Issue Profile
Agricultural Irrigation Ponds

Issued: August 1998        Contact: (800) 452-1942

If you are thinking of building an irrigation pond for your farm, the following questions and answers may be helpful to you. If you have additional questions about DEP permits, please call the nearest DEP office. The addresses and telephone numbers are listed at the end of this paper. The information below applies only to irrigation ponds for existing FARMS.  DEP requirements are different for ponds serving other purposes.

Do I need a DEP permit to build an irrigation pond?

You may need a permit depending on where the pond will be located. If you can build the irrigation pond in upland or an isolated fresh water wetland, generally, you will not need a permit from the DEP*. However, building a pond in or near (within 100 feet of) a river, stream, or brook will need a permit from DEP. Ponds involving the disturbance of soil near a river, stream, or brook, or the construction of a permanent intake structure into a river, stream, or brook may qualify for the simple Permit-by-rule (PBR) program. Ponds that will be constructed in a stream or brook may qualify for the new Irrigation Pond General Permit program (IPGP). If the project can not meet PBR or IPGP standards, you will need to file for an individual permit under the Natural Resources Protection Act (NRPA).

* Note: If the pond site has "significant wildlife habitat," you will need to file for an individual NRPA permit. That permit may be difficult to obtain because of the potential impacts on the habitat. DEP staff is available to help growers decide what type of permit they will need, if any.

What is Permit-by-Rule?

"Permit-by-rule" is the shortest, simplest permit process that the DEP uses. The DEP has an issue profile sheet that fully discusses the PBR program. Please call the DEP for PBR information if you plan to build a pond near a river, stream, or brook. or put a permanent intake structure into a river, stream, or brook.

What is a General Permit?

The "General Permit" is a simplified permit review process used by the DEP. The IPGP permit application asks for more information than a PBR notice form, but less than an individual permit application. The process is based on "performance standards". Performance standards are specific conditions the landowner agrees to meet when he/she submits an application to the DEP. If the project qualifies (meets the eligibility criteria), the IPGP application may be submitted. If the Department finds that the application is complete and the performance standards for pond construction will be met, the general permit will be issued.

What are the qualifications needed for the IPGP?

For the applicant to qualify for an IPGP, the farm must have an irrigation management plan; the stream can not contain significant habitat for fish, wildlife, or plants; and the DEP must conduct a site assessment.

What is an irrigation management plan?

The "irrigation management plan" is a master plan for water use. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), University of Maine Cooperative Extension Service, and the irrigation equipment supplier may be able to provide information needed in this plan. The IPGP requires the following information in the irrigation management plan: the total number of acres to be irrigated, the amount of water needed, the potential sources of water for irrigation, and water practices that will be used to minimize water usage.

What standards do I have to meet to get a IPGP?

In general: the dam must be designed to the Natural Resources Conservation Service standards by a professional engineer; the dam fill material must be specified by the engineer and compacted properly; the outlet must pass a minimum flow; the outlet must pass water from the bottom of the pond; erosion and sedimentation must be minimized; a buffer strip must be maintained around the pond; and construction must occur between July 15 and October 1. For specific requirements, see section 480-Y, "Creation of Agricultural Irrigation Ponds" in the NRPA (statutory handout available from DEP).

How do I apply for an IPGP?

First, you should prepare an irrigation management plan. Second, you should contact the DEP or the County SWCD District Conservationist about setting up a site assessment. Third, following a successful site assessment, you complete the IPGP application form. Copies of the IPGP application form are available at all DEP offices. You will need a professional engineer to help with parts of the form. The NRCS may be able to help. Otherwise, you will have to contact a private engineer. Once the application is complete, send it to the nearest DEP office for processing along with a check for the current fee made payable to Treasurer, State of Maine. Fees must accompany each application when submitted.

How long will it take to get a general permit?

It will take a maximum of 45 days. The DEP will use up to 15 days to make sure the application is complete, and 30 days to make sure the standards for the general permit will be met.

What if I need an individual permit?

The DEP recommends that anyone planning to complete the individual permit application contact the nearest DEP office and set up a pre-application meeting. A staff person can assist you with the requirements of this permit process.

Will I also need a permit from the local and federal governments?

Yes, you may need both. Please contact your local Code Enforcement Officer, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for more information about their programs. These other government agencies may be available to attend the site assessment. Requirements of the local and federal governments can be discussed at that time.

For more information:

DEP Southern Maine Regional Office: 312 Canco Road, Portland, 822-6300
DEP Eastern Maine Regional Office: 106 Hogan Road, Bangor, 941-4570
DEP: Northern Maine Regional Office: 1235 Central Drive, Presque Isle, 764-0477
DEP Augusta: Ray Building, Hospital Street, 287-3901