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​The Increasing Relevance of Stormwater Regulations for the Telecom Industry

At one time, securing permit approval for a rawland site may have been quick and easy. For much of the United States, especially in urban and suburban areas, those days are long gone. This is due in part to stormwater regulations. Tower owners looking to build new sites should take note of expanding stormwater requirements across the country.

Federal, state, and local regulations on all forms of land development have been on the rise for decades. In keeping with this trend, stormwater regulations have become increasingly common, stringent, and applicable. For the telecom industry, this means that plans for a solitary fiber hut may require a permanent stormwater control measure design to secure permits. In some localities, reviewers may demand PE-stamped calculations to prove the seemingly obvious point that a 100-square-foot gravel compound expansion will not significantly alter downstream flood elevations. Stormwater regulations that were originally created for large commercial and residential developments are increasingly applied to new tower sites.

Pictured above: Due to local stormwater requirements, this proposed fiber hut required a water retention basin design to secure plan approval.

Today, agencies and departments at all levels of government face pressure to protect natural ecosystems and mitigate property damage during flood events. As commercial and residential land development expands across more ground each decade, the cumulative hydrological impact of development garners more public attention. The increasing frequency and intensity of major flooding events in recent years also contribute to this mounting pressure. In response, regulatory bodies use post-construction stormwater requirements to demonstrate action. We expect the trend toward heightened applicability and stringency of stormwater regulations to continue for the foreseeable future.

Pictured above: These North Carolina stormwater regulations require less stormwater quality treatment onsite (30% vs. 50%) for sites that disturb less than 1 acre. [15A NCAC 02B .0277., (4) (a) ii & iii, 2014]

Builders in telecom have many options for navigating this regulatory climate. In some instances, reducing non-essential ground disturbance can reduce or eliminate stormwater requirements altogether. This was the case on a recent Tower Engineering Professionals (TEP) rawland site in Wake County, as the Falls Lake Nutrient Management Rules provided less stringent requirements for projects disturbing less than 1 acre. In other situations, less obvious stormwater management features that are engineered to count towards stormwater requirements may eliminate the need for a conventional detention pond. For example, a carefully engineered grass swale served this role on a recent project in Greenville County, SC. Finally, some situations provide no allowable alternative to providing a detention pond and/or purchasing stormwater quality credits. TEP recently encountered this scenario during a small fiber hut design in Norfolk, VA.

Pictured above: A grass swale with rock check dams may count towards stormwater quality requirements in some jurisdictions

TEP has experience providing site designs that satisfy the applicable stormwater regulations. Our history with new tower projects in challenging jurisdictions has taught us where to look for outside-of-the-box solutions that minimize design, build, and maintenance costs for our customers. As regulations continue to expand nationwide, and as rawland projects experience a resurgence, we expect our contributions in this area to become even more valuable to the success of the telecom industry. TEP’s stormwater expertise can be the difference between a site that gets built on schedule and a site that dies in stormwater review.

For more information, email Senior Project Manager, Tyler Shenk at tshenk@tepgroup.net, or call (540) 383-1342.

About Tower Engineering Professionals

Founded in 1997, Tower Engineering Professionals (“TEP”) is one of the largest, most trusted, multi-disciplined engineering services firms focused on the telecommunications industry, completing over 100,000 projects annually. TEP has expanded beyond its Raleigh, NC, headquarters to 35+ locations across North America.

Underpinned by a deep focus on safety and training, TEP provides a full suite of turnkey solutions, including structural engineering, inspection and mapping services, civil engineering, land surveying, environmental services, geotechnical engineering, material testing, and construction, as well as plumbing, mechanical, and electrical engineering services for the telecommunications, utility, and renewable energy industries.

Most TEP employees are civil, structural, or geotechnical engineers serving wireless, wireline, and tower customers. Engineering News-Record (ENR) consistently places TEP in the top 3 design firms by sector year after year. TEP has a leading national footprint, maintaining engineering and contractor licenses in all 50 states, the majority of Canadian provinces, and other international locations.


 North Carolina Administrative Code (Last Updated: November 13, 2014) ,

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