Fact Sheet 15: Regulatory Program

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District
Published May 8, 2015
Updated: March 20, 2023

The mission of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s regulatory program is to protect the nation’s aquatic resources, while allowing reasonable development through fair, flexible and balanced permit decisions. The Corps evaluates permit applications for construction activities occurring in the nation’s waters and wetlands. Corps permits are also necessary for any work in the nation’s navigable waters. The Corps makes permit decisions that recognize the essential value of the nation’s aquatic ecosystems, as well as the property rights of citizens who want to use their land. During the permit process, the Corps considers the views of other federal, state and local agencies, interest groups and the general public. The results of this review are fair and equitable decisions that allow reasonable use of private property, infrastructure development and growth of the economy, while minimizing impacts to U.S. waters. The impacts to the environment are offset by mitigation requirements, which may include restoring, creating and preserving aquatic functions and values.

Section 10, Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899

The St. Paul District regulates structures and work in navigable U.S. waters under Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 (Section 10).

Under Section 10, a Corps permit is required to do any work in, over or under navigable U.S. waters. Water bodies are designated as navigable U.S. waters based on their past, present or potential use for transportation of interstate commerce. These waters include many of the nation’s larger rivers and lakes. Under Section10, activities such as dredging and the construction of docks may require a Corps’ review to ensure they will not cause an obstruction to navigation, and they are not contrary to the public interest.

Section 404, Clean Water Act

Under Section 404, a Corps’ permit is required for the discharge of dredged or fill material into U.S. waters. A significant number of water bodies and wetlands in the nation are subject to the Corps' Section 404 regulatory authority. Regulated discharges include filling wetlands for development, grading or pushing material around or within a wetland, disturbing wetland soil during land clearing, etc. A requirement for an activity to receive a 404 permit, they must comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Section 404(b)(1) guidelines. These guidelines require the activity be the least environmentally damaging alternative that is feasible and that adverse impacts are avoided, then minimized and then compensated for. Activities must not be contrary to the public interest, as determined by federal guidelines. With more than 10,000 lakes in Minnesota and a like number in Wisconsin, the district’s Section 404 permit program is second in the Corps of Engineers for its physical size.

Obtaining a Corps Permit

Contact the St. Paul District Regulatory division as early as possible in the planning process at (651) 290-5525 or by e-mail at USACE_Requests_MN@usace.army.mil for projects in Minnesota or USACE_Requests_WI@usace.army.mil for projects in Wisconsin.