As the state-designated water quality management planning agency for Portage, Stark, Summit, and Wayne Counties, NEFCO is responsible for coordinating the use, amendments to, and updates of the region’s Clean Water Plan (208 Plan), in accordance with Section 208 of the federal Clean Water Act. In recent years, some of NEFCO’s members expressed an interest in having the 208 Plan’s facilities planning areas (FPAs) updated more frequently than every several years, which has been the frequency of past 208 Plan FPA updates. In response to this interest, NEFCO’s contract with Ohio EPA for fiscal year 2023 included the initiation (start) of a voluntary annual FPA update process. This process provides an opportunity for primary wastewater management agencies (MAs) to update the boundaries and/or wastewater treatment prescriptions (options) of their respective FPAs, which is information that can be found in the 208 Plan’s Chapter 3 Appendices and on NEFCO’s interactive online 208 Plan map.
At the NEFCO Environmental Resources Technical Advisory Committee (ERTAC) meeting on March 1, 2023, after several months of the committee’s technical review, the ERTAC unanimously recommended that the NEFCO General Policy Board approve the guidelines and associated timeline for initiating a voluntary annual FPA update process. The NEFCO Board approved the guidelines on March 15, 2023. During the same week as NEFCO Board approval of the guidelines, staff sent them to the region’s 38 primary MAs (operators of publicly-owned treatment works and sewers), notifying them of the start of this year’s FPA update and establishing a June 19, 2023 deadline for them to submit their ‘draft FPA update application packet,’ as specified in the guidelines.
This first annual FPA update is completely voluntary on the part of the MAs. There will be no consequence for MAs that choose not to participate in the process.
Under the federal Clean Water Act and Ohio Revised Code, Ohio EPA should not issue a Permit-to-Install (PTI) for sanitary sewer extensions or approve an infrastructure loan when either conflict with the 208 Plan. Therefore, it is advantageous for the MAs to anticipate areas under their wastewater jurisdiction, which may not currently be consistent with the 208 Plan, and to recommend an FPA update so that the area is compliant with the 208 Plan’s wastewater treatment options.
The annual FPA update process will make FPA updates more manageable than letting needed updates accumulate over several years, and then having to undertake a comprehensive 201/208 FPA update. It may alleviate delays for some expected economic and residential development projects which would currently conflict with the 208 Plan. By correctly anticipating the size of an expected project, the MA can prepare an adequate 208 Plan update through NEFCO’s annual FPA update process, thus enabling the project to be in agreement with the Plan prior to the submittal of the project’s permit or loan application to Ohio EPA.
For the annual update of 201/208 FPAs to proceed efficiently, it was important for the primary MAs’ GIS specialists to provide the GIS shapefiles for any proposed FPA updates to NEFCO in the same format that our agency uses. To help meet that important mapping goal, staff organized and held a virtual meeting with the interested MAs on April 21, 2023. At that meeting, NEFCO’s GIS specialist provided the mapping guidelines for the annual FPA update and subsequently sent the data to them.
Seven interested MAs submitted their proposed update application packages on or before the June 30, 2023 extended submittal deadline; and NEFCO staff completed its review of them by mid-July, in fiscal year 2024. NEFCO’s GIS specialist completed the construction of the interactive online draft FPA update map at the end of August. The update consists of nine relatively small areas where the MAs in Stark and Summit Counties are proposing updates to the FPA maps. There are also proposed text-only wastewater prescription updates that MAs are proposing for the 208 Plan’s Chapter 3 Appendix 3-10 Ravenna FPA and Appendix 3-28 Akron FPA.
Public Review and Comment Period ended on October 30, 2023
The ERTAC performed a technical review of the proposed FPA updates received from the MAs and the online draft update map at its September 6, 2023 meeting and recommended that the NEFCO General Policy Board release the draft update for public review and comments. At the NEFCO General Policy Board meeting on September 20, 2023, the Board released the fiscal year 2024 draft FPA update for a 30-day public review and comment period, which began on September 28, 2023. The comment period ended on October 30, 2023. Comments are no longer being accepted. Visitors to this website posted no comments on the interactive online draft FPA update map during the public comment period.
The next steps are to present the proposed changes to the ERTAC on December 6, 2023 for its review and recommendations. After the ERTAC recommends approval by the NEFCO General Policy Board, the proposed FPA updates will be presented to the Board for approval, likely at its meeting on December 20, 2023. Once approved by the Board, this year’s annual FPA update will be submitted to Ohio EPA for state certification and the changes will be incorporated in NEFCO’s Clean Water (208) Plan mapping.
Please contact Tom LaPlante with questions about the annual FPA update.