Section 401 of the federal Clean Water Act (33 USC 1341) grants direct authority to each state to issue a Water Quality Certification (WQC) for any project requiring a federal permit or license. This WQC authority is provided for the state to verify that a federally authorized project does not violate state water quality requirements. To help project proponents avoid and minimize impacts to water quality, the department may require conditions on projects as part of a WQC.
Although WQCs are issued in association with federal licenses, such as Federal Energy Regulatory Commission hydropower licenses, most WQCs are issued for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) Clean Water Act Section 404 Department of Army Permits, known as 404 permits. These permits authorize placing material or fill into the jurisdictional waters of the United States. Examples of placing fill include, but are not limited to, riprap along stream banks, culverts under road crossings, armoring for stormwater outfall pipes and general fill for residential and commercial developments. The term jurisdictional waters refers to lakes, rivers, streams and wetlands, including those that do not always contain water. Jurisdictional determinations are made by the USACE. For more information about the 404 Permit and WQC process, visit the USACE’s Regulatory Program and Permits website.
The USACE authorizes projects for both individual and general 404 permits. All individual 404 permits require department review for individual WQC. The USACE often issues a general permit subject to a set of general, pre-established conditions, to expedite issuing a large number of 404 Permits to authorize activities that have minimal individual and cumulative adverse environmental effects. A USACE nationwide permit (NWP) is a common general permit available across the United States (with some exceptions) to authorize a variety of common project types, such as streambank stabilization, utility crossings, outfall structures and residential or commercial development. Federal nationwide permits, general conditions, and definitions can found on the USACE’s website. Most general 404 permits are pre-approved by the department, but general 404 permits not meeting general or specific conditions or occurring on particular impaired streams require individual review for WQC. Missouri’s WQC General and Specific Conditions apply to NWPs. Other USACE general permits contain specific Missouri WQC General and Specific Conditions. Please refer to those USACE general permits for those conditions.