From Open Energy Information

< RAPID‎ | Roadmap

RAPIDRegulatory and Permitting Information Desktop Toolkit
My Projects

Geothermal Pre-Existing Land Use Assessment Overview (13)

Preexisting land uses at and surrounding the site are critical considerations in the early planning stages of the project. Federal and state law may prohibit interference with certain preexisting uses. For instance, developers should consider impact on farmland, livestock, nearby airports, military lands, navigable waters and whether the project is sited in or near a floodplain.

Pre-Existing Land Use Assessment Overview Process

13.1 - Review Project Location

The developer must review the project location to determine if there are pre-existing uses of the land that may be impacted as a result of the project.

13.2 to 13.3 - Will the Project Affect Farmland or Livestock?

The United States Department of Agriculture and other federal agencies are tasked with ensuring that the actions of the federal government do not cause United States farmland to be irreversibly converted to non-agricultural uses. The Farmland Protection Policy Act protects agriculturally productive lands from conversion to other land uses, and it could impede a developer's ability to continue with a project. Impacts on farmland or livestock can occur through displacing agriculturally productive lands or through emissions that impact the productivity of agricultural lands.

The FPPA requires federal agencies carrying out federal programs to identify and take into account any adverse effects on farmland created by those programs. If the federal project will irreversibly convert farmland to a non-agricultural use, mitigaiton and alternative sites should be considered.

Farmland Evaluation Process:

13.4 to 13.5 - Will the Project Be on or adjacent to Military Lands?

The Sikes Act authorizes the United States Department of Defense (DOD) to carry out a program for the conservation and rehabilitation of natural resources on military installations. If the proposed project will be on military land the developer should consult the Integrated Natural Resources Management Plan (INRMP).

In addition, the military engages local governments and landowners for areas adjacent to military based to develop land use restrictions suitable to the purposes of the military reservation. For projects adjacent to military land the developer should consult the relevant DOD Joint Land Use Study, local land use plans, and private land use agreements.

Military Land Evaluation:

13.6 to 13.7 - Will the Project Require the Construction of a Bridge over Navigable Waters?

Federal law protects navigable waters from any construction that could potentially impede the navigability of the channel. Construction or modification of a bridge across a navigable waterway of the United States requires a bridge permit from the United States Coast Guard (USCG). The USCG’s bridge permitting authority can be found in Section 9 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899, The Bridge Act of 1906, and The General Bridge Act of 1946. Today, The General Bridge Act of 1946 is cited as the authority for bridge permits in most cases.

Bridge Permit Application Process:

13.8 to 13.9 - Will the Project Have a Substantial Aeronautical Impact?

The developer must consider any impact the project may have to nearby airports. Developers should consult with local airports to determine whether the project will have any direct or indirect effects on nearby flyways.

Generally, construction or alteration projects that include objects 200 feet above ground level (or higher) require developers to submit notice of the project to the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA will evaluate the project based on obstruction standards and other factors in order to determine whether the construction or alteration will have a substantial aeronautical impact. Even where the FAA determines that there is no hazard to air navigation, they may include conditional provisions, limitations necessary to minimize potential problems, lighting/marking recommendations, and/or supplemental notice requirements.

For a full description of the relevant considerations and applicable processes, see Aeronatucial Considerations:

13.10 to 13.11 - Will the Project Obstruct or Alter Navigable Waters?

Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 requires a developer to obtain a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for any project that obstructs or alters any navigable water of the United States, including any work or structures in, over, or under or affecting the course, location, or condition of navigable waters. Navigable waters of the United States are “those waters that are subject to the ebb and flow of the tide and/or are presently used, or have been used in the past, or may be susceptible for use to transport interstate or foreign commerce.”

Rivers and Harbors Act Section 10 Permit:

13.12 to 13.13 - Will the Project Raise Any State Land Use Issues?

If the project will impact any state land use, then the applicable state rules must be considered. Examples of state land use issues that may require a permit include state coastal issues, conservation districts, dune protection, etc.


In California, developers may need a permit for projects in or near a coastal zone or an easement for projects located protected under the Williamson Act or a Farmland Security Zone contract. For more information, see: State Coastal Zone Land Use Assessment Overview:


In Hawaii, developers must apply for a Conservation District Use Permit with the Department of Land and Natural Resources Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands to develop geothermal resources in the State Land Use Conservation District. For more information, see: Conservation District Use Permit:


In Texas, developers may need a Dune Protection Permit and/or coastal construction approval from the Texas General Land Office for geothermal project development. For more information, see: State Land Use Assessment:


In Washington, a developer must consider the location and land use designations on certain land before constructing a project. For instances a developer may need to obtain a Coastal Zone Certificate of Consistency in order to comply with Coastal Zone Management Act and Washington’s Coastal Zone Management Program. A developer may also need a Shoreline Substantial Development Permit, a Shoreline Conditional Use Permit, a Shoreline Variance or Shoreline Exemption for projects that interfere with State shorelands or are located near marine waters, streams, lakes, wetlands or floodplains. For more information, see:

Additional Pre-Existing State Land Use Assessment Overview: