The S. C. Department of Health and Environmental Control administers the Water Quality Certification program pursuant to Section 401 of the Federal Clean Water Act. Section 401 requires that the State issue certification for any activity which requires a Federal permit and may result in a discharge to State waters. This certification must state that applicable effluent limits and water quality standards will not be violated.
All activities requiring a Federal 404 permit (a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit for the discharge of dredged or fill material) result in a discharge to waters or wetlands, so SCDHEC must take certification action on all 404 permit applications. U.S. Coast Guard Permits and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Permits also require states to take Water Quality Certification action. During review of applications for Water Quality Certification, the Department looks at whether or not there are feasible alternatives to the activity, if the activity is water dependent, and the intended purpose of the activity.
Certification is denied if the activity will adversely affect existing or designated uses. The Federal permit cannot be issued if certification is denied. Regulation 61-101 entitled Water Quality Certification directs the Department in processing applications for certification.