Ten Things to Know About the Wetlands and Waterways Permit Updates in Ohio

By: Joyce Marzano, Senior Ecologist

small-waterwayEven small agricultural waterways can be regulated features

State and Federal agencies are issuing new regulations regarding wetland and water permits. If your project involves dredging or discharging into waterways or wetlands, here are 10 things you should consider before starting your project:

  1. The federal Clean Water Act (CWA) requires anyone discharging dredged or fill material into waters in the United States (wetlands, streams or lakes) to obtain a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) pursuant to Section 404.
  2. If you apply for a 404 permit through USACE, you also must obtain a Water Quality Certification through Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pursuant to Section 401 of the Clean Water Act.
  3. Activities typically requiring 404 permits and 401 certification include: culverting streams, stream crossings, bank stabilization activities and filling wetlands, but many others could also qualify.
  4. If your project meets the specific Ohio EPA conditions of a USACE Nationwide Permit, a general Water Quality Certification may be granted. However, if specific conditions are not met or the work will be performed in waters with a special designation, a project-specific Individual Section 401 certification will be needed. If your project will result in minimal impact, a Director’s Authorization (that is, a variance from Individual 401 requirement) can be sought.
  5. The USACE Nationwide Permits are being reissued, effective March 19, 2017. If you currently have been granted a 404 permit, it may still be valid after March 19, 2017, through March 19, 2018, if certain conditions are met. You should double-check with the USACE to confirm the conditions for continuation of your permit are met for your project.
  6. Ohio EPA updated the 401 rules pertaining to 401 submittals and procedures, effective January 2, 2017. The Ohio EPA also proposed modifications to 401 certifications for Nationwide Permits, tentative effective date March 19, 2017.
  7. These proposed 401 modifications for the Nationwide Permits include a Stream Eligibility Map, and three categories are identified: a) eligible areas (Individual 401 or Director’s Authorization  generally not required), b) ineligible areas (projects affecting high quality streams and undesignated streams draining directly to high quality streams where an Individual 401 or Director’s Authorization is required), and possibly eligible (Individual 401 or Director’s Authorization may or may not be required, additional field screening is needed).
  8. Ohio EPA also developed a fee structure for issuing 401 Water Quality Certifications. Fees are associated with an Individual 401 Water Quality Certification and depend on amount of proposed impact, based on linear foot of impacted stream and/or acre of wetland.  Pursuant to the proposed 401 modifications, the Section 401 Director’s Authorization will require a flat $2,000 review fee.
  9. Individual 401 Water Quality Certifications require public notice with the opportunity for public comment and even possibly a public hearing.
  10. The USACE will take action to either approve or deny a Nationwide Permit within 45 days of receipt of a complete application. The Ohio EPA will take action to either approve or deny an Individual 401 within 180 days (and a Director’s Authorization within 90 days) of receipt of a complete application. The Ohio EPA will review applications for completeness within 15 days of submittal. The new rules indicate that if the Ohio EPA fails to respond within 15 days, the application is considered complete.

BONUS INFO:  Ohio EPA is developing a certified professional program for stream and wetland assessments in support of 401 applications. The program is being developed to provide efficiencies to the 401 process and would reduce turnaround times if individual 401 applications or Director’s Authorization requests are submitted by certified persons. More details on the certified professional program are available through Ohio EPA at http://epa.ohio.gov/dsw/401/cwqp.aspx.

forest-wetlandA forested wetland can be dry during extended periods of the growing season. An experienced wetland delineator should perform an assessment of the property early during the project planning phase

The Future of Transportation – Driverless Cars Steer to the Roadway

By: Frank Bronzo, Principal

The definition of the word tradition is, “the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information from generation to generation, especially by word-of-mouth or by practice.”

The holiday season is filled with tradition and I hope you enjoyed your holiday traditions with family and friends. It is enjoyable for me to be able to pass along those beliefs, customs and information to other generations during the holiday season.

As I was driving from one family gathering to another I had time, waiting in traffic, to reflect on transportation infrastructure traditions. Traditions, customs, and practices that we have become accustomed to are about to change. As a professional in the industry, we are about to enter uncharted territory and these are very exciting times.

OK, I guess I am being a little melodramatic, but take time to understand what is happening in the transportation industry as a whole.

Overall, there were an estimated 255.8 million registered passenger vehicles in the United States in 2013. This number, along with the average age of vehicles, has increased steadily since 1960, indicating a growing number of vehicles per capita. Although vehicle registrations have slipped over the past few years, the newest generation (millennials) are driving more than baby boomers. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) reported an increase in vehicle-miles traveled (VMT) in 2016 when compared to 2015. The increase of traffic and cars on the road will continue to tax our transportation infrastructure.

