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Protection of Waters: Disturbance of The Bed or Banks of a Protected Stream or Other Watercourse

Regulated Activities

A Protection Of Waters Permit is required for disturbing the bed or banks of a stream with a classification of AA, A or B, or with a classification of C with a standard of (T) or (TS) (disturbance may be either temporary or permanent in nature).

"Banks" means that land area immediately adjacent to and which slopes toward the bed of a watercourse and which is necessary to maintain the integrity of the watercourse. A bank will not be considered to extend more than 50 feet horizontally from the mean high water line; with the following exception: Where a generally uniform slope of 45 degrees (100%) or greater adjoins the bed of a watercourse, the bank is extended to the crest of the slope or the first definable break in slope, either a natural or constructed (road, or railroad grade) feature lying generally parallel to the watercourse.

Some examples of activities requiring this permit are:

  • placement of structures in or across a stream (i.e., bridges, culverts or pipelines);
  • fill placement for bank stabilization or to isolate a work area (i.e., rip-rap or coffer dams);
  • excavations for gravel removal or as part of a construction activity;
  • lowering stream banks to establish a stream crossing;
  • utilization of equipment in a stream to remove debris or to assist in-stream construction.

Exempt Activities

The most common activities which are exempt from the requirement to obtain a Protection of Waters Permit for Protected Streams are:

  1. Disturbance of a protected stream conducted by a town or county government which enters into a written agreement with DEC for specified categories of work undertaken in compliance with performance criteria that are protective of stream resources.
  2. Agricultural activities involving the crossing and recrossing of a stream by livestock or farm equipment at an established crossing.
  3. Withdrawal of irrigation waters where no alteration of the stream bed or banks is required.
  4. Removal of fallen tree limbs or tree trunks where material can be cabled and pulled from the stream without disruption of the stream bed or banks, utilizing equipment placed on or above the stream bank (i.e., no in-stream use of equipment is necessary).

Note: The exempt activities listed only represent exemptions for this section of the Protection of Waters Permit Program. Other DEC permits under other sections of the Protection of Waters Permit Program or under other Articles of the Environmental Conservation Law may be required.

Is Your Project Minor or Major?

Review time frames, procedures and requirements for public notice for applications are different for Minor and Major projects under the Uniform Procedures Act requirements (6NYCRR Part 621). Generally, Minor projects have shorter review time frames and require less public review.

Minor Protected Stream projects include:

  1. Repair or in-kind replacement of existing structures.
  2. Disturbances of less than 100 linear feet along any 1,000 feet of watercourse.

All other activities are considered Major Protected Stream projects for purposes of review and public notice as required by the Uniform Procedures Act. For additional information, see our webpage Getting an Environmental Permit.


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  • NYS DEC
    Division of Environmental Permits
    4th Floor
    625 Broadway
    Albany, NY 12233-1750
    518-402-9167
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