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Changes on the Horizon for Storm Water Permitting – MPDES/SWPPP – What You Need to Know Part I

ADDED BY Environmental Permitting ON

Storm water regulations go you down?

 

Feeling overwhelmed by all of the MPDES and SWPPP related paperwork?

 

You are not alone!

 

WET was recently asked by Montana Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) staff to participate in a stakeholders meeting for the renewal process of the Montana General Permit for Storm Water Discharges Associated with Construction Activity.  At the meeting, WET and several other stakeholders were asked how the permit could be improved.

 

For those unfamiliar with the Montana Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (MPDES), here is a quick review:

 

  • If construction activities disturb more than one-acre, permit coverage must be obtained. The permit submittal package includes a Notice of Intent (NOI), Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP), and the appropriate fee (based on project size).

 

  • A SWPPP requires that all possible on-site pollutants be identified. Pollutants can include petroleum products, concrete washout, or sediment – That’s right sediment, also known as soil, mud, debris… (You know, the stuff that never wants to stay on site?).

 

  • If your site has any of these pollutants, a Best Management Practice (BMP) must be implemented to prevent it from leaving the site. A BMP can be as simple as a vegetative buffer to a more complicated silt fence or rock check dam.

 

  • Inspections must be conducted to ensure that BMPs are functioning correctly and to complete any required maintenance. Which is usually an invitation for a certain four-legged animal to take your silt fence completely out after you leave. Only in Montana, right?

 

 

So now you are wondering how MDEQ is going to make this process easier for us.  MDEQ’s Lead Compliance Inspector, Chris Romankiewicz, was present to take feedback on permit issues. Many of the stakeholders asked that the permit be simplified as much as possible and to reduce the number of total pages. Chris’s response was to provide more checklists and reduce the about of required narrative text. This was well-received by everyone in attendance.

 

Identifying potential on-site pollutants can be difficult for companies new to the permitting process. MDEQ is hoping to remove some of the mystery by providing a list of typical substances and sources of common pollutants. A rule of thumb is if it has any chance of adversely affecting a state water, it is considered a pollutant.

 

MDEQ will be providing a list of recommended BMPs in the new permit as well. While MDEQ cannot specify which BMP to use in each situation, the list will provide a convenient reference for SWPPP preparers and contractors in the field.

 

MDEQ also introduced a graph system that will allow the preparer to designate different BMPs for each phase of construction.  Utilizing phasing in construction is one of the most powerful tools to ensure compliance.  As an example, concrete washout won’t be used if it is not installed before concrete is poured.  BMPs should be provided prior to a pollutant being introduced, not later as a Band-Aid.

 

While some parts of the permit must remain unchanged to comply with Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) rules, overall the changes discussed would be a welcome improvement. WET is excited for the new permit release in 2017, and was pleased to be chosen as one of the initial stakeholders for the renewal process.

 

WET has always strived to maintain a positive working relationship with state and county regulators, and our staff works hard to keep permit requirements from postponing construction schedules for our clients.  WET takes a practical approach to storm water management on construction sites, and our permitting staff has strong experience with both SWPPP preparation and BMP installation and maintenance.  Please don’t hesitate to contact us for any of your permitting needs, or check out our website to learn about other permitting services:  www.waterenvtech.com/services/environmental-permitting.

 

Sage Grouse Permitting – Navigating Through Permitting Challenges to Move Your Project Forward

ADDED BY Environmental Permitting ON

Odds are high that the “Montana Sage Grouse Habitat Conservation Program” strikes a familiar chord with anyone who has resided for more than a week in Montana. Amidst the Executive Orders, public commentary, and permitting maze is a topic worthy of a second look.  Herein lies an integral symbiotic relationship between a brave avian species, characteristic big sky rangelands, and valuable energy resources that stimulate the heart of Montana’s economy.

 

Ultimately, the arid climatic and sedimentary-based geological environments that host some of Montana’s valuable energy deposits also retain key soil chemistry and structural components that promote healthy growth of Sagebrush.  This unique species of evergreen offers foliage containing a high percentage of crude protein, as well as abundant thermal and visual protection, providing the ideal nourishment and nesting environment for the Greater Sage-Grouse.  Addressing the concerns of one interest group while protecting the livelihood of another has become somewhat of a balancing act for the Montana State Legislature.

 

Significant Sage-Grouse population decline has raised concerns and triggered careful examination. The result has been nearly two decades of ongoing debate whether or not to add a Greater Sage-Grouse listing to the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

 

The recently implemented Montana Sage Grouse Habitat Conservation Program is mutually beneficial to Montana’s Wildlife, Environment, and Industry

“The quiet beauty of our state, the grandeur of our mountains, and the vastness of our rolling plains” is simply an excerpt of the preamble to the Montana Constitution, yet eloquently embodies a state deeply valued by its residents.

 

Not surprisingly, Montana’s residents take pride and ownership in all that our state has to offer, which fuels a driving force behind the desire to prevent a Sage Grouse listing on the Endangered Species Act.  Although ESA provides safeguards for threatened species, it also contains a number of implications that would prove detrimental to the state of Montana overall. As the vast majority of Sage Grouse habitats are under private land ownership, should the Sage Grouse become listed, the hard-and-fast stipulations of ESA Section 7 (No-jeopardy consultation requirement) and ESA Section 9 (Take prohibition) would likely impede growth with respect to energy resource development. By effectively managing the problem at a state level, an ESA listing could be prevented, thus preserving the interests of all parties.

 

In 2015, the Legislature passed the Greater Sage Grouse Stewardship Act, and Governor Bullock signed Executive Orders 12-2015 and 21-2015, creating the Sage Grouse Habitat Conservation Program, and involving federal, state, and private entities in a concerted effort for Montana to retain state authority over land management while ensuring that a Sage Grouse listing will not be necessary.

 

~ Proactive management today safeguards growth potential for both wildlife and industry tomorrow. ~

 

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The Montana Sage Grouse Habitat Conservation Program is a carefully engineered habitat management plan that protects wildlife without precluding development.

Specific details on the Montana Sage Grouse Habitat Conservation Program can be found at:

https://sagegrouse.mt.gov/

 

How can I contribute to the success of the management plan?

Understand the Management Plan Basics for guiding development in designated Sage Grouse Habitats

  • Avoid impacts if possible
  • Minimize impacts if they cannot be avoided
  • Restore impacted areas

 

Know your project area – Is it within designated Sage Grouse Habitat?

  • Core area (Leks, nesting areas, prime habitat areas)
  • General habitat (important habitat areas)
  • Connectivity area (areas that link Montana populations to habitats in other states and Canada)

 

Designated Sage Grouse Habitats and Requests for Project Review can be found at:

https://sagegrouse.mt.gov/projects/

 

Contact WET’s permitting team to ensure that projects undergo proper evaluation early in the permitting process, in order to keep your development on schedule.  Learn more about WET’s permitting services here:  http://waterenvtech.wpengine.com/services/environmental-permitting/

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