State Mandated Stream Permitting
The 310 Law, or the Natural Streambed and Land Preservation Act of 1975
Any work which may impact the bed or banks of a perennially flowing stream in Lewis and Clark County will require a permit from the Conservation District. Included in our jurisdiction is the Missouri River, as well as the “run of the river” reservoirs that are part of the Missouri River, Canyon Ferry, Hauser and Holter Reservoirs.
At LCCD we consider the 310 permitting process to be more than just issuing permits. It is “value-added”, with the opportunity to share our experience and the experience of the FWP Biologists collaboratively involved in the review process to result in better projects with less stream impact.
A word of caution: Beaver dam removal IS considered a 310 project by Lewis & Clark Conservation District and DOES require a permit. In addition, for ANY project, you must have permission from the landowner(s) even if you have an easement.
If you have further questions please contact the Lewis and Clark Conservation District. If you do not obtain a permit you may be subject to fines and will likely be required to complete mitigative work to repair–sometimes at significant cost–the work done without a permit or beyond the scope of your permit.
To read more about living near a stream or river go to https://livingonthebank.com.
Learn more about what Conservation Districts look for in permitting projects.
DON’T DO THIS
What is a 310 Permit?
Montana’s Natural Streambed and Land Preservation Act, also known as the 310 Law, is a state law that requires any person proposing a project that may physically alter or modify the beds or banks of a perennial stream, river, or spring on private or public land must first obtain a 310 Permit from their local conservation district. Permits are free of charge.
Examples of Projects Requiring a 310 Permit*:
- Channel Changes/Dredging
- New Irrigation Diversions
- Streambank Protection Projects
- Culvert Installation/Removal
- Bridge Installation/Removal
- Ford Crossings
- Beaver Dam Removal/Alteration
*A permit may also be required if an existing project needs repair and/or alternations.
Examples of Prohibited Projects:
Unless specifically authorized by the board through a 310 permit, the following activities are prohibited.
- The placement of concrete in a stream as rock riprap
- The placement of road fill material in a stream
- The placement of debris or other material in a stream where it may erode or otherwise enter the stream
- Projects that permanently prevent fish migration
- Removal of streambank vegetation within the immediate banks of the stream, unless necessary for completion of the permitted project
- Excavation of streambed gravels
- Construction of an in-stream pond
The purpose of the 310 Law is to ensure that projects on streams are carried out in ways that are not damaging to the stream or to adjoining landowners.
To learn more, please refer to our Rules for Implementation.
Who administers this law?
Conservation Districts throughout Montana administer the 310 Law. Lewis and Clark Conservation District administers the law withing the boundaries of Lewis and Clark County, but outside of the 1948 boundaries of Helena and East Helena. For projects within the 1948 city limits, contact Lewis and Clark County.
To learn more, please refer to our Rules for Implementation.
How long does the permit process take?
The permitting process takes between 30 and 90 days. Once approved, a 310 permit is valid for one year. Permits decisions are made by the Lewis and Clark Conservation District Board of Supervisors during the monthly meetings, which occur on the second Thursday of each month. Meetings are open to the public. Permits are also available for routine maintenance work, such as opening/clearing ditches, and valid from three to ten years.
How does the Permitting Process work?
1) Application Process
All information requested on the 310 application along with a plan and/or drawing of the proposed project and a site map must be provided. Incomplete applications may be rejected. Applications are reviewed and accepted at the monthly district meetings. After a 310 application is received, Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks is notified of the proposed project and may request an on-site inspection.
To ensure your application is submitted on time for review at the next district meeting, please see our Calendar.
2) Site Inspection Process
A team, consisting of the district supervisor in the area of concern, a Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks biologist for the area of concern, and the applicant or applicant’s representative will meet to discuss the project on site. The applicant or their representative is entitled to be a team member for the purposes of making recommendations to the district. Team members may waive participation in the on-site inspection.
After an inspection is conducted, team members send their recommendation to the Conservation District for review at the next board meeting. The applicant can waive participation, submit a team member report jointly with other team members (if in agreement with their recommendations), or submit a separate report.
If no inspection is required, the district may proceed with the application and the applicant will be notified of the supervisors’ decision.
3) Decision Process
The district will decide whether to approve, modify, or deny the project within 60 days of acceptance of the application. However, this time period can be extended if the district determines it necessary to collect further information–for example, if the project site is snow-covered and a site visit needs to be rescheduled for a better time. After receiving the supervisors’ decision, the applicant has 15 days to return the permit, signed to indicate agreement with the district’s decision. Unless otherwise stated on the supervisors’ decision form, the applicant must wait 15 days before proceeding with the project.
When the Lewis & Clark Conservation District reviews 310 permit applications, we are required to consider the following factors:
Erosion and Sedimentation
Supervisors have to look at the potential effects of the project on erosion and sedimentation, considering the methods available to complete the project and the nature and economics of various alternatives.
Stream Channel Alteration
Supervisors must review the effects of stream channel alterations to minimize adverse impacts and maintain the integrity and function of the natural channel.
