army.
Now that the conforming rule has become effective, the nationwide pause on issuance of certain approved jurisdictional determinations (AJDs) is now lifted in entirety. Effective immediately, USACE districts have resumed issuance of all AJDs nationwide under the applicable regulatory regime.
Please visit EPA’s Rule Status page for additional information about the status of the January 2023 Rule, as amended, and litigation.
27 June 2023 - Supreme Court Ruling in Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency - Update
The Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of the Army (agencies) are in receipt of the U.S. Supreme Court's May 25, 2023, decision in the case of Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency. In light of this decision, the agencies are interpreting the phrase “waters of the United States” consistent with the Supreme Court’s decision in Sackett. The agencies are developing a rule to amend the final "Revised Definition of 'Waters of the United States'" rule, published in the Federal Register on January 18, 2023, consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court’s May 25, 2023 decision in the case of Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency. The agencies intend to issue a final rule by September 1, 2023.
12 April 2023 - Joint Public Notice - Notice of Availability of the Beta Streamflow Duration Assessment Method for the Northeast or Southeast
The method, data forms, and training opportunities are available at: https://www.epa.gov/streamflow-duration-assessment/beta-streamflow-duration-assessment-method-northeast-and-southeast. For additional information on the development of regional Streamflow Duration Assessment Methods for nationwide coverage, see: https://www.epa.gov/streamflow-duration-assessment.
20 March 2023 - Final Revised Definition of "Waters of the United States" Become Effective
On 20 March 2023, the final "Revised Definition of 'Waters of the United States'" rule (the “2023 Rule”) became effective. The 2023 Rule is operative in all U.S. jurisdictions except the states of Idaho and Texas.
The U.S. Department of the Army and U.S. EPA (“the agencies”) final rule establishes a clear and reasonable definition of “waters of the United States” and reduces the uncertainty from constantly changing regulatory definitions that has harmed communities and our nation’s waters.
The agencies developed the 2023 Rule with consideration of the relevant provisions of the Clean Water Act and the statute as a whole, relevant Supreme Court case law, and the agencies’ technical expertise after more than 45 years of implementing the longstanding pre-2015 “waters of the United States” framework. The 2023 Rule also considers the best available science and extensive public comment to establish a definition of “waters of the United States” that supports public health, environmental protection, agricultural activity, and economic growth.
Until further notice, federal Clean Water Act jurisdiction in Idaho and Texas will continue to be determined under the pre-2015 regime (the 1986 WOTUS regulation and associated 2003/2008 (SWANCC/Rapanos) guidance documents).
If a state, tribe, or an entity has specific questions about a pending jurisdictional determination or permit, please contact a local U.S. Army Corps of Engineers District office (see https://regulatory.ops.usace.army.mil/offices/) or EPA.
More information about the final rule is available at: https://www.epa.gov/wotus/revising-definition-waters-united-states.
30 DEC 2022 - EPA and Army Finalize Rule Establishing Definition of WOTUS and Restoring Fundamental Water Protections
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of the Army (the agencies) announced a final rule establishing a durable definition of “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) to reduce uncertainty from changing regulatory definitions, protect people’s health, and support economic opportunity. The final rule restores essential water protections that were in place prior to 2015 under the Clean Water Act for traditional navigable waters, the territorial seas, interstate waters, as well as upstream water resources that significantly affect those waters. As a result, this action will strengthen fundamental protections for waters that are sources of drinking water while supporting agriculture, local economies, and downstream communities.
Click here to to read the full press release and to access the rule and related materials.
The agencies will host a public final rule overview webinar on January 19, 2023, from 12pm – 1pm Eastern Time. Note that registration capacity is limited, but the webinar will be recorded and posted on EPA’s website after the event. Register for the final rule overview webinar.
1 DEC 2022 - Release of the Interim Draft of the National Ordinary High Water Mark Field Delineation Manual for Rivers and Streams
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and EPA (the Agencies) jointly announce the availability of the Interim Draft of the National Ordinary High Water Mark Field Delineation Manual for Rivers and Streams (National OHWM Manual) and its accompanying data sheet. The Interim Draft National OHWM Manual provides draft technical guidance for identifying and delineating the OHWM using a scientifically supported, rapid framework. The Agencies are requesting comments and feedback from the public and practitioners on the Interim Draft of the National OHWM Manual via the public notice linked below. Following the public comment period and additional field testing, comments and feedback received from the public and practitioners will be utilized to further refine the Interim Draft of the National OHWM Manual for clarity, consistency, and technical accuracy. The one-year testing and comment period ends on December 1, 2023. A final version of the National OHWM Manual is anticipated to be published during 2024.
During the period while the OHWM Manual is an interim draft, OHWM identification and/or delineation for official USACE Regulatory purposes should continue in accordance with the applicable OHWM definition in the Federal regulations, Regulatory Guidance Letter 05-05, and any applicable USACE district policies. However, USACE Regulatory staff are encouraged to test the Interim Draft of the National OHWM Manual and provide comments and feedback by emailing email@example.com.