401 Water Quality Certification
An Environmental Permitting Fact Sheet

Program Overview

The 401 Water Quality Certification program, administered by the Land and Water Resources Division and the Office of Planning and Program Development, regulates any applicant for a federal license or permit who seeks to conduct an activity that may result in any discharge into the navigable waters, including all wetlands, watercourses, and natural and man-made ponds. Such persons must obtain certification from DEEP that the discharge is consistent with the federal Clean Water Act and the Connecticut Water Quality Standards. Any conditions contained in a water quality certification become conditions of the federal permit or license. In making a decision on a request for 401 Water Quality Certification, DEEP must consider the effects of proposed discharges on ground and surface water quality and existing and designated uses of waters of the state.
Authorizing Statutes
Section 401 of the Federal Clean Water Act (33 U.S.C. 1314)

Connecticut's Water Quality Standards and Criteria

Who Must Apply

Any applicant for a federal license or permit, including a dredge and fill permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, a bridge construction permit from the U.S. Coast Guard, or a permit from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) must obtain a 401 Water Quality Certificate from DEEP if the proposed activity may result in any discharge into the navigable waters. Such discharges include, among other things, the discharge of dredged and fill material and stormwater during construction, incidental discharge of sediments from dredging or excavating, and the discharge of stormwater from a facility once it is constructed, and any excavation, flooding, draining, and clearing and grading in or affecting the navigable waters.

Required Application Documents

For any applicable activity, excluding hydropower projects:

Permit Application for Programs Administered by the Land and Water Resources Division

For any FERC Hydropower Projects:

Permit Application for Section 401 Water Quality Certificate-FERC Hydropwer Projects

Each application listed above includes various technical documents in support of the application. Supporting documents include, but are not limited to, engineering and environmental reports and plans describing the project and its impact on the environment, and water handling and storm water management plans. A checklist of application documents is included in each application.

Review and Processing

Upon receipt of the application and a certified copy of the Notice of Application, the application is assigned to a project coordinator and is reviewed for sufficiency. If the application is sufficient, a detailed technical review is initiated. These reviews consist of an evaluation of the technical documentation provided in the application as well as an assessment of the site and the anticipated effects of the proposed activity and proposed impact mitigation or compensation. The application may also be reviewed by DEEP's Fisheries and Wildlife Divisions and the staff of the Natural Diversity Data Base program and the federal resources agencies involved in reviewing the federal permit or license. If department staff have questions or require additional information about the proposed project, the project coordinator will contact the applicant or his designated agent. Upon completion of this technical review, a tentative determination to grant or deny the permit application will be made. A notice of tentative determination will be published and public comments will be solicited on that tentative determination. After technical review and after consideration of any public comments, DEEP will issue a final decision on the permit application.

Unique Processing Features

DEEP has issued 401 Water Quality Certification for certain Army Corps of Engineers' Nationwide Permits; contact the Army Corps of Engineers at 1-800-343-4789 for further information on Nationwide permits, and DEEP at 860-424-3019 for a description of the terms and conditions of 401 Water Quality Certification for these permits.

Public Participation

The applicant is responsible for publishing a Notice of Application when the application is submitted to DEEP. Once this notice is published, the applicant must send a copy of the notice to the Chief Elected Official of the municipality in which the regulated activity is proposed, and send a copy of the notice, along with the Certification of Notice Form – Notice of Application (DEEP-APP-005A), to DEEP. After the technical review, DEEP will publish, at the applicant's expense, a Notice of Tentative Determination to grant or deny the certification. If the tentative determination is to grant 401 Water Quality Certification, a draft certificate with proposed terms, limitations, and conditions is prepared and made available for review and comment. There is a thirty day comment period following publication of the notice of tentative determination after which DEEP takes final action on the application. DEEP may require an applicant to post a sign on the site or to provide any other reasonable form of notice necessary to apprise the public and abutting landowners of the proposed activity.

Average Processing Time

For this permit program, processing time for a typical application, based upon recent experience is less than 180 days. Past performance is not a guarantee of future processing timeframes. In order to increase the efficiency of application processing, we recommend that you utilize the Pre-Application Guidance process, when the activity is outside of the coastal area or is not a FERC hydropower project, assure that your application package is properly completed at the time of submittal, and that you promptly reply to any requests for information.

Contact Information

For 401 Water Quality Certification Applications for activities affecting any water, including tidal wetlands, excluding hydropower projects, contact:
  Land and Water Resources Division
  Department of Energy and Environmental Protection
  79 Elm Street
  Hartford, CT 06106-5127

For 401 Water Quality Certification Applications for FERC Hydropower Projects, contact:
  Office of Planning and Program Development
  Department of Energy and Environmental Protection
  79 Elm Street
  Hartford, CT 06106-5127

This overview is designed to answer general questions and provide basic information. Refer to the appropriate statutes and regulations for the specific regulatory language of the different permit programs. This document should not be relied upon to determine whether or not an environmental permit is required. It is your responsibility to obtain and comply with all required permits.

Fact Sheet: DEEP-LWRD-FS-103

Users Guide to Environmental Permits

Content Last Updated April 15, 2021