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Watershed Management Permits


Activities that affect lakes, ponds, rivers, streams, and wetlands may require one or more permits from the Agency of Natural Resources and other agencies. The Watershed Management Division administers several such permit programs, and works cooperatively with other permitting agencies. This page provides an overview.

To view permits recently issued by the Watershed Management Division and related notices, click here.

Permit Assistance

To assist permit applicants, and potential permit applicants, Agency permit specialists staff each of five regional offices. The Agency also publishes a Permit Handbook that contains detailed information about all state permits and many permits issued by other state and federal agencies. Information on how to contact a permit specialist, an on-line version of the Permit Handbook, and other general permit information are available by clicking here.


Activities in Wetlands

Projects that will affect wetlands or their buffer zones (up to 100 feet from the wetland boundary), may require a Vermont Wetland Permit . They may also require a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. If that is the case, a Section 401 Water Quality Certification from the Watershed Management Division will be required.

Projects that come under Act 250 jurisdiction will be required to address wetland issues during review as well.

Water Quality Certification (401)

Under Section 401(a)(1) of the Clean Water Act (33 USC § 1341), states have the authority to review and approve, condition, waive, or deny water quality certification for any activity that is subject to a Federal permit or license and may might result in a discharge to waters of the United States. In Vermont, Section 401 Water Quality Certification applications are reviewed to determine if the activity will comply with the Vermont Water Quality Standards and any other requirements of state law. A federal license or permit may not be granted if certification has been denied.


Construction Activity Disturbing One or More Acres

In accordance with the Federal Clean Water Act, the General Permit for Stormwater Runoff from Construction Sites (CGP) regulates the discharge of stormwater runoff from construction sites in the state of Vermont where the activities result in the disturbance of one or more acres of land. The term disturbance includes all clearing, grading and excavation activities. Projects that are less than one acres in size but are part of a phased or larger common plan of development need coverage under the CGP if the total area of disturbance will be one or more acres. In some cases, the activities must require individual permit coverage. Visit the Construction General Permit webpage for additional information.


Construction in or near Rivers and Streams

Construction in a river or stream on or within the banks may require a Stream Alteration Permit if 10 or more cubic yards of material will be involved in a perennial stream. There is an exemption for small-scale gravel removal by riparian landowners, but the gravel removal must be reported to the Agency prior to excavation and must be for personal use. An Act 250 Permit may be required for projects in rivers and streams or within a buffer zone along the bank. Projects in, under, or over any rivers and streams may require a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and a Section 401 Water Quality Certification from the Watershed Management Division. We recommend that anyone contemplating work in or near rivers or streams contact a river management engineer early in the planning stage.


Construction in or near Lakes and Ponds

Effective July 1, 2014, the Vermont Legislature passed shoreland regulations that apply to activities within 250 feet of a lake’s mean water level for all lakes greater than 10 acres in size. The Shoreland Protection Act (V.S.A Chapter 49A, §1441 – 1452) establishes a new state regulation for guiding shoreland development. The intent of the Act is to prevent degradation of water quality in lakes, preserve habitat and natural stability of shorelines, and maintain the economic benefits of lakes and their shorelands. The Act defines clear standards for the creation of buildings, driveways, and cleared areas in shorelands. The Act seeks to balance good shoreland management and shoreland development, but also recognizes that many shoreland properties in Vermont are already developed or are small lots that cannot meet the new standards. These properties are “grandfathered” until the owner proposes redevelopment. In these cases state officials will work with homeowners so that standards are met to the extent possible. Visit the Shoreland Permit Program for additional information.

Any project that encroaches beyond the normal summer water level of a lake or pond that is a public body of water may require a Lake Encroachment Permit. Encroachments include retaining walls or riprap to control shoreline erosion, commercial docks, large docks, dredging or filling, and repairs or replacements of existing encroachments.

If wetlands would be affected by the project, a Vermont Wetland Permit from the Water Quality Division may be required.

A permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) may be required for projects or activities which encroach beyond the ordinary high water mark of Lake Champlain or Lake Memphremagog, including seasonal docks, moorings, jetties, beach replenishment or grading, shoreline stabilization, and water intakes. A Corps permit may be required for projects on other lakes and ponds in the state too. They may also require a Section 401 Water Quality Certification from the Watershed Management Division before the Corps permit is issued.

Some projects in lakes or ponds or within the buffer zone along the shoreline may require an Act 250 Permit.



Construction, reconstruction, alteration, modification, or removal of dams that can impound more than 500,000 cubic feet of water or other liquid require a Dam Order from the Department of Environmental Conservation. This program is managed by the Dam Safety Section of the Facilities Engineering Division. If the dam is associated with a hydroelectric project, it is regulated by the Public Service Board under 10 V.S.A. Chapter 43.

Some smaller dams may require a Stream Alteration Permit. In addition, dams may require a Vermont Wetland Permit, an Act 250 Permit, a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Section 401 Water Quality Certification, as well as local permits. Finally, any project that will obstruct the movement of fish requires authorization from the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife.


Water Withdrawals

Water withdrawals in both streams and lakes usually require one or more permits. Act 250, Stream Alteration (in rivers), or Shoreland Encroachment (in lakes and reservoirs) permits may be needed, as well as a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. As with other projects requiring a federal permit, a Section 401 Water Quality Certification from the Agency will be required before the permit is issued.

For most types of water withdrawals (except those for snowmaking), the Agency has adopted a procedure that defines the standards and process used by the Agency during its review of project proposals. The procedure defines how the Agency will determine the minimum streamflow that is necessary to meet Vermont Water Quality Standards.

For snowmaking water withdrawals, the Agency has developed rules as directed by 10 V.S.A. 1031-1032. The rules serve the same purpose as the Agency procedure, but apply specifically to snowmaking projects.


Aquatic Nuisance Control

An Aquatic Nuisance Control Permit is required to control nuisance aquatic plants, insects or other aquatic life in Vermont watersways. The use of chemical herbicides, bottom barrier materials or powered mechanical devices may also require a Vermont Wetland Permit. Information regarding draft permits are on public notice is available on the ANC Public Notice Webpage.


Stormwater Discharges

There are currently five distinct Federal and State permits which regulate the runoff of stormwater. A permit could be required for impervious surfaces (roads, buildings, parking lots, etc), for restoration of impaired waters in a few select watersheds, for stormwater runoff from certain industrial activities, for municipal management of stormwater in certain large municipalities, and for construction site runoff.  Click here for additional information on stormwater permits.

Updated February 11,, 2015

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VT DEC Watershed Management Division 1 National Life Drive, Main 2  Montpelier, VT  05620-3522  Tele: 802-828-1535   Fax: 802-828-1544


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