Hydropower Construction and Transportation Permits (6)
Constructing a hydropower plant requires numerous permits from Federal, state, and local governments, related to transporting construction materials, encroaching upon Federal and state right-of-ways, clearing, grading, excavating, demolishing existing structures and building new structures.
Construction and Transportation Permits Process
6.1 to 6.2 – Will the Activity Require Transporting Construction Equipment or Materials on State Roads?
State and local governments require transportation permits for transporting oversized equipment and construction materials on public roads. For specific requirements by state see:
In Alaska, a developer needs an Alaska Oversize and/or Overweight Permit (Permit) from the Commercial Vehicle Customer Service Center (CVCSC) of the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT&PF) to operate or move a vehicle or load on any state highways if that vehicle or load is of a size or weight exceeding the limits described in 17 AAC § 25.011. For more information, see:
The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has discretionary authority under 15 Cal. Veh. Code § 35780 to issue Transportation Permits for the movement of vehicles on California highways and streets with loads exceeding the statutory limitations on size, weight, and loading. Caltrans establishes the administrative process, standards, and conditions for issuing Transportation Permits in Caltrans Transportation Permits Manual (TPM).
For more information regarding Caltrans transportation permit requirements for oversized loads, see:
In Colorado, a developer may need an Extra-legal Vehicle or Load Permit to operate or move a vehicle or load of a size or weight exceeding the legal limits on State Highways from the Colorado Department of Transportation. 2 CCR 601-4 §103.1, Transport Permits for the Movement of Extra-Legal Vehicles or Loads. For more information, see:
In New York, a developer may need a Special Hauling Permit from the New York State Department of Transportation to move vehicles and/or loads on New York State highways and bridges, if the vehicle and/or loads exceed the legal dimensions or weight specified in N.Y. Vehicle & Traffic Law §§ 300 et seq., 17 CCR-NY § 154, Special Hauling Permits and New York Department of Transportation – Information Concerning Special Hauling Permits. For more information, see:
In Vermont, a hydropower developer must obtain an Overweight and Overdimension Vehicle Permit from the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to operate a vehicle over Vermont state highways and/or certain town highways in excess of the legal limits on weight and dimension. The limits and permits are governed by 23 V.S.A §§1400 and 23 V.S.A §1402.
For more information regarding the Vermont DVM’s overweight and overdimension vehicle permit requirements, see:
6.3 to 6.4 – Will the Activity Encroach on a State or Local Highway Right-of-Way?
State and local governments require an encroachment permit for any object placed in, over, or under a local or state highway right-of-way (i.e. towers, poles, pipelines, fences, and other structures), as well as when a private access road or driveway joins a public road.
In Alaska, a developer must obtain a State of Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities Encroachment Permit (Encroachment Permit) from the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT&PF) prior to constructing, maintaining, or changing an encroachment within a DOT&PF highway right-of-way (ROW), unless otherwise provided for by agency regulations. 17 AAC § 10.010; Alaska Stat. § 19.25.200(a). For more information, see:
The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) requires a State Highway Encroachment Permit for all activities related to the placement of encroachments within, under or over California highway rights-of-way. Cal. Sts. & High. Code § 670(a)(2). Under California Streets and Highways Code 660(b) an encroachment is any tower, pole, pole line, pipe, pipeline, fence, billboard, stand or building, or any structure, object of any kind or character not particularly mentioned in this definition, or special event, which is in, under, or over any portion of the California highway right of way. Cal. Sts. & High. Code § 660(b). Caltrans is responsible for issuing permits for the placement of structures or fixtures necessary to electric power lines in the state’s right of way. Cal. Sts. & High. Code § 117.
