These are very serious situations that could result in the loss of life, the loss of property, and/or a significant economic hardship if steps to remedy the situation are not immediately pursued. This may include emergencies due to a natural disaster (e.g., flood, hurricane, earthquake, etc.) or a catastrophic (sudden and complete) failure of a facility due to an external cause (e.g., a bridge collapse after being struck by a barge). The USACE addresses the permitting process for emergency situations in its regulations at 33 CFR 325.2(e)(4). The USACE regulations define an “emergency” as “a situation which would result in an unacceptable hazard to life, a significant loss of property, or an immediate, unforeseen, and significant economic hardship if corrective action requiring a permit is not undertaken within a time period less than the normal time needed to process the application under standard procedures.”
In emergency situations, USACE Division Engineers, in coordination with the USACE District Engineers, are authorized to approve special processing procedures to expedite permit issuance. The USACE also uses alternative permitting procedures, such as general permits and letters of permission, when appropriate, to expedite processing of permit applications for emergencies. In addition, USACE regulations at 33 CFR 323.4 state certain activities involving the discharge of dredged or fill material are not prohibited by or otherwise subject to regulation including some maintenance and emergency reconstruction activities listed at 33 CFR 323.4(a)(2). The appropriate USACE office should be contacted immediately when an emergency situation has been identified.