Why do I need a permit? Can we stop doing SWPPP work when it's not raining? (& other FAQ's)

Updated: Mar 31

I asked our team members to share some common questions that clients ask us about. Here are the answers to those important questions, assembled in one convenient location.

Written and Edited by Kaeli Tully & Mae McGuire

Why do we have to perform SWPPP work?

To answer this, it's essential to understand why Stormwater Management is important. Stormwater is rain or snowmelt that flows over surfaces to generate Stormwater Runoff. As this runoff flows downstream it can easily pick up pollutants and carry them into our rivers, creeks, and oceans (watch more here).

Construction exposes various pollutants, such as sediment, cement, and oil. When too many pollutants like these get concentrated in our water bodies, it's harmful to wildlife and threatens our water quality. If we want our waterways to be clean and clear, we have to work together to minimize the amounts of pollutants entering them.

SWPPP work helps your construction site prevent Stormwater pollution (and it's required by the regional, state, and federal governments). Sweeping track-out or fixing inlet protection—when done correctly—actively helps to prevent Stormwater pollution. You have a huge role in protecting the environment when you help maintain BMPs and do your part to minimize pollutant exposure.

"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure"

-Benjamin Franklin coined this phrase; Robin says it frequently

What's the difference between a SWPPP and a WPCP?

Both SWPPPs and WPCPs are Stormwater plans that outline what contractors must do to comply with Stormwater Regulations. The main difference between the two is that a SWPPP is written for projects that disturb 1+ acre of soil, where a WPCP applies to projects that disturb <1 acre of soil.

There are exceptions to this rule. For example, even if your site disturbs over an acre of soil, it may qualify for a WPCP instead of a SWPPP. In order for this to be true, your site would require a Rainfall Erosivity Waiver. Curious to know how to check if your site qualifies for this Waiver? Check out our free 10-minute walkthrough here.

In addition to the difference in requirements for SWPPPs and WPCPs, their content varies too. Both plans contain similar drawings, diagrams, and other relevant information meant to help the contractor control pollutants during construction. A WPCP is essentially the toned down version of a SWPPP.

If your site is following a WPCP, then that means it's subject to county or regional regulations. Sites under SWPPPs are expected to follow state or federal jurisdictions. While the two plans are pretty similar in essence, the difference is in the details.

Why do I need a permit?

When your site disturbs soil it's likely going to need some kind of Stormwater Management plan. If your site disturbs over an acre of soil, you will probably need to obtain a permit from the state or federal government. This permit is called the Stormwater Construction General Permit (CGP) and outlines the requirements your site must follow to make sure that you aren't polluting our waterways.

If your site doesn't disturb more than 1 acre of soil, you're not quite off the hook yet. While you don't need to obtain a fancy permit from the state or fed's, you'll likely need to get a Water Pollution Control Plan (WPCP) per your regional water board's requirements, especially if you have a public project. The local agency or owner overseeing the project may require a WPCP too.

Basically, almost everyone who disturbs soil needs some sort of plan to make sure that you aren't polluting Stormwater and subsequently polluting our water bodies. You can always refer to your Waste Discharger Identification (WDID) number when obtaining permit coverage to see what your site may need.

  • For more information about the California Permit, click here.

  • For the full California Construction General Permit, click here.

  • For the Federal Permit, click here.

What permit is my site following?

It depends. If your site is located in California, then it's likely under the California Construction General Permit. If your site is in California and is located on federal or tribal lands, then it might need a federal Construction General Permit from the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES).

If your project has a WPCP and not a SWPPP, then your project is not covered under any permit and is following local/regional requirements for Stormwater Management instead. If your project takes place directly in a water body, then it probably needs a 401/404 permit along with Fish and Game agreements.

Different projects require different permits. We can help you determine which permit you will need (or figure out which permit/plans you already have). For help understanding permits, contact our team at (707) 693-1926 or email estimating@tullygroup.com.

Do we need to abide by the SWPPP when Winterization is in place?

"Winterization" refers to closing up your site for a period of time when construction is not taking place. Even if your project site is Winterized and considered inactive, following the SWPPP is still a requirement until the permit is closed.

That being said, complying with the SWPPP during a period of Winterization is much more simple compared to an active site. If installed correctly, your BMPs should last through the winter and will require minimal adjustments until the site returns to an active state.

