Permits for construction of ponds may be required by the Pennsylvania Dam Safety and Encroachments Act. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) regulates ponds and pond construction in a number of ways.
What is a dam?
A dam is any artificial barrier, such as an earthen embankment or concrete structure, built for the purpose of impounding or storing water or another fluid or semi-fluid.
When does a dam need a permit?
- A dam permit is required if the proposed dam will be built across a stream and it meets one of the following criteria:
- The contributory drainage area is greater than 100 acres. The drainage area is the land area that, during a storm event, contributes water runoff to the impounding area.
- The maximum depth of water, measured from the upstream toe of the dam to the top of the dam at maximum storage elevation, is greater than 15 feet.
- The impounding capacity (storage volume) at maximum storage elevation is greater than 50 acre-feet.
- A dam permit is required if the proposed dam is not located in a stream and criteria 1.B AND 1.C listed above are met.
- A dam permit is required if the dam will store a fluid or semi-fluid other than water that may result in pollution or danger to persons or property if it escapes.
For more information about dam permits please read:Dam Permits in PA DEP Dredging Info Sheet
Draining or dredging your pond:
Occasionally, it becomes necessary to drain a pond. When draining a pond, be aware that a draw-down permit may be required by the PA Fish & Boat Commission. Please refer to the DEP Dredging Info Sheet link above for a link to an application for a drawdown permit. Please also refer to the Dredging Info Sheet for requirements on pond dredging. Note that any activity expanding the reservoir area or pond depth may require a Water Obstruction and Encroachment Permit.
Water Obstruction and Encroachment Permitting:
If wetland impacts are proposed in the creation of the pond, a water obstruction and encroachment permit will be required. Please contact the PA Department of Environmental Protection if wetlands are proposed to be impacted in the creation of a pond. In addition, if a pond will have an intake structure, a GP-4 may be required for the intake structure. Further information on a GP-4 permit may be found here.
A written E&S plan is required to be prepared and submitted for review whenever there is earth disturbance of 5,000 square feet or greater in the creation or dredging of a pond. This approved plan must be on-site during the construction activity. Projects that generate earth disturbances 1 acre or greater are required to obtain a NPDES Permit. Please contact an Urban technician at the Berks County Conservation District prior to proceeding with pond creation/dredging to determine E&S plan requirements.
PDF – Guidance on Pond Planning and Construction from United States Dept. of Agriculture LINK – Information on small backyard ponds