In a significant development earlier this month, the Corps of Engineers released a draft of a proposed change to its Nationwide Permit Program which would streamline the process by which renewable developers obtain Section 404 dredge/fill permits. [Source: Environmental News Service. As relevant to MHK, the Corps proposes to establish a nationwide permit for MHK projects (wave, tidal, OTEC) and land based generation facilities that are one acre or less in size, and loss of no more than 300 linear feet of streamed.
Though the nationwide permits are modest in size, make no mistake, this is an enormous step towards breaking the gridlock in getting small demonstration projects into the water. It’s not just the FERC or MMS regulatory processes that create delay for licensing, but other regulatory processes as well. Thus, even companies that opt for a Verdant exemption which enables them to deploy a small project without a license for 18 months to gather data for a license application, still have to obtain Section 10 and Section 404 permits from the Corps of Engineers. These permits may also trigger the need for a Section 401 water quality certificate which can take up to a year to issue. Nationwide permits would streamline this process considerably and allow small demonstration projects to move forward for testing, data collection and monitoring.
Although the regulation has not yet been published in the Federal Register, an advance copy is circulating and is available here.