New USACE Permitting Standards for Boring Near Federally Regulated Levees

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If you have a project that will require drilling in earth embankment dams and levees, you may now face an additional layer of approval. In an effort to improve public safety and reduce potential risks to dam and levee systems, the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) revised the permitting process in January 2015. Here’s what you need to know to begin navigating these new permitting regulations from USACE.

Historically, permit requests were reviewed and approved at the USACE District level. This review process will remain the same, however, a secondary review and approval is now required by the USACE Risk Management Center (RMC) in Denver, Colorado. The RMC receives the permit request from the local USACE district, completes a review and provides any comments or concerns back to the local USACE district. Prior to issuing a letter of no objection to complete the soil borings or levee subdrills (typically for pipeline installations), permittee’s must address any outstanding concerns and resubmit to the local district. For specific permitting requirements, refer to ER 1110-1-1807 on the USACE website.

Recently, the USACE clarified that soil borings within their defined 1:1 “depth distance” from the levee toe require RMC review and approval. For example, a 100-foot deep boring within 100 feet of the levee toe will require RMC review.

RMC requirements include a detailed drill plan and risk evaluation. The drill plan consists of project team experience information, detailed procedural information to complete the soil boring or levee subdrill, and existing information for the project vicinity. The risk evaluation focuses on the potential for hydraulic fracture induced by the drilling activities.

GeoEngineers successfully addressed RMC comments for levee subdrills beneath the Mississippi River and adjacent levees in 2015. We are currently working closely with the USACE personnel in the permit process for several other levee subdrills and soil borings near the levee with the USACE. The reviews provided by the agency have proven to be very comprehensive and thorough. Prospective permit submitters should review the details included in ER 1110-1-1807 and understand the additional level of review required.

Prospective project managers should allocate sufficient time and resources to complete a thorough submittal to prevent delays in the permitting process. If you have a project requiring USACE permit approval, feel free to contact GeoEngineers. We’d be happy to discuss our experience and assist clients in a successful and productive permitting experience.

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