The Delaware River Basin Commission Wednesday approved several changes to its project review fee structure, including an annual, indexed inflation adjustment for most fees and water supply charges.
“The fee restructuring will provide a more predictable and sustainable source of revenues to support the costs associated with implementing the DRBC’s project review program,” said DRBC Executive Director Steve Tambini. “The current project review fees, which have not been adjusted since July 2009, were creating a funding gap because they did not fully cover the regulatory program costs needed to manage and protect the basin’s water resources.”
The new fee structure will align with the One Process/One Permit Program that 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 that had previously been in effect will 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.
DRBC’s costs associated with reviews will now be supported by an annual monitoring and coordination fee.
This annual fee will 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 One Process/One Permit.
The annual fee will range from $300 to $1,000 depending upon the monthly water allocation for withdrawals and the design capacity for wastewater dischargers.
As a result of the DRBC’s action, the project review fee with respect to water withdrawal projects for which the DRBC continues to act as the lead agency will 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 will better align DRBC’s review fee with the actual cost of conducting a thorough technical review of these applications.
The project review fee for most wastewater discharges for which DRBC issues a separate docket will continue to be a flat fee of $1,000 for private projects and $500 for publicly sponsored projects. This fee will no longer vary according to the cost of the projects.
There will be no change 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.
DRBC will now have an annual indexed inflation adjustment for most fees and charges, including water supply charges. Beginning in 2017, increases reflecting inflation adjustments will 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.
Water supply charges have been collected by DRBC for surface water withdrawals within the basin, when applicable, since the 1970s 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 water supply charges will now be subject to an annual inflation adjustment, but otherwise no changes to the rate structure or base rates that have been in effect since January 2011 will result from today’s action.
The draft rule was published May 9, 2016 on the DRBC’s website as well as in federal and basin state registers between May 25 and June 11. A public informational meeting was held June 15, a public hearing was conducted on July 27, and written comments were accepted through August 12.
Following a review of all comments, DRBC staff in consultation with the commissioners developed a comment and response document, including a recommended clarifying change to the May 9 draft rule in response to comments received.Visit the DRBC website for additional information, including the final rule with the approved fee schedule, the comment and response document, and a set of frequently asked questions (FAQs).