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Project Review/ Permitting
DRBC Authority

The DRBC's authority to review projects comes from the Delaware River Basin Compact (Compact; pdf).

Section 3.8 of the Compact states that no project having a substantial effect on the water resources of the basin shall hereafter be undertaken by any person, corporation or governmental authority unless it shall have been first submitted to and approved by the Commission.

In accordance with Section 3.8, the Commission is required to approve a project whenever it finds and determines that the project would not substantially impair or conflict with the Comprehensive Plan.

The Comprehensive Plan consists of all public and private projects and facilities that are required, in the judgment of the Commission, for the optimum planning, development, conservation, utilization, management and control of the water resources of the Basin to meet present and future needs. The Comprehensive Plan also incorporates policies and regulations adopted by the Commission for the effectuation and enforcement of the Compact.

Reviewable projects are also subject to the DRBC's water code, water supply charges and floodplain and water quality regulations, where applicable.

DRBC determinations are issued through the Project Review Program or through the One Process/One Permit Program (OPOP).

DRBC Project Review Program

Thresholds for DRBC Project Review:

The majority of the projects subject to Commission review under the Compact are water withdrawal and wastewater discharge projects over certain thresholds:

  • The threshold for an average water withdrawal - be it from ground or surface water or diversion or transfer in or out of the Basin - is more than 100,000 gallons per day (gpd) during any consecutive 30-day period

    • The exception is withdrawals located within the Southeastern Pennsylvania Groundwater Protected Area (GWPA; see link on right), where new or expanded well water projects involving an average withdrawal of more than 10,000 gpd during any consecutive 30-day period from a well or group of wells operated as a system are required to obtain a DRBC Protected Area Permit.

  • The Commission also regulates the discharge of pollutants into the ground or surface waters of the Delaware River Basin. Discharges over 50,000 gpd during any consecutive 30-day period require the DRBC's approval, be it from wastewater treatment facilities or the importation or exportation of wastewater. DRBC approval of wastewater projects is contingent upon the determination that the discharge meets treatment standards and does not adversely affect established water quality criteria for the Basin's waters.

    • The exception is discharges in DRBC's Special Protection Waters (SPW), which are more closely regulated. The DRBC's SPW Program includes the entire non-tidal Delaware River and the watershed that drains to it. In these waters, Commission approval is needed for discharges over 10,000 gpd during any consecutive 30-day period.

Other projects in the Basin that may also be subject to Commission review include bridges, water impoundments, natural gas and liquid petroleum transmission pipelines and electric transmission and bulk power lines.

For specific information regarding the projects that are subject to DRBC review, project sponsors and the public should refer to Section 401.35 of the Commission's Rules of Practice and Procedure (pdf), which fully lists DRBC's Classification of Projects for Review under Section 3.8 of the Compact on pages 16-18 (of 51).

Additionally, the DRBC reviews permit applications in accordance with Section 10.3 of the Compact and the Commission's Southeastern Pennsylvania Ground Water Protected Area Regulations.

Docket and permit applications are reviewed by the DRBC Water Resource Management and Science and Water Quality Management branches.

The DRB Commissioners decide on whether to approve dockets at regularly scheduled business meetings after a public hearing has occurred.

Related Info:

One Process/One Permit Program

Program Background:

The DRBC unanimously approved an amendment to its Rules of Practice and Procedure to provide for a One Process/One Permit Program in December 2015, effective March 2016.

The program is intended to promote close collaboration and enhance administrative efficiencies between the DRBC and the four basin states (Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania) while ensuring that equal or better environmental outcomes are obtained.

For projects subject to regulatory review by both the DRBC and a basin state, the program provides by Administrative Agreement (AA) for the issuance of a single approval instrument incorporating the applicable requirements of the two authorities.

The program does not alter the regulatory standards of the DRBC or any state agency, and the respective authorities of each agency will be expressly preserved.

Participation in the One Process/One Permit Program:

Participation in the One Process/One Permit Program by signatory party agencies is voluntary. The scope of a signatory party agency's participation will be defined by an Administrative Agreement between the DRBC and the agency after the agreement undergoes a duly noticed public hearing.

Currently, only the states of New Jersey (for water withdrawals and wastewater discharges) and New York (for wastewater discharges) are part of the program. 

DRBC staff will continue to provide the current level of technical review under applicable DRBC standards where they have special expertise. DRBC staff also will continue to identify conditions of approval to ensure that projects subject to review under the Compact and implementing regulations do not impair or conflict with the Commission's Comprehensive Plan.

Program Leads:

  • For wastewater discharges: the states will be the lead agencies and issue permits under the One Process/One Permit Program under National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) water quality programs;

  • For water withdrawals: the lead agency could either be the state or the DRBC, depending upon current state programs and the terms of an Administrative Agreement between DRBC and the appropriate state agency.

Fee Info:

For projects that are processed by the DRBC’s member state agencies through One Process/One Permit, unless such project must be added by the Commission to the Comprehensive Plan, the DRBC project review fees that had previously been in effect will be eliminated. The DRBC’s costs associated with reviews will now be supported by an annual monitoring and coordination fee.