CONCORD, Mass. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England District is proposing to replace and revise the statewide Maine General Permit, pursuant to 33 CFR 325.S(c)(l). The singular General Permit would be replaced with 23 activity-based General Permits. The existing GP will expire on Oct. 13, 2020. The draft Maine GPs is available for review at: https://www.nae.usace.army.mil/Missions/Regulatory/State-General-Permits/Maine-General-Permit/.
Public and agency comments on the proposed Maine GP should be submitted by April 30, 2020. The revised GPs would 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 was issued in accordance with 33 CFR 325.3(b) to continue the coordination process with federal resource agencies, state agencies, and the public for the replacement of the GP.
General Permits are used as a way to streamline state and federal regulatory programs. The New England District has already had success with streamlining these programs with the use of statewide GPs throughout New England. A statewide general permit has been in place in Maine since 1983 and was the first of its kind in New England.
The revised Maine GPs document organizes eligible work into 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 also 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, utility, and general appearance of the existing Maine GP and is not expected to result in significant substantive changes to how activities in waters of the U.S. are regulated in the state of Maine.
Project eligibility under these GPs would fall into two categories: Self-Verification ("SV") and Preconstruction Notification ("PCN"). The Corps would continue to review PCN activities 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 would determine if the individual and cumulative adverse environmental impacts for PCN projects are minimal and whether the project may proceed under the appropriate GP.
Activities authorized by these GPs must be designed and constructed to avoid and minimize adverse effects, both temporary and permanent, to waters of the U.S. to the maximum extent practicable at the site of the activity(s). Compensatory mitigation for unavoidable impacts to waters of the U.S., including direct, secondary and temporal loss, will generally be required for permanent impacts that exceed the SV area limits (SV area limits are detailed in Section V beginning on page 20 of the public notice), and may be required for temporary impacts that exceed the SV area limits, to offset unavoidable impacts which remain after all appropriate and practicable avoidance and minimization has been achieved and to ensure that the adverse effects to the aquatic environment are no more than minimal. The SV limits and mitigation requirements described in the public notice will be finalized by the Corps based on comments from interested or affected public as well as those agencies which speak to the public interest.
Projects that do not meet the terms and conditions of the GPs would require an Individual Permit. The pending replacement of the GP does not alter the Individual Permit review procedures. The reissuance also would not alter the federal exemptions (33 CFR Part 323.4), which are not necessarily the same as the state of Maine's exemptions. In addition, GP authorizations would not be valid until all other required federal and state permits and/or certifications, as listed in the GPs, are obtained.
The public notice, with more specifics on the proposed Maine GPs, can be viewed on the Corps website at https://www.nae.usace.army.mil/Missions/PublicNotices/.
The Corps will consider all comments that are received to determine whether to issue, modify, or further condition the Maine GPs. All comments will be considered a matter of public record. Public comments should be forwarded no later than April 30, 2020 to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England District, Maine Project Office (ATTN: Jana Jacobson), 442 Civic Center Drive, Suite 350, Augusta, Maine 04330. Additional information is available from Permit Project Manager Jana Jacobson at 207-623-8367 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.