Nationwide permits are a type of general permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) for project activities in U.S. streams, wetlands and other waters. They authorize a category of activities under Section 404(e) of the Clean Water Act and Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899. This permit program is intended to provide timely authorizations and help protect the aquatic environment by providing incentives to reduce impacts on jurisdictional waters and wetlands while authorizing certain activities that have no more than minimal individual and cumulative adverse environmental effects.
Under Section 404, permits are required for discharges of dredged or fill material into jurisdictional waters of the United States, including wetlands. Under Section 10, permits are required for any structures or other work that affect the course, location or condition of navigable waters, such as piers, dredging and aids to navigation. Nationwide permits authorize about 40,000 reported activities each year, as well as about 30,000 activities that do not require reporting to USACE districts.
Fifty-two nationwide permits were issued in 2017. For many rail projects, such as capacity improvements, siding extensions and bridge or culvert replacements, the most common nationwide permits used are:
- Nationwide Permit 14: Linear Transportation Projects
- Nationwide Permit 3: Maintenance
- Nationwide Permit 33: Temporary Construction, Access and Dewatering
- Nationwide Permit 13: Bank Stabilization
Because nationwide permits are issued on five-year cycles, all the 2017 nationwide permits expire this March. If your project has a current 2017 nationwide permit authorization, the following options may apply:
- If your project is under construction or under contract for construction, a one-year extension of the permit authorization is automatically granted, meaning it will expire in March 2023.
- If your project will not be complete by March 2023 or you are not under contract, you will need a reauthorization for your project. If nothing about the project or regulations has changed, a reauthorization should be straightforward and easy to obtain.
The USACE has issued new nationwide permits that will go into effect Feb. 25. For the nationwide permits listed above that are commonly used on railroad projects, no significant language changes have been proposed from the 2017 nationwide permits to the 2022 nationwide permits.
If you have questions about your rail project, any currently held permit or how to obtain a 2022 nationwide permit, please contact railroad permitting specialists Jennifer Sunley at firstname.lastname@example.org or Doug Dorsey at email@example.com.