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Oregon Removal-Fill Program
removal-fill project to enhance salmon habitat  
Salvaged trees placed in creek help restore salmon habitat
Oregon´s Removal-Fill Law (ORS 196.795-990) requires people who plan to remove or fill material in waters of the state to obtain a permit from the Department of State Lands.

The purpose of the law, enacted in 1967, is to protect public navigation, fishery and recreational uses of the waters. "Waters of the state" are defined as "natural waterways including all tidal and nontidal bays, intermittent streams, constantly flowing streams, lakes, wetlands and other bodies of water in this state, navigable and nonnavigable, including that portion of the Pacific Ocean that is in the boundaries of this state." The law applies to all landowners, whether private individuals or public agencies.
READ THIS FIRST before filing an application.

Conditions requiring permits
Permits or General Authorizations (see description at end) are required for:
  • Projects requiring the removal or fill of 50 cubic yards or more of material in waters of the state.
  • The removal or fill of any material regardless of the number of cubic yards affected in a stream designated as essential salmon habitat. Click on "Essential salmonid habitat areas" at left for maps.
  • The removal or fill of any material from the bed and banks of scenic waterways regardless of the number of cubic yards affected. Click on "State Scenic Waterways" at left for a list.

Exemptions from Removal-Fill Permit requirements
Contact a DSL resource coordinator to determine whether a specific project may be exempt from the Removal-Fill Law. The law does not apply if your work in waters of the state is for any of the following activities:
  • Fill or removal less than 50 cubic yards, except in essential indigenous anadromous salmonid habitat and scenic waterways (OAR 141-085-0510).
  • Forest management practices regulated under the Forest Practices Act.
  • Filling for certain dams or diversion structures.
  • Normal farming and ranching activities on converted wetlands, as defined in ORS 141-085--0535 such as plowing, grazing, seeding, cultivating, conventional crop rotation, harvesting for the production of food and fiber, upland soil and water conservation practices or reestablishment of crops under federal conservation reserve provisions.
  • Certain activities on land zoned for exclusive farm use:
  • Projects involving less than 50 cubic yards of material for activities customarily associated with agriculture conducted on essential salmon habitat streams as defined in OAR 141-102-0000.
  • Maintenance or reconstruction of existing serviceable structures (such as dikes, dams, levees, groins, riprap, tidegates, drainage ditches, irrigation ditches and tile drain systems) on an in-kind, in-place basis.
  • Maintenance, including emergency reconstruction of recently damaged parts, or currently serviceable roads or transportation structures (such as groins and riprap protecting roads, causeways and bridge abutments).
  • Fish passage and fish screening structures .
  • Non-motorized activities affecting less than one cubic yard per individual site, and cumulatively not more than five cubic yards within a designated essential salmonid habitat segment in a single year.
  • Maintenance, repair, removal and replacement of culverts. (141-085-0530).
  • Certain push-up dams provided they were first built before 1967 or were previously permitted. (OAR 141-085-0535).

Exemptions for Ocean Shore activities
Removal-fill activity on the ocean shore, as defined in ORS 390.605, that requires a permit from the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department under ORS 390.610 et seq.

Exemptions for activities in State Scenic Waterways
Only the following exemptions apply within State Scenic Waterways:
  • Recreational prospecting in State Scenic Waterways (ORS 390.805 to 390.925): Permits are not needed for non-motorized recreational prospecting affecting less than one cubic yard per individual site, and cumulatively not more than five cubic yards within any single scenic waterway in a single year.
  • Stream gauging facilities.
  • Fish and wildlife management facilities.

"Best management practices" for exempt activities
Even though the above activities are exempt from the permit requirements, DSL encourages landowners to carry them out in a manner that does not adversely affect other resources and uses (e.g., water quality, fish and their habitats, recreation, cultural resources). These are sometimes called "best management practices." They include activities such as in-water work periods and other practices that prevent erosion, that keep water quality and streamside vegetation impacts to a minimum, and that don´t disturb large rocks or woody debris in streams. If you are not sure whether your proposed project meets the requirements for an exemption, or if you are not sure of the "best management practices" for an exempt activity, please contact DSL.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife provides information about many recommended practices that will reduce the impact to fish habitat.
Also contact your local Oregon Department or Fish and Wildlife fish habitat biologist.

Permit conditions
All permits include standard and special design and operating conditions that are intended to ensure the protection, conservation and best use of the state´s water resources and prevent harm to fishery and recreational uses of the waters.

A common condition is that the project be conducted during the "in-water work period" established by the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife. Click on "Inwater work periods" at left.

In the case of projects involving impacts to wetlands, you will be required to provide compensatory wetland mitigation to offset loss of wetland resources. (OAR 141-085-0680.)

The permit process
State law requires DSL to determine whether an application for a joint removal-fill permit is complete within 30 days of receipt and to issue a decision within 90 days of the completeness determination. The applicant may request a deadline extension.

However, in an emergency, DSL can authorize work in advance verbally as soon as we have all necessary information about the project. The emergency authorizations are available only for very limited, unforeseen circumstances. Contact a resource coordinator for more information as soon as you become aware of a problem or potential emergency.

General Authorizations
For certain types of activities, DSL issues a streamlined type of permit called a General Authorization. The "letter of authorization" generally covers smaller projects.
Contact a DSL resource coordinator to determine whether a specific project is eligible for approval under a General Authorization.

In order to qualify for one of these General Authorizations, your project must meet all the criteria and you must agree to abide by all conditions specified.
General Authorizations

Federal permit also required
Many projects that require a DSL removal-fill permit also will require a federal permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. DSL and the Corps use a joint permit application form, so you will only need to fill out one application to obtain both permits. However, you must send a copy of the application to both agencies. Each agency reviews the form and issues separate permits that may have different requirements. Either agency may require a permit when the other does not. When you send in your completed permit application to the Corps, they will notify you if you need Corps approval of the permit in addition to state approval.

Do I need a Joint Permit Application or General Authorization Form?
Some General Authorizations require a Joint Permit Application. Others have shorter application forms. If you do not have previous experience with this type of authorization, contact a resource coordinator before proceeding. Also click on the specific GA listed above that you are considering for more information.
Additional Information

Filing Help
In-Water Work Periods 
Permit Fees​
"Planning to work in wetlands or waterways?" Brochure
Annual Removal-Fill report  summarizes activities
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