The USACE is a branch of the Department of Defense. The Corps oversees dams and hydropower releases, dredges America’s waterways to support the movement of critical commodities and provides recreation opportunities, and devises hurricane and storm damage reduction infrastructure. The USACE and the Bureau of Reclamation are the two largest managers of large dams and have a great responsibility not only for clean water, but also for large supplies of hydropower. These are incredibly important functions for our survival.
The Corps also plays a very important road for roads and land development. Here the Corps itself does not do the dredging; it usually issues permits to those who would dredge and fill, such as TxDOT.
Houston is in the Corps’ Galveston District.
USACE (Army Corps of Engineers, Galveston Dist)
A day in, day out function is to assist the EPA with Clean Water Act §404 dredging and filling permits; maintains and operates dams and reservoirs
A good 101-level presentation on the Corps functions and role is at http://www.usace.army.mil/Portals/2/docs/USACE_101_Sep_2014.pdf
A Citizen’s Guide to the Corps of Engineers by American Rivers
American Rivers published a 194-page citizens’ guide to understanding the Army Corps of Engineers’ permitting process under Clean Water Act.
Association of State Wetlands Managers
Dredge & Fill Permitting Programs: These programs cover dredge and fill operations on navigable waters. Navigable waters are also called jurisdictional waters, because the federal government claims jurisdiction over the waters. Often, in practice, these waters are not navigable themselves, but rather are connected to waters that may be navigable. That is, the EPA and USACE reach out. There is a good deal of major litigation over the navigable water issue and whether the federal government can require permits.
There are two major types of permitting programs:
(1) Nationwide (or standardized) permits for repetitive dredge and fill operations and
(2) Individual permits for roads involving bayou, river, and major stream crossings, and wetlands.
Land developers may have to get a nationwide permit and in a rare case, such as in coastal areas, and individual permit. Just because a land developer causes flooding due to failure to build proper detention does not mean it has engaged in navigable water operations.
The permitting process is applicant driven. If an applicant does not apply for a permit, generally the USACE does not even learn about the issue unless there is litigation or demand for a permit by a third party. TxDOT does not put much stock in its obligation to acquire a dredge and fill permit before commencing operations.