Skip to main content

401 Water Quality Certification Program

Construction activities occurring in Illinois waterways, floodplains and wetlands often require both State and federal authorization. Anyone proposing to construct, operate or maintain any dam, dock, pier, wharf, sluice, levee, dike, building, roadway, utility crossing , piling, wall, fence or other structure in, or dredge, fill or otherwise alter the bed and banks of any stream, lake, wetland, floodplain or floodway subject to State and federal regulatory jurisdiction may be required to obtain approvals from the Illinois EPA and other state, federal or local authorities. Primarily, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Office of Water Resources (IDNR/OWR) are involved in permitting of such construction activities. Further information on these agencies can be found at the Corps Regulatory websites provided below, or IDNR/OWR webpage here.

Program Overview

The Illinois EPA (Agency) issues water quality certifications pursuant to Section 401 of the federal Clean Water Act (CWA). This certification must be granted or waived prior to issuance of any federal permit that authorizes a potential discharge of dredged or fill material to a waters of the U.S. CWA Section 401 specifies that the Agency must determine whether the proposed activities would meet the state water quality standards at 35 Ill. Adm. Code, Subtitle C: Water pollution.  The Agency's technical review focuses on potential impacts on water quality caused by the proposed construction and alteration of the waterbody. A 401 certification granted by the Agency may contain conditions and monitoring requirements deemed necessary to assure compliance with water quality standards or other applicable requirements. Conditions placed in the certification become conditions of the federal permit. The certification request may be denied if the Agency determines that applicable water quality standards or other requirements would not be met.

Statutory and Regulatory Authorities

Section 401 Application Guidelines

Section 401 of the CWA prescribes that a certifying agency shall have no more than one year to act on a certification request. To adhere to this federal requirement a "certification request" shall consist of the following items:

  1. A copy of the completed application for federal permit (DA Form ENG FORM 4345 for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ) or the Joint Application Form which may be obtained from a Corps of Engineers’ website.

  2. Verification documentation that the federal agency has determined that the project requires State 401 certification. (see below).

Certification Request Validation

For an application to be considered a valid certification request, all of the above items must be submitted as a package to the Agency. The verification documentation must contain unambiguous written confirmation from a federal agency's representative that an individual (case-specific) Section 401 water quality certification is required from the State of Illinois. The Agency will notify both the applicant and the person representing the federal agency of the date of the Agency's receipt of a valid certification request. If the Agency determines that a submittal is not a valid certification request, the Agency will attempt to notify the applicant that the submittal is not a valid certification request.

Information Requirements

An Illinois EPA Section 401 certification review includes an antidegradation assessment pursuant to 35 Ill. Adm. Code Section 302.105. Please call the Agency at 217/782-3362 for additional information.

Who Must Apply

If you still have questions about whether your project needs a case-specific 401 water quality certification, you should first contact the federal agency that has jurisdiction over your project. Most construction activities primarily fall under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) CWA Section 404 authority which regulates discharges of dredged or fill material to a waters of the U.S.  If you need assistance with information regarding the Corps' Nationwide or Regional CWA Section 404 permit programs and water quality certification applicability, please contact the appropriate Corps regulatory district. There are five (5) regulatory districts with jurisdiction in Illinois listed below:

Where to Apply, Fees, and What to Expect

A certification request may be submitted electronically or by mail to the Agency at the addresses provided on the "Protecting Illinois Waters" form. The Agency will send a notification by email of its receipt of your submittal. A certification fee is required under Section 12.6 of the Act. The Agency cannot grant a certification without payment of the certification fee. The Agency may contact an applicant for additional technical information or for notifications regarding the Agency's public participation process.

Other Permits

Your construction project may also require authorization or a permit under other Illinois EPA permit programs, some of which are listed below. Permits are also required for construction and operation of drinking water facilities and related infrastructure. If you have any questions about these programs, please contact the Agency at 217 782-0610 or find out more at the Water Pollution Control Permit webpage.

Important Links