Pilot program designed for construction stormwater permitting

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation recently announced a new pilot program designed to build efficiencies in how construction stormwater permits are issued, while satisfying the permit requirements at both the state and local levels and improving overall water quality.

Called the Tennessee Qualified Local Program, the new pilot program’s main intent is to eliminate the duplicative efforts of the current permitting process. Funding for the QLP pilot program is made possible through a Stormwater Innovation Grant awarded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The grant objectives included developing criteria and incentives for Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4s) to become a qualified local program. Some of the most significant benefits of a QLP include:

• A more streamlined and efficient process for managing construction stormwater by eliminating permit and review duplication at the local and state levels;
• Eliminating additional effort at the state level for construction site operators by providing only one set of requirements to follow; and
• A more effective construction stormwater program resulting in greater water quality protection.

While Tennessee’s QLP pilot will be implemented by TDEC, the program is based on EPA’s existing guidelines for similar programs. TDEC will review and approve up to four MS4s to pilot the QLP program for one year. There is a bill (SB 3187) under consideration in the Tennessee General Assembly sponsored by Rep. Ryan Williams and Sen. Mike Bell, which would allow any MS4 to apply with TDEC to become a qualified local program. If that bill passes, it will be effective July 1, 2013, following the pilot period for the program.

“TDEC recognized there are many local jurisdictions throughout Tennessee that have developed an effective construction stormwater program of their own and have a solid regulatory program in place,” said Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau. “These cities are already designated as MS4s and are generally comprised of fast-growing urban communities.”

In order to achieve QLP status, the MS4 must demonstrate that its construction stormwater program meets or exceeds the provisions of the state’s Construction General Permit. After being selected to participate in the QLP program, an MS4 would be able to administer its own stormwater construction permitting program at the local level without duplicating the review and approval process at the state level.

In turn, the site owners or operators of new construction activities within the jurisdiction of the qualifying MS4 will be required to submit paperwork and any fees only at the local level, potentially saving up to $7,500 in state fees and taking less time by eliminating the additional effort at the state level. Permit coverage through the QLP program will authorize the operator of the construction activity to discharge stormwater associated with construction activity under both the state’s Construction General Permit and the QLP’s construction stormwater program. Other required permits, such as Aquatic Resource Alteration Permits, will still be handled by TDEC.

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