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Tennessee Clean
Water Network

123A S. Gay St.
Knoxville, TN 37902

Office: 865-522-7007
Fax: 865-329-2422

Permit Watch

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and the Army Corps of Engineers are responsible for issuing permits for activities that may degrade water quality. While your city and county officials are responsible for some portion of the enforcement of these rules and local ordinances, the state and federal governments issue permits.

You can influence what is legally allowed under a permit by commenting before the permit is issued. Investing one day every two weeks to look at the permit announcements on a web site or through the mail, you will know what activities are planned in your neighborhood or near a stream or lake that is dear to you.

Background on Permits

You will most likely begin your search for permits at the TDEC website for the Division of Water Pollution Control. From there, you can click on the Permits link for a breakdown and description of the many types of permits that they offer. You may also click on Public Participation link for ideas on how to get involved and offer comment.

Permit application notices are posted on the TDEC website for individual permits at the following links:

ARAP (§401): Persons who wish to make an alteration to a stream, river, lake or wetland must first obtain a water quality permit. Physical alterations to properties of waters of the state requires an Aquatic Resource Alteration Permit (ARAP) or a §401 Water Quality Certification (§401 certification). Examples of stream alterations that require a permit from the Tennessee Division of Water Pollution Control (division) include:

  • Dredging, excavation, channel widening, or straightening
  • Bank sloping; stabilization
  • Channel relocation
  • Water diversions or withdrawals
  • Dams, weirs, dykes, levees or other similar structures
  • Flooding, excavating, draining and/or filling a wetland
  • Road and utility crossings
  • Structural fill

NPDES: Persons discharging pollutants directly from point sources into surface waters of the state must obtain an NPDES discharge permit from the Tennessee Division of Water Pollution Control (WPC). Direct dischargers include industrial and commercial wastewater, industrial stormwater, and municipal wastewater discharges. Mining facilities and Class I Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) also require NPDES discharge permits.

General Construction Permit: All new and existing point source industrial stormwater discharges associated with industrial activity require an NPDES Stormwater Permit from the Tennessee Division of Water Pollution Control (WPC). Most common is a general permit which is available to almost any industry, but there is also an option to obtain an individual NPDES permit.

Permit application notices (§404) are posted on the Army Corps of Engineers websites for each district at:

Memphis: Scroll down to the Tennessee section.


Every other week, TCWN compiles permit information for Tennessee and sends it out on our electronic newsletter. If you would like to be added to the e-news list, contact Tony Murchison, Special Programs Coordinator, at [email protected].

Choosing Permit Applications for Comments:

Key terms and activities indicate that degraded water quality is probable if the permit is issued.

Key terms:

Increased Discharge



Tier II










Endangered or listed species

303(d) listed

If the answer to any of the following questions is yes, a comment from you may affect the issuance or the permit and the protection of your local water resources.

•  Does the permit allow a stream to be filled, relocated, culverted (encapsulated), straightened or dredged?

•  Does the permit allow a lake to be partially filled or dredged?

•  Does the permit allow wetland to be drained, filled, cut off from its water supply and the floodplain?

•  Does the permit allow the impoundment of streams to create a lake, drinking source or duck hunting habitat?

•  Does the permit increase the amount of water processed through a sewage treatment plant or drinking water plant?

•  Is the stream affected on the 303(d) list?

•  Is the waterbody designated as a Tier II or Tier III high quality water?

•  Are threatened or endangered species in the stream, wetland, or floodplain?


Suggestions for Commenting on 404 Permits

When developing comments on a permit, it is useful to reference specific regulations and guidance documents and explain in your letter how the proposed project fails to satisfy those regulations. The following are paraphrased summaries of favorite sections of regulations.

40 CFR Part 230

230.10 (a) – No discharge of dredged or fill material shall be permitted if there is a practicable alternative which would have less adverse impact on the aquatic ecosystem

230.10 (b) – No discharge shall be permitted if it contributes to violations of water quality standards or jeopardizes continued existence of a threatened or endangered species

230.10 (c) - No discharge shall be permitted which will contribute to significant degradation of the waters

230.10 (d) – No discharge shall be permitted unless appropriate and practicable steps have been taken to minimize potential adverse impacts

Regulatory Guidance Letter 02-2 – This is a guidance letter from the Corps headquarters to District offices instructing them how to determine appropriate mitigation measures. Each District now has specific guidelines that should incorporate the concepts of this guidance. It is helpful to review this full letter and the District guidance for more details. However, below are a few of the general principles.

“Under existing law the Corps requires compensatory mitigation to replace aquatic resource functions unavoidably lost or adversely affected by authorized activities.”

Functional assessments are encouraged to determine impacts and required mitigation for wetland impacts, but at a minimum, one-to-one acreage replacement may be used. The acreage ratio of replaced wetlands to impacted wetlands should be larger where a high quality wetland is replaced with a wetland that is less functional.

Streams – Where functional assessment is not practical, mitigation projects for streams should replace linear feet of stream on a one-to-one basis.

Mitigation projects can include creation of a new system, restoration of a degraded system, enhancement of an existing system, and/or protection and maintenance of existing systems. Simply protecting/maintaining an existing system is usually not sufficient to mitigate for impacting another.

Mitigation should occur within the same geographic area (same watershed if possible) as the impacts.


Template for comment on NPDES permit (Word)
Template for comment on ARAP permit (Word)
Template for Special Conditions
: Use this sample text when commenting on an NPDES permit for stormwater or sewage treatment related to a 303(d) listed or Tier II stream.

How to Request a Public Hearing: When commenting on a permit, you ALWAYS have the right to request a public hearing. TDEC should hold a hearing based on the number of comments that they receive on a particular permit. Rarely, TDEC will schedule the public hearing based on the assumption that comments will be made.

Can you hold your own meeting?

You can always call your own meeting to present concerns to the community. Think of informing your homeowners association, Lion's Club, church group or just a group of neighbors.