The Army Corps of Engineers recently proposed to reissue the existing NWPs (PDF) authorizing the discharge of dredged or fill material into waters of the United States for specified projects.  For those projects, NWPs can take the place of individual permits (PDF) under section 404 of the Clean Water Act.  Obtaining permit coverage through an NWP is generally quicker and less expensive than obtaining an individual 404 permit—so, for projects that fall within their scope, these NWPs have the potential to streamline one part of the approval process.  

Importantly for renewable energy developers, the Army Corps also proposes to issue two new NWPs—NWP A, for land-based renewable energy generation facilities and NWP B for water-based renewable energy generation pilot projects. 

NWP A would authorize fill related to the construction, expansion, or modification of land-based renewable energy projects—including solar, biomass, wind, and geothermal projects—and their attendant infrastructure such as roads, parking lots, utility lines, and water-management facilities.  The Army Corps proposes to limit NWP A to projects affecting ½ acre or less of waters of the United States and 300 linear feet or less of streams (unless the district engineer makes a finding that exceeding the 300-foot limit would have minimal adverse affects).  Pre-construction notification of the Army Corps would be required to use NWP. 

NWP B would authorize structures and work in navigable waters of the United States and fill in waters of the United States for the construction, expansion, and modification of hydrokinetic or wind energy pilot generation projects and their attendant infrastructure, including utility lines to transfer energy to land-based distribution facilities.  NWP B would have similar limits on fill as NWP A (½ an acre and 300 feet of streams), and it would also require pre-construction notification of the Army Corps.  No more than 10 generation units (e.g., wind turbines) would be authorized under this NWP. 

The Army Corps is taking comments on the proposed NWPs through April 18, 2011.