The US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) issues Nationwide Permits (NWPs) to expedite the authorization of activities that minimally affect the aquatic environment. The NWPs have been issued nationally by the USACE Headquarters every five years since 2007.
The NWP Program reissuance and expiration process can be confusing and generates a lot of questions whenever the five-year cycle is nearing its end and about to start over. While the permitting process can be complicated, ESA’s specialists are here to help.
You may need to apply for a new NWP verification letter if one of the following is true:
- Your project received an NWP verification letter from USACE under the 2017 version of the NWPs, and the project has not completed construction.
- Your project received an NWP verification letter under the 2017 version of the NWPs, and the project will not start construction or be under contract by March 18, 2022. It’s important to note that most projects with a 2017 NWP verification letter that have started construction or are under contract will need to complete the permitted activities within 12 months (by March 18, 2023). This 12-month period is known as the “grandfathering period.”
While the permits are typically issued in one large group, the five-year cycle was disrupted in 2021 when the USACE reauthorized the NWPs in two separate batches—a year earlier than they would normally have been issued. Collectively, these are referred to as the “2021 NWPs.”
In summary, there are three sets of NWPs are currently in play:
Effective March 19, 2017; Expires on February 24, 2022 (but see FAQ 1 below)
2021 NWPs (1st batch): Effective March 15, 2021; Expires March 14, 2026
2021 NWPs (2nd batch): Effective February 25, 2022; Expires March 14, 2026
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
ESA has assembled the following FAQ list to help advise the regulated community and, in particular, clients that have existing NWP verification letters that may be about to expire.
- The 2017 NWPs expire on February 24, 2022, but my verification letter says it expires on March 18, 2022; which date is correct?
The 2017 NWPs expire on February 24, 2022, and after that date, USACE cannot authorize any new projects under the 2017 NWPs. For permittees holding a 2017 NWP verification letter, those letters expire on March 18, 2022 (for more on this, see questions 2 and 3 below).
- What does USACE mean by “activities have commenced”? Should I send proof to USACE that work commenced?
It means that some portion of the authorized activity (construction) in waters of the U.S. must be underway (or under contract to do so) prior to the expiration date of March 18, 2022. In general, USACE does not request or expect proof of commencement prior to the NWP expiration date.
- What if I have a 2017 NWP, and I can’t commence work or be under contract to do so by the March 18, 2022, expiration date?
In this case, you will need to request a new NWP verification letter from USACE under the 2021 NWPs. Reach out to ESA to learn more about how to do this.
- For completion of work within the 12-month grandfathering period, does that mean my entire project must be completed?
No, only the authorized impacts in waters of the U.S. must be completed in the 12-month period. Work in uplands does not need a permit and can continue.
- What if I can commence work (or be under contract to do so) before my 2017 NWP expires, but I can’t complete the in-water work within the 12-month grandfathering period?
In this case, you will need to request a new NWP verification letter from USACE under the 2021 NWPs for any remaining work in waters of the U.S. that was not completed by the 12-month deadline.
- What if I have a verification letter from USACE under the “1st batch” 2021 NWPs? Do I need to worry about the NWPs that are expiring in March 2022?
No, your NWP does not expire until March 14, 2026.
- What if I have a verification letter that includes both the 2017 and one or more of the “1st batch” 2021 NWPs?
You will need to track two expirations dates. We suggest you identify which activities were authorized under which NWPs in your USACE verification letter. If it’s not clear, contact USACE or ESA for clarification or assistance.
- I applied for a 2017 NWP, and my application is still pending. Will I get a 2017 or 2021 NWP verification letter?
The answer to this one is “it depends.” If the USACE project manager gets to your application on February 25, 2022, or later, they can only issue a 2021 NWP. Before February 25, 2022, they could issue a 2017 NWP. Many clients prefer to get a verification under the “new” NWPs so that they have the full five-year period to start their project; however, there may be clients who prefer the 2017 NWP terms and conditions and can start their project quickly (before March 18, 2022) and complete it within the 12-month grandfathering period. In either case, ESA recommends clients with pending NWP applications contact USACE and express their preference for either a 2017 or 2021 NWP. USACE may or may not be able to accommodate a client’s request, but communication is key.
Still have questions? Reach out to ESA permitting specialist Dan Swenson.
Table of Nationwide Permits by Year for 2017 and 2021.
|NWP Cycle||Nationwide Permits By Number||Effective Date||Expiration Date|
|2017||1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54||March 19, 2017||February 24, 2022 (but verification letters expire on March 18, 2022)|
|12, 21, 29, 39, 40, 42, 43, 44, 48, 50, 51, 52, 55, 56, 57, 58||March 15, 2021||March 14, 2026|
|2021 “2nd batch”||1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 15, 17, 18, 19, 20, 22, 23, 24, 25, 27, 28, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 41, 45, 46, 49, 53, 54, 59||February 25, 2022||March 14, 2026|