Environmental Review Instructions
These instructions will link you to the forms that are to be filled out. You can also go to the Drinking Water Protection Forms page for a complete list.
If another agency approves the environmental review
Some projects will be covered by an environmental review conducted by another agency. For simplicity, the MDH will accept another state or federal agency's environmental review, but their review must cover the drinking water revolving fund project(s). Submit documentation showing their approval to the MDH district engineer. No further steps are likely.
There are two project exemption categories. The first category is for projects that are exempt from both environmental review and the requirement for a historic database search. These projects are listed on the Environmental Review and Minnesota Historical Society Exemption Checklist (Word document: 41KB/1page). The second category is for projects that are exempt from environmental review but require a historic database search. These projects are listed on the Environmental Review Exemption Checklist Requiring a Historic Database Search (Word document: 38KB/1page).
If a project is exempt from both the environmental review and historic database searchComplete the Environmental Review Record Cover Page (Word document: 41KB/1page) AND the Environmental Review and Minnesota Historical Society Exemption Checklist (Word document: 38KB/1page). If any of the five categories in the checklist are checked YES, then send both completed forms to the Community Public Water Supply staff in your county:
If a project is exempt from environment review but requires a historic database searchComplete the Environmental Review Record Cover Page (Word document: 41KB/1page) AND the Environmental Review Exemption Checklist Requiring Minnesota Historical Society Database Search (Word document:38KB/1page). A copy of the historic database search must be attached to the exemption checklist. If any historic properties are found during the historic database search, an explanation as to why these locations will not be impacted must be provided. All of the above information must be sent to the Community Public Water Supply staff in your county for review.
If there is no impact to any historic locations, an environmental review is not required. If the project could have an impact on any historic locations, an environmental review must be completed.
When the MDH will be providing an environmental review summary (based on supplier's environmental review record)
- System name. This is the name of the community, business (i.e., of the manufactured home park or rural hospital, etc.), or area (e.g., Great Plains Water District) serviced by the public water supply.
- System owner. This could be a community, joint powers board, individual, corporation, etc.
- Project. Identify the project(s) being covered in the environmental review. This can be done by project name (e.g., new Well #4) or by description (e.g., replace water tower, install iron and manganese treatment capability, replace watermain on Lincoln Ave.).
- Person. Provide the name, etc., of the person conducting the environmental review. He/she could be an employee, consultant, elected official, or owner and will be contacted if there are questions.
- Owner. The person signing at the bottom of the form is assuring the environmental review is an official document coming from the community or entity that is applying for the drinking water revolving fund loan.
Complete an environmental review exemption checklist.
There are two project exemption categories. The first category is for projects that are exempt from both environmental review and the requirement for a historic database search. These projects are listed on the Environmental Review and Minnesota Historical Society Exemption Checklist (Word document: 41KB/1page).
The second category is for projects that are exempt from environmental review but require a historic database search. These projects are listed on the Environmental Review Exemption Checklist Requiring a Historic Database Search (Word document: 38KB/1page).
This worksheet has technical questions. The project engineer or a consultant may need to supply some of the answers. All of the following items are linked to various sections of the same document, the Environmental Information Worksheet.
The worksheet is a slight variation of a standard Minnesota Environmental Quality Board environmental review worksheet. Many of the categories will not pertain to the project so you may be frequently writing "does not apply" or some other similar response. The form cannot be significantly simplified because a water system project could potentially be piggybacked with other non water system construction work. The environmental review must incorporate all construction work associated with the overall project, whether all parts directly involve the public water supply system or not. (See the hypothetical water tower/playground/roadway example in the first paragraph of General Information for all Projects.)
Item 2 - Needs and Alternatives
Provide a description of the water system needs and potential environmental consequences. Some of this information should have been provided in the proposal that was submitted to the MDH for placing the project on the project priority list. That information can be used, however, it may not be sufficiently encompassing, and new information may have emerged since the proposal was submitted.
Item 3 - Description
a. Briefly describe the final product. This information could possibly be extracted from the proposal that was submitted to the MDH for placing the project on the project priority list. Incorporate any changes in project design and new information that may have emerged since the proposal was written. Also describe potential long term environmental impacts from the completed product when in its operational stage.
b. Describe environmental impacts from construction.
