The Delaware River Basin Commission Monday announced a proposal to make several changes to its project review fee structure and to adjust its water supply charges annually for inflation.
An informational meeting for the public will be held June 15 on the fee proposal from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Washington Crossing Historic Park Visitor Center, 1112 River Road, Washington Crossing, Bucks County.
This meeting will include presentations by DRBC staff as well as a question and answer period. Oral comments for the record will not be accepted at this informational meeting.
“Funding goals for DRBC are based upon the principle that the sources of funds need to be stable, sustainable, and right-sized to meet critical program needs,” said DRBC Executive Director Steve Tambini. “Project review fees, which were last updated in July 2009, and current fee structures do not fully support the basic regulatory programs needed to manage and protect the basin’s water resources.”
The DRBC is proposing new fee structures aligned with the One Process/One Permit Program adopted by unanimous vote of the commission in December 2015. The program became effective on March 4, 2016.
For routine DRBC docket applications and renewals that are processed by DRBC’s member state agencies through One Process/One Permit, the DRBC project review fees currently in effect are proposed to be eliminated.
DRBC will continue to be involved in the review process; however, a separate DRBC fee will no longer be required at the time of application to the state agency.
Instead, DRBC’s costs associated with reviews are proposed to be supported by an annual monitoring and coordination fee.
This proposed annual fee would apply to all water withdrawals and wastewater discharges subject to DRBC review and approval under the Delaware River Basin Compact and implementing regulations, including those permits issued under the One Process/One Permit Program.
The annual fee would range from $300 to $1,000 depending upon the monthly water allocation for withdrawals and the design capacity for wastewater dischargers.
With respect to water withdrawal programs for which the DRBC continues to act as the lead agency, the project review fee is proposed to be restructured. The amount will no longer be based upon project costs or a flat renewal rate; rather, it will be based upon the applicant’s requested monthly allocation.
This change would better align DRBC’s review fee with the actual cost of conducting a thorough technical review of these applications.
No change is proposed to fees for DRBC’s review of projects that are neither water withdrawals nor wastewater discharges. The DRBC review fees for such projects are, and will continue to be, based upon project costs.
To pay the capital and operating costs of water supply and flow augmentation storage owned by the commission in two reservoirs constructed and maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the DRBC also collects water supply charges when applicable for surface water withdrawals within the basin.
The water supply charges rates have not changed since January 2011, and no changes to the rate structure or the base rates are currently proposed. However, the DRBC is proposing an annual indexed inflation adjustment for most fees and charges, including water supply charges.
Beginning in 2017, annual increases are proposed to become effective automatically on July 1. No change to the rate will occur in any year in which the applicable inflation index is flat or negative.
“We are pleased to be able to work collaboratively with our member state agencies to more effectively deliver coordinated, regulatory outcomes consistent with the scope, jurisdiction, and requirement of the Delaware River Basin Compact,” said Tambini. “The DRBC staff and commissioners are announcing these fee restructuring proposals today after carefully reviewing several options to ensure sustainable funding to support our critical regulatory programs.”
Public Comments Due August 12
Interested parties will have the opportunity to provide written and oral comments to the DRBC on these fee proposals. The written comment period will run through 5 p.m. on August 12.
Oral comments will be accepted at a public hearing to be held July 27 at 1 p.m. at the DRBC office building, 25 State Police Drive, in West Trenton, N.J.
Commission action may occur only during a public business meeting following a duly noticed public hearing.For more information on the fee proposal, visit the DRBC Fee Proposal Notice webpage.