Regulatory Program of the
US Army Corps of Engineers

Section 403 of the Rivers and Harbors Appropriations Act


33 USC Sec. 403


Sec. 403. Obstruction of navigable waters generally; wharves; piers, etc.; excavations and filling in

The creation of any obstruction not affirmatively authorized by Congress, to the navigable capacity of any of the waters of the United States is prohibited; and it shall not be lawful to build or commence the building of any wharf, pier, dolphin, boom, weir, breakwater, bulkhead, jetty, or other structures in any port, roadstead, haven, harbor, canal, navigable river, or other water of the United States, outside established harbor lines, or where no harbor lines have been established, except on plans recommended by the Chief of Engineers and authorized by the Secretary of the Army; and it shall not be lawful to excavate or fill, or in any manner to alter or modify the course, location, condition, or capacity of, any port, roadstead, haven, harbor, canal, lake, harbor or refuge, or inclosure within the limits of any breakwater, or of the channel of any navigable water of the United States, unless the work has been recommended by the Chief of Engineers and authorized by the Secretary of the Army prior to beginning the same.

SOURCE (Mar. 3, 1899, ch. 425, Sec. 10, 30 Stat. 1151; July 26, 1947, ch. 343, title II, Sec. 205(a), 61 Stat. 501.)

CODIFICATION Section is from act Mar. 3, 1899, popularly known as the 'Rivers and Harbors Appropriation Act of 1899'.

PRIOR PROVISIONS Act Sept. 19, 1890, ch. 907, Sec. 10, 26 Stat. 454, was probably omitted from the Code as superseded by this section but it was held by the Circuit Court of Appeals in Wishkah Boom Co., Wash. 1905, 136 F. 42, 68 C.C.A. 592 (appeal dismissed (1906) 26 S. Ct. 765, 202 U.S. 613, 50 L. Ed. 1171), that it was not superseded so far as it related to the continuance of obstructions. It provided that: 'The creation of any obstruction, not affirmatively authorized by law, to the navigable capacity of any waters, in respect of which the United States has jurisdiction, is hereby prohibited. The continuance of any such obstruction, except bridges, piers, docks, and wharves, and similar structures erected for business purposes, whether heretofore or hereafter created, shall constitute an offense and each week's continuance of any such obstruction shall be deemed a separate offense. Every person and every corporation which shall be guilty of creating or continuing any such unlawful obstruction in this act mentioned, or who shall violate the provisions of the last four preceding sections of this act, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and on conviction thereof shall be punished by a fine not exceeding five thousand dollars, or by imprisonment (in the case of a natural person) not exceeding one year, or by both such punishments, in the discretion of the court, the creating or continuing of any unlawful obstruction in this act mentioned may be prevented and such obstruction may be caused to be removed by the injunction of any circuit court (district court) exercising jurisdiction in any district in which such obstruction may be threatened or may exist; and proper proceedings in equity to this end may be instituted under the direction of the Attorney-General of the United States.' This section and section 9 of act Mar. 3, 1899 (section 401 of this title), superseded provisions of act Sept. 19, 1890, ch. 907, Sec. 7, 26 Stat. 454, as amended by act July 13, 1892, ch. 158, Sec. 3, 27 Stat. 110, which prohibited the erection of obstructions to navigation, and prohibited the erection of bridges over navigable waters under State legislation before the approval of the plans by the Secretary of War, and prohibited the alteration of channels unless authorized by said Secretary.

CHANGE OF NAME Department of War designated Department of the Army and title of Secretary of War changed to Secretary of the Army by section 205(a) of act July 26, 1947, ch. 343, title II, 61 Stat. 501. Section 205(a) of act July 26, 1947, was repealed by section 53 of act Aug. 10, 1956, ch. 1041, 70A Stat. 641. Section 1 of act Aug. 10, 1956, enacted 'Title 10, Armed Forces' which in sections 3010 to 3013 continued Department of the Army under administrative supervision of Secretary of the Army.

TRANSFER OF FUNCTIONS Enforcement functions of Secretary of the Army, Chief of Engineers, or other official in Corps of Engineers of the United States Army related to compliance with permits for structures in navigable waters issued under this section with respect to pre-construction, construction, and initial operation of transportation system for Canadian and Alaskan natural gas were transferred to the Federal Inspector, Office of Federal Inspector for the Alaska Natural Gas Transportation System, until the first anniversary of date of initial operation of the Alaska Natural Gas Transportation System, see Reorg. Plan No. 1 of 1979, Sec. 102(b), 203(a), 44 F.R. 33663, 33666, 93 Stat. 1373, 1376, effective July 1, 1979, set out in the Appendix to Title 5, Government Organization and Employees. Office of Federal Inspector for the Alaska Natural Gas Transportation System abolished and functions and authority vested in Inspector transferred to Secretary of Energy by section 3012(b) of Pub. L. 102-486, set out as an Abolition of Office of Federal Inspector note under section 719e of Title 15, Commerce and Trade. Functions, powers, and duties of Secretary of the Army and other offices and officers of Department of the Army under section 401 of this title to extent that they relate generally to location and clearances of bridges and causeways in navigable waters of United States transferred to and vested in Secretary of Transportation by Pub. L. 89-670 Sec. 6(g)(6)(A), Oct. 15, 1966, 80 Stat. 941. Pub. L. 97-449 amended section 401 of this title to reflect transfer made by section 6(g)(6)(A) of Pub. L. 89-670, and repealed section 6(g)(6)(A).

CROSS REFERENCES Bridges over navigable waters, see section 491 et seq. of this title. Expenses of investigations by Department of the Army, see section 417 of this title. Portion of west arm of South Fork of the South Branch of Chicago River in city of Chicago not to be subject to this section, see section 27 of this title. Secretary of the Army to make navigation rules for Ambrose channel, see section 453 of this title. South and Southwest Passes of Mississippi River, see section 2 of this title. Violations as misdemeanors, see section 406 of this title.

SECTION REFERRED TO IN OTHER SECTIONS This section is referred to in sections 27, 59j-1, 59y, 59bb, 59cc, 59dd, 59ff, 59gg, 403b, 406, 412, 413, 418, 426p, 465, 1371, 1503, 2104, 2317 of this title.

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