Item 4 - Project Location
Only provide the number and type of maps necessary to sufficiently show project location.
Item 5 - Project Magnitude Data
Use the categories that are most appropriate. Typically project area will pertain to site size, length will apply to watermains and square feet will apply to building size.
Item 6 - Permits and Approvals Required through Item 12 - Water Related Land Use Management Districts
Municipal, county, state and federal agencies may need to be contacted to obtain information being requested.
Item 8 - Cover Types
Data can be provided in square feet if this unit is more appropriate. Soil survey information is available from your local soil resource or soil conservation offices. Type 1 - Type 8 Wetlands follow U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service definitions. The definitions along with Minnesota wild, scenic and recreational river classifications are found in the Environmental Quality Board's EAW Guidelines. Call their environmental review program at 651-757-2181 for a copy of their guidelines.
Item 12 - Water Related Land Use Management Districts
Contact your local planning and zoning office for information on zoning districts and 100 year flood plain delineations. 100 year flood plain information is also available from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Waters Division (651-259-5700).
Items 15 - Water Quality - Waste Waters, and Item 17 - Solid Wastes
For treatment plants, include backwash water and treatment residues.
Item 19 - Odor, Noise or Dust
This category frequently applies to the construction stage.
Item 20 - Resources
Consider scenic views and vistas for elevated storage tanks.
Item 21 - Compatibility with Plans
Wells will be subject to wellhead and source water protection plans.
Develop an Environmental Review Solicitation Letter
Send a letter to notify key individuals and agencies about the project. We have provided you with an example of an Environmental Review Solicitation Letter (PDF: 31KB/1 page) to notify key individuals and agencies about the project. The letter is to provide the recipient with sufficient information so a conclusion can be reached about the possibility of an environmental impact . You are encouraged to use whatever format and style you prefer. Use letterhead for the community or entity that will be applying for the loan. The letter must:
- State the notice is soliciting environmental review comments.
- State the name or type of project.
- Provide a brief project description.
- Provide a map, showing project location(s).
- Provide the address for submitting comments.
- Give the deadline for receiving comments (minimum: 30 days from date letter will be sent).
Additional information can be provided. For example:
- Name of person who will be receiving comments.
- Name and address or phone number of person who can provide more information.
- Reason for doing project.
- Drinking water revolving fund loan is being sought.
- Amount of money to be borrowed or spent on project.
- Environmental review must comply with 1969 National Environmental Policy Act.
- Completed "Environmental Information Worksheet" is available for viewing, and where it is available.
Fill out the Solicitation (Mailing) List (Word Document 49KB/2pages).
A letter soliciting comments is to be sent to key people and agencies who may have a project interest or environmental interest. The type of project, location, and local concern will determine who should receive a letter, so the mailing list will change from project to project and community to community. Insert the names and addresses of all people and agencies who will be sent a letter.
The solicitation list is divided into three sections. They cover:
- Mandatory Solicitation
This section lists officials and agencies that must be notified. Provide the specific names and addresses of people who represent areas that will be affected by the project. In some cases there will be multiple names. For example, if a watermain extends through more than one township, municipality or legislative district then send the notice to the appropriate mayors, clerks, or representatives of those jurisdictions. A notice does not need to be sent to an official of a community or entity that is seeking the water system project funding. Likewise a project might not involve some jurisdictional categories.
- Category Specific Solicitation
This section lists four agencies that have specific interests. Send the notice to the appropriate agencies, or if in doubt, send the notice. From a project impact point of view, the agencies' interests are:
Department of Agriculture
- crop land protection
- soil erosion
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
- species and habitat protection
- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
- coastal zone management (Lake Superior)
- navigable waters
- dredging, filling, altering water quality
- upstream from navigable waters
- watershed and wetland protection
- Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
- solid waste generation
- hazardous waste generation
- air quality
- external hazards to the project
- abandoned dumps and contaminated soils
- Minnesota Department of Agriculture
- Local Solicitation
The community or agency proposing the project should be in the best position to know which local individuals and agencies might have the most insight on the impact of a project, and which ones would have the most interest in a project. The mailing list should be developed accordingly. A short generic list of possibilities is provided to initiate thought. Provide the names and addresses of individuals and agencies contacted.
