Planning a project which will impact wetlands, streams, rivers, lakes, or other regulated water resources and anticipating how IDEM will respond to your application can be difficult. In an effort to avoid delays, confusion, and ensure that Indiana's environment is protected, IDEM offers early coordination for all applicants who need to apply for a Section 401 Water Quality Certification.
What is Early Coordination?
Early coordination is an informal, completely voluntary (though recommended) process where you meet with IDEM project managers to discuss a project that is in its early planning stages.
If your project is large, complex, or has the potential to impact sensitive areas, IDEM recommends that you contact program staff to discuss your project. You may also wish to contact IDEM staff if you have never applied for permits before or to simply gather information on needed permits. IDEM project managers each cover a specific territory, so please contact the specific IDEM project manager for the county in which you will be working.
Can I meet with an IDEM project manager staff to discuss my project before I apply for permits?
Yes, and we recommend that you do so.
IDEM staff refer to these meetings as pre-application meetings, where IDEM Section 401 Water Quality Certification staff will review your proposed plans and discuss permit requirements, potential problems, timeframes, and ways to change your project to reduce or further minimize impacts.
You can call, email, or write a letter to IDEM project managers to open the lines of discussion regarding your project. It may also be beneficial for IDEM staff to meet you or your environmental consultant on-site to discuss your project. Contact the corresponding IDEM's project manager to arrange a pre-application meeting or discussion on a project. Staff from the 401 program may, if needed, invite staff from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to attend on-site meetings. IDEM staff may also provide you with contact information for IDNR and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers staff and request that you contact these agencies to invite them to an early coordination meeting.
What types of activities/project trigger the need for IDEM Section 401 Water Quality Certification?
- Filling a wetland
- Excavating a wetland
- Mechanical clearing in a wetland (using heavy equipment such as bulldozers to remove or clear trees and stumps)
- Constructing a pond in a wetland
- Stabilizing a streambank or shoreline
- Relocating a stream
- Constructing a roadway, bridge or other pedestrian/vehicle crossing in or over a stream
- Constructing, refacing, or repairing any seawall
- Constructing an underwater beach
- Filling out into a lake, stream, or river
- Dredging a wetland, stream, lake, or river
- Dredging or excavation of any potentially contaminated sediments.
- Sand, gravel, peat, or other related mining activity within any waterbody.
- Channelizing or removing meanders from any stream, ditch, or river.
- Excavating a stream to construct in-stream stormwater detention/retention.
- Construction of any type of permanent or temporary dam, causeway, or other related structure.
This list is NOT all-inclusive. There are other activities that trigger the need for Section 401 Water Quality Certification from IDEM and a Section 404 Dredge and Fill Permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but the aforementioned activities are more common.
How can I tell if wetlands are located on my project site?
Wetlands do not have to have standing water in them in order to be regulated by IDEM and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Determining the boundaries of wetlands is a task that must be conducted by a qualified wetland consultant. Wetlands are delineated by carefully examining a site for the presence of wetland indicators. In order to be a legal wetland, an area must have all three of the following present:
- wetland vegetation
- the presence of hydric (wetland) soils
- indicators of hydrology (the presence of surface water or waterlogged soils) for a sufficient period of time in most years to influence the types of plants and soils that occur in that area, in order to legally be considered a wetland.
In order to know if wetlands are on your property, you must hire a wetland or environmental consultant to conduct a wetland delineation on the property. The wetland consultant will put together a report for you, called a wetland delineation report. This report must be submitted to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for review and approval before the delineation report is considered accurate and legal. Basically, a wetland delineation report means nothing without a letter from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers stating the jurisdiction of the wetland(s), and whether or not the Corps concurs with the wetland boundaries delineated in the report. The Corps has the responsibility of making wetland determinations and determining the limits of federal jurisdiction. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will write a letter to you once they have reviewed your wetland delineation report. Keep this letter, and your wetland delineation report, in a safe place as you will need to submit a copy of both to IDEM if you wish to apply for a Section 401 Water Quality Certification.
Be sure to read IDEM's Section 401 Program Frequently Asked Questions for more information on wetland delineations and tips on how to hire an environmental consultant.
What activities would IDEM have comments on?
Any project requiring an Individual Section 401 Water Quality Certification is a good candidate for early coordination, and it is likely that IDEM staff will have comments on how to further avoid or minimize impacts on your property.
Certain projects such as the rehabilitation of bridges and the refacing of concrete seawalls, which still require IDEM 401 Water Quality Certification, will often not require specific comments provided that:
- The structure will not be altered from its original horizontal and vertical alignment;
- The activities involve maintenance, such as refacing, replacing bridge decks, etc; or
- The activities are primarily located outside of a wetland or other waterbody.
How do I contact IDEM?
For projects where you wish to discuss your project and receive specific comments from the Section 401 Program staff, follow these directions to get in contact with our project managers.
To provide the most efficient service and maintain single points of contact, we are divided geographically; each IDEM project manager is responsible for a set of counties within Indiana. When calling, e-mailing, or writing to the 401 Water Quality Certification program, first determine the county in which the project is located, and then contact the appropriate project manager. View the project manager map to determine whom to contact.
What information should I have in hand and available before I contact an IDEM project manager?
To obtain the most useful, project specific comments, we recommend you provide as much information as possible to the IDEM project manager. You should be able to provide many items on the following list, depending on how far along you are in the planning process:
- A detailed description of the project, and information on its purpose, location, and all buildings, structures, detention ponds, and facilities to be built.
- A map showing the location of the project, and the project boundaries – this map should preferably be a United States Geological Survey (USGS) 7.5 minute quadrangle map with the project's Section, Township, and Range noted.
- A copy of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) soil survey map showing the project site and the project boundaries.
- Any available diagrams, sketches, cross-sections, and overviews depicting structures or facilities to be located on the site in a proposed alignment or orientation.
- A wetland delineation for the site
- Any other information gathered as a part of a Phase 1 site assessment.