Following unanimous approval by the Delaware General Assembly, Gov. Jack Markell signed Senate Bill 253 into state law on June 24. The bill eases stormwater requirements and provides flexibility to achieve results.
The measure, which concerns standards set for stormwater-runoff management by the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), results from a 2015 Superior Court case that found state regulations imposed on landowners and developers to be overly restrictive, expensive, and ambiguous.
According to DNREC, the new law’s provisions include the following:
- Allowing the use of additional best management practices that are determined to be functionally equivalent to existing best management practices under existing emergency regulations.
- Providing that DNREC develop standard plans to comply with the regulation for agricultural structures, including poultry houses that disturb less than 10 acres.
- Including an exemption for stormwater management for residential projects less than 1 acre, which is consistent with federal requirements.
- Allowing applicants seeking approval of stormwater management plans to continue to utilize standards established in the current emergency regulations until new regulations are adopted.
- Extending the timeframes for an approved plan and redelegation of program elements from 3 to 5 years.
- Requiring proposed regulations to comply with the Regulatory Flexibility Act.
- Waiving the timelines of the Administrative Procedures Act so that emergency regulations can remain in effect while the DNREC Regulatory Advisory Committee continues to develop changes to the regulations and supporting technical documents.
DNREC’s original stormwater management laws, which SB 253 amends, required that new developments inflict “no adverse impact” on runoff downstream both during and after construction. Critics argued that these regulations were far too stringent, and drove even minor construction projects to be prohibitively expensive.
The new law, says DNREC Secretary David Small, will lower the compliance costs of stormwater management for developers, contractors, and landowners while also ensuring that water quality is high and that the threat of flooding damage to people and property is minimized.
SB 253, primarily sponsored by Sen. Gerald Hocker (R-Ocean View), is aimed at common-sense conciliation between developers, landowners, and public health.
“We knew we had major problems,” Hocker said in the June 24 statement. “Projects were being delayed, and the costs associated with engineering for the projects were out of control I met with representatives from DNREC along with homebuilders, engineers, and members of the farming community. We were able to come up with a compromise we feel everyone can work with, without compromising the environment.”