Instream 401 Certification and Short Term Activity Authorization STAA

Short Term Activity Authorization

Anyone planning to conduct any activity in waters of the State, which might cause a violation of the Arkansas Water Quality Standards, must obtain authorization from DEQ prior to entering waters of the State. This authorization is subject to the provisions that such activity is essential to the protection or promotion of the public interest and that no permanent or long-term impairment of beneficial uses is likely to result from such activity. Nothing in this authorization is intended to supersede existing state or federal permitting processes or requirements. The STAA only covers the activity requiring entry into and disturbance of waters of the state.

Such STAAs shall not be granted for activities which result in the adverse impact on any federally threatened or endangered species of on critical habitat of such species.

STAAs do not take the place of a construction stormwater permits and best management practices (BMPs) which are required for development of construction sites greater than one (1) acre. If the project is associated with a construction site that will disturb more than one (1) acre, the applicant must obtain coverage under an NPDES Construction Stormwater Permit prior to start of construction at the site.

Search the database of applicants for an existing STAA or a 401 Water Quality Certification.

What Activities Require a STAA?

Activities eligible for authorization include, but are not limited to:

  • Wastewater treatment facility maintenance
  • Fish eradication projects
  • Mosquito abatement projects
  • Algae and weed control projects
  • Dredge and Fill Projects
    1. Gravel Removal
  • Construction Activities
    1. Bridge or crossing repair/maintenance
    2. Culvert replacement
    3. Pipeline repair/placement
    4. Utility repair/replacement
  • Activities which result in overall enhancement or maintenance of beneficial uses
    1. Bank stabilization
    2. Debris removal
    3. Flood control projects
  • Debris removal

If you are required to secure an STAA, you may also be required to obtain a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) 404 Permit or a Bridge Permit . You may need an STAA to remove debris from wetlands. You may need permission from the city or county if your activity is within an area covered by an active General Stormwater NPDES - Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit. Other local permits may be applicable such as building, grading, or floodplain permits.

Emergency STAA

If a temporary Emergency Activity (an activity needed to prevent an immediate risk to health, life, property, or environment) is needed, the submittal of an Emergency STAA is not required before conducting emergency activity. Notification of the Emergency Activity should be made within seventy-two (72) hours after making temporary repairs and shall include what additional work is needed for completion of the repairs.

How Do I Apply for an STAA?

The applicant shall apply electronically through DEQ’s ePortal website, unless the applicant receives an electronic submittal waiver from DEQ. Click on the ePortal dropdown box below for complete instructions.

How to get started:

  1. You will need to register online.
    1. Once the registration process is completed, a verification email with a confirmation code will be sent to the email address listed during registration.
    2. Once the email is received, the confirmation code will need to be entered on the registration screen.
    3. Failure to complete the validation process will render the account registration incomplete. If this occurs, this account will not be able to submit any requests until this process has been completed.
  2. The Responsible Official will need to apply for an electronic signature (https://eportal.adeq.state.ar.us/webfiles/ADEQ/
    ADEQ_ElectronicSignatureAgreement.pdf)

After completing the registration process, the application process can begin.

How to submit a STAA Request:

  1. Log-in using the email that was used during the registration process.
  2. Click the "Form Finder" button in the left menu or the "Finder" button in the top menu bar.
    1. Type STAA in the box above the words "Recommended Forms".
    2. Recommended forms will appear in a list.
    3. Click on the Short Term Activity Authorization (STAA) form.
  3. Click the "Begin Form Entry" button at the bottom of the webpage and follow the directions on the application.

STAA Fees

Pursuant to Ark. Code Ann. § 8-4-234(b)(2) and APC&EC Rule 9, the STAA fee shall not exceed two hundred dollars ($200) for each stream crossing, in-stream activity, or other eligible activity.

Pursuant to Ark. Code Ann. § 8-4-234(b)(5) and APC&EC Rule 9, DEQ shall waive twenty-five percent (25%) of the STAA fee for state agency, board, commission or municipality, city, or county. Therefore, the STAA fee shall not exceed one hundred fifty dollars ($150) for each stream crossing, in-stream activity, or other eligible activity.

Electronic Waivers

Waivers from electronic reporting may be granted based on the following conditions:

    1. If the operational headquarters is physically located in a geographic area (i.e. Zip Code of census tract) that is identified as under-served for broadcast internet access in the most recent from the Federal Communications Commission;
    2. If available computer access or computer capability is limited; or
    3. If the applicant is a religious community that choose not to use certain modern technologies pursuant to 40 C.F.R. §127.15(c)(1).

Clean Water Act Section 401 Water Quality Certifications

Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 401 requires state water quality certifications prior to the issuance of federal permits and licenses to ensure that proposed projects will not violate state water quality standards. The decision to issue a Section 401 water quality certification rests with the DEQ director and is based on compliance with APC&EC Rule 2, Establishing Water Quality Standards for Surface Waters of the State of Arkansas.

The majority of CWA Section 401 water quality certification requests are associated with permits issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) pursuant to CWA Section 404. Individual water quality certifications are required for projects that have the potential to impact Extraordinary Resource Waters, Ecologically Sensitive Waterbodies, or Natural and Scenic Waterways of the state.

In 2020, EPA promulgated the 2020 401 Final Rule. In late 2021 a district court remanded with vacatur the 2020 Final Rule. However, on April 6, 2022 this vacatur was stayed by the U.S. Supreme Court pending appeals in lower district court. The link below summarizes the 2020 Final Rule, which currently guides the 401 process.

