Office of Water Resources

OWR Plans Electronic Permitting Database

Backlog in Permits Still Exists

Performance Evaluation and Research Division
Building 1, Room W-314
State Capitol Complex
(304) 347-4890

January 1999

Issue Area 1: Effectiveness of permit decisions limited by the lack of data on existing water quality

Recommendation 1:
OWR should examine the data collected by its various sections and develop a plan to create a management information system that facilitates an assessment of ambient water quality in all permit decisions. In order to maximize scarce resources, the strategy might begin with those streams and watersheds most frequently impacted by permit decisions.
Level of Compliance: Planned Compliance

OWR is now fully networked with all of DEP as well as the Internet and this information is available to each employee. In May 1997, the OWR completed a partnership with Marshall University. This project identified four specific tasks:

analyze the current DEP/OWR information technology and business process,
determine recommendations for improvement,
determine the recommended computer architectures, and
prepare a plan based on previous tasks.

This information is currently being used by DEP's Information and Technology Office (ITO) to address various DEP and OWR needs. The ITO is currently working to develop a sample information database system which is a key component to developing an electronic permitting system. The database will facilitate the use of current information in the decision-making process. Other components to this permitting system are being developed within the agency as funding becomes available.
The ITO anticipates completion of the database by December 1999. The database will allow DEP to house all of its environmental data in one system. This database will include information for:

water quality,
air quality,
ground water, and
other types of environmental data.

Issue Area 2: OWR has a backlog and delay in processing Industrial Permit Applications

Recommendation 4:

The Office of Water Resources should take steps to fill vacant positions in the Industrial branch of the Permit Section.

Level of Compliance: Non - Compliance

In November 1998, the last of the vacancies identified in the 1995 audit were filled. However, the purpose of this recommendation was to decrease the backlog in issuing permits. Even though the Permits section is fully staffed, a backlog in issuing permits still exists. In order to issue all new permits applied for and comply with the statutory time frame of 180 days for the issuance of licenses, the OWR must issue 180 permits a year. Currently the OWR is only able to issue approximately 145 permits per year. Even if the OWR was able to issued 180 permits a year, this would still not address backlogged permits. In this manner, the OWR will not be able to reduce the current backlog and it will continue to increase. As of fiscal year 1998, the backlog was approximately 440 permits awaiting issuance. The current backlog is estimated by OWR at 495 permits in need of review. In order to address the backlog, the OWR plans to add an additional 12 positions to the permitting section. These positions will be filled as funds become available.

Table 1
Backlog in Permits by Fiscal Year
Fiscal YearBacklog

Recommendation 5:

The Office of Water Resources should review the permit drafting process and increase computer automation that will reduce or eliminate any unnecessary burdens created by the permit drafting, review and approval process. The strategy might be developed in conjunction with a plan to address the lack of ambient water quality data discussed in Issue Area 1.

Level of Compliance: Planned Compliance
As was stated in Issue Area 1, the OWR conducted a joint study with Marshall University and the ITO is currently using the results of this study to develop a sample information database which will serve as an integral component to an electronic permitting system. Other components to this system are being completed as funds become available.