Environmental Permits Handbook
Certificate of Approval and Safety for Dams
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.
Applicants must submit the following items with the proper fees at least 60 days before starting any activity:
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.
Plan review fees for constructing dams, based on dam height:
Safety inspection fees, based on hazard potential category:
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.
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.
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:
TDEC Rule Chapter 1200- 5-7 Safe Dams Rules
TCA § 69-12-101 et seq. The Safe Dams Act of 1973