Permits - Overview

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Permit Types, Actions and Application Form
Various Construction Projects

Any person, firm or agency--including any government agency--planning to place structures or conduct work in navigable waters of the United States, or dump, place or deposit dredged or fill material in waters of the United States must first obtain a permit from the Corps of Engineers. Other federal, state and local statutes may require additional permits, licenses, variances or similar authorization.

Types of permits are:

  • Nationwide Permits
  • Letters of Permission
  • Regional General Permits
  • Individual Permits
  • Alternative Permit Process 

Nationwide Permits



Nationwide permits authorize specific activities in areas under Corps’ Regulatory jurisdiction. These activities are minor in scope and must result in no more than minimal adverse impacts, both individually and cumulatively. Individuals wishing to perform work under a nationwide permit must ensure their project meets all applicable terms and conditions, including the regional conditions specific to Alaska. If the conditions cannot be met, a regional general permit or individual permit will be required. Processing time usually takes 30 to 45 days.


Letters of Permission

Letters of permission are a type of permit issued through an abbreviated processing procedure. It includes coordination with federal and state fish and wildlife agencies as required by the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, and a public interest evaluation but without the publishing of an individual public notice.

Letters of permission are available to the district engineer (see 33 CFR Part 325, specifically 33 CFR 325.2(e)(1)). The letter is an expedited process for an individual permit, where a decision to issue is made within 45 days.

Letters of permission may be used for projects subject to Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 when the Corps determines the proposed work would be minor, would not have significant individual or cumulative impacts on environmental values, and should encounter no appreciable opposition. Letters of permission cannot be used to authorize the transportation of dredged material for the purpose of dumping it into ocean waters. Additionally, the letter of permission cannot be used in the Alaska District for work under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act unless and until the district identifies suitable project categories in coordination with state and federal agencies.

All applications that qualify as letters of permission are categorically excluded under the Corps implementing regulations for the National Environmental Policy Act. See 33 CFR Part 325 Appendix B for details. An environmental assessment or environmental impact statement is not legally mandated for letters of permission. However, this does not exempt the Corps from complying with other laws, such as the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act, when issuing a letter of permission.

Letters of permission are issued in letter form and will identify the permittee, project location, work authorized, time limits, and any project-specific limitations or special conditions. Relevant general conditions are also attached and incorporated into the letter of permission.

Permit Application Drawings Examples by Project Type

Please review the sample drawing for typical projects requiring a permit from the Corps of Engineers.  These sample drawings are for reference only. These drawings must not to be reproduced or submitted with an application.  Drawings are in pdf format.

Please use this drawing checklist to ensure that your drawing contains all the information we need for your project.

Individual Permits

Individual permits are issued following a full public interest review of an individual application for an Army permit. A public notice, usually lasting 30 days, is distributed to all known interested persons. The permit decision is generally based on the outcome of a public interest balancing process, where the benefits of the project are weighed against the detriments. A permit will be granted unless the proposal is found to be contrary to the public interest or fails to comply with the EPA’s 404(b)(1) Guidelines. The 404(b)(1) Guidelines allow the Corps to permit only the least environmentally damaging practicable alternative.

Processing time usually takes 90 to 120 days, unless a public hearing is required or an environmental impact statement must be prepared.

Alternative Permit Process

The Alternative Permit Process (APP), also known as the Abbreviated Permit Process, is a form of standard permit evaluation that allows the application process to be expedited. Evaluation of these applications is accelerated because the substantive issues are resolved in an abbreviated timeframe. An alternative permit decision will normally be authorized within 30 days from the receipt of a complete application. Activities authorized by an alternative permit are subject to the general and special conditions specific to each APP. The Alaska District currently does not have any APPs in place.