Both West Basin and the regulatory community have a common goal: To develop a longterm, sustainable, and reliable water supply through a project that is technologically and economically feasible, environmentally sound, and socially acceptable. Yet despite this shared vision, the permitting process can be daunting. In addition to the sheer number of coordination points, a complicating factor is that some agencies may wait for other agencies to review the permit before they will review or approve the permit, as in the case of the Coastal Development Permit (CDP) from the California Coastal Commision (CCC). Each regulatory agency maintains various goals and objectives. Early and on-going consultation and support from these agencies is a fundamental requirement for project advancement.
In order to increase the potential for dialogue and productivity, initial scoping meetings with the various agencies should be considered. It is recommended to hold meetings with multiple agencies simultaneously, especially in situations where multiple agencies are consulting on the same permit.
It will be important to not only understand the critical elements, but also the level of detail desired for those elements. Often times, there is agreement on the type of information needed to support a project, but the parties involved may each have a different interpretation for burden of proof of that information, resulting in a bottleneck until these interpretations are resolved. It is important that the full range of issues and opinions are clearly vetted, maintain a constructive tone and exchange of information, and identify areas where additional information is needed to fill gaps or build consensus. On the flip side, the agency may be able to verify that the information provided to date is sufficient, thus saving West Basin from embarking on additional studies.
Once the initial scoping meetings have been conducted, it is important to have continued dialogue to provide updates on studies and milestones. This allows the regulatory agency to stay engaged and familiar with the project which can facilitate review since the reviewer will not have the burden of needing to get up to speed on the project elements and supporting studies. A suggested frequency is at least quarterly while initial studies are being conducted, moving to monthly once there are findings to present or if there are differences of opinion that need to be resolved. Given that schedules of multiple agencies can be challenging to coordinate, the earlier these can be confirmed the better. It is also recommended to get future meetings (or a recurring meeting) on the calendar in advance, as they can always be rescheduled if necessary. This also sends the message to the regulatory agencies that West Basin is serious and committed to moving this project forward.
The table below shows the various agencies that are involved in the review, consultation, and approval of each permit discussed in Section 2. A series of meetings should be set up to discuss each permit. In the case of the Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 404 Permit and the Rivers and Harbors Appropriation Act (RHAA) Section 10 Permit a single series of meetings can be used to cover discussion of both permits since the agencies involved would be the same. It is also recommended to hold a single series of meetings with the local jurisdictions involved in the various encroachment and right-of-way permits, as there may be opportunities to discuss common application elements and information that can satisfy multiple jurisdictional requirements, thus lessening the burden on West Basin.
For more information on the permitting for West Basin’s Proposed Ocean Water Desalination Facility look at West Basin’s Program Master Plan on the Research Page.