NAHB Study to Gather Data on Wetlands Permit Times
NAHB is embarking upon a research project to examine the hard evidence of permit processing times all over the country to gain a better understanding of the flaws in the system.
The goal of the effort is to obtain real numbers that can be used to gain support for reform both in Congress and at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which administers the program for the Environmental Protection Agency.
As an added benefit, it is hoped that the study will find examples of Corps districts that have scored success in improving their wetlands permitting process so that those lessons can be applied in other Corps districts. For example, the Jacksonville, Fla. district has launched new programs to improve performance, including “permit triage center” reviews of applications before they are submitted to the Corps for processing.
Official statistics provided by the Corps of Engineers continue to show an average turnaround time of one month for a Nationwide Permit (NWP) and six months for an individual Clean Water Act Section 404 permit. This contradicts anecdotal evidence and horror stories from NAHB members who complain that the permitting process lacks predictability, is difficult to understand and can entail months, and even years, of waiting.
When NAHB surveys its members to help determine the most critical issues facing the home building industry, the development approval and permitting process nearly always rises to the top.
In 2006, it was the No. 1 issue nationally and received an average builder rating of 4.32, on a scale where 1 indicates that an issue is not critical and 5 that it is very critical.
“Efforts will also be made to encourage better communication with the Corps so that there is more cooperation rather than confrontation,” said an NAHB Environmental Issues Committee report on wetlands strategy. In a teleconference earlier this month, committee members discussed the plans, which may include joint pilot projects between homes builders associations and the Corps to test innovative approaches.
Meanwhile, the Corps will publish its proposed 2007 NWPs by the end of the summer.
“While the Corps’ headquarters staff has indicated that there will be no major changes for the permits most commonly used in residential construction, NAHB will review the proposal with a critical eye and provide extensive comments where appropriate,” the report said.
NAHB’s permit research project will begin this fall.
For more information, e-mail Calli Schmidt at NAHB, or call her at 800-368-5242 x8132.