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Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago

1. Why is the MWRD implementing this program? 

The purpose of this Ordinance is to effectuate the purposes and intent of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Act (70 ILCS 2605/1 et seq.) by:

  • Protecting the public health, safety, and welfare, and reducing the potential for loss of property due to flood damage
  • Managing and mitigating the effects of urbanization on stormwater drainage throughout Cook County;
  • Protecting existing and new development by minimizing the increase of stormwater runoff volume beyond that experienced under existing conditions and by reducing peak stormwater flows;
  • Promoting responsible land use practices in Cook County, particularly within floodplains and floodways;
  • Protecting existing water resources, including lakes, streams, floodplains, wetlands, and groundwater from detrimental and unnecessary modification in order to maintain their beneficial functions;
  • Reducing or mitigating the environmentally detrimental effects of existing and future runoff in order to improve and maintain water quality;
  • Preserving and enhancing existing riparian environments;
  • Controlling erosion and the discharge of sediment from all sources including, but not limited to, stormwater facilities, waterways, developments, and construction sites;
  • Requiring appropriate and adequate provisions for site runoff control;
  • Requiring consistency in stormwater management activities within and among the units of government having stormwater management jurisdiction;
  • Ensuring future development in the floodplain does not adversely affect floodplain environments or increase the potential for flood damage;
  • Requiring regular, planned maintenance of stormwater management facilities;
  • Encouraging control of stormwater quantity and quality at the most site-specific or local level;
  • Establishing uniform and minimum countywide stormwater management regulations while recognizing and coordinating with stormwater programs effectively operating within Cook County;
  • Requiring strict compliance with and enforcement of this Ordinance;
  • Meeting the floodway permitting requirements of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Office of Water Resources, delineated in the Rivers, Lakes, and Streams Act (615 ILCS 5/18g);
  • Meeting or exceeding the rules and regulations of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) for development;
  • Protecting the ability of the MWRD’s sewerage systems, intercepting sewers, TARP structures, sewage disposal and treatment plants, works and facilities to perform the functions for which they were designed;
  • Controlling the nature, volume, and manner of discharge into the MWRD’s sewerage systems, intercepting sewers, TARP structures, sewage disposal and treatment plants, works, and facilities;
  • Maintaining stable operation of the MWRD’s sewerage systems, intercepting sewers, TARP structures, sewage disposal and treatment plants, works, and facilities;
  • Reducing infiltration and inflow into the MWRD’s sewerage systems, intercepting sewers, TARP structures, sewage disposal and treatment plants, works, and facilities; and
  • Protecting waters within Cook County so as to preserve the public health.

2. What type of work requires a WMO Permit? 

In general, a permit will be required for the following type of work. (See Article 2 of the WMO for more details):

  • Development (grading, paving, excavation, etc.)
    • Disturbances of more than 0.5 acres (some exemptions apply)
    • Reconfiguration of existing stormwater systems which alter the service area of a site detention facility
    • Modifications to a detention facility
  • Flood Protection Areas (floodway, floodplain, wetlands, riparian environments)
    • Development within a Flood Protection Area or an indirect impact to a wetland
    • Foundation expansion that constitutes a substantial improvement of an existing building, as determined by the local municipality, that is located in the regulatory floodplain
  • Qualified Sewer Construction (See Article 7 of the WMO)
  • MWRD Impacts
    • Direct connections to an MWRD interceptor, reservoir, facility, or TARP structure
    • New or reconstructed sewers, drainage, or detention outfalls to waterways or Lake Michigan
    • Stormwater discharges directly to MWRD property or interests

3. Where does the WMO apply (i.e. location)? 

Permit requirements will vary based on jurisdictions -- Cook County, City of Chicago, and MWRD Corporate Limits or Extraterritorial Service Agreement (ESA) areas.

Permit Required for: Cook County City of Chicago District or ESA
Flood Protection Areas X    
Development X   X
Qualified Sewer Construction     X
MWRD Impacts X X X

More details can be found in §201 of the WMO.

4. Does the WMO require a permit for redevelopment, or does it only apply to new construction? 

The WMO will apply to both new development disturbance, and the redevelopment of existing established parcels.  Detention allowances have been granted for redevelopment, under certain conditions.  More details can be found under §505 of the WMO.

