The process of obtaining authorization to discharge construction stormwater from a project site can be straightforward sometimes. It requires the submittal of a single permit application to the state agency, and the development of a Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) that adheres to the requirements of the state permit.

This is not the case for all projects, though, specifically for linear projects. Long, linear projects, such as the installation of pipelines, electric transmission lines or roadways, can face a more complicated path to authorization if they cross multiple permitting jurisdictions.

Under the Clean Water Act, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has delegated authority to 46 states to issue National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits for the discharge of stormwater from construction activities. While the General Permit for each state typically follows the EPA’s permit and content, the state may adopt and enforce more stringent requirements, or requirements that are more appropriate for discharges in that state.

Depending on the type of construction project and its location, more than one NPDES permit authorization might be required, either from multiple state agencies or from a state agency and the EPA. Additionally, the SWPPP for these multijurisdictional projects must be developed to meet the requirements of all agencies having regulatory oversight.

In some cases, a linear project can cross a mix of tribal and nontribal lands, municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4s), or other special districts, as well as state lines. To avoid becoming overwhelmed by the layered complexities of such a project, and to maintain the project schedule, it is helpful to have a thorough, upfront understanding of the federal, state and local regulatory authorities holding jurisdiction in different regions of the U.S. Each regulator’s permit structure and processes for obtaining approval are variables that must be acknowledged and addressed in preparations for long, linear projects of this type.

If a linear project is located across tribal and nontribal lands, spans municipalities and unincorporated areas, or crosses state boundaries, answering some core questions early in project development can streamline the permitting process:

  • Which entities maintain jurisdiction for stormwater permitting across the project site?
  • What are the most stringent applicable thresholds for land disturbance and stormwater discharge?
  • What are the differences in the NPDES Notice of Intent and SWPPP development processes?
  • What are the differences in inspection and monitoring frequencies?
  • What are the permit termination requirements?

Identifying those answers is the first critical step toward developing your permitting approach, securing permit authorization, and ultimately maintaining stormwater compliance on your project.


Explore more of our insights into erosion and sediment control and how our professionals help keep projects with stormwater management issues on track.

Learn More

Dan Schertz, CPESC, specializes in NPDES permitting at Burns & McDonnell, with a focus on Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) development. He has developed SWPPPs for a variety of projects nationwide, including electrical transmission lines, oil and gas pipelines, and renewables sites.