U. S. Army Corps of Engineers permits are necessary for essentially any work, including construction and dredging, in the nation’s waters and wetlands. The Corps balances the benefits and impacts of any proposed project, and makes
permit decisions that recognize the essential values of the nation’s aquatic ecosystems to the general public. The Corps also considers the property rights of private citizens who want to use their land. Many people apply for regulatory permits each year, and more than 1,300 permits were issued from the Charleston District in FY19.
The Charleston District just made this process a little easier for applicants. To continue improving efficiencies within the Regulatory Program, the District implemented paperless/electronic files as a primary means of accepting project
submittals and issuing final agency action.
This new process includes accepting all types of permit applications, as well as jurisdictional determination requests,
no permit required requests and pre-application meeting requests. These types cover the majority of the requests that come in each day.
“The District ran a pilot program on this process for many months before rolling it out full scale so we could get feedback and tweak any necessary issues,” said Brice McKoy, the Columbia regulatory branch chief, whose office led
this effort. The program has been very successful and has drastically reduced the District’s reliance on paper products, postage and associated office supplies, saving taxpayers’ money.”
Conservatively estimating, the District is saving over $10,000 per year on postage and mailing supplies alone, which is of even greater importance in a time of limited budgets. Additionally, it allows for immediate transmittal of correspondence, greatly reducing the time lost using traditional mailing procedures. With all the time saving, the
overall process from submittal to final approval is up to 30 percent faster than the traditional method for many applications.
It didn’t take long for this greener method to catch on, as Regulatory is already receiving over 90 percent of their applications in this paperless format. They are receiving only one or two paper applications each week, which is exactly what the District had hoped for. While electronic submittals are preferred, they still do accept paper documents.
“The e-permitting process has enabled us to meet our clients’ needs in a more professional manner,” said Laura Belanger with Environmental Permitting Consultants, Inc. “The immediacy of the assignment of the District permit number and project manager has led to an increase in the confidence our clients feel that their project is being reviewed in a timely manner. Questions on submittals are able to be addressed more quickly and the overall turn-around time has improved dramatically.”
To submit an electronic file, it must be a single PDF, pages can be no larger than 11”x17” and the text must be readable. Email addresses for all parties must be included and the file cannot be locked, secured or have active form fields for signature. Currently, the District can only accept up to 12MB, but larger files can be sent via the DoD SAFE file transfer site at https://safe.apps.mil/. (Files can be emailed to the appropriate office according to the graphic on the left-hand page.)
Improvements to keep pace with rapidly changing technology will continue to be published so the District can stay in line with practices used by other environmental professionals. We are proud to be delivering a better service to
our community. The next time you need to submit a permit application, give it a try!