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MADISON — A new waterway and wetland general permit that streamlines the permitting process for local governments to construct, reconstruct or maintain highways, bridges, and culverts is now in effect, state officials say.
This statewide general permit — or “GP”– combines DNR wetland and waterway regulations into a simpler permit review process for municipalities for small highway and bridge projects. Projects involving unavoidable wetland fill of up to 10,000 square feet of wetland — just under one-quarter of an acre – receive coverage under the general permit if the project meets the standards and conditions in the general permit, according to Maureen Millmann, Department of Natural Resources Transportation Liaison.
“This general permit simplifies the process for municipalities and assures they’ll get an answer within 30 days on whether their permit meets the standards and has been approved,” Millmann says.
Dave Siebert, director of DNR’s Bureau of Environmental Analysis, says the new general permit is the second of what will eventually be several general permits DNR will issue as a result of changes to state wetland laws effective July 1, and waterway laws effective Aug. 1.
The general permit sets forth the specific standards and steps that local government must address in designing small highway and bridge projects to protect the environment while meeting public transportation needs, Siebert says. “Our goal is to have a permit process that recognizes the unique nature of these public projects.”
Each general permit identifies the location, design, and construction standards and other conditions any project must meet to qualify for the general permit, and to ensure that minimal environmental effects occur. The general permit is valid statewide for five years. When property owners apply for coverage under the general permit, DNR is required to issue a decision within 30 days.
Projects that involve more than 10,000 square feet of wetland fill or do not meet the GP standards and conditions continue to require an individual permit, which has a longer process time, greater level of environmental review, and requires wetland mitigation to offset the impacts of the wetland fill.
A copy of the statewide wetland general permit, application materials and instructions on how to apply are available by searching the DNR website for keyword transportation and clicking on the “permit” tab.
Information on the value and importance of wetlands can be found by searching the DNR website for keyword “wetland.”