Streamflow, Turbidity and Water Quality
Projects must keep impacts to water quality to a minimum, including potential effects of project materials used or removal of ground cover.
Effects on Fish and Aquatic Habitat
Projects must minimize adverse effects to fish and aquatic habitat. This includes criteria such as fish passage and bank/streambed alterations that impair resource values.
Avoid Harmful Flooding or Erosion
Projects must avoid creating harmful flooding or erosion upstream or downstream.
Minimize Vegetation Disturbance, Protect Existing Vegetation, Control Weeds
Projects should seek to preserve, establish, or enhance native vegetation on the banks and floodplain.
The Conservation District will consider whether there are modifications or alternative solutions that are reasonably practical that would reduce disturbance to the stream and its environment and better accomplish the goals of the project.
Considerations When Planning Your Project
Streams and rivers are complex systems and constantly undergo change. Their function is primarily to move water and sediment from the upstream watershed to points downstream. This may seem like a simple function, but the processes that the systems experience can be complex. There is a perpetual change to systems called dynamic equilibrium.
To determine the cause and effect of channel changes, it’s important to understand the processes that govern stream systems. Projects need to be designed to work with the natural stream processes to maintain or improve balance in the system. Adequate project designs increase the potential for long-term benefits to the stream and to landowners. It is important to understand the limitations and the possible outcomes of different types of projects that a landowner may want to do on their property.
Landowners should keep in mind that sometimes the best project is actually to do nothing at all.
For more information on Stream Form and Function, including discussions on stream morphology, stream processes and more, please refer to the Montana Stream Permitting: A Guide for Conservation District Supervisors and Others. This guide discusses the various permits and permitting agencies in Montana, as well as:
- Geology and Climate
- Stream Channel Form
- Bank and Channel Stability
- Flow Characteristics
- Field Indicators of Bankfull Flow
- Channel Downcutting & Re-establishment of Equilibrium
- Channel Migration Zones
- Meander Movement and Bank Erosion
- Role of Large Woody Debris
- Role of Beaver Dams
- And a Case Study of Big Spring Creek near Lewistown, Montana
What happens if I don’t get a permit?
It is a misdemeanor to initiate a project without a permit, to conduct activities outside the scope of the permit, to violate emergency procedures or to use prohibited materials in a project. Upon conviction of a misdemeanor, a person may be punished by a fine up to $500 or by a civil penalty not to exceed $500 per day for each day the person continues to alter the stream. In addition, the person may be required to restore the damaged stream to a condition as close to its prior condition as possible, as recommended by the District supervisors.
OTHER STREAM PERMITS ARE OFTEN NEEDED IN ADDITION TO THE 310 PERMIT. READ MORE ABOUT STREAM PERMITTING REQUIRED BY OTHER AGENCIES.
Fill out your form using the new online platform for submission !!! We are working with Four Corners Foundation to utilize their new application for stream permitting. If you use the app, download your form and save it as a PDF and you can easily forward to the other permitting organizations. Go to https://app.gilly.org/signin, click ‘Apply for Permit’ and create an account before you begin.
Any of the forms from this page can be submitted by mailing them to Lewis and Clark Conservation District, 790 Colleen Street, Helena MT 59601, or they can be emailed to email@example.com.
Instructions – PDF Format (It is highly recommended that all applicants read this file!)
Complaints about Projects that are on-going
Quite often people in the community notice work being done on a stream and they aren’t sure if there is a permit issued or not. Please call the District Office at 406-389-3895 to find out.
If you wish to file a complaint, you may have us mail or email the form or you may download the form and return it to us by mailing it to LCCD, 790 Colleen Street, Helena MT 59601 or emailing to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please remember that under State Law, all of the Conservation District’s files are open to the public except for any in an ongoing legal dispute. Please be aware of this when submitting complaints.
The location of potential unpermitted activity and the name of the person doing the work is particularly helpful, as is any contact information. If all you see is a contractor name on the side of a truck or excavator, even that is very helpful.
Submitting photos along with complaints is always helpful.
Keep in mind that other permitting agencies may need to be notified of complaints as well.
Emergencies often occur during spring run-off, or other flooding events, as well as during extended drought. Under the 310 law, a landowner may conduct the work that needs to be done to safeguard life, property or crops. Within 15 days of conducting that work, the landowner needs to submit to the District, an Emergency Notice. The District Office can mail or email the form, or you may download it and return it to the District. Submitting photos with emergency notices is always helpful.
Please keep in mind that if the District finds that work done was NOT an emergency it may be considered a violation under state law. Even if work done was a true emergency, additional work may be required to further remedy the problem and it may be necessary for the landowner to obtain a 310 Permit to conduct that work.
Also keep in mind that other permitting agencies may need to be notified about Emergency Actions taken.
Rules for Permitting
The Board of Supervisors met in November 2019 to revise their rules for permitting to update them as required by a law change at the 2019 State Legislative Session.