US Army Corps of Engineers
Walla Walla District

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Water Quality Certification

A Department of Army permit that involves a discharge of dredged or fill material cannot be issued until a State Section 401 Water Quality Certification has been issued or waived.  Each state has the responsibility of setting its own water quality standards.  Allowing pollutants, such as chemicals, concrete, rock, sand, etc., to be added to state waters requires that the discharge will not create a condition that will impair the ability of life that exists in or depends upon the water to survive and reproduce.  

Under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act, certificates of compliance with state or tribal water quality standards is required for any discharge of dredge and fill material into waters of the United States.  Currently, the only two tribes that issue Section 401 Water Quality Certificates (WQC) for a project located within their tribal reserbation boundaries are the Ceour d'Alene Tribe and the Shoshone-Bannock, Fort Hall, Tribes.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administers Section 401 Water Quality Certification for tribes that do not have water quality certifying authority within the Walla Walla district boundaries.   The water quality agency for the State of Idaho is the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (IDEQ).

All individual permit, nationwide permits or regional permits issued by the Corps of Engineers require a Water Quality Certification, under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act.  If a Section 401 Water Quality Certification is required and not issued by the appropriate agency, then a Department of Army permit cannot be issued. 

Individual Permits and Water Quality Certification
All Department of Army Individual Permits (IP) require a water quality certificate.

General Permits and Water Quality Certification
Each Regional General Permits (RGPs) requires an Individual Water Quality Certification (WQC) be issued, prior to the RGP being effective.  For more information on the Walla Walla District's current RGP's and water quality certificatoin, please visit our Regional General Permit page.  

The publication of the Federal Register notice on February 21, 2012 started the process for states, Indian Tribes, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to complete their Section 401 WQC process for the 2012 NWPs.  On July 24, 2012, a public notice was issued announcing the following:  

The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (IDEQ) issued its final WQC for the 2012 NWPs, on July 5, 2012.  IDEQ certified all NWPs except for NWPs 12, 13 and 14 which it partially denied and NWPs 16, 17, 51 and 52 which it denied without prejudice.  IDEQ also denied certification for any activities authorized by the NWPs that may result in the discharge to an Outstanding Resource Water.  The Northwest Division Commander accepted the IDEQ’s final WQC on July 13, 2012. 

On March 28, 2012 EPA denied without prejudice, the WQC for the Section 404 NWP activities in Indian Country within Idaho except for the Coeur d’Alene Tribal lands and Shoshone Bannock Tribal lands.  This includes activities authorized by the Nationwide Permits on Tribal lands of the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho, Nez Perce Tribe and Shoshone-Paiute Tribe of the Duck Valley Indian Reservation and lands with exclusive Federal jurisdiction in the state of Idaho.  An individual 401 certification is required for any project within these specified areas, from EPA.

On April 17, 2012 the Coeur d’ Alene Tribe denied without prejudice, the WQC for all Section 404 NWP activities.  This applies to all activities that may be authorized by NWPs on Treatment in the same manner as a state (TAS) approved waters of the Coeur d’Alene Reservation.  An individual 401 certification is required for any project within these TAS approved waters of the Coeur d’Alene Reservation.

On May 11, 2012 the Shoshone Bannock Tribe denied, without prejudice, WQC for all Section 404 NWP activities.  This applies to all activities that may be authorized by NWP on the Fort Hall Reservation.  An individual 401 certification is required for any project within the Fort Hall Reservation.

For further information on Section 401 Water Quality Certificaiton requirements, please contact your local Regulatory Field Office or appropriate water quality certifing agency.