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Environmental Permits Handbook

Certificate of Approval and Safety for Dams

* Who Needs One? * What Information Must I Provide?
* How Will My Application be Processed? * What Fees are Required?
* What are My  Responsibilities
After the Permit is Issued?
* What are the Division's Responsibilities
After the Permit is Issued?

Who Needs A Certificate Of Approval?

Persons who construct, alter, remove or operate a non-federal dam must obtain approval from the Tennessee Division of Water Supply, Dams Section. A dam is defined as a structure at least 20 feet high or holds 30 acre-feet or more of water at maximum pool.

Any dam that meets the size requirements above and is used exclusively as a farm pond (not used by the public) is not regulated by the Division and is not required to have approval.

Non-federal dams may also require other environmental permits.  Specifically, non-federal dams may require an ARAP (Aquatic Resource Alteration Permit), Stormwater Runoff Permit, and/or a Corps of Engineers' 404 Permit even though the dam may not be subject to the Safe Dams Act.  The permits listed on this web-site are not intended to be an all-inclusive list.  If you have any question about whether or not an activity you wish to pursue requires a permit, contact the Environmental Permit Program that you think may have permitting authority over the activity you wish to do or contact your regional Environmental Coordinator for further assistance.

What Information Must I Provide?

Applicants must submit the following items with the proper fees at least 60 days before starting any activity:

  • An Application for Certificate of Approval and Safety (Form CN-0821). Applicants provide information concerning the operator and owners and a complete description of the dam and reservoir. If construction, alteration, or removal of a dam is involved, the form requires information concerning the design engineer and purpose of such actions.
  • Engineering reports, detailed plans and specifications produced under the direction of a qualified registered engineer must accompany the application.

Other Water Permit Forms

Form Description Form # Application Form Form Instructions
Application for a Certificate of Approval and Safety - the Safe Dams Act of 1973 CN-0821 wordmed.gif (222 bytes) pdfsmall.gif (153 bytes) wordmed.gif (222 bytes) pdfsmall.gif (153 bytes)

How Will My Application Be Processed?

Application materials and the proper fees should be submitted to the Division of Water Supply, Dams Section. A detailed review of the application materials is conducted, and the applicant is notified of any deficiencies. Once the application has been deemed complete, the final review is concluded within 60 days. No public notice is required. Operating certificates normally are valid for one (1) to three (3) years. For dam construction and alterations, the certificate is normally valid for one (1) year.

What Fees Are Required?

Plan review fees for constructing dams, based on dam height:

Less than 41 feet: $1000
41 to 60 feet: $1500
Greater than 60 feet: $2000

Safety inspection fees, based on hazard potential category:

Low hazard: $300
Significant hazard: $300
High hazard: $300

What Are My Rights And Responsibilities After The Permit Is Approved?

The applicant may proceed with the approved plans and activities as approved by the Division. In the case of a denial, applicants must make an application for appeal within 60 days of the decision. The certificate is not transferable, and minor changes can be made administratively. The certificate may be renewed after a site inspection, payment of the inspection fee, and approval by the Division of Water Supply, Dams Section.

The applicant is responsible for complying with the requirements in the Tennessee Safe Dams Rules. These include, but are not limited to, keeping the dam cleared, maintaining the property, passing specified rainfall events without overtopping, monitoring dam conditions and maintaining dam stability.

What Are The Division's Rights And Responsibilities After The Permit Is Approved?

The Division has the right to inspect the site periodically and when deemed necessary. Penalties for violations may reach to a maximum of $5,000 per day per violation.

The Division of Water Supply, Dams Section is responsible for protecting the public from dam failures through its inspection and permitting system.

Whom Do I Contact For Applications, Assistance And Other Information?

Applicants may obtain applications and information from the Division of Water Supply.  New applicants who need more than one permit can contact their regional Environmental Coordinator for further assistance. 

Applicants may refer to the following publications for further information:

Permitting Home

What Environmental Permits Do I Need?

Prudent Site Checks

Permit Application Forms

Standard Operating Procedures

Division of Drinking Water Supply

DWS Standard Operating Procedures

TDEC Rule Chapter 1200- 5-7 exittdec3.gif (1060 bytes)Safe Dams Rules

TCA § 69-12-101 exittdec3.gif (1060 bytes)et seq. The Safe Dams Act of 1973

Defined Terms

farm pond