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Posted 2/5/2015

Release no. 2015-015


Contact
Tim Dugan
978-318-8264
cenae-pa@usace.army.mil

CONCORD, Mass. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England District issued on Feb. 4, 2015 the statewide Massachusetts General Permits (GPs) for minimal-impact activities subject to Corps jurisdiction in waters of the U.S. within the boundaries of, and off the coast of, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, excluding work within the boundaries of Indian Tribal lands.

These GPs became effective on Feb. 4, 2015. The GPs are issued in accordance with Corps regulations at 33 CFR 320-332 [see 33 CFR 325.5(c)(1)]. The GPs will protect the aquatic environment and the public interest while effectively authorizing activities that have no more than minimal individual and cumulative adverse effects on the aquatic environment.

 

The previous Massachusetts GP expired on Jan. 20, 2015. The 23 GPs for Massachusetts continue the expedited review process for activities in Corps jurisdiction under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act,  Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899, and Section 103 of the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act. A public notice, available on the Corps website, is being issued in accordance with 33 CFR 325.10 to ensure potential applicants for permits are informed of the requirements of 33 CFR 320-330 and of the steps required to obtain permits for activities in waters of the U.S. or ocean waters.

 

The Corps issued public notices on June 13, 2013 and July 31, 2014, announcing its proposal to replace existing, individual state GPs in the six New England states with New England General Permits (NE GPs). The Corps then announced in an Oct. 9, 2014 public notice that the District Engineer decided to discontinue the regional approach of the NE GP proposal and instead pursue GPs on a state-by-state basis. The Corps began working with stakeholders to expedite the issuance of the new GPs in Massachusetts to replace the Massachusetts GP that expired on Jan. 20, 2015.

 

The scope, terms and conditions for the GPs for Massachusetts are similar to those parameters that the Corps proposed in the NE GP document. There were no substantive changes made after the July 31, 2014 public notice and the Oct. 9, 2014 decision to discontinue the regional approach of the NE GP proposal and instead pursue GPs on a state-by-state basis. The Corps believes that the three public notices had sufficiently advised all interested parties of the proposed GPs, and solicited comments and information necessary to evaluate the probable impacts on the public interest.

 

The Massachusetts GPs are available for viewing and download at the Corps website:

http://www.nae.usace.army.mil/Missions/Regulatory/StateGeneralPermits/MassachusettsGeneralPermit.aspx

 

The GPs for Massachusetts look quite different from the previous Massachusetts GP; however, it organizes eligible work into more activity-specific categories. This is intended to satisfy the requirements of Section 404(e) of the Clean Water Act, which allows the Corps to issue GPs for activities that are similar in nature and will cause only minimal individual and cumulative adverse environmental effects. Identifying specific activities also will allow the Corps to adequately assess cumulative impacts of permited activities, as well as fully assess impacts on threatened and endangered species.

 

General Permits (GPs) are encouraged under the President’s plan and the Clean Water Act as a way to streamline Federal and state regulatory programs. The New England District has already had success with streamlining these programs through the use of GPs throughout New England. General Permits have been in place since 1993 in Massachusetts. These GPs are designed to authorize activities formerly covered under the Nationwide Permit (NWP) program and the prior Massachusetts GP. Continued use of the GP process in the place of the NWPs will provide important benefits to the public, including simplifying the process, expediting decisions, and providing necessary environmental protection.

 

Projects with minimal individual and cumulative effects on the aquatic environment will be approved administratively under this GP. Projects that do not meet the terms and conditions of these GPs, will be subjected to Individual Permit review. The Individual Permit review procedures are not altered by the GP.

 

Federal exemptions, which are not necessarily the same as the Commonwealth of Massachusetts exemptions, also are not altered by the GP. In addition, for projects authorized pursuant to these GPs, project proponents must obtain the appropriate local or state approvals when required in order for these GPs authorization to be valid. All GP authorizations will be subject to the applicability requirements, procedures, and conditions contained in the GPs for Massachusetts document.

 

Project eligibility under this GP will fall into two categories: Self-Verification (Self-Verification Notification Form required) and Pre-Construction Notification (PCN) (application and written verification required). The Corps will review PCNs along with state and federal resource agencies (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and National Marine Fisheries Service) as applicable. Through project review, the Corps will determine if the individual and cumulative adverse environmental impacts for PCN projects are minimal and whether the project may proceed under the appropriate GPs.

 

The public notice, with more detailed information, can be viewed on the Corps website at:  http://www.nae.usace.army.mil/Missions/Regulatory/PublicNotices.aspx.

 

For additional information on (file # NAE-2013-00714) contact the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England District, Regulatory Division (ATTN: Greg Penta), 696 Virginia Road, Concord, MA 01742-2751; or contact Permit Project Manager Greg Penta at 978-318-8862 or toll free 800-343-4789 or 800-362-4367 (if calling from within Massachusetts) or by email: gregory.r.penta@usace.army.mil.