TDEC Announces Qualifying Local Program Pilot Participants
Program Designed to Streamline Construction Stormwater Permitting, Improve Water Quality
NASHVILLE - Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau and Deputy Commissioner Dr. Shari Meghreblian joined Rep. Ryan Williams and local community officials in Knoxville today for a ceremony formally announcing the first five communities to take part in TDEC’s new stormwater qualifying pilot program. The five pilot participants are the cities of Bristol, Cookeville and Knoxville, in addition to Knox and Washington counties.
Called the Tennessee Qualifying Local Program, the new program’s main intent is to eliminate the duplicative efforts at the state and local level in the current stormwater permitting process. The program is designed to build efficiencies in how construction stormwater permits are issued and improve water quality.
“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,” Martineau said. “This program builds efficiencies into the process that both improve customer service and allows the department to target resources where they are most needed. We look forward to continuing working with these communities in a support and oversight capacity.”
Funding for the QLP pilot program is made possible through a Stormwater Innovation Grant awarded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Announced in April 2012, the grant objectives included developing criteria and incentives for Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4s) to become a qualifying 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. As part of the pilot program, the five communities announced today were the MS4s TDEC selected to participate in the program for one year. Earlier this year, Rep. Ryan Williams and Sen. Mike Bell sponsored and passed legislation (Public Chapter 1019) in the Tennessee General Assembly, allowing any MS4 to apply with TDEC to become a qualified local program. The legislation will become effective July 1, 2013, following the pilot period for the program.
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.
“Last year Governor Haslam announced a comprehensive Top-to-Bottom review of all departments,” added Martineau. “One of the key findings in TDEC’s review included opportunities for increased efficiency by streamlining processes and systems. The QLP pilot program is a move toward fulfilling that mission, while optimizing the department’s overall performance, accountability and efficiency and strengthening regulatory oversight at both the local and state levels.”
Critical to the creation of this pilot program was the establishment of a diverse stakeholder committee representing a variety of groups, including MS4s, professional associations, universities and members of government, development and environmental communities. The advisory committee worked to develop the criteria and program incentives designed to encourage MS4s to achieve QLP status.
For more information about TDEC’s pilot Qualifying Local Program or to submit an application for participation, please visit http://www.tn.gov/environment/wpc/stormh2o/qlp.shtml. Municipalities interested in the QLP program may also contact Robert Karesh at (615) 253-5402 or Robert.Karesh@tn.gov; and Jennifer Watson at (615) 532-0359 or Jennifer.Watson@tn.gov.
Additional information about Stormwater Construction General Permit requirements is available at http://www.tn.gov/environment/permits/conststrm.shtml.