Clean Water Act Section 401 Water Quality Certification Program

Emergency permitting for fire related projects

For additional information please select from the following links:

Permit process for:

Individual 401 Application Packet:

General 401 or WDRs Applications:

Fee Schedule:

For information pertaining to the 401 Program in the North Coast Region, please contact Stephen Bargsten, Nonpoint Source/401 Certification Unit Senior, at 707-576-2653 or Stephen.Bargsten@waterboards.ca.gov

Permitting information

This document is intended to assist the public in understanding the rules and regulations regarding proposed projects that may impact "Waters of the State", which are defined as any surface water or groundwater, including saline waters, within the boundaries of the state. Examples of "Waters of the State" include but are not limited to isolated wetlands, coastal wetlands, streams, rivers, lakes, and groundwater.

Do you need a permit from the Regional Water Quality Control Board?

If your project is located within or adjacent to "Waters of the State", and the proposed project may directly or indirectly impact those waters, you are required to apply for a Water Quality Certification and/or Waste Discharge Requirements (Dredge/Fill Projects). The rules and regulations apply to all "Waters of the State", including isolated wetlands and stream channels that may be dry during much of the year, have been modified in the past, look like a depression or drainage ditch, have no riparian corridor, or are on private land. If you have any questions, it is a good idea to call the regulatory agencies in your area for clarification, and to avoid regulatory enforcement actions that may occur in response to proceeding with a project without the appropriate permits. If it is determined that you will need to apply for a Water Quality Certification and/or Waste Discharge Requirements (Dredge/Fill Projects) see below for instructions and permit process information.

401 Certification

Anyone proposing to conduct a project that requires a federal permit or involves dredge or fill activities that may result in a discharge to U.S. surface waters and/or "Waters of the State" are required to obtain a Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 401 Water Quality Certification and/or Waste Discharge Requirements (Dredge/Fill Projects) from the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, verifying that the project activities will comply with state water quality standards. The most common federal permit for dredge and fill activities is a CWA Section 404 permit issued by the Army Corps of Engineers.

Section 401 of the CWA grants each state the right to ensure that the State's interests are protected on any federally permitted activity occurring in or adjacent to Waters of the State. In California, the Regional Water Quality Control Boards (Regional Board) are the agency mandated to ensure protection of the State's waters. If a proposed project has the potential to impact Waters of the State and requires either a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers CWA Section 404 or other federal permit, then the Regional Water Quality Control Board will regulate the project and associated activities through a Water Quality Certification (401).

The type of 401 certification coverage depends on the type of project activity, location, and federal permit issued. Please consult with Regional Board 401 staff if unsure of appropriate permit coverage and application. Possible 401 Water Quality Certifications include:

State Permits

If a proposed project does not require a federal permit, but does involve dredge or fill activities that may result in a discharge to "Waters of the State", the Regional Board has the option to regulate the project under its state authority (Porter-Cologne) in the form of Waste Discharge Requirements (WDRs) or Waiver of Waste Discharge Requirements. In addition, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) may regulate the project through the Lake and Streambed Alteration Agreement process. CDFW issues Streambed Alteration Agreements when project activities have the potential to impact intermittent and perennial streams, rivers, or lakes.

The type of state permit coverage depends on the type of project activity, impact size and location. Please consult with Regional Board 401 staff if unsure of appropriate permit coverage and application. Possible state permit coverage may include:

California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)

Before the Regional Water Quality Control Board or CDFW can issue a permit, the project applicant must provide proof of compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). If CEQA is required (i.e. the project is not found to be exempt based on the current CEQA Guidelines), a local or state agency must act as the lead CEQA agency. Under CEQA the Regional Board exercises its authorities to require minimization and mitigation of impacts to "Waters of the State". At a minimum, any beneficial uses lost must be replaced by a mitigation project of at least equal function, value and overall area/length.

Water Quality Certification Permit Process

Step 1: Fill out the appropriate Water Quality Certification and/or Waste Discharge Requirements (Dredge/Fill Projects) application available above electronically in Word or PDF format, or hard copy. Hard copies can be mailed to applicants on an as requested basis. To request a copy please contact us (see contact information in Step 2).