For more information regarding Caltrans encroachment permit requirements, see:
In Colorado, a developer may need a State Highway Access Permit and/or a State Utility-Special Use Permit from the Colorado Department of Transportation for projects that encroach on a State highway right-of-way. CRS 43-1-110 et seq., Powers and Duties of the Department of Transportation; CRS 43-2-102, Department of Transportation Maintain Highway System; Colorado – C.R.S. 43-2-147, Access to Public Highways. For more information, see:
In New York, a developer may need to obtain a State Highway Permit for Non-Utility Work and/or a State Highway Utility Work Permit from the New York State Department of Transportation for projects that encroach on, or require work within a State highway right-of-way. N.Y. Highway L. § 52; N.Y. Highway L. § 10; N.Y. Highway L. § 52; 17 CCR-NY §§ 125-134 et seq., Work Permits on State Highways and Bridges. For more information, see:
In Vermont, a developer must obtain a Highway Right-of-Way Permit (permit) prior to performing any work or installing a proposed utility project if any portion of the project, including roads, powerlines, or pipelines, will cross over or occupy any part of a state or town highway right-of-way. 19 V.S.A. § 1111; 19 V.S.A. § 304(a)(21). A permit is required for nearly any activity in or directly affecting the highway right-of-way. Vermont Permit and License Information, Work in a State Highway Right of Way.
Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) shares authority and jurisdiction to regulate highways with municipal legislative bodies (MLBs), which include town selectboards, city councils, and village trustees. 19 V.S.A. § 1101; 19 V.S.A. § 303. In general, VTrans has the authority to issue State Highway right-of-way permits, while MLBs have the authority to issue town highway right-of-way permits. 19 V.S.A. § 1101; 19 V.S.A. § 303. Both VTrans and the MLBs regulate highway right-of-ways pursuant to 19 V.S.A § 1101 et seq. and 30 V.S.A. § 2501 et seq.
For more information regarding Vermont State Highway Right-of-Way permits, see:
6.5 to 6.6 – Will the Activity Cause Storm Water To Disturb the Soil?
A developer may need to obtain a state construction storm water permit if the project will cause storm water to disturb the soil. The Clean Water Act (CWA) National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program requires developers to obtain permits for the discharge of pollutants into “waters of the United States.” 40 CFR § 122.1(b)(1); See generally 33 U.S.C. § 1342. For a detailed description of what constitutes “waters of the United States,” see:
Under the NPDES program requirements, a developer must obtain a permit to discharge storm water from a construction project. 40 CFR § 122.26((c). 40 CFR § 122.26(b)(14)(x), (b)(15)(i) defines a construction project as a project that involves clearing, grading, and excavating and that results in land disturbance of equal to or greater than one acre or is part of a larger plan of common development or sale that will disturb one or more acres. Construction activity does not include routine maintenance that is performed to maintain the original line and grade, hydraulic capacity, or original purpose of the facility. 40 CFR § 122.26(b)(15)(i).
Under the CWA, individual states can administer NPDES programs as long as each state’s program conforms to the requirements of the CWA and is approved by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 40 CFR § 123. Most states have implemented the NPDES requirements by administering a storm water construction general permit. Note: Individual state programs may expand upon the federal NPDES threshold requirements. See generally 33 U.S.C. § 1342. States may also require a storm water discharge permit for construction projects disturbing less than one acre if the discharge, or a category of discharges within a geographic area, would contribute to a violation of a water quality standard, would be a significant contributor to pollution of state or U.S. waters, or would exceed pollutant “total maximum daily load” limitations for a water source. 40 CFR § 122.26(a)(1)(v), (a)(9)(i)(C)-(D). Developers should review the storm water permitting process for each state in which they will be operating to ensure compliance with those states’ NPDES programs. .
