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What permits are needed for stream projects?

Dams, Water Obstructions and Encroachments – PA Chapter 105 Regulations

Activities and structures that may require a Chapter 105 permit include but are not limited to impacting stream channels, filling or modifying wetlands, bridges, pipelines, utility crossings, culverts, and bank stabilization. Chapter 105 pertains to structures and activities that change the course, current, or cross section of waterways, floodways, and bodies of water, including wetlands, or that install or construct structures in these water resources.

Typically, streamside tree planting projects do not involve work on the streambank or in the stream channel and therefore do not require a Chapter 105 permit. Streambank stabilization and stream crossings will require a Chapter 105 permit.

Chapter 105 Permit Waivers can be granted for the following activities:

  • Water obstruction or encroachment located in, along, across or projecting into a wetland or impoundment, constructed, and maintained for the purpose of treating acid mine drainage, sewage, or other waste, if the wetland or impoundment is a treatment facility constructed under a valid permit issued by DEP.
  • A water obstruction or encroachment located in, along, across, or projecting into a stormwater management facility or an erosion and sedimentation pollution control facility which meets the requirements in Chapter 102 (relating to erosion and sediment control), if the facility was constructed and continues to be maintained for the designated purpose. 
  • The removal of abandoned dams, water obstructions, and encroachments if does not imperil life or property, hurt the environment; must have stabilization/restoration plan. (THIS WAIVER REQUIRES APPROVAL OF AN ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT BY DEP)
  • Construction, operation, or removal of staff gages, water recording devices, water quality testing devices.

Chapter 105 includes provisions for General Permits.  A general permit covers a range of similar activities with similar environmental impacts, meeting certain criteria laid out in the permit application. General permits often have shorter applications and require less information than an individual permit. Pre-application meetings may not be necessary for projects eligible for general permits.

For a Chapter 105 General Permit:

  • Apply using joint permit application form on DEP’s website.
  • Most projects in Commonwealth waters and wetlands also require federal authorization, usually granted in the form of a Pennsylvania State Programmatic General Permit (PASPGP). In most instances, PASPGP coverage is approved/attached by DEP or a delegated county conservation district along with the registered GP. When applicable, PASPGP eliminates the need for redundant federal reviews and processing for projects.
  • There are 12 different Chapter 105 General Permits:
    • GP-1 Fish Habitat Enhancement Structures
    • GP-3 Bank Rehabilitation, Bank Protection and Gravel Bart Removal
    • GP-6 Agricultural Crossings and Ramp
    • GP-9 Agricultural Activities (These agricultural activities include: grassed or lined waterways, terraces, diversions, waste storage facilities, and spring development.
  • Phased Permitting is allowed for large, watershed-scale restoration planning and project implementation. The policy promotes the development of comprehensive watershed planning, minimizes project implementation timelines, allows for efficient use of grant/funding resources, and provides flexibility to address watershed-specific and site-specific impairments. In most instances, DEP’s standard permitting process under Chapter 105 will sufficiently meet the needs of the applicant, but this “phased permitting” option remains available for select watershed-wide restoration plans.

Source: The Pennsylvanian’s Guide to Permitting for Watershed Improvement Projects, PA DEP, Dec. 2020

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