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Montana Regulatory Offices

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Post Office Box 2256
Billings, Montana 59103
Ph: 406-657-5910
Fax: 406-657-5911

10 West 15th Street, Suite 2200
Helena, Montana 59626
Ph: 406-441-1375
Fax: 406-441-1380

1600 North Ave. West, Suite 105
Missoula, Montana 59801
Ph: 406-541-4845
Fax: 406-541-4849
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Section 404 of the Clean Water Act requires approval prior to discharging dredged or fill material into waters of the United States, including wetlands. Typical projects that may include activities that require Section 404 permits are:
  • Disposal of dredged or fill material.
  • Residential, commercial, or recreational developments.
  • Erosion control projects such as revetments, jettys, groins, and breakwaters.
  • Flood control projects such as levees, dams, and weirs.
  • Fish and wildlife habitat improvement projects such as instream boulders and ponds.
  • Linear projects such as roads, pipelines, electrical cables, and, telecommunication cables.
Any person or entity (including federal, state, and local government agencies) planning to work in waters of the United States, or dump or place dredged or fill material in waters of the United States, must first obtain a permit from the Corps of Engineers. Permits, licenses, variances, or similar authorization may also be required by other federal, state and local statutes.
The term "waters of the United States" has been broadly defined by statute, regulation, and judicial interpretation to include all waters that were, are, or could be used in interstate commerce such as interstate lakes and rivers as well as intrastate lakes, rivers, streams (including ephemeral streams), mudflats, wetlands, sloughs, prairie potholes, playa lakes, and ponds.

"Wetlands" are areas characterized by growth of wetland vegetation (bulrush, cattails, rushes, sedges, willows, pickleweed, andiodine bush) where the soil is saturated during a portion of the growing season or the surface is flooded during some part of most years. Wetlands generally include swamps, marshes, bogs, and similar areas.

The landward regulatory limit for waters (in the absence of adjacent wetlands) is the ordinary high water mark. The ordinary high water mark is the line on the shores established by the fluctuations of water and indicated by physical characteristics such as:

  • a clear natural erosion line impressed on the bank;
  • changes in the character of the soil;
  • destruction of terrestial vegetation due to inundation;
  • the presence of litter and debris;
  • stain marks on rocks or bridge piers;
  • orother appropriate means that consider flow characteristics of the stream.
Nationwide permits are generally the simplest form authorization for categories of activities that are similar in nature and that have minor environmental impacts. These permits are valid only if the proposed activities comply with all the terms and conditions of the permit. If the conditions cannot be met, a regional or individual permit is required. Detailed descriptions of the nationwide permits can be found from the home page. 
General permits are issued by the District Engineer for categories of activities when:
  • the activities are similar in nature and cause minimal environmental impact (both individually and cumulatively), and
  • the permit reduces duplication of regulatory control by other State and Federal agencies.
Individual permits are issued following a full public interest review of an individual application for a Department of the Army permit. A 30-day public notice is distributed to all known interested persons, including all adjacent landowners and the local newspaper. After evaluating all comments and information received, final decision on the application is made.

The permit decision is generally based on the outcome of a public interest balancing process where the benefits of the project are balanced against the detriments. A permit cannot be issued if the proposal is found to be contrary to the public interest.

Processing time usually takes 60 to 120 days unless a public hearing or Environmental Impact Statement is required.

To apply for an individual permit, an application form (ENG FORM 4345) must be submitted.

The understanding and support of the American people is vital to the success of this program. To protect our nation's water resources and assure their use and enjoyment for future generations, we must all join this vital effort. We ask your help in "passing the word" to others concerning the permit requirements and solicit your views and comments on better ways of attaining the goals of this program.