More information on the water and environmental permits

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The most important regulations related to water management matters are the Water Act (587/2011) and Government Decree on Water Resources Management (1560/2011) which entered into force in 2012. They define the general rights and obligations concerning the use of waters and the criteria for the need for a permit. They also lay down requirements for a permit application and a permit decision in accordance with the Water Act. 

The most important provisions related to activities subject to an environmental permit are the Environmental Protection Act (527/2014), which entered into force in 2014, and the Government Decree on Environmental Protection (713/2014). They define the general rights and obligations to prevent environmental pollution and the criteria that defines which activities are subject to a permit. They also lay down requirements for permit applications, permit procedures and permit decisions under the Environmental Protection Act.

In addition, the following regulations must be taken into account in the processing of the matter:

  • Waste Act
  • Act on adjoining properties
  • Act on the Organisation of River Basin Management and the Marine
  • Act on Environmental Impact Assessment Procedure
  • Nature Conservation Act
  • Land Use and Building Act
  • Antiquities Act
  • Dam Safety Act
  • Health Protection Act
  • Water Services Act
  • Act on shared properties

Provisions on the fees charged for processing matters under the Water and Environmental Protection Act are laid down in a Government Decree on fees paid by Regional State Administrative Agencies.

It is a good idea to make sure you are prepared for the time it takes to process the application and initiate the process well in advance before starting the project or activities. The average target processing time for a water permit application is eight months at the Regional State Administrative Agency, and the processing time for an environmental permit application is ten to twelve months, depending on the matter. The processing time may be extended by up to several months if the application is incomplete or if the application is modified during the processing period. The processing of the permit application may be faster if you have had advance negotiations with the permit authority and the application you have submitted is as clear and complete as possible and includes all appendices. Information provided to the parties concerned in advance about the project may also reduce possible misunderstandings and further reminders related to the application. 

Although applying for a permit for a project or activity may sound like a lot of effort and difficulty, it usually gives the holder a permanent right to carry out the activities specified in the permit. In other words, the permit gives its holder legal protection for the implementation of the project or for the pursuit of activities subject to the permit.

The Regional State Administrative Agency charges a fee for processing a permit matter. The fee will be charged to the applicant. The amount of the fee is determined in the Government Decree on fees paid by Regional State Administrative Agencies in force at the time when the application was initiated. If the Regional State Administrative Agency issues a single document containing several decisions subject to a fee, a fee will be charged for each of them in accordance with the Regulation. 

As a rule, processing of an application for a change or revision to a permit is subject to a fee that is 50% of the fee specified in the fee table of the decree. In the case of a technical modification to an individual permit provision, the fee shall be 10% of the fee indicated in the table. 

If the decision document contains several measures or activities that are subject to a fee according to the fee table of the decree, a fee shall be charged for the processing of the case in accordance with the highest fee category; however, there may be an additional 50% added to the fee in accordance with the table of other measures or activities. 

The fee does not depend on whether the permit application is approved or rejected. A proportion of the fee corresponding to the amount of work done is charged for an application that is withdrawn or not completed.

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The Water Act is a law on water use. Water use refers to all activities targeting water areas and groundwater. The need for a permit under the Water Act is determined on the basis of the impacts of the project (the general requirement for a permit for a water management project), and it is required for certain projects listed in the Water Act regardless of the impacts (water management projects always subject to a permit).

The need for an impact-based permit depends on whether the project causes a change in the water body, shore, aquatic environment or groundwater that has a harmful impact that violates public or private interest. Projects that are always subject to a permit, on the other hand, have such significant scope or impacts that they always require a permit. Projects requiring a permit may include the construction of a pier, bridge or dam, the placement of a water pipeline and cable in a water area, dredging or filling a water area, fishery-related restoration, the utilisation of hydroelectric power, passageways, raising the water level, changes in water system regulation and water abstraction.

The Environmental Protection Act is a general law on combatting pollution which contains provisions on the protection of soil, air and water. A permit under the Environmental Protection Act is required for activities that pose a risk of environmental pollution. These activities include the forestry, metal and chemical industries, energy production, large animal shelters and fish farming. A permit is needed for both new activities and significant changes in operations.

If there is any doubt as to whether a permit is required, it is advisable to contact the supervisory authority, i.e. the local Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (ELY Centre) or the municipal environmental protection authority. They provide information on the need for a permit and the application procedure. Upon request, the supervisory authority issues a statement on the need for a permit under the Water Act and the Environmental Protection Act. If a permit is required under both the Water Act and the Environmental Protection Act, one application to the Regional State Administrative Agency is sufficient. A single decision document containing decisions on both permits is usually issued.

Applications for a water permit are submitted to the permit authority of the Water Act, i.e. the Regional State Administrative Agency. The municipal environmental protection authority decides on certain matters related to ditch drainage, including disputes. 

The permit authorities under the Environmental Protection Act are the Regional State Administrative Agencies and the municipal environmental protection authorities. Matters that are handled by the state permit authority are usually significant in terms of environmental impacts or their impacts are located in the area of several municipalities.

