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Project Review/ Permitting

The Delaware River Basin Compact (Compact) provides that no project having a substantial effect on the water resources of the Delaware River Basin shall be undertaken unless it shall have been first submitted to and approved by the Commission (Compact, §3.8).

As such, DRBC has the authority to review projects in the basin that withdraw from or discharge to the basin's waters over certain thresholds. 

DRBC Authorities, Regulations, & Guidance

In accordance with Section 3.8 of the Compact, 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 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. It also incorporates policies and regulations adopted by the Commission for the effectuation and enforcement of the Compact.

The Commission provides by regulation for the procedure of submission, review and consideration of projects and for its determinations pursuant to Section 3.8.

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

DRBC Project Review Program

DRBC's Project Review Program reviews applications for water resource projects that withdraw from or discharge to the basin's waters over certain thresholds.

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

Docket applications are reviewed in accordance with Section 3.8 of the Compact and permit applications are reviewed 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.

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One Process/One Permit Program

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 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 by signatory party agencies is voluntary. The scope of a signatory party agency's participation will be defined by an Administrative Agreement between 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. 

It is expected that the states will be the lead agencies and issue permits under the One Process/One Permit Program for wastewater discharges 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.

For projects that are processed by 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. DRBC’s costs associated with reviews will now be supported by an annual monitoring and coordination fee.

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.

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