CONCORD, Mass. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England District is proposing to replace and revise the statewide Rhode Island General Permit (GP) with a series of multiple GPs covering activity- specific categories. Public comments on this proposal are due to the Corps of Engineers by Dec. 16, 2016.
The revised GPs will continue to authorize activities in waters of the U.S. within the state of Rhode Island and lands located within the boundaries of the Narragansett Land Claims Settlement Area with minimal individual and cumulative adverse environmental impacts.
General Permits are used as a way to streamline state and Federal regulatory programs. New England District already has had success with streamlining these programs with use of GPs in New England. A public notice, on the Corps website, was issued on Nov. 1, 2016 in accordance with 33 CFR 325.3(b) to coordinate reissuance of the GPs with Federal resource agencies, state agencies and the public.
The existing GP will expire on Feb. 22, 2017, and the Corps proposes to reissue the GPs for another five years prior to that date. The revised GPs will 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.
The revised GP organizes eligible work into 21 activity-specific categories. This was intended to satisfy the requirements of Section 404(e) of the Clean Water Act, which allows the Corps to issue general permits for activities that are similar in nature and will cause only minimal individual and cumulative adverse environmental effects. Identifying specific activities allows the Corps to adequately assess cumulative impacts of permitted activities, as well as fully assess impacts on threatened and endangered species. The proposed GPs retain the function and utility of the existing Rhode Island GP and are not expected to result in significant substantive changes to how activities in waters of the U.S. are regulated in the state of Rhode Island.
Projects with minimal individual and cumulative effects on the aquatic environment will be approved administratively under these GPs. Representatives of the Corps, state agencies and the Federal resource agencies (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and National Marine
Fisheries Service) will continue to review those activities requiring a Pre-Construction Notification to the Corps, as outlined in the GPs. Projects that do not meet the terms and conditions of the GPs, including those that have the potential for more than minimal effects, will require an Individual Permit. The Individual
Permit review process is detailed at 33 CFR 325, Processing of Department of Army Permits. Reissuance of the GPs will not alter the Individual Permit review procedures, or Federal exemptions, which are not necessarily the same as the state of Rhode Island’s exemptions.
All GP authorizations would be subject to the applicability requirements, procedures and conditions contained in the GP documentation. Individual GP authorizations are not valid until all other required Federal, state and local permits and/or certifications are obtained. The public notice, with more specifics on the proposal to revise and replace the Rhode Island GP, can be viewed on the Corps website at www.nae.usace.army.mil/Missions/Regulatory/PublicNotices.aspx.
Public comments on the proposal to revise and replace the Rhode Island GP should be forwarded no later than Dec. 16, 2016 to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England District, Regulatory Division (ATTN: Michael Elliott), 696 Virginia Road, Concord, MA 01742-2751. Additional information is available from Permit Project Manager Michael Elliott at 978-318-8131 or toll free 800-343-4789 or 800-362-4367 (if calling from within Massachusetts) or by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.