Jurisdictional Determinations


Issued Approved Jurisdictional Determinations (AJDs)

All final AJDs will be posted on the website. Information that will be posted includes the Department of Army file number, project name, location, and final AJD letter. Additional information regarding these AJDs can be obtained by contacting the district office.

Go to Issued Approved JDs
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Requesting a Jurisdictional Determination

Approved Jurisdictional Determinations and Preliminary Jurisdictional Determinations are tools used by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to help implement Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and Sections 9 and 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899. Both types of jurisdictional determinations specify what geographic areas will be treated as subject to regulation by the USACE, Regulatory Division under one or both statutes. It is not required that a jurisdictional determination be requested before applying for a permit.

A Preliminary Jurisdictional Determination (PJD) may include the delineated limits of all aquatic resources on a parcel(s) and is advisory in nature. All aquatic resources determined to occur in the review area are treated as jurisdictional. PJDs are not appealable, but may be revised if new information provided warrants such revision.

An Approved Jurisdictional Determination (AJD) provides a definitive, official determination that there are, or that there are not, jurisdictional aquatic resources on a parcel and identifies the geographical limits of jurisdictional aquatic resources on a parcel. An AJD may be requested at any time during the permit review process. AJDs are valid for five years, but can be appealed through the Corps' administrative appeal process set out at 33 CFR Part 331.

All jurisdictional determination requests can be emailed to us.

Waters of the United States (WOTUS)

USACE, Regulatory Division is responsible for protecting many of the nation’s aquatic environments including oceans, rivers, lakes, streams, ponds, and wetlands.

These areas are referred to by the USACE, Regulatory Division as waters of the United States (WOTUS). The USACE, Regulatory Division is the agency with the authority to officially determine if an area contains WOTUS. The discharge of fill into, or work in, under or over WOTUS may require a permit from the USACE. Permits, licenses, or similar authorizations may also be required by other federal, state, and local agencies.

Our headquarters website has additional jurisdictional determination information.

Limits of Jurisdiction Diagram

There are two categories of waters that the USACE has jurisdiction over:

  1. Navigable Waters of the United States
    1. Are regulated under Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act.
    2. Are waters that are subject to the ebb and flow of the tide and/or are presently used, or have been used in the past, or may be susceptible for use to transport interstate or foreign commerce. Navigable Waters have been specifically designated by the Corps through a navigability determination. There are many other waters in Alaska that meet the navigability criteria, but have not been designated as Section 10 Waters.
  2. Waters of the United States
    1. Are regulated under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act.
    2. These waters include navigable waters and other parts of the surface water tributary system down to the smallest of streams, lakes, ponds, or other water bodies on those streams, and adjacent wetlands (e.g., sloughs, swamps, and some seasonally flooded areas) if they meet certain criteria.

The geographic extent of these waters are divided into three categories:

  1. Tidal waters of the United States
    1. USACE Alaska District Tidal Data (.PDF 496KB)
    2. Under Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act, the extent of USACE jurisdiction in tidal waterways extends shoreward to the mean high water line.
    3. Under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, the extent of USACE jurisdiction in tidal waters, including tidally influenced rivers, extends to the high tide line. When adjacent wetlands are present, the geographic limits extend to the delineated limits of the wetlands.
  2. Non-tidal waters of the United States
    1. The limit of jurisdiction in non-tidal waters extends to the ordinary high water mark.
    2. When adjacent wetlands are present, the jurisdiction extends beyond the ordinary high water mark to the delineated limit of the adjacent wetlands.
  3. Territorial Seas
    1. The limit of jurisdiction in the territorial seas is measured from the baseline in a seaward direction a distance of three nautical miles.

Recognizing Wetlands

Photo by Hayley Farrer

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency define wetlands as follows:

Those areas that are inundated or saturated by surface or ground water at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions. Wetlands generally include swamps, marshes, bogs, and similar areas. Wetlands such as swamps and marshes are often obvious, but some wetlands are not easily recognized, often because they are dry during part of the year or “they just don't look very wet” from the roadside.

Wetlands comprise nearly 175 million acres of Alaska, about 43 percent of the state. By comparison, wetlands occupy about 5 percent of the ground within the lower 48 states. As a significant natural resource, wetlands serve important functions relating to fish and wildlife, such as food chain production, habitat, nesting spawning, rearing and resting sites for aquatic and land species. They also store flood waters, moderate flows in streams and rivers, buffer shorelines against wave action, suppress erosion, improve water quality through filtration and nutrient cycling, and store carbon.. They also provide protection of other areas from wave action and erosion; storage areas for storm and flood waters; natural recharge areas where ground and surface water are interconnected; and natural water filtration and purification functions.

Wetland boundaries are determined using the three parameter approach described in the 1987 Corps of Engineers Wetlands Delineation Manual and the Alaska Regional Supplement. Field-delineated wetlands by qualified people using the manual and supplement often have very different boundaries from those exhibited on national, state and local wetland maps. If time allows, the Alaska District may conduct wetland delineations for sites up to 5 acres.

Section 404 of the Clean Water Act requires that anyone proposing to deposit dredged or fill material into “waters of the United States, including wetlands,” must receive authorization for such activities. If you intend to place dredged or fill material in a wetland or in an area that might be a wetland, contact USACE for assistance in determining if a permit is required.

Special Aquatic Sites

Special Aquatic Sites are geographic areas, large or small, possessing special ecological characteristics of productivity, habitat, wildlife protection, or other important and easily disrupted ecological values. These areas are generally recognized as significantly influencing or positively contributing to the general overall environmental health or vitality of the entire ecosystem of a region (40 CFR 230.3).

Special aquatic sites means those sites identified in subpart E:

  • 230.40 Sanctuaries and refuges.
  • 230.41 Wetlands.
  • 230.42 Mud flats.
  • 230.43 Vegetated shallows.
  • 230.44 Coral reefs.
  • 230.45 Riffle and pool complexes.
Photos by David Farmer (first) and Hayley Farrer (second and third)