Abiding by the SWPPP during Winterization ensures that your site complies with Stormwater regulations in your absence. You may not be out in the field during the wintertime, but we will be!

Why do we need to install and maintain BMPs during the summer months when it's not raining?

Something we've learned throughout the years is that surprise rain can happen. For example, this past May was the wettest May on record for Sacramento. Moral of the story: you should always be prepared (and it's required by the state of California).

The permit also covers discharges not related to Stormwater; we refer to these as Non-Stormwater Discharges. These are things like fire hydrants flushing, concrete slurry, oil spills, and so on. Even if it's not raining, BMPs help minimize pollution from Non-Stormwater Discharges too.

In addition to reducing Stormwater and Non-Stormwater Discharges, BMPs are required for sediment and erosion controls. Per the CGP and our mission to minimize pollution, we are here to help you out throughout the entirety of your project. All-year-round we're making sure that the only liquid leaving your site is clean water.

Why does TCG perform inspections when it's not raining?

Year-round inspections are required by the state of California. Even still, Stormwater Management practices are not exclusive to the weather, or even just Stormwater.

During inspections, we monitor things like waste management, dust control, stockpile management, erosion control, and general housekeeping—to name a few. These inspection points are closely related to Stormwater in that if they are not properly managed, the potential to pollute Stormwater increases. Stormwater Management is complex and encompasses so much more than just rain.

Weekly, Quarterly, and other regular inspections make sure that you are prepared for rain events and following regulations accordingly. Rain Event Inspections are the test that makes sure that your BMPs and other practices are working as they should.

Does our site really need all of those inspections?

All of our inspections are necessary (and they're required by the state of California). In addition to our Weekly Inspections, we perform Quarterly Inspections, Rain Event Inspections, and more. Whenever possible, we will complete multiple types of inspections in one visit. This allows us to efficiently meet the demands of the various inspections while reducing our cost to you.

Unlike Weekly and Quarterly Inspections, Rain Event Inspections only happen if it rains. Every inspection happens for different reasons, but they all serve the same purpose: to ensure that activity on site is complying with Stormwater Regulations. Staying in compliance not only prevents pollution, but it also helps your project avoid costly fines.

There are some rare situations where inspections don't happen as often as usual. However, your site must receive proper permission from the Water Board in order to reduce the typical frequency of inspections. As long as your site isn't one of those with special Water Board permissions—and odds are it's not—your site really does need all of those inspections.

Does TCG perform inspections throughout all of California?

At this time, we only perform inspections within a 2-hour radius from our office in Dixon, CA. However, if your site is located just outside of our inspection zone, we may be able to inspect it. Depending on the type and frequency of inspections, the duration of your project, and other important information, we might just make the trip!

While we only perform inspections within a 2-hour radius of Dixon, we can write plans for construction and industrial sites located just about anywhere in the state. From Environmental Protection Plans to Erosion Control Plans, we'll do what we can to get you what you need.

What are TCG's most popular services?

Drafting SWPPPs and WPCPs, and performing inspections are our most sought after services by far. Our services are usually offered turnkey, or as a package deal. If you hire us for your site's Stormwater Management, we can take care of just about anything that comes along with that. Drafting SWPPPs, amending SWPPPs, performing inspections, and completing Annual Reports are just some of the many tasks that we'll do for you as your Stormwater consultant.

Think of us as your One-Stop-Stormwater-Shop! That being said, we know one size does not fit all. We'll accommodate your needs however we can, even if you require one service or several of them. Don't know where to start? Don't worry, we're with you from the beginning to the end.

What does my site need to comply with Stormwater regulations?

To know what plans and services your site needs, we have to consider its specs in order to set you up for success. The best way for us to do this is for you to reach out to us before construction starts. If you're able to bring us on board as early as the design phase, that's even better. We work diligently to provide you with a custom combination of services that are sure to satisfy the needs of your project.

Ultimately, your site will most likely need a permit, a plan, and a Water Pollution Control Manager. Drop us a line at (707) 693-1926 or shoot us an email at Estimating@TullyGroup.com to figure out exactly how we can help you comply.

What's that bird?

We see all sorts of critters out in the field! I answered this question in a recent, Brief Species Guide. Go check it out here :)

If you have any more questions, please get in contact with our team. Our information is listed below. Thanks for reading and don't forget to share!

Office Number: (707) 693-1926

Email: estimating@tullygroup.com

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