We all understand why we have experienced the declining revenue stream (gasoline tax) for transportation infrastructure improvements and, based on projections, this will not change in the future. Cars are getting more miles per gallon and hybrid and alternative fuel vehicle sales are on the rise. In summary, funding, as it is collected today is decreasing while needs are increasing.

Cartoon Orange Car Moving Without  DriverAuto pilot is no longer a vision – it’s a reality

While the transportation industry researched ways to accommodate the increased traffic that comes with an increased number of VMTs, focusing on improving the quality of life and driver experience by reducing congestion, improving air quality and safety as an industry, it’s being realized that traditions must change.

We have found that by integrating the use of technology into our transportation network, we can positively affect the operation and safety of the network. However, as with all systems, the integration of something new changes other elements of the system. We now realize, from a traffic analysis and engineering point of view that we are about to flip tradition on its head.

The introduction of a driverless car is at the helm and leading changes in the transportation industry. At its ‘Futurama’ exhibit at the 1939 New York World’s Fair, General Motors gave the public their first peek at the possibilities of self-driving cars. Visitors were seated in rows above a three-dimensional display showing a futuristic city center with a traffic flow of radio controlled electric automobiles. The ‘dedicated’ roads, with integrated electric cables, provided an electromagnetic field that transmitted the power to propel the cars.

1939 auto show.jpgDriverless Car of the Future, advertisement for “America’s Electric Light and Power Companies,” Saturday Evening Post, 1950s. Credit: The Everett Collection

While technology today is a little different from what was presented in 1939, we are utilizing similar theories. Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC) is a two-way short-to-medium-range wireless communications capability that permits very high data transmission that is critical in communications-based active safety applications. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) allocated 75 MHz of spectrum in the 5.9 GHz band for use by Intelligent Transportations Systems (ITS) vehicle safety and mobility applications.

DSRC-based communications are a major research priority of the Joint Program Office (ITS JPO) at the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA). The cross-modal program is conducting research using DSRC and other wireless communications technologies to ensure safe, interoperable connectivity to help prevent vehicular crashes of all types and to enhance mobility and environmental benefits across all transportation system modes.

The U.S. DOT’s commitment to DSRC for active safety communications contributes to safer driving. Vehicle safety applications that use vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communications need secure, wireless interface dependability in extreme weather conditions, and short time delays; all of which are facilitated by DSRC.

In Ohio, capacity improvement projects such as “add a lane” are a thing of the past. The interstate system is built-out, bounded by limited funds and the availability of right of way. The Ohio Department of Transportation, in conjunction with several other stakeholders, are about to embark on a pilot project utilizing this technology. Vehicles are being produced with DSRC capabilities and, in short, will be able to communicate with each other through ITS vehicle safety and mobility applications.

This is a game changer for the traffic analysis junkie. Just think about the integration of low latency, active safety applications, transmitting messages via V2V or V2I in milliseconds, without delay, allowing for each vehicle to adjust speed and direction accordingly. Information will be delivered through fiber connections that access the high speed broadband network.

Head up display(HUD) and various informationDriverless cars are capable of sensing its environment and navigating without human input

Today, human reaction time is the main cause of accidents and delays on our roads not to mention its effect on capacity analysis, and will ultimately be eliminated from the equation. The traffic design manual will have to be rewritten and new traditions, customs and theories will be developed.

Autonomous-driving automobiles (ADAs) are not just around the corner – they are here much to the delight of aging baby boomers, who will never be immobile, and younger generations, who will be able to play computer games and text message all while being driven automatically. We, as transportation engineering professionals, will have a front row seat in the evolution of this technology. Some will have instrumental roles in the adaptation/development of this new technology; all will be affected, both professionally and personally. New vehicle technologies developed in the 20th century—from seat belts to air bags to child seats—were once controversial. But after having saved hundreds of thousands of American lives, they are now considered indispensable. Advanced technologies developed in the first part of the 21st century—like automatic emergency braking and lane departure warnings—are already making U.S. roads safer. How many more lives might be saved in the future with highly automated vehicles? Shouldn’t we as an industry be committed to finding out?

I am excited for the possibilities, intrigued by the technology and hopeful that this new direction in safely transporting people, services, and goods will help us have a positive impact on our projects and ultimately the communities we serve.