As a rule, the permit authority to which the matter belongs is determined in accordance with section 34 of the Environmental Protection Act and Chapter 1 of the Environmental Protection Decree.

If a permit is required under both the Water Act and the Environmental Protection Act, the matter is processed and the decision is made by the Regional State Administrative Agency. 

If necessary, ELY Centres and municipal environmental protection authorities will advise which authority must apply for a permit.

Environmental impact assessment procedure

The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) procedure aims to reduce or completely prevent the adverse environmental impacts of the project. The legislation defines projects that must always be subject to an environmental impact assessment. The procedure can also be applied to smaller projects or to projects other than those referred to in the Act if they are considered to have significant adverse environmental impacts. Projects may include motorways, mines, waste treatment plants or wind turbines.

In the EIA, the impacts of the project will be assessed in connection with the planning process before the decision is made, which means it can influence future decisions. The EIA is a planning tool, the results of which must be taken into account in the project's permit consideration. The party planning the project is responsible for carrying out the necessary environmental studies. Planning can be carried out by a private company or a public body. The procedure is guided and supervised by the ELY Centre, which acts as the contact authority. In nuclear energy projects, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment acts as the contact authority. Decisions on the necessity of the EIA procedure are made by the ELY Centre.

Exceptions to the protection of certain aquatic habitats

It is forbidden to endanger the natural state of flad or gloe lakes or springs that are up to ten hectares in size in their natural state, or a rivulet, pond or lake of up to one hectare in a natural state located outside Lapland. However, in individual cases, the Regional State Administrative Agency may grant an exemption from the prohibition if the conservation objectives of aquatic habitats will not be significantly compromised. An exception permit is applied for from the Regional State Administrative Agency. In addition to an exception permit, the project may also require a water permit or an environmental permit.

Consideration of Natura sites

It is prohibited to cause significant deterioration of natural values in areas where these values are the basis for their protection as a Natura 2000 site. If the project may significantly undermine the natural values under conservation at a Natura site, the project plan must assess these impacts in accordance with the Nature Conservation Act. The Regional State Administrative Agency requests an opinion on the evaluation from the ELY Centre, which must issue a statement no later than six months after the request for a statement has been received. The procedure may extend the processing time of the permit.

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A natural or legal person may apply for the permit from the Regional State Administrative Agency. Legal persons include a limited liability company, a general partnership, a limited partnership, a cooperative, a foundation, a registered association, the state, a municipality, or a parish.

The applicant must be a legal entity to be granted rights and obligations. In water management matters, the applicant is often connected to the ownership of the property, whereas in principle, an environmental permit can be applied for by any operator.

The Regional State Administrative Agency has an online service. The Regional State Administrative Agency recommends using the service for the preparation of both a water permit and an environmental permit application. In the e-service, the information requested by the application is limited according to the type of project or activity that is being applied for. The service also guides the applicant in filling in the application. More than one person can be involved in preparing the application in the e-service which means that more people can be added to the service to assist in preparing the application.

If the project involves permits applied from other authorities in addition to a water or environmental permit, the application for a permit can also be opened in the Permits and Enforcement service which allows the shared information of the project to be provided for permit applications submitted to several different authorities at once.

Both the Water Act and the Environmental Protection Act assume that the applicant must have sufficient expertise to prepare the application, taking into account the quality, scope and impacts of the project. If the applicant does not have previous experience in water and environmental permit matters and the preparation of the reports and assessments needed for their processing, it is highly recommended that the applicant contact an expert to help with the preparation of the application and its appendices.

It is important to ensure the high quality of the application. The processing of the application will only be properly started after all the information required by law or otherwise necessary for the decision on the matter has been submitted to the permit authority. If necessary, the authority will request further information for the application which will prolong the processing time of the application. The processing of the application is always an easier process if the objectives, impacts and possible harm and damages of the project have been determined in advance and they have been clearly presented in the application.

In addition to the processing time of the application, the amount of work spent for processing the application, i.e. additional processing stages, also has an impact on the fee charged for processing the matter. If the application has significant shortcomings and it has to be supplemented several times, the workload of the authority will increase, and this may also affect the decision fee charged for processing.

When preparing the application, please note that the information presented in the application and the documents attached to it become public once the application has been initiated. This means that the authority must present the documents to those requesting them, unless an individual document can been found to be confidential by legislation through an appealable decision issued by an authority. The authority makes the decision on the confidential nature of the documents if someone requests reviewing a confidential document.

As a rule, a public consultation is part of the processing of applications for water and environmental permits. In the consultation process, the permit authority publishes the documents related to the application that have been found public on the permit authority's website where they can be accessed. In this context, the documents to be published are edited mainly for the sake of personal data protection. In order to streamline the matter, you should try to present as little personal data as possible in the application documents. It should also be noted that the characteristics or metadata of electronic documents may contain personal data.

If, from the applicant's point of view, the application involves confidential information under the law, you can separately request that specific information or documents be made confidential when submitting documents. The request shall be accompanied by a justification for why the documents should be confidential. The classification of information in the final decision ultimately rest with the licensing authority. Monitoring and emissions data and environmental characteristics can never be concealed in relation to activities that require an environmental permit.