For more information on EPA 401 Rule: https://www.epa.gov/cwa-401/final-rule-clean-water-act-section-401-certification-rule

Search the database of applicants for an existing 401 Water Quality Certification.

What is Involved in the Review of Section 401 Certifications?

Filing an application with USACE starts both the 404 permit and the 401 Certification processes. With the 2020 Final Rule in place, an applicant seeking 401 Water Quality Certification (WQC) and/or a 404 Permit must submit a Pre-File Meeting Request at least 30-days prior to applying for a 401 WQC. The Pre-File Meeting Request is submitted to DEQ concurrently with contacting the USACE for 404 Permitting.

The USACE determines if a project falls under a particular nationwide Permit and will send a letter authorizing your project under that nationwide permit. Projects that fall under a general nationwide permit, and are not on Extraordinary Resource Waters, Ecologically Sensitive Waterbody, or Natural and Scenic Waterway are pre-certified for 401 Certification and subject to general and specific conditions set by DEQ. DEQ has determined that these projects have minimum long term impact on waters of the state. This general 401 will be included in your issued 404 documents. You need not file anything with DEQ regarding the general 401. You may still need a STAA if working within a waterbody.

If the Corps' verification letter indicates that you must obtain an Individual 401 Water Quality Certification, you will need to file for an Individual 401 Water Quality Certification directly to DEQ. These are projects the Corp has determined do not meet the qualifications for a general nationwide permit. In addition, projects that are located on an Extraordinary Resource Water, Ecologically Sensitive Waterbody, or Natural and Scenic Waterway as determined by Rule 2 also require an Individual 401 in Arkansas.

What is required in a certification request for an individual 401 Water Quality Certification?

  • First, request a Pre-File Meeting Request with DEQ in the ePortal system at least 30-days before submitting a 401 request. DEQ many waive the meeting if it is determined that a meeting is not needed. In this case, DEQ will notify the application to move forward with 401 request.
  • A certification request is a written, signed, and dated communication from a project proponent to a certifying authority (DEQ).
  • A certification request must include the components listed in final rule section 121.5 (b) for individual licenses and permits.
  • Identify the project proponent and a point of contact
  • Identify the proposed project
  • Identify the applicable federal license or permit (usually Corp of Engineers 404 permits)
  • Identify the location and nature of any potential discharge that may result from the proposed project and the location of receiving waters
  • Include a description of any methods and means proposed to monitor the discharge and the equipment or measures planned to treat, control, or manage the discharge
  • Include a list of all other federal, interstate, tribal, state, territorial, or local agency authorizations required for the proposed project, including all approvals or denials already received
  • Contain the following statement: 'The project proponent hereby certifies that all information contained herein is true, accurate, and complete, to the best of my knowledge and belief'
  • Also contain the following statement: 'The project proponent hereby request that the certifying authority review and take action on this CWA 401 certification request within the applicable reasonable period of time.'

DEQ will act on the request if all of these requirements are met. If these requirements are not fulfilled, the request is not considered complete and will not be processed.

Acceptable methods of filing for an Individual 401 Water Quality Certification request with DEQ are eportal (preferred), or by mail.

ePortal Application

ePortal instructions for individual 401 submittal

United States Army Corp of Engineers 404 Permit

USACE is responsible for the issuance of 404 Permits. Section 404 of the Clean Water Act established this permitting program to control the discharge of dredged or fill material into waters of the U.S. This also includes utility crossings. This permit does not absolve the permittee of responsibility towards other regulations. The federal 404 permit states that the permittee must use best management practices to avoid water quality violations. DEQ must also issue a 401 Water Quality Certification for all nationwide permits issued by USACE.

The general conditions for issuance of a Section 404 Permit (regardless of type) include:

  • Prior Water Quality Certification. A 401 water quality certification from DEQ must be obtained.
  • Proper Maintenance. Any structure or fill authorized shall be of correct material, properly maintained, including maintenance to ensure public safety.
  • Erosion and Siltation Controls. Appropriate erosion and siltation controls must be used and maintained in effective operating condition during construction, and all exposed soil and other fills must be permanently stabilized at the earliest practicable date.

Examples of actions that may require 404 permits include construction, demolition and any dredge or fill in any part of surface water tributaries, including small streams, lakes, ponds, construction and mining pits and wetlands. Unless it is an emergency action, i.e., immediate threat to life or property, a permit may be required. If a permit is required, it must be obtained prior to executing any physical disturbance action.

Nationwide general permits are issued to the public at large to authorize specific activities that have minimal environmental impacts, such as bank stabilization activities or construction of farm buildings. A general permit can be issued on a state, regional, or nationwide basis. Activities authorized by a general permit require less review than an individual permit would require. Summaries of the nationwide permits are available.

If the conditions cannot be met, a regional or individual permit will be required.

USACE Arkansas Districts

Obtaining permits is the responsibility of the applicant. The state of Arkansas is divided between three different Corps of Engineers districts:

  • Little Rock District is responsible for the southern third of Missouri and most of Arkansas.
  • Vicksburg District is responsible for most of southern Arkansas.
  • Memphis District is responsible for a portion of eastern Arkansas.

To determine what district you are in, visit the USACE website and click on Arkansas Map under Regulatory Boundaries. Then contact the appropriate district via permit manager by state to apply for a permit.