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A pond can be an excellent addition to your property, offering many hours of fun and enjoyment for your family, friends and future generations, but it would be wise to do a little homework before committing the often significant financial investment for construction. An essential part of this “homework assignment” should be to contact one of our friendly district staff and request a site inspection to assess what level of permitting your project may or may not require. We hope the following brief guide to new and existing pond permitting will be helpful.


New ponds


A Dam Permit from DEP will be required if the dam will be built across a stream and a) the upstream drainage area exceeds 100 acres, or b) the dam height above the existing ground elevation (measured from the inside toe of the dam) exceeds 15 feet, or c) the storage capacity (pond surface area x average depth) exceeds 50 acre-feet.  

A Dam Permit would also be needed if a) the dam will not be built across a stream but conditions b and c above are both satisfied, or b) if the pond will store a potentially dangerous fluid/liquid other than water. An environmental assessment form must still be submitted to and accepted by DEP if the proposed dam won’t require a Dam Permit, but will be located in, along or project into a wetland, exceptional value watershed (as determined by DEP) or across a stream.  

Also, any excavation of wetland, stream or floodway areas will require an Encroachment (Joint) Permit from DEP.  (If streams or wetlands are present on site, then it will be difficult to obtain a permit and it’s advisable to choose a new location.)  

Additionally, if earth disturbance (measured from the outside toe of the dam slope plus any associated new access roads, parking areas and pavilions, etc.) will exceed 1 acre, then a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit application must be approved by our office prior to construction. 

Finally, if the pond will draw water from or discharge water directly to a stream, then a General Permit #4 (for intake/outfall structures) must be obtained.  


Existing ponds


The same new pond permit thresholds apply if you’d like to enlarge an existing pond diameter or increase the pond/lake dam height. If you intend to dredge an existing pond to its’ original storage capacity, then a permit likely won’t be required assuming the original pond did not need a permit. 

If you intend to drain an existing pond/lake that exceeds 1 acre in size, then a Drawdown Permit must be obtained from the PA Fish and Boat Commission at least 30 days before the draining occurs.  

In all cases involving new and existing pond excavation, the disturbed soil on, in and surrounding the pond must be immediately stabilized with vegetation or other permanent cover while all principal and emergency spillway outlets must be properly stabilized with rock or other appropriately sized lining. 

 Any outlets discharging directly unto an adjacent property will likely need an easement from the affected landowner allowing the discharge.

If none of the conditions mentioned above relate to your situation, then the new/existing pond excavation may likely be completed without any environmental permits, although DEP and the Army Corps should still be contacted since all official permit determinations related to ponds/dams must be made by them.  

Please call the Bradford County Conservation District for further pond siting, vegetation/fisheries management and preliminary permit assistance. We’re here to help you.


The Bradford County Conservation District is committed to helping people manage resources wisely. You can visit the Bradford County Conservation District at 200 Lake Rd in Wysox across from the Wysox Fire Hall. Contact us at (570) 485-3144 or visit our web page at www.bccdpa.com.