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Tennessee Environmental Procedures Manual

Chapter 8: Environmental Permits

8.2 Permitting in the Project Development Process

8.2.1 NEPA Phase Permits in Project Development Process

Prior to beginning archaeological field work on federally- or state-owned or managed lands, the Archaeology Section staff or its archaeological consultant must apply for and secure a State Archaeological Permit or federal ARPA permit. At the expiration of the state permit, the applicant must surrender to the Division of Archaeology all artifactual materials and all project records. Federal regulations govern the disposition of all archaeological resources removed or excavated.

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8.2.2 Post NEPA Phase Permits in Project Development Process

Once the Ecology Report has been completed and incorporated into the NEPA document, the Design Division coordinates with the Environmental Division's Natural Resources Office, Ecology Section and the Environmental Design Group to prepare the mitigation plan. This coordination includes Erosion Prevention and Sediment Control (EPSC) measures and Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plans (SWPPP) for the project, as well as any specific project-related mitigation. The Ecology Section ensures that stream and wetland information transfers from the Ecological Boundaries and Mitigation Memorandum to the design plans through the Interdisciplinary Project Planning Team (IPPT) coordination and the Program, Project, and Resource Management (PPRM) tracking system.

The Permits Section staff begins permit applications after the mitigation design, EPSC plan, and SWPPP have been prepared. The process commonly begins after the final NEPA document is approved and within six or seven months of the scheduled letting with plans to the level required for permit review by regulatory agencies. First, the Permits Section assesses the permit needs, which includes obtaining completed technical studies, agency letters, and copies of the project plans. If the permit sketches are insufficient for the permit application to be made, or if the sketches would present problems in securing a permit, then they are sent back to the Design Office for revision. Once the permit sketches are sufficient, the staff prepares an application for the needed permits. Permits should be applied for six to seven months before contract letting. The goal of the Permits Section is to obtain the permits required for TDOT projects before the advertisement of construction contracts. This ensures that the permit requirements are included in the contract book and construction plans and specifications, which are maintained by the contractor at the project site once construction has commenced.

The Permits office also submits and application to TDEC for a Storm Water Notice of Coverage (NOC). The NOC is not a permit, but an approved coverage under the NPDES Construction General Permit (CGP). The NOC application review and approval process generally takes about 30 days and does not follow the same schedule as the water quality permit application.

Generally, the permitting tasks fit into the time frame of a project as follows:

  • 12 to 24 months before contract letting
    This time period generally applies only to larger projects with an assigned TDOT Project Manager. At this phase, the Permits Section staff prepares a Permit Assessment, and (if necessary), a memorandum to the roadway designer and/or the applicable Environmental Division technical studies staff to obtain any additional information or corrections to enable the preparation of a complete and accurate permit application at the appropriate time.
  • 8 to 12 months before contract letting
    During this time period, the Permits Section staff prepares a permits assessment for non-project management projects, and (if necessary), prepares a memo to the roadway designer and/or the applicable Environmental Division technical studies staff to obtain any additional information or corrections needed.
  • Up to 7 months before contract letting
    If a Permit Assessment is still necessary, the same process as above is used. If all appropriate information is received, the Permits Section staff submits the permit application to regulatory agencies. This ensures that all required permits are acquired by TDOT in order to start construction immediately after the construction letting.

Documentation needed for the permit application from the NEPA Documentation, Social and Cultural Resources, and Natural Resources Offices, as well as the Design Division includes, but is not limited to:

  1. Environmental Boundaries and Mitigation Memorandum with information and impacts to waters of the US and State in the project area and federally- or state-listed threatened and endangered species within a specific distance from the project area;
  2. Mitigation design from the Environmental Design Group, if applicable;
  3. US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Letter and Biological Assessment (BA), if required;
  4. State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) letter; and
  5. If the project is federally funded, the CE letter, or EA/Finding of No Significant Impact or Final Environmental Impact Statement (See Section 404 or 26a permits described below).

A copy of the ARAP permit application, once completed by Permits Section, is forwarded to the Design Division for incorporation into the design plans.

The status of the permit process is regularly updated in the Permits Section database, which is available to all TDOT Project Managers and design and construction staff. Once the needed permits have been obtained, the Permits Section notifies, by letter or other method of distribution, the following TDOT staff:

  • Director of Construction Division;
  • Regional Construction Supervisor and Environmental Coordinator;
  • Scheduling Supervisor;
  • SWPPP developer (in-house or consultant); and
  • Regional Storm Water Coordinator (if NPDES coverage is required).
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