5C Waiver


On June 16, 2023, the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (Regional Water Board) adopted Order No. R1-2023-0034, renewing the Waiver of Waste discharge Requirements and General Water Quality Certification for Road Management and Activities Conducted Under the Five Counties Salmonid Conservation Program in the North Coast Region (5C Waiver).

The Five Counties Salmonid Conservation Program (5C Program) is a county road management program designed to protect salmonid species and water quality during county road maintenance and project activities. The 5C Program staff developed A Water Quality and Habitat Protection Manual for County Road Maintenance (5C Roads Manual), which contains best management practices (BMPs) for road management activities, and the Direct Inventory of Roads and Treatments (DIRT) methodology to inventory, prioritize, and prescribe treatments for erosion sites associated with county roads.

There are three main components to the Waiver, all of which rely on the implementation of procedures and BMPs contained within the 5C Manual. These are: 1) a Waiver of Waste Discharge Requirements, 2) a Clean Water Act Section 401 General Water Quality Certification (General §401 Water Quality Certification), and 3) a Monitoring and Reporting Program (MRP).

The General §401 Water Quality Certification provides verification that projects requiring Clean Water Act Section 404 (CWA §404) permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) will comply with state water quality standards.

The MRP contains four types of monitoring which are outlined in Chapter 10 of the 5C Manual. They are: implementation, effectiveness, photopoint, and project monitoring. Implementation and effectiveness monitoring are required for all projects. Photopoint and project monitoring are reserved for more complex projects that may require an evaluation of BMP performance over an extended period of time and are implemented at the discretion of the Executive Officer. Annual reports are required as part of the MRP.

Covered Activities

The Waiver provides permit coverage for the following activities described within the 5C Roads Manual: culvert maintenance and replacement, soil disposal, maintenance yard management, bridge maintenance, emergency road maintenance, snow and ice removal, and inventorying and treatment of legacy sediment discharge sites.

Road management activities are divided into Category A and Category B (Attachments A and B of the Waiver). Category A activities generally include those that are conducted as part of routine annual road maintenance, take place within the channel of a dry watercourse, and have a low risk of impacts to water quality. Category A activities do not require a CWA §404 permit from the ACOE.

Category B activities include those that are generally not considered to be part of routine annual road maintenance, that may take place within the channel of a flowing watercourse or are directly connected to a watercourse, and that may require a CWA §404 permit. Category B activities requiring CWA §404 permitting will also need the General §401 Water Quality Certification contained in the Waiver.

Who Should File For Coverage

Any county that utilizes the 5C Program for road maintenance projects is eligible for coverage under the 5C Waiver. Additionally, non-county entities, including Resource Conservation Districts and rural road associations, are also eligible for coverage. Non-county entities may choose to not formally adopt the 5C Program or use the 5C Roads Manual. In that case, they must rely on the Handbook for Forest, Ranch & Rural Roads (Pacific Watershed Associates, 2014) BMPs, or another comparable technical manual, and are required to follow the monitoring and reporting requirements outlined in the Monitoring and Reporting Plan for the Order.

How To File For Coverage

To receive Waiver coverage for road management projects, the applicant must submit a Notice of Intent (NOI) certifying the intent to implement the 5C Program and to comply with conditions of the Waiver signed by an authorized representative (Attachment D of the Waiver) and a project description.

For each project requiring a General §401 Water Quality Certification, a completed application for General §401 Water Quality Certification and/or Waste Discharge Requirements (Dredge/Fill) (Attachment E of the Waiver) must be submitted to the Regional Water Board at least 30 days prior to the commencement of activities. Only one application is needed for each road project. Projects may have multiple sites and involve multiple activities. Applications for road projects with multiple work sites will need to include information on the work to be done at each site. If a CDFW Lake or Streambed Alteration Notification (FWC §1602 Notification) is required for the proposed project, the FWC §1602 Notification form may be substituted for the General §401 Water Quality Certification application.

Applications and NOIs must be submitted to the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board at Northcoast@waterboards.ca.gov. Coverage of routine maintenance activities will be valid for the life of the Waiver, provided the discharger continues to meet applicable Waiver conditions, including monitoring and reporting.

If the General §401 Water Quality Certification application, or FWC §1602 Notification, is complete the Regional Water Board will notify the discharger of receipt of the application and application fee, and the initiation of a 30-day review period.

For further information, please contact Regional Board Staff member, Maggie Robinson at (707) 576-2292, or at maggie.robinson@waterboards.ca.gov.