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NAVIGATING THE WATERSHED PERMITTING PROCESS:ISSUES INFLUENCING EPA'S TECHNICAL GUIDANCE FOR IDENTIFYING AND IMPLEMENTING WATERSHED-BASED NPDES PERMITTING OPPORTUNITIES

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Over the past 10 years, interest in managing water resources through watershed approaches has been increasing, and this includes NPDES permits both from the perspective of the permitting authority and the permit holder. EPA has recently demonstrated its support for watershed-based NPDES permitting through the issuance of two policy memos. In December 2002 the EPA Office of Water Assistant Administrator issued a policy memo entitled “Committing EPA's Water Program to Advancing the Watershed Approach.” This policy memo not only reaffirms EPA's commitment to the watershed approach but also reenergizes efforts to ensure that EPA as a whole fully integrates the approach into program implementation. The memo calls for the creation of a Watershed Management Council (WMC) that will, among other activities, accelerate efforts to develop and issue NPDES permits on a watershed basis (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2002). Following the watershed approach policy memo, EPA released the “Watershed-Based NPDES Permitting Policy Statement.” This statement communicates EPA's policy on implementing NPDES permitting activities on a watershed basis, discusses the benefits of watershed-based permitting, presents an explanation of the process and several mechanisms to implement watershed-based permitting, and outlines how EPA will encourage watershed-based permitting. It serves as a both a formal commitment and a strategy for fully integrating the watershed approach into the NPDES permitting program and accelerating these efforts, as called for in the watershed approach policy memo (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2003a).

As described in the Watershed-Based NPDES Permitting Policy Statement, EPA published the Watershed-Based NPDES Permitting Implementation Guidance (Implementation Guidance) in late 2003. The development of the Implementation Guidance highlighted numerous complex issues, laying the foundation for EPA's Watershed-Based NPDES Permitting Technical Guidance (Technical Guidance) and the decision tool referred to as the watershed-based permitting navigator (Navigator). This paper will focus on the complex issues highlighted through the public comment period for the Implementation Guidance and discuss EPA's strategy for developing the Technical Guidance.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2004-01-01

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