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Tennessee revises its water protection rules and permitting policy

December 17, 2014

Have you ever tried to remodel your house, build a new structure on your property, or repair an existing one? If you happened to live near any kind of body of water, you probably found out fairly quickly that your process was going to be a bit more involved than that of someone who wasn’t close to any lakes, rivers, etc. For some people, their projects are called off altogether because of the additional red tape.

The reason for such regulations is that building up or disturbing the sediment near a body of water – even with a relatively minor project – can have an impact on the purity of that body of water. Even more so than natural particles, however, environmental policy seeks to keep building waste, materials, and chemicals from contaminating bodies of water (either through direct dumping or through ground absorption/runoff). These laws and regulations are commonplace and help to keep water safe not only for our own use, but for the plants and animals that depend on it as well.

Now, the state of Tennessee is revising its environmental building permits policy. The goal of the revisions aren’t just to make things stricter (with the goal of being safer) however, they’re also meant to make the types of permits available better suited to various goals. The idea is to make it easier for people to understand exactly what types of permits they need to acquire and why.

In Tennessee, these permits fall under the Aquatic Resource Alteration Permit program (ARAP), which has been in place for some time now. By July of 2015, however, the new/revised permit types will be available to the public.

While the laws will certainly affect general contractors and do it yourselfers, the government wants citizens to know that its own agencies will be subject to the rules as well. The Tennessee Department of Transportation, for example, will be required to gain permit clearance for new road and building projects if they fall within close proximity of a body of water. The Metro Water Services’ operations, obviously, will also be subject to the new permits.

Some of the impacts the permits will account for include things like: the altering or redirecting of a stream, the stabilizing of stream or river banks before and after nearby construction, the removal of excess sediment, or the building of new utility lines and cables over the top of a body of water.

While sometimes these permits can be intensely frustrating for a family trying to change something about the property they live on, these permits are designed to serve a purpose. Many bodies of water we see every day, for example, have a connection to your drinking water supply, even if not directly obvious. While drinking water is of course filtered and processed before it ever has a chance of reaching your household, costs are kept down and processes are kept simpler by keeping source water clean.

At the end of the day, the government of Tennessee believes that more regulation is better when it comes to water quality. We’ll find out over time if the residents of Tennessee agree.