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Water Quality Certification

A. Legal Authority

  • Clean Water Act, as amended, 33 U.S.C. 1251, et seq.
  • Chapter 342D, HRS, Water Pollution
  • Title 11, Chapter 54, HAR, Department of Health, Water Quality Standards


B. Purpose

A Water Quality Certification (WQC) Permit is used to certify that any action involving a federal license or permit does not, or will not, violate applicable state Water Quality Standards.

C. Applicability to Aquaculture

A WQC is required by §401 of the Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq., for any applicant for a federal license or permit (in this case Department of the Army permit) to conduct any activity, including, but not limited to, the construction or operation of aquaculture facilities which may result in any discharge into navigable waters of the U.S. The DOH Director will issue the certification if there is reasonable assurance that applicable water quality standards will not be violated and the best practicable methods of control will be applied to a discharge from the operation.

A WQC will be needed to restore a coastal Hawaiian fishpond. However, offshore aquaculture projects do not require the certification.

D. Administering Agency

The Department of Health, Clean Water Branch is responsible for administering the Water Quality Certification, which is issued by the Department Director.

Clean Water Branch
Environmental Management Division
Department of Health
State of Hawaiʻi
919 Ala Moana Blvd., Room 301
Honolulu, Hawaiʻi 96814-4920
Phone: 808-586-4309
Fax: 808-586-4352
Web site: (see web site for Neighbor Island Branch Office information: Kauai; Maui; Hilo, Hawaiʻi; and Kona, Hawaiʻi)

E. Information Requirements

A WQC application includes the following information:

  • Owner information;
  • General contractor information;
  • Emergency contact information;
  • Project site information;
  • Associated permits or licenses;
  • Receiving state water information;
  • Project description;
  • Description of existing environment and a description of the facility or activity, the discharge from construction and operation, the potential environmental effects from construction activities;
  • Project schedule;
  • Site-specific best management practices (BMP’s) plan;
  • Mitigation compensation plan; and
  • Supporting documents.

F. Public Participation

The DOH Director may provide public notice of a WQC application and an opportunity for public comment or hearing, upon request or at the Director’s own determination. A public hearing may be required depending on a case-by-case basis.

G. Process Time

The Director is required to act on a request for certification within one year. If the Director fails or refuses to act on a request for certification within one year after receipt of a complete application, then the certification requirements shall be waived with respect to the federal applications in question.

H. Sequence of Filing

The WQC permit is required prior to the issuance of the subject federal approval or permit. Therefore, an applicant should apply for the certification at the earliest feasible time and in conjunction with the federal action being requested.

I. Cost

The filing fee for a Section 401 WQC permit is $1000, except for an activity which meets the DOH conditional blanket certification criteria issued to the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, Honolulu District ( Public Notice and Hearing fees will be paid by the applicant and will vary with the project.

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Department of Agriculture – Aquaculture and Livestock Services
99-941 Halawa Valley Street
Aiea, Hawaiʻi 96701-5602
Phone: 808-483-7130
Fax: 808-483-7110
Web site:


Pacific Region Aquaculture and Coastal Resource Hub
2525 Correa Road, HIG 238
Honolulu, HI 96822
Phone: (808) 956-7031

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