Dam Safety Permits

Do I Need A Permit?

Anyone planning to construct, reconstruct, repair or alter a dam or reservoir in the State of Maryland must receive a permit from MDE Dam Safety or, if the structure qualifies as a small pond, approval by the local SCD or MDE designee. Note that this regulatory requirement includes construction and alteration of the “reservoir” as well, thus work that is planned within the impounded area requires review and approval even if the dam embankment is not directly altered.

Normal maintenance activities at dams, reservoirs and their appurtenant works is encouraged and demonstrates responsible ownership of said structures. Accordingly, certain maintenance activities are considered exempt from the requirement to obtain a permit. These activities are defined in Dam Safety Policy Memorandum #11 – Activities Not Requiring a Dam Safety Permit.

Dam Safety permits do not relieve the applicant from the requirement of obtaining any other necessary local, State or U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permits. This may include, but is not limited to, erosion and sediment control approvals, grading approvals, and MDE Non-Tidal Wetlands and Waterways Division approvals.

For additional information about permitting, refer to the Maryland Dam Safety FAQ

How Do I Apply for a Permit?

Complete a Joint Federal/State Application for the Alteration of any Floodplain, Waterway, Tidal or Nontidal Wetland in Maryland, as well as the Application for a Dam Safety Permit or Small Pond Approval. Note that all owners of the dam must sign the application, even if the work is proposed on only a single parcel.

The application must be mailed with the original plus seven copies of the application, plans, vicinity maps, and any supporting documentation to: Regulatory Services Coordination Office (RSC) MDE, Water and Science Administration, 1800 Washington Boulevard Baltimore, Maryland 21230.

Application materials that are specific to Dam Safety review (e.g., breach analysis, inundation mapping, and basis of design reports) can be emailed to MDE.DamPermits@Maryland.gov, or to the assigned reviewer, if known.

What Information is Required for a Permit Application?

Each dam and project is unique; therefore, a general list of required submittals should be discussed with the Dam Safety Permits Division prior to making the application. Submittals that are required for nearly every project regardless of size, complexity, dam type, and dam hazard classification include:

  • Detailed construction plans
  • Project specifications
  • Basis of Design Report (to include the following items. Discipline specific reports should be included as an appendix, as needed, and must include all supporting calculations)
    • Summary of proposed work and project goals
    • Summary of design standards applicable to project
    • Hazard Classification Statement
    • Dam Inspection Report (for existing dams)
    • Hydrology & Hydraulics Report
    • Dam Breach Analysis and Hazard Classification Report
    • Geotechnical Engineering Report
    • Structural Engineering Report
  • Operation and Maintenance Plan
  • New/Updated Emergency Action Plan (High and Significant Hazard only)
  • Memorandum of Land Restrictions
  • Engineer-in-Charge (EIC) Affidavit and resume
  • Construction bond, irrevocable letter of credit, or other security

The design plans must be prepared by a licensed professional engineer, experienced in dam design and construction, practicing in accordance with the licensure laws of Maryland. 

Do I Qualify for a Small Pond Exemption?

Maryland laws allows for a limited exemption from the requirement to obtain a permit from the Dam Safety Permits Division provided certain criteria are met and the project is submitted to the local SCD or MDE’s designee for review and approval. Dams that meet the criteria below are referred to as “small ponds”:

  1. Drainage area to the pond must be less than 640 acres; and
  2. The height of the pond (measured from the upstream toe to the top of dam) must be less than 20 feet; and
  3. The dam must be a "low hazard" structure, the failure of which is not likely to cause loss of life or property damage. (Refer to MDE Guidance for Completing a Dam Breach Analysis for Small Ponds and Dams in Maryland); and
  4. The pond must have a maximum storage volume less than 50 acre-feet.

Note that those small ponds located within the watersheds of the Jones Falls, Gwynns Falls, or Herring Run streams in or adjacent to Baltimore City cannot be approved by the SCD or MDE’s designee. Instead, construction, reconstruction or alteration of these small ponds must have a permit issued by the MDE Dam Safety Permits Division.

Small pond plans, analyses and specifications submitted to the SCD or MDE’s designee must be prepared in accordance with MD 378: USDA Natural Resources Conservative Service (NRCS) Maryland Pond Code 378, January 2000, and the Department's policies and procedures. A MD 14 Pond Summary Sheet is to be submitted with the plans to the SCD and forwarded to the Department as evidence of the SCD approval (MDE.PondApprovals@Maryland.gov).

Ponds located in Cold Water Resource Areas must include design features that mitigate thermal discharges. Refer to the Dam and Small Pond Approval Guidelines in Coldwater Resource Watersheds and the​ MDE Stormwater Design Manual for thermal criteria and considerations.

Contact Information

You may also call us at (410) 537-3552. Our mailing address is:

Dam Safety Permits Division
Water and Science Administration
Maryland Department of the Environment

1800 Washington Boulevard, Ste. 440
Baltimore, Maryland 21230-1708

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