Public Hearing on Proposed Amendments to Establish Joint Permits to be Held on June 23
PROVIDENCE - The Department of Environmental Management has developed a new, streamlined application and permit for single family residential lots that need both a wastewater and a freshwater wetlands permit, and will hold a public hearing on the rules needed to establish the joint permit later this month.
A public hearing on the Rules Establishing Minimum Standards Relating to Location, Design, Construction and Maintenance of Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems (OWTS Rules) and the Rules and Regulations Governing the Administration and Enforcement of the Fresh Water Wetlands Act (Wetland Rules) will take place on Monday, June 23. The hearing will be held at 9 a.m. in Room 300 at DEM Headquarters in the Foundry Building at 235 Promenade Street in Providence.
The proposed amendments are part of a continuing effort by DEM to improve customer service and make its operations more efficient. The new Joint OWTS/Wetlands application and permit would allow owners of single family residential property to submit one application for both types of permits and receive a joint OWTS/Wetlands permit. This would benefit applicants by creating a faster, simpler, and more predictable permitting process.
The proposed amendments were developed in conjunction with a stakeholder group that was formed to assist the Department in developing improvements to OWTS and wetlands permitting programs and rules. The amendments specifically address issues of concern identified by stakeholders, including the Rhode Island Builders Association, related to application review processing times for single family residential lots requiring both OWTS and Wetlands permits.
"Our customers told us that they wanted a user-friendly and efficient way to apply for onsite wastewater treatment and wetlands permits for single family homes, and we listened," said DEM Director Janet Coit. "I'm confident that this new initiative will improve the predictability of our permit programs and the delivery of customer service to DEM's clients and the public. We are working hard to increase the efficiency of our permitting services, integrate a culture of continuous process improvement into the Department, and enhance our relationships with the regulated community and permit applicants."
The new joint permitting program would be available for OWTS single family/new building construction projects that do not require a variance and for Wetlands Preliminary Determinations that do not propose significant alterations. Participation in the joint permit application process is voluntary. Permit applicants would still have the ability to submit separate permit applications to the OWTS and Wetlands programs.
The application review process would be streamlined through concurrent reviews by a team of existing OWTS and Wetlands staff. This would reduce the amount of information required on wetlands permit applications regarding wetland loss calculations, and would identify non-jurisdictional wetlands projects earlier in the application review process. The joint application would require the submission of a single application and one design plan, rather than a separate plan for OWTS and Wetlands. There would be no change in current application fees, and DEM would realize cost savings through a reduction in printing and mailing costs. The new program would also improve environmental protection of wetland resources by establishing mandatory field inspections and compliance checks.
Along with the development of this new initiative to benefit customers by providing an expedited, more predictable permitting process, DEM will hold a grand opening for its new Permit Application Center (PAC) next month. The PAC is part of DEM's ongoing effort to improve customer service and is a further step towards creating a Department that is more welcoming and responsive to the public. The PAC also provides a welcoming reception area at our Promenade Street Headquarters for customers that come in to meet with our staff.
The proposed Rules can be viewed on the DEM website at www.dem.ri.gov. These documents can also be reviewed in person at the DEM Offices at 235 Promenade Street, Providence, RI by contacting Lisa McGreavy at Lisa.McGreavy@dem.ri.gov or 222-4700 Ext. 7611.
Interested parties are invited to submit written comments on the proposed Rules prior to the close of the public comment period at 4 p.m. on Monday, June 23, 2014. Comments should be sent to Brian M. Moore, P.E., chief of groundwater and wetlands protection at DEM's Office of Water Resources, 235 Promenade Street, Providence, RI 02908 or via email to Brian.Moore@dem.ri.gov.