Step 2: Email the application and additional necessary documents (up to 50MBs) to NorthCoast@waterboards.ca.gov . Please mail a transmittal letter and check for the application fee plus any additional fees, if applicable, as required according to the CCR 23 Section 2200 (a)(2) Fee Schedule (see fee calculator link above to calculate total), to:

North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board
5550 Skylane Blvd., Suite A
Santa Rosa, CA 95403
(707) 576-2220

Email: NorthCoast@waterboards.ca.gov

(Make checks payable to: State Water Resources Control Board)

Step 3: Within 30 days of receiving your application, staff will determine whether the application packet is complete (as described in Section 3856 of the California Code of Regulations), or whether additional items will be needed to complete the review process. A letter or email will be sent to you requesting additional items if your application is found to be incomplete.

Step 4: Once the application is deemed complete, reviewing staff will issue a Public Notice, which will be posted on the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board website. The public notice period extends for 21 days. Public comments will be accepted during the notice period, and will be considered during the certification determination process.

Step 5: Regional Board staff have 1 year to make a Water Quality Certification determination once the application is deemed complete. Generally the process takes between 1-4 months, so plan ahead and apply well in advance of the projected project start date. Determinations may include Standard Certifications, Technically Conditioned Certifications, Denial Without Prejudice (i.e. due to lack of CEQA or proof of mitigation credit purchase), or Denial of Certification.

Step 6: Determination is reached regarding issuance of CWA Section 401 Water Quality Certification and/or Waste Discharge Requirements (Dredge/Fill Projects). You will be notified by this office regarding the determination for your proposed project.

State Permit Process (i.e. for non-federal jurisdiction projects)

Step 1: Fill out the appropriate Water Quality Certification and/or Waste Discharge Requirements (Dredge/Fill Projects) application available above electronically in Word or PDF format, or hard copy. Hard copies can be mailed to applicants on an as requested basis. To request a copy please contact us (see contact information in Step 2).

Step 2: Email the application and additional necessary documents to NorthCoast@waterboards.ca.gov . Please mail a check for the application fee plus any additional fees, if applicable, as required according to the CCR 23 Section 2200 (a)(2) Fee Schedule (see fee calculator link above to calculate total), to:

North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board
5550 Skylane Blvd., Suite A
Santa Rosa, CA 95403
(707) 576-2220

Email: NorthCoast@waterboards.ca.gov

(Make checks payable to: State Water Resources Control Board)

Step 3: Within 30 days of receiving your application, staff will determine whether the application packet is complete, or whether additional items will be needed to complete the review process. A letter or email will be sent to you requesting additional items if your application is found to be incomplete.

Step 4: Regional Board staff has 120 days to make a determination once the application is deemed complete. Plan ahead and apply well in advance of the projected project start date. Determinations may include Waiver of Waste Discharge Requirements or Waste Discharge Requirements, dependent upon the project scope.

Step 5: Final determination is reached regarding issuance of the appropriate permit. You will be notified by this office regarding the determination for your proposed project.

Small Habitat Restoration Water Quality Certification process

Step 1: If your project is habitat restoration within “Waters of the State” that impacts less than 5 acres and 500 linear feet, occurring over a period of less than 5 years, it may qualify for enrollment into the general 401 Water Quality Certification for Small Habitat Restoration issued by the State Water Resources Control Board. See this page to read the Certification and all requirements involved with enrollment: http://www.waterboards.ca.gov//water_issues/programs/cwa401/generalorders_wb.shtml

Step 2: If your project qualifies, then fill out the Notice of Intent (NOI) for the Small Habitat Restoration certification downloadable at the link in Step 1. Hard copies can be mailed to applicants on an as requested basis. To request a copy please contact us (see contact information in Step 3).

Step 3: At least 30 days prior to activities, email the application and additional necessary documents to NorthCoast@waterboards.ca.gov . Please mail a check for the application fee plus any additional fees, if applicable, as required according to the CCR 23 Section 2200 (a)(2) Fee Schedule (see fee calculator link above check the box for Restoration Projects), to:

North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board
5550 Skylane Blvd., Suite A
Santa Rosa, CA 95403
(707) 576-2220

Email: NorthCoast@waterboards.ca.gov

(Make checks payable to: State Water Resources Control Board)

Step 4: Within 30 days of receiving your application, staff will determine whether the application packet is complete, or whether additional items will be needed to complete the review process. A letter or email will be sent to you requesting additional items if your application is found to be incomplete.

Step 5: The Regional Water Board may, at its discretion, issue a Notice of Applicability to the applicant, indicating that the project activities are authorized under this Order. If project activities do not qualify for coverage under this Order, a Notice of Exclusion may be issued by the Regional Water Board. Project activities not qualified for coverage under this Order may require an application for individual Water Quality Certification described above.