Housing Industry Secures Victory with Construction Stormwater Permit

New Construction Stormwater Permit Begins August 1
After months of waiting, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) released the draft 2018 Construction Stormwater General Permit in April.

Housing industry experts and advocates are calling the draft 2018 permit a win for the industry and homeownership, as it contains only a minor cost increase, a far cry from the $3,500 per home increase/price tag of the current permit that has been in place since 2013.

What’s Changed
The most notable change in the 2018 permit is the format, with MPCA staff completely reconfiguring the permit.

The MPCA has also changed the repair timeframe from “the next business day after discovering” to “prior to the next anticipated rain event or three business days, whichever comes first.” In a letter to the MPCA in April 2017, Housing First Minnesota requested this change as many of its members felt the current timeframe was not always attainable.

Permit coverage effective dates have also changed. Under the draft 2018 permit, the mandatory seven-day waiting period for the permit to go into effect has changed to once the permit payment has processed, typically one business day. For projects currently requiring a 30-day waiting period, the waiting period has changed to upon the completion of the application and payment process and after the MPCA has determined that the permit plan meets all the requirements.

The process to amend the stormwater plan for projects when making cost effective substitutions has been improved.

While most changes are viewed as an improvement, the 2018 permit does include two changes that will increase construction costs. One change, which comes from the EPA at the Federal level, requires construction materials to be covered and protected from stormwater runoff. The 2018 permit also requires sediment controls near the base of stockpiles in addition to perimeter sediment controls.

The draft 2018 permit also included several provisions that alter enforcement of the stormwater permit. These changes include photographing failing BMPs and vague language that could hold permittees responsible for erosion well outside of the permit coverage area.

What’s The Same
Other than the reformatting, changes noted above and several other minor tweaks, the 2018 permit is essentially the same as it is today.

A permit is still required for projects disturbing one or more acres of soil, less than one acre of soil if that activity is part of a “larger common plan of development or sale” that is greater than one acre, or for less than one acre of soil, but the MPCA determines that the activity poses a risk to water resources.

Industry Responds
In its comments, Housing First Minnesota said that from the viewpoint of new-home buyers, the 2018 permit is a win, but changes possibly holding permittees liable for erosion miles away from construction sites needed to be modified. The group asked the MPCA to make modifications to several new provisions that would have increased encorcement powers.

Next Steps
MPCA is reviewing the public comments it has received from interested parties. Soon, the final language will be made available before the permit works through the rest of the state’s rulemaking process.

The 2018 permit takes effect on Aug. 1 for newly permitted projects. Currently permitted projects will have until Feb. 1, 2020, to be completed before new construction stormwater permits will need to be obtained, without permitting fees.

Want to learn more about the changes in the 2018 Construction Stormwater Permit? Visit HousingFirstMN.org/stormwater for a complete list of changes and to view the 2018 Construction Stormwater Permit.