Permission granted: How the Corps governs federal waterways

By Tunis McElwain
Savannah District Regulatory Chief

A dock in a river requires permission from the federal government. Private-, public-, government-owned; all docks – and any other kind of work or construction in federal navigable waterways, must have a Department of Army permit granting permission for construction and existence – in perpetuity.

The federal government’s jurisdiction over these resources is delegated to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps’ Regulatory Program exists to administer and enforce the process in accordance with Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899. Under RHA Section 10, a permit is required for work or structures in, over or under navigable waters of the United States.

The responsibility to protect and regulate the nation’s aquatic resources is perhaps the Corps’ most misunderstood mission, in part because it is often confused with the Corps’ Civil Works mission.

When the Corps pursues construction in a federal waterway through its civil works arm, the federal government is the proponent for that project. Even in this case the Corps’ Regulatory program considers the federal government as an applicant. The Corps is neither for nor against projects that fall within its regulatory jurisdiction.

Why does the federal government regulate rivers?

The common good depends on the regulation of the nation’s water resources because water passes through private and public property. Construction that impacts water touching one property affects water users everywhere. Access to water is a common need whether it is for consumption or navigation – and waterway construction can impact both.

But it’s important to remember regulation exists not to prevent construction, but to ensure responsible construction. The federal government has an interest in economic development and recognizes that commerce depends on construction in waterways. Therefore, the purpose of the Corps Regulatory Program is not only to protect the nation’s aquatic resources, but to do it in a way that allows reasonable development through fair, flexible and balanced permit decisions.

Any person, firm or agency that maintains a structure, or plans to work in navigable waters of the United States, must obtain and maintain a permit from the Corps of Engineers.

Performing unauthorized work in waters of the United States or failure to comply with the terms of a permit can have serious consequences because it is a violation of federal law.

If you have questions about your permit, or if you’re not sure if you need a permit, we can help. The Savannah District has jurisdiction over all the navigable waters and wetlands in Georgia, the largest of which is the Savannah River.

The Charleston District has jurisdiction for all the waterways in South Carolina. This means if your property is adjacent to the Savannah River but on the South Carolina side, we can also get you in touch with a regulator in the Charleston District.

Bottom line: If you have a dock in the Savannah River, or any other navigable waterway, it’s important to be familiar with the terms of your permit, and to ensure it is up-to-date. And if you don’t yet have a permit for your structure, you must obtain one.

We balance the applicant’s needs with the public’s interest with every permit decision. But without that permit you could be adversely impacting the common good, and would be in violation of federal law.

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Recreation areas on Hartwell Lake to open for hunting

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Hartwell Lake Office will open four of its larger recreationareas for archery and small game hunting during

the regular 2018-2019 Georgia hunting season. These areas include:

• Paynes Creek Park, Hart County, Georgia (399 acres)

• Hartwell Dam Quarry Area, Hart County, Georgia (410 acres)

• New Prospect Park, Hart County, Georgia (34 acres)

• Jenkins Ferry Park, Stephens County, Georgia (31 acres)

The Hartwell Dam Quarry is restricted to archery equipment only during deer and turkey seasons. Hunters must obtain a no-cost permit at the Corps’ Hartwell Lake Office to hunt at Hartwell Dam Quarry. The Quarry Area will be closed to hunting Nov. 16 – Nov. 21, while the Corps conducts a deer hunt with the Paralyzed Veterans of America.

Hunting regulations, license requirements and seasons set by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources will apply in all locations. Information on regulations is available from the state’s Region 2 office at 770-535-5499. Baiting is not allowed on any federal managed lands in the state of Georgia including Corps of Engineers lands.

Small game hunting is allowed in all areas listed above, but only outside the deer and turkey seasons. Hunting for small game is restricted to shotgun only with number 4 shot or smaller. Hunting for deer and turkey is restricted to archery equipment only – all firearms are prohibited. The areas will be open on a walk-in or boat-in only basis. No motorized vehicles will be allowed within the gated area. Only portable stands and blinds are acceptable and must be removed from public land after the season.

The Corps areas listed below are considered part of South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) Fant’s Grove Wildlife Management Area for hunting. Hunters should contact SCDNR for information on licenses, seasons and bag limits at 864-654-1671.

• South Carolina River, Anderson County, South Carolina (125 acres)

• Glenn Ferry Park, Anderson County, South Carolina (211 acres)

• Weldon Island Park, Anderson County, South Carolina (138 acres)

• Apple Island Park, Anderson County, South Carolina (107 acres)

• Townville Park, Anderson County, South Carolina (23 acres)

• River Forks Park, Anderson County, South Carolina (182 acres), (Developed recreation area CLOSED to hunting.)

• Camp Creek Park, Anderson County, South Carolina (48 acres)

• Martin Creek Park, Oconee County, South Carolina (60 acres)

• Choestoea Park, Oconee County, South Carolina (369 acres)

Hunting is prohibited in all designated recreation areas except those listed above. All other public lands and waters around Hartwell Lake, including islands, are open to hunting in accordance with Title 36 Code of Federal Regulations and Georgia and South Carolina hunting regulations. Due to safety concerns, big game hunters are encouraged to use archery equipment only while hunting on the islands.

For more information on hunting and other recreation opportunities at Hartwell Lake, call the project office at 706-856-0300 or 888-893-0678.

Courtesy COE

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