The Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council (Permitting Council) has successfully reduced the permitting timetable by 22 months on the proposed Mid Barataria Sediment Diversion Project (Mid Barataria Project), allowing all permit decisions to be finalized by 2020.
As the General Services Administration (GSA) announced yesterday, this expedited timeline should allow the State of Louisiana to move forward on the proposed project two years earlier than expected.
The Permitting Council was created by Title 41 of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST-41) as a bipartisan effort to improve the permitting decision-making process, reduce timelines and improve project outcomes.
As a federal entity, the Permitting Council reduces the length of the permitting process by strengthening cooperation and communication among regulatory agencies, providing oversight, enhancing transparency, and emphasizing concurrent permit processing for large and complex infrastructure projects.
“My office used the FAST-41 process, in close coordination with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New Orleans District, the lead permitting agency on the project, to facilitate cooperation among 11 federal and state regulatory agencies, resulting in a 22 month reduction in the permitting schedule for the Mid-Barataria Project,” said Acting Executive Director of the Permitting Council, Angela Colamaria, while at the Mississippi River Commission High Water Inspection Trip. “The Permitting Council fully leverages agencies’ expertise to ensure a robust but efficient permitting process without modifying any underlying federal statute or regulation or the status of any mandatory reviews.”
“The Mid-Barataria Project can reconnect sustainable deltaic processes between the Mississippi River and the Barataria Basin through the delivery of sediment, freshwater, and nutrients in order to build, maintain, and sustain the wetlands,” said Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) Board Chairman Johnny Bradberry. “This project is a cornerstone of the state’s Coastal Master Plan and can complement the billions of dollars that have been or will be invested in coastal protection and restoration projects, such as marsh creation, ridge restoration, and barrier island restoration projects, along with shoreline and other structural protection projects.”
“CPRA is also moving forward with the Mid-Breton Sediment Diversion, which is designed to reconnect deltaic process between the Mississippi River and the Breton Basin,” continued Bradberry. “Over the next few months, we expect to apply to FAST-41 for the proposed Mid-Breton Diversion.”
States have the opportunity to opt into the FAST-41 process, ensuring states’ specialized, expert knowledge about local community and natural resources is accurately represented and incorporated early on in the permitting process. Louisiana was the first state to exercise this option, which is formalized in the Memorandum of Understanding for the Mid-Barataria Project.
FAST-41 is consistent with the Administration’s initiatives to improve and streamline environmental reviews for major infrastructure projects.