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Overview - CRMC Assent - DEM Requirements - Federal Permits

Department of Environmental Management Requirements

Contact Information:
Department of Environmental Management
235 Promenade Street
Providence, RI 02908

Office of Water Resources

Office of Waste Management

Division of Agriculture

Link to Regulations:
Water Quality Certification
R.I. Pollution Discharge Elimination System (RIPDES)

A DEM Water Quality Certification is generally required for all coastal wetlands and fish passage projects if they result in the discharging of dredge or fill material to waters of the state. As seagrass restoration projects generally do not involve dredge or fill activities, they are usually excluded.

The Water Quality Certification program is responsible for ensuring compliance with the State Water Quality Regulations for projects that impact inland and coastal waters by fulfilling the requirements of Section 401 of the Clean Water Act which requires the state to certify projects such as dredging, filling, water withdrawals, and site disturbances. While reviewing projects, the program often coordinates with federal and state agencies and other DEM programs. See the DEM web site for regulations and more information on the water quality certification process.

Certain activities proposed in or near state waters require prior approval from the DEM Water Quality Certification (WQC) Program. This approval, or "Water Quality Certification," certifies that a proposed activity complies with the state's Water Quality Regulations. The following describes the situations that trigger a WQC review, instances where a separate application must be filed, and who will receive the certification, if one is issued. The DEM WQC Program coordinates permit reviews within the Agency with the Division of Fish and Wildlife and the Office of Waste Management.

Federal 401 WQC | State Review Process | Division of Agriculture | USACE Programmatic General Permit (PGP)

1. Federal 401 Water Quality Certification
Section 404 of the Clean Water Act requires all applicants who propose an activity that would result in the discharge of dredge or fill material to waters of the state to obtain 401 Water Quality Certification approval. The Section 404 Federal permit review, administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), may be issued as an Individual Permit (for more major types of proposed wetland alteration) or as a category 1 or 2 permit (see the USACE Programmatic General Permit review process below).

For projects that require an Individual 404 permit and are also under the jurisdiction of the DEM Freshwater Wetlands Program, the Water Quality Certification review is an internal coordination effort which occurs through the Freshwater Wetlands review. In this situation, applicants apply to the DEM Freshwater Wetlands Program and the USACE. During the water quality review, the project will be discussed at the monthly joint review screening meetings with the appropriate state and federal resource agencies. For such projects, the 401 Water Quality Certification determination is issued to the USACE. If the project is also determined to be a significant wetland alteration, the Freshwater Wetlands Program may also request a Water Quality Certificate in accordance with Rule 9.05d of the Freshwater Wetlands Rules and Regulations.

2. The State Water Quality Certification Review Process
Applicants for the types of projects listed below that fall under the jurisdiction of the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council, including both coastal and freshwater wetlands in the vicinity of the coast, are required to apply for and receive Water Quality Certification directly from the Water Quality Certification Program prior to commencement of the project. This means that a project may require both an USACE permit under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and Water Quality Certification. Please refer to Rule 13 of the State Water Quality Regulations.

  • Dredged and dredged material disposal1
  • Filling of waters of the state
  • Site disturbances that have the potential to contribute increased pollutants to a water of the state, specifically:
    • residential development of six (6) or more units
    • any commercial, industrial, state, municipal land development
    • any project which disturbs five (5) or more acres of soil2
  • Marinas: construction of new facilities or expansion of existing facilities
  • Flow alterations to a surface water body3
  • Harbor Management Plans for those elements that are associated with water quality
  • A point source discharge of pollutants2

1Standards applied under these activities shall conform to federal EPA applicable water quality rules, regulations, and guidelines, in accordance with the Marine Infrastructure Maintenance Act of 1996.
2The permit required under the Rhode Island Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Regulations may act as the Water Quality Certification for the discharge.
3Flow alterations for agricultural irrigation and herbicide application will be reviewed through coordination with DEM Division of Agriculture.

3. Division of Agriculture
Aquatic Herbicide Use Application
For restoration projects that involve the application of a herbicide, permission from the DEM Division of Agriculture is required. The Division of Agriculture and the Division of Fish and Wildlife jointly review applications to apply pesticides to control aquatic weeds to water bodies and for herbicide applications to salt marshes for Phragmites control. The Division of Agriculture issues a permit directly to the applicant.

4. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Programmatic General Permit (PGP)
For Category 1 and 2 proposed activities that also fall under the jurisdiction of the DEM Freshwater Wetlands Program, the Water Quality Certification Program will review the project for compliance with the State Water Quality Regulations through an internal coordination review. The applicant applies to the DEM Freshwater Wetlands Program only. Projects applied for as Category 2 of the PGP process will be reviewed by the WQC Program at the monthly screening meetings. If the WQC Program determines that the project is eligible for Category 2, the WQC may approve the project at the screening meeting. For the USACE list of Category 1 and 2 activities, please see the USACE web site or see the PGP Appendix A (PDF format).

Water Quality Certification applications are available at the DEM, Office of Water Resources and at the DEM Office of Technical and Customer Assistance, 235 Promenade Street, Providence, Rhode Island, 02908-5767. If your project requires a Water Quality Certification review, or if you have any other questions relating to the WQC Program, contact Terry Walsh of the Water Quality Certification Program at 401-222-6820, extension 7243.

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Project Partner web pages - RIHRT, CRMC, NBEP, STB

This site was created through a partnership of the:

Coastal Resources Management Council
Narragansett Bay Estuary Program
Save The Bay®