Arizona Water Permitting Process Updated

Governor Ducey recently signed two bills passed by the Arizona legislature dealing with water quality programs. The first, SB1494 requires the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) to establish an Underground Injection Control (UIC) Permit program. In doing so, the State will assume primacy for UIC permitting under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The ADEQ attempted to assume primacy for UIC permitting under the Aquifer Protection Permit (APP) statutes in the late 1990s.  At the time, this effort was abandoned because of differences between the UIC requirements and those under the APP program. The new legislation is intended to address those issues and to allow for quicker permitting and a shorter lead time for projects.

The second, SB1493, requires the ADEQ to establish a Dredge and Fill Permit program to assume the Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 404 permitting duties currently administered by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and Environmental Protection Agency. The Dredge and Fill Permit legislation establishes the State of Arizona’s intent to assume administration of the 404 program in the State (with the exception of certain waters on tribal land and Colorado River water) and sets out definitions, exemptions, and mitigation requirements with respect to dredging and filling related to navigable waters. The State’s assumption will include conducting jurisdictional determinations for purposes of section 404 of the CWA. The ADEQ has previously indicated that it believes that it can streamline the permitting process and achieve consistency across various CWA programs.

We anticipate that the ADEQ will begin public comment and rulemaking activities with respect to both programs in the near future.