The Corps regulatory role extends back to the River and Harbor Act of 1899, which authorized the Secretary of the Army to grant permits to prevent the unauthorized obstruction or alteration of any navigable waterway in the United States.
In 1972, Section 404 of the Clean Water Act authorized the Corps to issue permits, after notice and opportunity for public hearings, for the discharge of dredged or fill material into U.S. waters at specified disposal sites. The selection of disposal sites must be in accordance with EPA guidelines developed in conjunction with the Secretary of the Army, which are knows as 404(b)(1) Guidelines.
These laws form the backbone of the Regulatory program, but there are other environmental and cultural heritage laws with which coastal engineering projects must comply.
The Corps uses the public notice and public hearing to maintain involvement with the people affected by projects covered in the Regulatory program. They also work with a number of State and Federal agencies when evaluating permit decisions. These collaborative efforts and external safeguards help ensure that the permitting process is transparent, responsive to the public interest, and considerate of environmental quality.