Facility Planning Area Research

In 2003 the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency evaluated the way it defined boundaries for the wastewater treatment areas called Facility Planning Areas (FPAs), with the goal of adopting a watershed-wide planning approach that would broaden the role of  stake-holders and governmental bodies and ultimately do away with FPAs as they exited at that time.

Originally, Illinois EPA's role in facilities planning was directed by Section 208 of the federal Clean Water Act (CWA). The FPA process was created largely to satisfy the requirements of the federal Construction Grants Program Under Title II of the CWA. The goals were essentially twofold:

  1. To protect federal investments in wastewater treatment capacity from being duplicated in neighboring communities.
  2. To prevent the overextension of the service envelope beyond the needs dictated by the 20-year growth horizon.
Neither the federal Construction Grants Program nor any similar state construction grant program existed in 2003, although Illinois EPA did administer a federal loan program -- the State Federal Revolving Fund -- in which local government entities borrow money at a fixed rate of interest that is then paid back to the Illinois EPA. 

By 2003 the need for FPAs and the FPA process had been questioned for nearly 10 years and was viewed as either inefficient of ineffective in most stakeholder quadrants.  Further, while originally established as a tool to assure appropriate expenditure of federal tax dollars (and secondarily offer some protections to water quality), FPA amendments became the focal point of local disputes regarding the disposition and future control of new development.  the Illinois EPA often found itself having to resolve these disputes, resulting in a significant annual commitment of staff resources.

Faced with questions ranging from how to improve the program, through how to eliminate the program, Illinois EPA contracted with Consensus Solutions, Incorporated- an Atlanta based dispute resolution firm - to provide counsel on the future direction of FPAs and the FPA process.  This counsel resulted in the Final Program Evaluation report (July 2003) and in the formation and findings of the Basin-wide Management Advisory Group.

In 2010, the ability of the Illinois EPA to impose its long-standing policy of denying construction permits for sanitary sewers that would cross an FPA boundary was challenged and, in 2011, the Illinois EPA concluded that it laced the legal authority for it continuance. As a result, the Illinois EPA no longer denies State construction permits based solely on an inconsistency with an FPA boundary and it no longer maintains maps of the FPA boundaries.