5C Waiver


On May 17, 2018, the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (Regional Water Board) adopted Order No. R1-2018-0011, renewing the Waiver of Waste discharge Requirements and General Water Quality Certification for Road Management and Activities Conducted Under the Five Counties Salmonid Conservation Program in the North Coast Region (5C Waiver). The Order contains primarily the same requirements as the 2013 Waiver, with some revisions. These include:

  1. Categorization of nonpoint source activities into Category A and Category B groupings;
  2. The geographic scope of the Waiver has been expanded to include the entire North Coast Region; and,
  3. The eligibility requirements of the waiver have been expanded to allow coverage for projects on watercourses where fish are present, but no compensatory mitigation is required.

The Five Counties Salmonid Conservation Program (5C Program) is a county road management program designed to protect salmonid species and water quality during county road maintenance and project activities. The 5C Program staff developed A Water Quality and Habitat Protection Manual for County Road Maintenance (5C Roads Manual), which contains best management practices (BMPs) for road management activities, and the Direct Inventory of Roads and Treatments (DIRT) methodology to inventory, prioritize, and prescribe treatments for erosion sites associated with county roads

There are three main components to the Waiver, all of which rely on the implementation of procedures and BMPs contained within the 5C Roads Manual. These are: 1) the Waiver itself, 2) a Clean Water Act Section 401 General Water Quality Certification (General §401 Water Quality Certification), and 3) a Monitoring and Reporting Program (MRP).

The General §401 Water Quality Certification provides verification that projects requiring Clean Water Act Section 404 (CWA §404) permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) will comply with state water quality standards. In order to streamline the amount of paperwork submitted, the 5C Waiver includes a provision allowing for use of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Lake or Streambed Alteration Notification(FWC §1602 Notification) to meet the requirements for application for General §401 Water Quality Certification. Projects eligible for this General §401 Water Quality Certification generally have lower fees than other categories of §401 Certifications.

As the lead agency for development of the Waiver, Regional Water Board staff prepared, with input from the CDFW, a Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND) for the 5C Waiver (SCH No. 2018012054). The MND covers all projects done under the 5C Program, eliminating the need and associated costs for an individual CEQA analysis to be done for each project, allowing more resources for project implementation.

The MRP contains four types of monitoring which are outlined in Chapter 10 of the 5C Manual. They are: implementation, effectiveness, photopoint, and project monitoring. Implementation and effectiveness monitoring are required for all projects. Photopoint and project monitoring are reserved for more complex projects that may require an evaluation of BMP performance over an extended period of time, and are implemented at the discretion of the Executive Officer.

Annual reports are also required as part of the MRP. Annual reports are due March 1 of each year and are required to contain the following:

  1. List of all completed or in-progress county road projects from the previous year, including all non-waiver-enrolled projects (i.e. those with individual 401 General Water Quality Certifications);
  2. Results of BMP implementation and effectiveness monitoring for waiver-enrolled Projects;
  3. Suggested changes to BMPs and to the 5C Manual for better water quality protection;
  4. Progress on DIRT site inventories, site prioritization, and implementation;
  5. Investigations of illicit discharges to County rights-of-way or drainages;
  6. Trainings attended by staff;
  7. Efforts to secure grant funding; and
  8. Proposed list of projects and a schedule for addressing controllable sediment discharge source for the upcoming year.

Covered Activities

The Waiver covers all road management activities described within the Five Counties (5C) Roads Manual, with the exception of bridge painting. Road management activities are divided into Category A and Category B. Category A activities include those that are conducted as part of routine annual road maintenance, generally do not take place within the channel of a watercourse and have a low likelihood of resulting in impacts to water quality. Category A activities rarely, if ever, require a CWA §404 permit from the ACOE.

Category B activities are those that are generally not considered to be part of routine annual road maintenance, that may take place within the channel of a watercourse or are directly connected to a watercourse, and that may require a CWA §404 permit. Category B activities requiring CWA §404 permitting will also need the General §401 Water Quality Certification contained in the Waiver.

How to file for coverage

To receive Waiver coverage for road management projects, the county, or non-county entity, must submit to the Regional Water Board Executive Officer a Notice of Intent (NOI) signed by a county roads Superintendent or an authorized representative (Attachment A of the Waiver). The NOI certifies the intent to implement the 5C Program and to comply with conditions of the Waiver. Coverage of routine maintenance activities will be valid for the life of the Waiver, provided the discharger continues to meet applicable Waiver conditions, including monitoring and reporting.

Road Project activities requiring the General §401 Water Quality Certification are required to follow Waiver requirements as well as the following: (excerpted from pages 14 and 15 of the 5C Waiver):  

  1. By March 1 each year, dischargers seeking Waiver coverage for Road Projects shall submit to the Regional Water Board a list of the planned road projects for which they are seeking Waiver coverage for the upcoming calendar year.
  2. Each project in the list shall, at a minimum, contain the following information:
    1. The Project Name;
    2. A description of where the Project is located. Include such features as the watershed, the nearest river or creek, and any useful reference points. A map with sufficient detail so as to easily identify the project’s location is acceptable. Maps may contain more than one project, provided each project is clearly labeled;
    3. An indication of whether the Project will require the General 401 Water Quality Certification contained in this Waiver;
    4. A description of the project with enough detail to provide an overview. For projects requiring the General WQ Certification, the description from the General §401 WQ Certification or LSA 1602 application shall suffice for the project description;
    5. The anticipated Project start and end date; and
    6. The name, mailing address, email address, and phone number for the Project lead staff.


For each project requiring a General §401 Water Quality Certification, a completed application for General §401 Water Quality Certification and/or Waste Discharge Requirements (Dredge/Fill) (Attachment B of the Waiver) must be submitted to the Regional Water Board at least 30 days prior to the commencement of activities. Projects may have multiple sites and involve multiple activities.

Only one application is needed for each Road Project. Applications for Road Projects with multiple work sites will need to include information on the work to be done at each site. If a CDFW Lake or Streambed Alteration Notification (FWC §1602 Notification) is required for the proposed project, the FWC §1602 Notification form may be substituted for the General §401 Water Quality Certification application.

If the General §401 Water Quality Certification application, or FWC §1602 Notification, is complete the Regional Water Board will notify the discharger of receipt of the application and application fee, and the initiation of a 30-day review period.

For further information, please contact Regional Board Staff member, Maggie Robinson at (707) 576-2292, or at maggie.robinson@waterboards.ca.gov.