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Streams and Wetlands

Regulatory compliance and environmental stewardship are key facets of PennDOT's mission. As PennDOT advances a transportation project, the goal is to select, design, and construct the most reasonable, practical, cost-effective, technically sound, and environmentally sensitive transportation improvement option. In Pennsylvania, wetlands, rivers, streams, and lakes, otherwise referred to as "Waters of the U.S." or "Waters of the Commonwealth" are regulated by both the federal and state governments.

Wetlands, one of the types of "waters," are transitional areas between terrestrial and aquatic environments. Common names include swamps, marshes, bogs, and fens. Wetland habitats may be permanently flooded or only seasonally saturated. Any person or entity — including PennDOT — who impacts a wetland must obtain authorization (a permit) from both the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). "Impacts" include filling, regrading, piping, draining, or flooding.

Projects that could affect waters and wetlands must follow a specific process and comply with various state and federal regulations. The most effective form of regulatory compliance is to identify and avoid water and wetland impacts from the earliest stages of a project. Impacting wetlands triggers permitting and mitigation requirements. During preliminary design impacts to waters and wetlands are addressed within the NEPA documentation. During final design, the necessary USACE and DEP permits are obtained.

​Program NameOverseeing Agency​Purpose of Program
Pennsylvania State Programmatic General Permit (PASPGP)​​USACE​Authorizes the discharge of dredged or fill materials and/or the placement of structures, that are components of a single and complete project, including all attendant features both temporary and/or permanent, which individually or cumulatively result in impacts to 1 acre or less of Waters of the U.S., including jurisdictional wetlands.
​Section 401 Water Quality Certification (WQC)​DEPThis certification is a prerequisite for other federal permits, e.g., the Section 404 permit. DEP certifies that any discharges into Waters of the U.S. resulting from the proposed project are in compliance with Pennsylvania water quality standards and other federal and state laws and regulations.
National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) ProgramDEP (delegated by EPA)Controls water pollution by regulating stormwater discharges into Waters of the U.S.
​Chapter 102DEPChapter 102 sets forth the requirements of the NPDES permits for construction activities. Specifically, Chapter 102 "requires persons proposing or conducting earth disturbance activities to develop, implement and maintain BMPs to minimize the potential for accelerated erosion and sedimentation and to manage post construction stormwater. The BMPs shall be undertaken to protect, maintain, reclaim and restore water quality and the existing and designated uses of waters of this Commonwealth."
Chapter 105DEP"A person may not construct, operate, maintain, modify, enlarge or abandon a dam, water obstruction or encroachment without first obtaining a written permit from the department."