An Examination of the Virginia Department of Transportation's 404 General Permit Program

Report No: 88-R18

Published in 1988

About the report:

Several state and federal statutes require that the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) obtain permits for any road construction activity that impacts wetlands and other bodies of water. These "§ 404 permits" are issued by the u.s. Army Corps of Engineers and the Virginia Marine Resources Commission after several state and federal agencies have had an opportunity to review the permit application. Prior to 1982, the VDOT had to wait two to nine months for approval of a § 404 permit application. In an effort to streamline the permit application process, the VDOT established a General Permit Program in 1982 to cover the relatively small, uncontroversial projects that comprise the bulk of VDOT construction activity. The goal of the Program was to expedite the permit application process through the use of monthly interagency coordination group meetings at which reviewing agency comments were transmitted directly to the VDOT. The scope of this preliminary study was threefold: (1) a survey of the state and federal laws and regulations that require the VDOT to obtain permits for activity affecting wetlands and water bodies; (2) an explanation of the process by which the VDOT obtains these permits; and (3) pinpointing potential and existing problem areas in the VDOT's General Permit Program. The results of this study show that the General Permit Program has theoretically met its goal of expediting the § 404 permit application process by removing several obstacles formerly encountered by the VDOT. The Program is free of several factors including public notice requirements and the public comment period that cause delays for other state transportation agencies. Additionally, those factors that do sometimes cause delay in the General Permit Program also cause problems in most other east coast States as well. Finally, representatives of the agencies that review § 404 permit applications generally feel that this Program has successfully streamlined the permit application process while still ensuring adequate environmental protection.

Disclaimer Statement:The contents of this report reflect the views of the author(s), who is responsible for the facts and the accuracy of the data presented herein. The contents do not necessarily reflect the official views or policies of the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Commonwealth Transportation Board, or the Federal Highway Administration. This report does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation. Any inclusion of manufacturer names, trade names, or trademarks is for identification purposes only and is not to be considered an endorsement.

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Eric Paltell

Last updated: December 29, 2023

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