Friday, June 10, 2016

Delaware River Basin Commission Hearing On Water Project Review Fees July 27

The Delaware River Basin Commission published notice of proposed regulations changing its rules of practice and procedure concerning regulatory program fees, water supply charges inviting public comments in the June 11 PA Bulletin.
An informational meeting on the proposed changes will be held June 15 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Washington Crossing Historic Park Visitor Center, 1112 River Road, Washington Crossing, Pa.
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.
DRBC has also scheduled a public hearing on the proposal on July 27 at the DRBC Office 25 State Police Drive, West Trenton, NJ starting at 1:00.
Public comments will be accepted through August 12.
DRBC's current project review fee structure was adopted by the Commission in 2009. For projects involving total costs of $250,000 or less, it consists of a flat project review fee of $1,000 for privately sponsored projects and $500 for publicly sponsored projects.
For projects with total costs greater than $250,000, DRBC's current project review fee is based upon a percentage of the costs of the project attributable to project components physically located within the basin, and is capped at $75,000.
However, projects for which the review is exceptionally involved may be charged DRBC's actual costs, which may exceed $75,000.
The current fee structure generates an uneven revenue stream that produced average annual revenues of $610,843 for the years 2011 through 2015.
The Commission's total cost associated with project reviews required by the Delaware River Basin Compact and DRBC regulations is estimated to equal $1.15 million annually.
This estimate takes into consideration administrative cost savings expected to accompany implementation of the One Process/One Permit Program recently authorized by the Commission through its adoption of the one permit program rule.
DRBC's water supply charges are used to pay debt service, annual operation and maintenance costs, and the costs of required improvements, repairs and replacements associated with water supply storage owned by the Commission in two reservoirs—Blue Marsh and Beltzville—located in Pennsylvania and operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Water supply charges revenues also support DRBC activities related to water supply planning and operations. DRBC's current water supply charges rates, in effect since January 1, 2011, are $80 per million gallons for consumptive use and $0.80 per million gallons for non-consumptive use.
The previous rates, $60 per million gallons for consumptive use and $0.60 per million gallons for non-consumptive use, were adopted in 1978 and remained unchanged for more than 30 years. DRBC's water supply charges revenues have lagged significantly behind inflation.
The proposed project review fee restructuring includes: for wastewater discharge projects, elimination of DRBC project review fees for applications that undergo coordinated review pursuant to the One Process/One Permit Program; and for water withdrawal projects, (1) for those projects for which DRBC continues to act as lead review agency, replacement of the current fee structure with fees based on monthly water allocation limits; and (2) for renewals subject to coordinated review under One Process/One Permit, elimination of the project review fee.
DRBC is simultaneously proposing an Annual Monitoring and Coordination Fee for all water withdrawal and wastewater discharge projects subject to DRBC review and approval, including projects that receive permits from a signatory party agency under the One Process/One Permit Program.
The annual fee will range from $300 to $1,000 per year, depending upon the permitted discharge capacity or monthly water allocation. The fee for DRBC's review of ''Other'' projects—those that involve no ongoing withdrawals or discharges—will continue to be calculated on the basis of project cost.
The Annual Monitoring and Coordination Fee will not apply to such ''Other'' projects.
In instances where the Commission's activities and related costs associated with the review of an existing or proposed project are expected to involve extraordinary time and expense, the Executive Director will continue under the proposed rule to have the discretion to impose an Alternative Review Fee equal to the Commission's actual costs.
An annual, indexed, automatic inflation adjustment is proposed for most project review fees.
The proposed regulatory program fees structure is expected to provide a more predictable and sustainable source of revenues and to help close the annual gap in funding needed to support DRBC's project review program.
No increase is proposed to DRBC's current water supply charges rates, set forth at 18 CFR 420.41. However, an annual, indexed, automatic inflation adjustment is proposed, applicable to both the consumptive and non-consumptive use rates for surface water withdrawals.
For more information and a copy of the regulation changes, visit DRBC’s Water Fee Changes webpage.

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