Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 401


This Program regulates discharges of fill and dredged material to all waters of the state, including waters of the U.S. under Clean Water Act (CWA) section 401 and the Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act. Additional protections are provided for wetlands, special aquatic sites and headwaters because these waterbodies have high resource value, are vulnerable to filling, and are not protected by other programs. The Program is involved with protection of special-status species and regulation of hydromodification impacts. The Program encourages watershed-level analysis and protection, because some functions of wetlands, riparian areas, and headwater streams–including pollutant removal, flood water retention, and habitat connectivity–are expressed at the watershed or landscape level. The core of the Program's protection strategies is demonstration of impact avoidance first, followed by minimization, and then mitigation to compensate for impacts and ensure no net loss of water resources. The 401 program was allotted an addition position beginning in July 2014, so the Program is now operating with 1.8 PYs.

The Clean Water Act Program Fact Sheet provides more information on the Goals, Accomplishments, and Performance Targets.

Under federal Clean Water Act (CWA) section 401 every applicant for a federal permit or license for any activity which may result in a discharge to a water body must obtain State Water Quality Certification (Certification) that the proposed activity will comply with state water quality standards. Most Certifications are issued in connection with U.S. Army Corps of Engineer (Corps) CWA section 404 permits for dredge and fill discharges.

Starting in 2016, project applicants conducting dredge, fill, excavation or grading in waters of the state will be required to upload project information into EcoAtlas. Starting in 2017, some project applicants will be required to perform project assessments using CRAM on their project sites. Some of these projects may need pre-project CRAM assessment on their Project site performed during the summer of 2016. See EcoAtlas and CRAM.

Available Documents