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State Innovation Grants

EPA 2005-2006 State Innovation Grants Competition Pre-Proposals

Saving Time, Money and the Environment:
Electronic Submissions of Water Permits

Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection
Harrisburg , Pennsylvania

David Goerman, Jr.
P.O. 8775
Harrisburg, PA 17105-8775
Phone: 717 772-5971
Fax: 717 772-5986
Email: dgoerman@state.pa.us

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP) is proposing to move to an electronic permit submittal process for its Chapter 105 Water Obstruction and Encroachment Program. The proposal would create a web-based application process for applicants to submit permit applications and related materials to the Department for review and permit issuance. Innovations in this approach include: 1) a completely paperless process for routing the permit application materials between the applicant, PA DEP and other agencies involved in the review; 2) a built-in completeness review to ensure that permits are not slowed by improper completion of the application; 3) development of an XML schema for external parties with their own information management systems to automatically submit the information for the permit application; and, 4) ultimately, integration of multiple permits into a single web-based application. The pre-proposal is being submitted under the categories of “Watershed-Based Permitting” and “Streamlined and Enhanced Permitting Through Application of Innovative Technology (IT) Systems”. This proposal meets Goal 2 (Clean and Safe Water) of EPA’s Strategic Plan.

This project:


The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP) recognizes the interrelationships between the landscape and the aquatic resources that are product of the watershed. PA DEP has charted a course to integrate the major regulatory programs involved in regulating landscape disturbance, waterway and wetland encroachment and post construction stormwater control. The integration of these core programs establishes the basis for a watershed management permitting and planning process. Watershed management in the regulatory arena is a long-term objective and requires a multitude of smaller more manageable projects that will produce the intended objective of managing regulated activities and the watershed’s condition responses to those activities. To achieve this objective the PA DEP has established several discrete projects that will build on each of the previous project’s accomplishments to achieve this goal. The integration of multiple regulatory programs administered at the county, state and federal levels will require innovative approaches in permitting and development of streamlined processes that produce measurable benefits to the resource, regulated community and to the administering governmental units. This approach is aimed at introducing innovation in permitting processes across regulatory programs and not within just one sector of environmental protection. This process will improve the protection afforded to aquatic resources, provide critical data for improved management decisions on a watershed scale and provide streamlined processes for the regulated community.

Historically, land disturbance activities have been administered at the county level and water obstruction and encroachments into waterways and wetlands have been separated programmatically and administered at the state level. The PA DEP has been in the process of reorganizing its programmatic structure over the past six years which has resulted in the placement of the Chapter 102 Erosion and Sediment Control Program, Chapter 92 NPDES Stormwater Discharges Associated with Construction Activities (Phase I and II), Chapter 105 Water Obstruction and Encroachment (Waterways and Wetlands) program and the recent inclusion of Post Construction Stormwater Management requirements into the NPDES program under one Division within the Bureau of Watershed Management. In addition to the above mentioned programs, the Act 167 Watershed Planning and NPDES MS4 programs are scheduled to be officially integrated into the Division in the near future.

These programs in their aggregate, account for most of the activities that occur within a watershed context and that have the greatest impact on the underlying processes that determine form and function of aquatic systems. The PA DEP’s programmatic structure is now similar to the interrelationships found between the physical processes that occur within a watershed. Now that the programmatic structure is taking the form of an integrated watershed based regulatory program, an integrated approach to the underlying business processes, data collection and data utilization is required. The various programs are operated at multi-agency levels including county, state and federal levels. The integration of programmatic processes and technical reviews at these various levels of government requires new and innovative solutions that utilize the sharing power of internet based programs.

The cornerstone of any process is the underlying database system architecture that the PA DEP has invested in over the past six years. The basic operating database structure is present for all of the programs involved, however, only the Chapter 105 program has been implemented at the detailed operational level required. A strategy study is planned within the next year to determine the detailed operating structure of the Chapter 102 and Chapter 92 programs as they relate to Erosion and Sediment Control and Post Construction Stormwater requirements. The overall project has been broken down into five phases to accommodate flexibility in the design process, capability to build on other electronic infrastructure projects and to limit fiscal impacts on existing budgetary constraints. The five phases build on the investments made in PA DEP’s enterprise system called Environmental Facility Application Compliance Tracking System (eFACTS) and the web based process called CCD Niche for County Conservation District reporting, which provides as electronic forum for reporting the results of delegated program duties. Phase I was completed in 2003 and scheduled upgrades and improvements have been planned for this year. Phase II is the initial integration of database architecture and application processes. Phase II is the focus of this grant application. The following schedule outlines the long term objectives:

Phase I

Chapter 105 Water Obstruction and Encroachment Engineering and Environmental Inventory

Status: 2003 Initial Strategy and Development Completed Costs $***
  2005 Upgrades and Enhancements Scheduled Costs $***

Phase II

Chapter 105 Electronic Application Submittal and Review System

Status: 2004 Strategy Study Completed Costs $***
  2005/2006 System Development Planned Costs: $***

Phase III

Chapter 102 and Chapter 92 Erosion Control and Post Construction Stormwater Inventory

Status: 2005 Strategy/Requirements Study Scheduled Est. Costs: $***
  2006/7 Initial Development and Implementation Costs: $***

Phase IV

Integration of Chapter 102 and Chapter 92 into the Electronic Application Submittal and Review System

Status: 2007 Strategy Study Planned Est. Costs: $***
  2008 System Requirements Development Planned Est. Costs: $***

Phase V

Integrate Geospatial Programs into Electronic Application and Review System

Status 2009 Strategy Study Anticipated Est. Costs: $***

The current project proposal, identified as Phase II, has an estimated time line of 18 months and will upon completion deliver an electronic application submittal system that will allow all permit applicants to submit a Chapter 105/Section 4004 joint permit application via the internet using web based forms and provide the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PA DOT) to submit permit applications via XML schemas directly from their application development system into PA DEP’s system. The process will populate PA DEP’s eFACTS automatically with data derived directly from the electronic application submittal. The system will provide automated coordination with participating state and federal agencies, such as the PA Fish and Boat Commission, PA Game Commission, Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the PA Historical and Museum Commission. The system will provide auto-generated and standardized public notice for comment of proposed and final action notices to the PA Bulletin the official notice publication utilized by the Commonwealth for all applications and actions. Generate various administrative documents such as acknowledgement letters and permit documents.

The project will directly result in time savings for DEP administrative and technical staff of 20 hours per permit application culminating in time savings equivalent to 6 FTES when 75% of the average workload of 800 permit applications has been received electronically. The Commonwealth consistently receives between 700 and 1000 of these applications annually over the past decade. State and local governmental units account for approximately 40% of all applications submitted. Time and cost savings will be felt by applicants as well. Elimination of or significantly reduced application shipping and production costs and a reduction in the overall application review time.

The system will result in early interagency coordination by auto-notification to responsible officials within 24 hours of acceptance of an application submitted electronically. The current process varies and takes from 24 to 30 days before notification occurs via publication of the public notice. Responsible state and federal agency staff will be individually notified with detail environmental data related to the project’s proposed impact allowing them to identify conflicts quickly and accurately within their jurisdictional areas. This significant reduction in the time it takes for notices of coordination from a month or more to a few days or week at the longest will directly result in fewer if any projects being authorized that should required coordination and any project redesign necessary will occur prior to technical reviews even commencing saving the Commonwealth staff time as well. This automated coordination process will provide a significant improvement in the coordination conducted for threatened and endangered species, species and ecosystems of significance, and historical resources found within the Commonwealth.

From beginning to completion, this project will take two years.

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