November 30, 2018
Hooray! We’re finally getting some rain! Seems like a good time to refresh on some emergency processing procedures in case this rainy season wreaks havoc on property, structures, or other resources.
We’ll start with what is likely the most well-known emergency processing procedure in our neck of the woods. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) Los Angeles District has an expedited permitting process under Regional General Permit (RGP) 63 which authorizes impacts on jurisdictional aquatic resources for emergency actions that would result in minimal environmental effects. A map of the Corps’ Los Angeles District can be found at the following link to understand where this RGP 63 applies:
RGP 63 is critical in true emergencies that require work or impacts within jurisdictional aquatic resources as its intent is to drastically streamline the timeframes associated with standard permitting. RGP 63 defines an emergency situation as:
A clear, sudden, unexpected, and imminent threat to life or property demanding immediate action to prevent or mitigate loss of, or damage to, life, health, property or essential public services (i.e., a situation that could potentially result in an unacceptable hazard to life or a significant loss of property if corrective action requiring a permit is not undertaken immediately).
Another key component of RGP 63 is that any work proposed to be authorized under RGP 63 must only be the minimum work necessary to alleviate the immediate emergency. As an example of when this expedited permitting process does not apply, RGP 63 may not be used for projects that involve upgrading existing structures to current standards or any projects that involve deferred maintenance (i.e., maintenance postponed due to financial constraints or other issues).
If you have an emergency situation per RGP 63, notify the Corps as soon as possible and ensure that notification includes complete and accurate information. The completeness of your notification will better ensure a rapid response and authorization of your emergency project. The notification should include the following per RGP 63:
- The name, address, e-mail address and telephone number of the applicant and the designated point of contact and their address, e-mail address and telephone number;
- The location of the proposed project, including the identification of the waterbody(ies) (this should include a copy of a U.S. Geologic Survey [USGS] topographic map, electronic map images, annotated photographs, Thomas Guide map, or hand-drawn location map with suitable landmarks; the map should have sufficient detail to clearly indicate the location and extent of the project, as well as detailed directions to the site);
- A brief, but clear, description of the imminent threat to life or property and the proposed project’s purpose and need;
- A description of methods anticipated to be used to rectify the situation (“field engineering”) is not an adequate description. It is presumed if one mobilizes material and a particular piece of equipment to a site, then one probably has a fairly well-defined intention for that material and equipment. Photographs, visual renderings of the project, plans, drawings or sketches showing the area to be impacted, cross sections showing details of construction, if appropriate, and a short narrative describing how the work is to be completed should be provided at a minimum); and
- A brief description of the project area’s existing conditions and anticipated environmental impacts resulting from the proposed work (amount of dredge or fill material, acreage of disturbance, removal of significant vegetation, loss of habitat, etc.).
Applicants may use the standard Application for Department of the Army Permit (Form ENG 4345) as the form of notification although a letter or email outlining the information above is also acceptable. RGP 63 also includes information regarding coordination with regulatory agencies other than the Corps.
The Corps generally acts quickly (i.e., within hours to days) on RGP 63 actions. Activities covered by RGP 63 are also expected to be performed quickly (i.e., within 14 days) given the emergency nature of the projects authorized.
A full copy of the current RGP 63 can be found here.
Do you think your project doesn’t quite meet RGP 63 requirements? Don’t fret. The Corps and other regulatory agencies can still expedite permit processing for urgent actions that don’t technically meet the definition of an emergency situation per RGP 63 albeit not as quickly as RGP 63. When in doubt, contact your local regulators. Can’t get a hold of them? RBC’s regulatory group has a lot of experience with emergency permitting procedures, including RGP 63, and are here to help.