5. Will I need a permit for construction of a single family home? 

A Single Family Home Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) short form permit is required for single family home development:

  • On a parcel which contains regulatory floodway according to the FEMA FIRM
  • On a parcel which is within 100 feet of a Zone "A" or "AE" Floodplain according to the FEMA FIRM
  • Within 100 feet of an identified riparian environment or wetland

A regular WMO permit is required for development:

  • Requiring an extension of a public sewer to serve the parcel
  • Impacting a wetland

A permit is not required for interior work or maintenance activities.

6. Does the MWRD still regulate sanitary sewer construction as it did under the Sewer Permit Ordinance?

The WMO regulates sanitary sewer construction.  More details can be found in Article 7 of the WMO.  The WMO has replaced the repealed Sewer Permit Ordinance and the Manual of Procedures, which regulated sewer construction.

7. I reviewed the WMO and the materials provided on the MWRD's website but I am still unsure if my project requires a watershed management permit. How do I determine if a permit from the MWRD is required? 

If an applicant has reviewed all available WMO resources and still has questions on whether or not a Watershed Management Permit is required for a particular project, the applicant may petition the MWRD in writing for a determination. A letter describing the project, with any supporting exhibits and documentation, should be sent to the MWRD. See permit determinations for more information. 

8. I need a WMO permit. What are the stormwater management requirements (runoff, volume control, & detention)? 

Runoff and volume control requirements apply to multi-family residential and non-residential developments when the parcel size is ≥ 0.50 acre, to residential subdivisions when the parcel size is ≥ 1.0 acre, and to rights-of-way when the new impervious area is ≥ 1.0 acre.

Detention is required for multi-family residential and non-residential developments when the parcel size is ≥ 3.0 acre, to residential subdivisions when the parcel size is ≥ 5.0 acre, and to rights-of-way when the new impervious area is ≥ 1.0 acre. The total area developed since May 1, 2014, must be included for detention, regardless of previous WMO permit applicability.

Open space developments are exempt from volume control and detention requirements, and single family homes and maintenance activities are exempt from all stormwater requirements. Table 2 in Article 5 summarizes the stormwater requirement for projects requiring a WMO permit.

9. If my project did not need a WMO permit because the disturbance was less than 0.50 acre, it was not in a Flood Protection Area (FPA), there was no qualified sewer construction, and there were no MWRD impacts, when will I need a WMO permit in the future? Will the stormwater requirements apply to the area that was previously less than 0.50 acre. 

For any future development requiring a WMO permit (see FAQ #2 above), runoff and volume control will be required for the disturbance area of that development.  Any new development that totals in the aggregate to 0.50 acre or more is subject to detention requirements under the WMO. Detention will be required for the new development area, as well as any development area that didn't previously require a WMO permit. Table 2 in Article 5 lists detention requirements based on parcel size and development type.

10. Does the WMO protect streams and waterways from erosion and sediment caused by active construction? 

Article 4 of the WMO includes requirements for erosion and sediment control. Any development requiring a watershed management permit must comply with these requirements, which generally mirror the requirements of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System.

11. How are floodplains addressed under the WMO? 

Article 6 of the WMO regulates floodplains to promote responsible floodplain development. Article 6 includes compensatory storage requirements, which are intended to preserve storage volume within floodplains. Furthermore, Article 6 specifies a flood protection elevation two feet above the base flood elevation.  This is intended to protect structures adjacent to floodplains.

12. Can I build in the Floodway? 

The WMO specifies certain types of "appropriate uses" for development within regulatory floodways. The construction of non-habitable accessory structures, such as a detached garage or a storage shed, that do not block flood flows is considered an appropriate use.  Construction of a new single family home or commercial building in a regulatory floodways is not considered an appropriate use.

13. Are wetlands regulated under the WMO? 

The WMO regulates isolated wetlands. Wetlands facilitate hydrologic functions, reduce flow rates in waterways, provide flood control, and prevent erosion.

The WMO does not regulate wetlands under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

14. What is an indirect wetland impact? 

The WMO defines an "indirect wetland impact" as "a development activity that causes the wetland hydrology to fall below eighty percent (80%), or exceed one-hundred fifty percent (150%), of the existing conditions storm event runoff volume for the 2-year, 24-hour storm event."

