Pennsylvania has over 85,000 miles of streams and rivers which drain its over 46,000 square miles. There are regulations, known as Chapter 105, Dam Safety and Waterway Management, that were created to protect the health, safety, welfare and property of the people; and to protect natural resources, water quality and the carrying capacity of watercourses. These regulations are primarily administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA-DEP), however, the Conservation District helps administer parts of this program by providing information and acknowledging some types of permits.
Do I need a permit?
NEW-- Guidelines for "maintaining" streams, discusses in to stream or near stream activities that: 1) do not need permit (unregulated by DEP), 2) may likely need a permit or authorization, and 3) would definitely need permit, authorization or other DEP coordination (as well as other Federal and State Agencies requirements) to conduct. Also includes discussion of "myth vs reality" pertaining to DEP stream permits and authority with various stream activities.
Guidelines for Maintaining Streams in Your Community (PDF file), dated January 2018
Activities and structures in or near a stream or its adjacent floodway are regulated by this program. In most cases, a permit is required before starting any activity which changes, expands or diminishes the course, current or cross-section of a stream, floodway or body of water. This means that most types of excavation in, along, or across a stream- even if the excavated material is put back after the work, will usually require some kind of Chapter 105 permit or authorization.
Typical activities that are commonly permitted include: driveway culverts, highway bridges, utility line stream crossings, stream bank stabilization projects, etc.
What is a regulated stream/floodway?
A regulated stream is any channel with defined bed and banks that can convey water. It can be natural or man made, perennial or intermittent.
Some municipalities have flood insurance studies and maps prepared by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) which indicate the floodway boundary for some streams. In the absence of such a study, the floodway shall be considered to extend 50 feet landward from the top of each streambank. In Centre County, FEMA has delineated floodway areas along Spring Creek in Spring Township, Bellefonte Borough and Milesburg Borough; and also along Bald Eagle Creek in Boggs Township, Milesburg Borough, and some downstream municipalities. Most other areas and streams would use the "50 foot rule" mentioned above.
Types of Permits
Projects that are large in scale or impact require the submission of detailed drawings and engineering studies to show the impact of the project to the stream. These types of projects, for example, a highway bridge over a large stream, would need to be designed by a professional. Chapter 105 GENERAL PERMITS were created for activities or structures that do not pose a significant threat to flooding or the environment. A Chapter 105 General Permit (GP) has a pre-approved set of conditions, construction limits, dimensions and other criteria which apply to many common types of projects. If the work that an applicant is proposing meets all of the conditions of the GP, then the applicant need only register his/her intent to use said GP, and receive acknowledgement. The conditions of each GP are included in Part One and Part Two of the permit. Follow the PA DEP "eLibrary" page for GENERAL PERMITS link below to find these conditions. The Conservation District will do a review of your application after it is submitted to ensure that you meet the conditions of the GP being applied for.
Often, the Chapter 93 stream designation may dictate whether or not a GP may be used for a project. Official designations of drainage basins and streams are listed in Chapter 93. Water Quality Standards of the Pennsylvania Code. PA-DEP's eMapPA site may be used as a guide to locate streams/watersheds designated as "High Quality" and "Exceptional Value", also known as "Special Protection waters".
When a project or activity does not qualify for GP use, other Chapter 105 permits/authorizations may be applied for. Contact our office or PA-DEP Northcentral Region Office (570-327-3636) for guidance.
The following is a list of GENERAL PERMITS commonly used in Centre County and reviewed by our office:
- GP- 1 Fish Enhancement Structures
- GP- 2 Private Recreational Docks
- GP- 3 Bank Rehabilitation and Protection
- GP- 4 Intake and Outfall Structures
- GP- 5 Utility Line Stream Crossings
- GP- 6 Agricultural Crossings and Ramps
- GP- 7 Minor Road Crossings
- GP- 8 Temporary Road Crossings
- GP- 9 Agricultural Activities
GP-11 Maintenance, Repair, or Replacement of Water Obstructions and Encroachments (Submit to DEP for review and acknowledgement; NOT to the Centre County Conservation District like the above list (GP-1 through 9)
In order to use these GENERAL PERMITS, one must complete and submit the following:
*NEW* Revised links below as of July 2021 *NEW*
- Chapter 105 General Permit Registration (PDF) (revised April 2021) (make check payable to: Centre County Clean Water Fund)
- Chapter 105 General Permit Registration Instructions (PDF) (revised April 2018)
- Aquatic Resources Impact Table and Instructions (PDF)
- Erosion and Sediment Control Plan (NEW template available- click on link to find and view)
- Sketch plan(s) or similar site drawing(s) with approximate dimensions
- Cross Section drawing(s) with approximate dimensions
- Project Location Map (copy of USGS topo map) with site indicated
- Copy of Municipal and County Notification (Applicant must send to each with copy of the completed Chapter 105 GP Registration form)
- Pennsylvania "Conservation Explorer" tool
In March 2016, the Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program replaced the Pennsylvania Natural Diversity Inventory (PNDI) Environmental Review tool with the new Pennsylvania Conservation Explorer. This new tool is a "one stop shop" for conservation planning and PNDI Environmental Review. The Explorer provides conservation information on biological diversity, protected lands, streams and other natural resources for planning purposes and also allows users to screen a project area for potential impacts to threatened, endangered, and special concern species. As a reminder, a PNDI receipt is needed to apply for most permits and approvals under the Chapter 102 and 105 programs. In order to obtain an online search receipt, the Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program charges a convenience fee of $40.00 per project using Visa, MasterCard or Discover Card. Government agencies and Municipalities are exempt from this convenience fee.
To conduct a PNDI search online, go to the Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program website and follow the Quick Links for CONSERVATION EXPLORER.
In addition, users may submit for a fee free manual review (For sites of any size, review free of cost- see instructions): PNDI Manual Submission Form (PDF), revised February 2016. A manual review may take 4 to 8 weeks or longer for results.
Most activities that need a Pennsylvania State DEP 105 GP are also regulated by the Federal Government-- the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Often, the Conservation District can include the Pennsylvania State Programmatic General Permit (PASPGP-5) with the GP Acknowledgement, which will give your project Federal Authorization. The Conservation District will review your project to determine if it exceeds the conditions of PASPGP-5. DEP Fact Sheet about PASPGP-5 (PDF)
If it does, we will forward a copy of your application to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for an individual review. If this happens, you will receive separate authorization from the Corps. In either case, you need only submit your permit application to the Conservation District, and we will notify you the review status of your Federal Authorization.
If you have any questions about permits or permit coverage, call the Conservation District office or email a member of the Erosion control staff. In addition, we can mail permit forms if necessary.
Chapter 105 Permit Transfer
One can also transfer permit responsibility from the original permit holder to a new responsible party (for instance, when property is sold that contains a permitted structure), with or without an associated Submerged Land License Agreement (SLLA). The form used to do so is: Application for Transfer of Permit and SLLA (PDF)