In Alaska, a developer may need to obtain an Alaska Storm Water Construction General Permit (General Permit) from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC) if construction activities will disturb one or more acres of land or are part of a common plan of development or sale that will disturb one or more acres of land. Alaska Storm Water Construction General Permit, § 1.4.1. The ADEC oversees the issuance of these General Permits in accordance with Alaska Stat. § 46.03.100, 18 AAC § 15.130, and 18 AAC § 83. For more information on Alaska’s storm water permitting requirements and processes, see:
In California, a developer may need to obtain a General NPDES Permit from the California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) if construction activities will disturb one or more acres of soil or are part of a larger common plan of development or sale that, in total, disturbs one or more acres. General Permit, § I(B)(18)-(19). The SWRCB regulates construction storm water discharges through the state’s General Permit for Discharges of Storm Water Associated with Construction Activities (General Permit). Construction General Permit Fact Sheet, at 12. For more information on California’s storm water permitting requirements and processes, see:
In Colorado, a developer may need to obtain a Colorado Discharge Permit System General Discharge Permit (General Permit) from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) if construction activities will disturb one or more acres of land or are part of a larger common plan of development or sale that will disturb one or more acres of land, where the discharge will enter waters of the state. 5 CCR § 1002-61.1(1)(b), 61.3(2)(f)(ii)(A), 61.3(2)(e)(iii)(J). The CDPHE Water Quality Control Division (WQCD) regulates storm water discharges associated with construction activities under the Colorado Water Quality Control Act (Colorado – C.R.S. 25-8-101 et seq.) and the Code of Colorado Regulations 5 CCR 1002-61, Colorado Discharge Permit System. For more information on Colorado’s storm water permitting requirements and processes, see:
In New York, a developer may need to obtain a New York SPDES General Permit for Stormwater Discharges from Construction Activity (GP-0-15-002) (General Permit) from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) if construction activities will disturb one or more acres of land or are part of a common plan of development or sale that will result in a disturbance of one or more acres of land, where discharges will enter state waters (surface and groundwater) or a conveyance leading to state waters. N.Y. Env. Cons. L. §17-0701; 6 CCR-NY § 750-1.1; General Permit, § I(A)(1). The DEC regulates storm water discharges associated with construction activities under N.Y. Env. Cons. L. §17-0701 and 6 CCR-NY § 750. For more information on New York’s storm water permitting requirements and processes, see:
In Vermont, a developer may need to obtain a Vermont General Permit 3-9020 for Stormwater Runoff from Construction Sites (General Permit) from the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) if construction activities will result in a total land disturbance of equal to or greater than one acre or are part of a larger common plan of development that will disturb one or more acres, where those discharges enter state waters or a conveyance leading to state waters. 10 V.S.A. § 1264(d)(1)(D); NPDES Stormwater General Permits for Construction Guidelines; General Permit, § 1.1(A). The DEC regulates storm water discharges associated with construction activities under 10 V.S.A. § 1264. For more information on Vermont’s storm water permitting requirements and processes, see:
6.7 to 6.8 – Does the Project Activity Require Discharge of Construction Dewatering Source Water?
A developer needs a Colorado Construction Dewatering General Permit (General Dewatering Permit) “anytime groundwater, including groundwater that is commingled with stormwater or surface water, is encountered during construction activities where the groundwater or commingled water needs to be discharged to surface water or back to the ground.” Construction Dewater Activities Frequently Asked Questions, at p.1. See,
6.9 to 6.10 - Does the Project Involve Construction of a Hydropower Facility?
If the project will involve construction of a hydropower facility (i.e., hydroelectric dam, run-of-river, pumped storage, or small hydro including small conduit), then the developer should consult the Facility Licensing, Certification, Safety and Regulation Flowchart applicable to the state in which the project will take place.
6.11 to 6.14 - Will the Project Require Demolishing an Existing Structure; Building a New Structure, Grading Land, Installing Plumbing; or an Exception from Local Zoning Regulations?
In most jurisdictions, local governments require a demolition permit prior to the removal or demolition of any building, structure, or part thereof. In addition, local governments require developers to obtain building permits for all new construction or alteration to existing structures. Projects requiring earthmoving and grading activities usually require a grading permit from the local government. Local governments require plumbing permits for underground piping, piping inside of walls, above ceilings, and beneath floors. Finally, in many instances, a conditional use permit (CUP) allows a local government to consider special uses that may be essential or desirable to the local community through a public hearing process that generally are not allowed under the local governments zoning regulations. Local governments may also use CUPs to control certain uses, which might have negative effects on the community.
For more information on local regulations and permitting requirements, contact the appropriate local county agency where the proposed hydropower facility will be located.
6.15 - No Permit Needed; Continue with Project
If no permit is needed, then the developer may continue with the project.
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