15. Will the MWRD establish wetland mitigation banks? 

The WMO allows wetland banking as approved by the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps).  The MWRD does not intend to create any additional wetland mitigation banks outside of those offered by the Corps. The requirements regarding wetland banking can be found in §605 of the WMO.

16. What rainfall data does the WMO require? 

The WMO requires applicants to use Bulletin70 rainfall data. The use of Bulletin70 rainfall data is common engineering practice in Northeastern Illinois.

17. May stormwater detention be provided offsite? 

Stormwater detention may be provided offsite for parcels less than ten acres in areas under certain hardship conditions. Section 504.14 outlines a framework for providing offsite stormwater detention.  Although stormwater detention may be provided offsite, volume control must be provided on the site.

18. Does the WMO specify a two-year release rate? 

Two year restrictors, which are implemented to comply with a two year release rate, tend to be smaller in diameter and consequently clog more often. Such restrictors are known to present maintenance challenges. The volume control requirement provides a similar watershed benefit, without the history of maintenance problems. The volume control requirement requires capture of one inch of rainfall runoff from all impervious areas. This is approximately complete capture of 90% of rainfall events in northeastern Illinois. The volume control requirement is expected to mimic the 0.04 cfs/acre release rate requirement (i.e. at the 2-year event).

19. Is green infrastructure a permissible method for meeting runoff, volume control, and stormwater detention requirements? 

Yes, green infrastructure is encouraged as a method for meeting runoff, volume control, and stormwater detention requirements.

20. Did the MWRD consider the economic impacts the WMO may have on real estate development in Cook County? 

The MWRD conducted an Economic Impact Study (EIS) to estimate the economic impacts the WMO may have on Cook County. The EIS was completed in 2013 and is available on the MWRD's website. With consideration of the EIS findings, the MWRD revised the detention requirements originally proposed in the draft WMO.

21. Can my community locally administer the WMO? 

Article 14 of the WMO provides a framework for local administration of the permit requirements through authorized municipalities. In order for a municipality to locally administer the WMO, the municipality must be both qualified and petition the MWRD for authorization. Once authorized, such municipalities may locally issue watershed management permits for development activities listed in §201.1.

22. What is a benefit of becoming an authorized municipality? 

Authorized municipalities may issue watershed management permits. Such issuance is advantageous because the municipalities may expedite the permit process. This efficiency will benefit permit applicants and developers.

23. When will the Technical Guidance Manual (TGM) be updated? 

The TGM was updated in the beginning of 2015. Updates included additional standard details in Appendix C and minor corrections and clarifications throughout. Article 8 and Appendix D, which provide technical guidance for the District's Inflow/Infiltration Control Program (IICP), have also been added to the TGM.

24. Will the MWRD provide training or seminars about the WMO standards and permitting procedures? 

Yes, the MWRD will provide additional training opportunities for design engineers seeking to understand how the new permitting process will operate.  Training will also be provided for Authorized Municipalities. Available training opportunities will be announced on the WMO homepage, under the Presentations link.

25. Does the MWRD have a fee-in-lieu program for stormwater detention or volume control practices?

No, the MWRD has not established any fee-in-lieu programs for the stormwater requirements contained in the WMO. However, the WMO provides various allowances and options for stormwater detention and volume control practices that provide flexibility to applicants in meeting those requirements.

26. Are certain types of projects exempt from the MWRD's permit review fees?? 

All single family home developments are exempt from permit fees, excluding projects involving public sewer extensions.

27. What is the Connection Impact Fee and why is it so expensive? 

The Connection Impact Fee will not apply for most projects. This fee was created to capture new service connections in areas annexed into the District after July 9, 1998. This one-time fee is based on the acreage of the area for which new sewer service is requested. Generally, this will only apply to areas previously outside of the MWRD's jurisdiction which are currently on septic or private treatment systems who wish to connect to public sewers.

28. What is the typical review time for a project submitted under the WMO? 

For projects that do not involve flood protection areas, the MWRD will review the submittal and respond within 15 working days. For projects that involve flood protection areas, the response time will be 30 working days. The turnaround time for all resubmittals will be 10 working days.

29. What is Schedule R and why do I need it? 

The purpose of Schedule R is to provide notice of obligation to current and future property owners that infrastructure permitted under the WMO must be maintained. For example:

  • Volume Control shall be inspected and maintained such that it remains effective.
  • Permeable pavers should not be removed and/or paved over with asphalt.
  • Detention facilities should not be filled in.