Develop an Initial Public Notice
An environmental review notice must be published in the local newspaper. This is to alert people who are not being notified by direct letter but still be affected by the project.(Initial Public Notice Examples).
The published notice must address the same points that are covered in the solicitation letter. (See Section D in these instructions for developing an environmental review solicitation letter.) The style and detail for the published notice and the letter may be different because the published notice will be read by local residents while the letter will go to agency personnel unfamiliar with the community. For this reason, a map showing project location must be included in the letter. A published notice may or may not contain a map, depending on project location and complexity. Alternatively, a legal description can be provided in the notice.
Mail the Solicitation Letter
This is self explanatory. It should go out at the same time the notice is published in the newspaper. Allow 30 calendar days for comments to be submitted.
Publish the Environmental Review Notice
This must be an official notice. A newspaper article about the project is not sufficient. The notice must appear at least once and be in the primary newspaper for the project area. Some communities have their own requirements to publish official notices in the community's legal/business newspaper which would be acceptable. Allow 30 calendar days for written comments to be submitted to the community or entity responsible for the project. The time period starts from the publication date or from the first day of a multiple day publication. Obtain an Affidavit of Publication from the publisher. It and the notice will be included in the environmental review record which will eventually be submitted to the MDH.
There is an unlikely possibility that there will be no apparent appropriate local newspaper. If this occurs then contact the MDH district engineer for a decision on an appropriate notification process. Postings in the post office and city or township hall may be sufficient. In addition, for projects in a manufactured home park, the owner may want to distribute notices to each home or post the notice in a community location.
Optional: Hold a Public Hearing or Meeting
Municipalities typically hold public hearings for public works projects. This is entirely optional from an environmental review standpoint, but if a hearing takes place then the hearing or meeting will also serve as an additional forum for receiving environmental review comments. The comments received through this process will generally be verbal and not written. The minutes from these hearings or at least the environmental review-type comments are to be included in the written environmental review record that will be submitted to the MDH.
Respond to Issues
All comments, whether written or verbally submitted in a hearing, require an appropriate response from the community or entity responsible for the project. The response is to be documented and included in the written environmental review record. A documented response is not required if a comment essentially states there is no anticipated environmental impact. Appropriate responses might include thanking a writer for their comments, explaining the reasoning for a project decision, explaining the alternatives to a course of action, or explaining how a proposal was modified in response to the comment.
It is entirely possible a project could be put on hold until environmental review issues are resolved. Again, this would need to be documented.
Submit the Environmental Review Record to the MDH
The complete written record is to be submitted to the district engineer. Documents that must be submitted are listed in Item 9 on the Environmental Information Worksheet (Word document: 105KB/10 pages).
Publish MDH Finding
The MDH will review the record, develop a summary, and reach an environmental conclusion. Generally the conclusion will be there is no significant impact. When this occurs three documents will be sent to you. They will consist of a cover letter from Randy Ellingboe, a public notice, and an environmental summary. The public notice and summary are to be published together in the same newspaper where the initial notice was published. We have provided you with a Sample Final Public Notice and Affidavit of Publication (PDF:77KB/1 page).
The public will have 15 days from the date of publication to submit to the MDH written comments or concerns that they may have.
Provide a Copy of Final Publication
After the publication has occurred submit an affidavit of publication to the DWRF Program Coordinator at the MDH. The mailing address will be located in the notice, and the affidavit is obtained from the publisher. The department must receive the affidavit to certify the project.
You will be contacted if comments are received within the 15-day time period. If you are not contacted the environmental review will have been successfully completed.
Fulfilling environmental review requirements is one of four criteria the MDH must certify to the Public Facilities Authority before the authority can move forward on finalizing the loan. The other three criteria are approving engineering plans, verifying there is an appropriately certified water system operator, and ensuring the system has the technical and managerial capacity to function effectively.
The MDH will send written confirmation when the project has been certified. Usually the environmental review is the last item to be completed so the confirmation letter typically goes out shortly thereafter. Notification will go to the contact person for the community or entity responsible for the project. If there is a project consultant, they will receive a copy.
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