OLR Research Report

March 4, 2008




By: Paul Frisman, Principal Analyst

You asked about the dredging responsibilities of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and municipalities.


The Corps and DEP generally share responsibility for dredging oversight in the state, and people seeking permission to dredge must obtain authorization from both.

However, the Corps is exempt from state permits and is only required to obtain state Water Quality Certificates (see below) for about two dozen major federal navigation projects in Connecticut specifically authorized by Congress, including dredging the state's major harbors. The complete list of these projects can be found on the Corps' website at According to DEP, federal maintenance dredging projects are normally completely federally funded. However the state or local municipalities are called upon to help finance these projects if there is a need for new or additional work. DEP states that Congress has not lately authorized sufficient funding to undertake many of these federal maintenance projects.

The Corps and DEP have joint responsibility for regulating all other dredging projects. In some cases, the Corps may expedite review of projects that have minimal impacts under its programmatic general permit for the state.

People seeking to dredge in ponds, lakes, rivers, streams, wetlands, or other surface waters also must obtain permission from municipal inland-wetlands commissions.


Federal law gives the Corps responsibility for regulating structures and works in U.S. navigable waters ( 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899), and the discharge of dredged or fill material into U.S. waters, including wetlands ( 404 of the Clean Water Act (33 USC 1344)).

Several state laws give DEP responsibility for dredging oversight. DEP issues permits for regulated activities (including dredging) in tidal wetlands (CGS 22a-39); regulates dredging in coastal areas under the Coastal Management Act (CGS 22a-90); and issues permits for structures, dredging or fill in state waters waterward of the high tide line (CGS 22a-359 et seq.). (The high tide line is marked by such things as fine shell debris or vegetation that indicates the maximum height reached by the tide.) DEP also regulates dredging under the Water Diversion Policy Act (CGS 22a-365).

The federal Clean Water Act (33 USC 1314) also requires that an applicant for a federal license or permit to conduct an activity that may result in a discharge of dredged or fill material into navigable waters obtain a state certificate (a "401 water quality certificate") that the discharge will comply with the act and state water quality standards. This certification is generally made in conjunction with issuance of a state permit under CGS 22a-361 (structures, dredging and fill). Conditions contained in a water quality certificate become conditions of the general permit or license. More information on the 401 certificate can be found in OLR Report 2004-R-0444 (attached).

Municipal inland-wetlands commissions regulate activities in wetlands areas and watercourses under the Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Act (CGS 22a-36 through 22a-45), except for those proposed by state agencies, which are regulated by DEP. Wetlands are any land consisting of soil types designated as poorly drained, very poorly drained, alluvial, or floodplain by the U. S. Department of Agriculture. Watercourses include rivers, streams, brooks, waterways, lakes, ponds, marshes, swamps, bogs and all other water bodies. They may be natural or artificial, vernal (appearing in the spring) or intermittent, public or private, and must be contained within, flow through, or border upon the state (CGS 22a-38(15) and (16)).

Inland property owners do not need a permit for certain activities, such as maintaining existing structures and landscaping, but they do need a permit if these activities involve the removal or deposit of significant amounts of material from or onto a wetland or watercourse, or the diversion or alteration of a watercourse (CGS 22a-40(4)). Maintenance of existing structures or maintenance dredging may be eligible for a simpler permit process called a Certification of Permission (CGS 22a-363(b)).


More information on the Corps' dredging permit process is available on-line at and

More information on the Corps' programmatic general permit can be found on-line at

More information on DEP's coastal permitting program can be found at

More information on the DEP permit program in general is available at

More information on dredging requirements can also be found in OLR Reports 2002-R-0657, 2003-R-0408, 2001-R-0566 (revised), and 98-R-0824 (attached).