Schedule R and Exhibit R are approved as part of the permit review process, and are recorded with the Cook County Recorder of Deeds office against the property index numbers (PINs) upon project completion.

30. When is a Schedule R required? 

Schedule R, Recording and Maintenance, is required for perpetual maintenance of any of the following:

  • Volume control facilities
  • Detention facilities (existing and proposed)
  • Offsite or trade-off detention facilities
  • Stormwater management system(s) component(s)
  • Native planting conservation area(s)
  • Compensatory storage area(s)
  • Wetland/buffer mitigation area(s)
  • Riparian environment mitigation area(s)
  • Qualified sewer construction in unincorporated areas
  • Additional facilities, based on MWRD comments (pre-treatment, etc.)

Schedule R is not required for municipal or ROW projects (e.g. school, police station, etc.)

31. What needs to be shown on Exhibit R? 

At a minimum, the Exhibit R illustrates the property lines, adjacent right-of-way, the legal description, physical address, property index numbers (PINs), and types of all facilities being maintained, per Schedule R. The approved Maintenance Plan must also be included in the notes on Exhibit R. An example Exhibit R can be found here.

32. How many copies do I need to submit? 

Two copies of Schedule R and Exhibit R are required with the WMO Permit Application. At the time of project completion, Exhibit R should be updated to reflect as-built conditions. The Co-Permittee is responsible for executing the recording with the Cook County Recorder of Deeds office. Please be sure to record one additional copy, which must be submitted to the MWRD prior to permit close-out.

33. Why does Schedule R need to be complete prior to issuing a permit if it isn’t recorded until project completion? 

The review of Schedule R occurs during permit review, and becomes part of the issued permit. Schedule R and Exhibit R need to be on file prior to permit issuance to ensure there is a copy to record if recording does not occur after construction for any reason.

34. Why is the recordation fee of $500 required? 

The $500 recordation fee is a deposit toward ensuring compliance with the recording requirements. Upon completion of construction, Schedule R and Exhibit R shall be recorded against the property index numbers (PINs), and one original copy of the recording sent to the MWRD. At that time, a refund will be initiated to return the $500 deposit. Should the recording fail to be executed for any reason, the deposit will be used to cover MWRD costs to process the recording, and no refund will be issued.

35. If the project changes during permit review, how does that affect the fees already paid? 

Often, design changes will necessitate a change in the amount of qualified sewer or stormwater review. In other cases, applicants may not be aware of certain review fee requirements until comments have been submitted by the MWRD Review Engineer. If additional fees are due, a business check, cashier's check, or money order shall be submitted with a new Fee Payment Voucher, indicating which additional fees are being paid. The permit or revision will not be issued unless all fees have been paid. If an overpayment has occurred, a refund will be provided under separate cover.

At the end of construction, if a field change has resulted in an increase in qualified sewer construction, additional inspection fees will be charged. The RFI will not be issued until the additional fees have been paid.

36. Which fees are refundable? 

Refunds are available for overpayments of the sewer inspection fee and any schedules that have been paid but are not applicable to the permit review. If a project is cancelled either during review or after the permit is issued, all refundable fees are eligible for a refund. Non-refundable fees include the base fee and any schedules that have undergone review (i.e. detention, wetlands, etc.). At the end of a project, when the Schedule R/Exhibit R is recorded, the Recordation Deposit will be refunded.

37. How do I get a refund? 

Refunds will be processed after the permit is issued for any overpayments made during the permit review or revision. The Recordation Deposit refund will be processed after the recorded documentation is received by the MWRD Field Office. If a permit is cancelled during review, the refund will be processed under separate cover automatically. If a project is cancelled after the permit is issued, the refund will be available upon request.

38. Who gets the refund if the owner has reimbursed the design engineer/developer/contractor for all permit fees submitted on his behalf? 

The MWRD does not intend to be involved in payment disputes between an owner and their consultants or contractors. The MWRD’s policy is to refund the entity which paid the specific fee item. However, this party may provide written permission to remit any refund to another party. For example, if an additional inspection fee was paid by the design engineer, who will bill the owner (Co-Permittee) for the additional fee, the design engineer may notify the MWRD in writing that any refund shall be paid to the Co-Permittee. Written permission may be sent with the Fee Payment Voucher, or with any subsequent resubmittal.