What is required for debris removal?

Published May 1, 2012

“The Corps provides strong protection of the nation’s aquatic environment by ensuring compliance with federal laws and regulations.” - Fred Anthamatten, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Galveston District Regulatory Branch Chief

Many Texas lakes and/or reservoirs have experienced water levels below normal pool elevations due to the recent drought conditions, which have subsequently exposed hidden debris. This provides an ideal time for landowners to remove the newly discovered debris, however, before beginning the process the USACE Galveston District provides the following information to help answer permitting and regulatory questions concerning removal of debris specifically from Lake Houston.  

Q:  Do I need a permit from the Corps to remove the debris in front of my bulkhead?

A:  No. The removal of debris is not regulated in Lake Houston unless there is a discharge of dredged or fill material that would require a permit according to Section 404 of the Clean Water Act.    

Q:  What is “work” as it pertains to the Department of the Army regulatory permitting purposes?

A:  “Work” is defined in federal regulations at 33 Code of Federal Regulations Part 322.2 (c) and includes any dredging or disposal of dredged material, excavation, filling, or other modification of a navigable water of the United States regulated under Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899. At this time, the Corps does not view Lake Houston to be subject to this requirement, however, the Corps does require a permit for discharging dredged or fill material into Lake Houston.

Q:  If I remove debris, isn’t that dredging or considered to be a modification of navigable water?

A:  Not just for removing debris. However, dredging is also defined in federal regulations (33 CFR 323.2 (c)) and normally the removal of debris should not include the dredging or excavation of material from the substrate below the normal pool elevation (ordinary high water mark).

Q:  Do I need a Department of the Army permit to fill in the scour hole in front of my bulkhead?

A:  Yes, Under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act any discharge of any dredged and/or fill material into any waters of the United States (below the ordinary high water mark or in adjacent wetlands) requires a Department of the Army permit prior to the event occurring.

Q:  How do I find out if I need a Department of the Army permit, and if so how do I apply?

A:  When in doubt if a permit is required, contact the USACE Galveston District’s Regulatory Branch at the below addresses. Permit application and information is also located at http://www.swg.usace.army.mil/reg.

U. S. Army Engineer District, Galveston
P.O. Box 1229 
Galveston, TX 77553-1229                                                                            409-766-3982

Corpus Christi Field Office
5151 Flynn Parkway, Suite 306
Corpus Christi, Texas  78411                                                                       361-814-5850

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