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Project Title and Location: Tier Framework Development for Permit Generation, Oklahoma

State Agency: Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality

Rance Shields, P.E.; Water Quality Division; Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality; 707 N. Robinson, P.O. Box 1677; Oklahoma City, OK 73101-1677; Phone: (405) 702-8120; Fax: (405) 702-8101; Email: rance.shields@deq.state.ok.us

RCRA Component: None

Other Federal Program Assistance: None

Regulatory Flexibility: None

Project Support: This project is supported by the Executive Director of the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality


Project Description

The DEQ has been developing an agency-wide environmental management system (EMS) for the past few years. The primary goals of the project are to: 1) develop software that meets our staff users business needs, 2) provide information to EPA in a more timely and accurate manner, 3) develop better mechanisms for internal reporting to streamline processes, and 4) make appropriate levels of information available to the public that is both timely and accurate. It has become readily apparent that the project needs to be expanded to address improving our permitting process while including it as an intrinsic part of the overall goal to create software that meets our business requirements and improves the efforts of our staff.

Permitting processes are currently kept at arms length from other business processes such as monitoring, compliance, and inspections. However, when evaluated objectively the permitting process is the basis for all of the other processes. Ultimately, it should be linked into the management system and considered the initial step for all ensuing processes because it is the first business process that deals with the central idea of a regulated entity.

At the DEQ, the Water Quality Division has had some experience with permit development being included within a management system. For the past 10 years our Construction Permitting Unit has had a system that generates permits automatically based on data that is entered on a series of screens. The system can then be queried for basic information such as status in the permitting process.

After interviewing staff members of this business unit we determined that it is obviously an important consideration for inclusion into our larger EMS efforts. Further, when interviewing users from other business units about their datasets and inclusion within the Network Node project, it has become increasingly apparent that permitting processes and generation of permits needs to be considered to be a part of the bigger project if we are to succeed.

The DEQ proposes to expand our initial efforts in developing scalable, extensible, and open-source software to build web applications that generate permits on the fly and initiate all pertinent data within the requirements of the Network Node project. The software would be easily modified to fit any business unit and be based on the following software design patterns:

The design patterns to be used are defined in "Patterns of Enterprise Application Architecture" (Fowler). The software we have been developing is known as the Tier framework suite. The suite combines six best-of-breed "niche" frameworks into a complete development platform. Tier is made up of Velocity (http://jakarta.apache.org/velocity/), FormProc (http://formproc.sourceforge.net/), Struts (http://jakarta.apache.org/struts/), Chain (another part of Struts), iBATIS DAO (http://www.ibatis.com/), and iBATIS SqlMap (http://www.ibatis.com/). Each Tier framework is a standalone open source product in its own right. Tier assembles the six frameworks into one seamless application architecture. These tools are currently stable and released at production level in Java. However, ports to both C# and PHP are ongoing.

The primary goals of this project would be to further develop our architecture to a more mature level including full documentation and GUI (graphical user interface) tools for developers to build web apps rapidly and completely configurable to the needs of any specific program. The project would refine our Java tools but quickly move to developing a fully mature .NET-friendly set of tools written in C#. If possible, given the time constraints on the project, a PHP port would be considered as well.

The development of a GUI "wizard" would be an improvement to our ongoing process and allow any person with some software development expertise to build a web application quickly and easily. Currently, for software development we use the following steps:

The use of a GUI would greatly decrease development time and increase programmer productivity. The full suite of tools ultimately allows an integrated team approach to be taken for software development. Specifically, database programmers provide appropriate SQL statement for inclusion into a properties file (iBatis) to be called by the controller (Struts) when necessary. The look and feel of the web application can be completely developed by anyone with HTML experience. The majority of the architecture is expressed in XML configuration files with some limited logic expressed in the language of choice.

Objectives and Principles of Project

Project Schedule and Time Frame*

Event Date
Kickoff Meeting July 1 through 2, 2004
Refinement of current Tier Framework (complete NPDES permitting generation module) July 5 through August 27, 2004
Development of C# port for Tier Framework (develop online Stormwater Construction permitting as example) August 30 through November 19, 2004
Development of GUI November 22, 2004 through May 27, 2005
User Testing for other entities May 30 through June 30, 2005
Documentation July 1 through June 30, 2005

*Assumes project start date of 7/1/2004

Meeting Program Criteria Requirements

Target Priority Environmental Issues

The project will attempt to further the link between environmental management systems and the permitting process in the Water Quality Division at several levels. One key consideration would be the elimination of redundant data entry and potential errors that exists between setting up information in the PCS system and the NPDES permitting process. Further, linking the two processes would provide modifications to be accurately reflected in both the permit and monitoring systems.

One final consideration would be to have software that could easily be modified and automatically linked to reflect the changing needs for both permits and its related processes including compliance, enforcement, and inspections

Likely Improvement in Results from Project Implementation

The project would specifically target NPDES discharge and stormwater permitting and related processes. The project would easily reduce the time required to draft a permit, encode all data points for the system, and develop event scheduling. For example, when a permit application is received, eliminating the extra step to set up a PCS entry for it would be a huge savings not only in staff effort but also in the elimination of introducing potential errors. Further, by directly tying the permitting process with modeling modules, event handling logic, and automatic document tracking and generation capabilities the entire process becomes streamlined for both Agency staff and the permittee.

The introduction of web-based permit applications for the public to initiate and apply for a stormwater construction permit would also reduce time and effort for both the public and Agency staff. However, with all Internet based systems security precautions will also be a central consideration to insure proper environmental protections and eliminate fraud.

The software stemming from these two systems will not only be working examples for other entities to use during its development process but would also provide many examples of the types of business rules that are pertinent to many other permitting processes.

Measuring Improvement and Accountability

The goal of the project to provide a fully customizable web application system with the ability to express business rules is quite lofty. However, breaking down the project into manageable measures of progress will be quite easy given the modular approach taken for software development. For example, simple measures of progress would be things such as finalizing the Java port of the tools, completing a C# build for the software, developing a GUI tool to hardwire the flow of an application and link in data store systems. However, these evaluators of success can easily be finalized following acceptance of our project and taking into account the approved level of funding.

Transferring Innovation

The entire effort of our project would be made available publicly for other entities to use and capitalize from. Given the broad goals of our project, it would be something that could be easily replicated and/or applied to other entities. We feel that the goals that include 1) a multi-language web application system, 2) complete customization to meet business needs, 3) a GUI for much of the system, and 4) a complete set of documentation, are items that would be highly sought out. Further, we would propose to make the software tools available via the Internet for all interested parties.


State: Oklahoma

Agency: Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality

Project Title: Tier Framework Development for Permit Generation

<Budgetary Information Withheld by U.S. EPA>

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