Water Quality Certification


An applicant for a federal license or permit to conduct an activity that may result in a discharge to a navigable water of the United States must supply the federal licensing authority with a certification from the State that any such discharge will comply with State water quality standards. The federal license or permit may not be issued until water quality certification has been issued or waived. DEP may add conditions to the certification, and these must become conditions of the federal license.


Where possible, the DEP has combined the decision concerning water quality certification with the review of an application for a state permit that already requires compliance with state water quality standards. In this case, the issuance of the order approving the project constitutes both the state permit and the water quality certification. This may occur with reviews pursuant to any of the following permits. Follow the links indicated for materials related to these permits.

  • NRPA permit-- Natural Resources Protection Act Page
    Hydropower project permit (new/expanded capacity or maintenance and repair) -- Hydro&Dams Page 
    LUPC Development permit -- LUPC website
  • For a discharge licensed under a federal NPDES permit, EPA sends a draft federal permit to DEP for review. DEP provides an order issuing, waiving, or denying the certification within 60 days. Conditions may be added. If the 60 days expires, the comment opportunity is waived.
  • For a FERC license that does not require a state hydropower permit, the DEP will provide an order issuing, waiving, or denying certification based upon information submitted with an application for water quality certification (hydropower project licensing/relicensing only). The application form is available on the Hydro&Dams Page.

Certifying agency

The Land Use Planning Commission (LUPC) has been designated the "certifying agency" for all activities located wholly within areas of LUPC regulatory jurisdiction and subject to LUPC permitting review and approval under the Land Use Planning Law or the Maine Waterway Development and Conservation Act. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has been designated by the Governor of the State as the certifying agency for issuance of Section 401 water quality certification for all activities in the state not subject to Land Use Planning Commission permitting and review.

LUPC and DEP have a "memorandum of agreement" providing for cooperation between the agencies on certification reviews.


General questions concerning water quality certifications for federally-licensed hydropower projects may be directed to Laura Paye at (207) 219-9563. Questions concerning certification of a specific project should be directed to the appropriate DEP project manager.