You should provide all information in a way that it is sufficient for us to process your application without having to redact confidential sections. Non-public information related to the application should be included in separate appendices. 

Materials containing confidential or otherwise sensitive matters should be sent to the Regional State Administrative Agency using a secure e-mail connection. The maximum size of email attachments is 20 MB. If the files are too large, they can be compressed or sent in multiple emails. The applicant is responsible for the delivery of the message.

When preparing the permit application, it is worth consulting experts to find out what kind of reports are needed to prepare the permit application well in advance of submitting it. Some reports may need to be made at a certain time of the year, meaning that delaying the submission of such a report until the permit processing period may cause significant delays in the permit processing.

If the reports submitted for the permit application require visiting or examining the area, the rights to visiting and examining the area must be taken into account. You will need the landowner’s/tenant’s consent or a research permit issued under the Finnish Water Act for anything not covered by the general right of access. 

Permission from the Finnish Defence Forces is required for any exploration of the formation, structure or composition of the seabed or sediments through geological or geophysical surveys as well as for any systematic measurement and recording of the topography of the seabed in Finnish territorial waters. A permit for research work in Finnish territorial waters is granted in accordance with the Regional Surveillance Act and the corresponding Government Decree on Regional Surveillance. The Ministry of Defence is responsible for the matter, and the decisions are made by the Operational Department of the Defence Forces Headquarters of Finland.

The Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) defines the permission to do research in the Finnish economic zone. The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment is responsible for the matter, and the decisions are made by the Government.

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As a rule, in the case of the water permit, the content requirements of the application come directly from the Water Act and Decree and, in the case of an environmental permit, directly from the Environmental Protection Act and Decree. As the permit authority, the Regional State Administrative Agency has interpreted these general statutory requirements for an e-service application as project-specific or operation-specific requirements in order to facilitate the preparation of the application and to make the need for preliminary investigation of the project and the content requirements of the application as clear as possible. 

The application must be clear and structured. In addition,your application and attached documents must form an unambiguous and comprehensible entity. In other words, essential information on the content of the compiled reports must be included in the application as a summary so that the application shows the basics of the project and its impacts. The application must include up-to-date reports necessary for its processing, such as the implementation of the project, activities subject to an environmental permit and their emissions, the impacts of the project or activities and the parties involved. The application must also provide sources for your calculations, scientific data and assessments.

Including personal data in the application should be avoided. For example, the contact details of property owners in the area affected by your activity should not be written in the text of the application document. Instead, they must be submitted with the application in a separate appendix.

If the project is a project referred to in the Act on Environmental Impact Assessment Procedure (EIA project), an assessment report in accordance with that Act and a statement by the contact authority and a justified conclusion on the assessment report must be attached to the application documents.

If the project can significantly undermine the nature values of a Natura 2000 site, these impacts must be assessed in the application documents in accordance with section 65 of the Nature Conservation Act. 

In addition, the application documents shall assess the impacts of the project or activities and the resulting emissions on the achievement of the objectives set out in the RBMP and on the achievement of the potential risk management objectives set out in the FRMP.

All drawings attached to your application must be clear and appropriately scaled. The following are examples:

  • Approach/general-purpose maps: 1:100,000–1:200,000
  • Cadastral maps: 1:5,000–1:10,000
  • Layout drawings: 1:500–1:2,000
  • Longitudinal profiles (vertical/horizontal scale): 1:100–1:200/1:1,000–1:2,000
  • Cross-sectional profiles: 1:100–1:200
  • Detail drawings: 1:10–1:100
  • Flow charts according to the process in question
  • Thematic maps as required

The drawings must be the size according to ISO A series (A4, A3, etc.).

The applicant must have the right to use the resources on which the drawings are based. The drawings must include the identification data of the drawing (type and number), the scale, the dimension, the height system used, the date of preparation and the name of the author.

In addition to electronic attachment drawings, the authority may also request the submission of paper versions of large drawings to facilitate processing.

The application for a water permit must include the reports required by the Government Decree on Water Resources Management. The application texts must contain essential information on the implementation of the project and the separate reports and studies prepared to assess its impacts. The necessary maps and drawings as well as any separate reports, such as the fisheries report, on which the facts presented in the application texts are based, must be attached to the application. 

The application must specify the grounds on which the applicant is entitled to apply for the permit and the purpose of the project. In addition, the location of the project and an account of the planning situation in the area where the project is located must be presented. The application shall clearly describe the area necessary for the implementation of the project and how the applicant will arrange the rights to the area in question. In addition, the area which will be affected by the project must be described. The application shall be accompanied by a list of all interested parties and their contact details, i.e. all persons or entities whose rights or interests may be affected by the project.   

All structures, other works and measures included in the project must be detailed in the application. The location of structures, works and activities must also be clearly indicated in the drawing attached to the application. The drawings of the planned constructions and equipment shall show the main dimensions of the structures and the information necessary to assess the impacts of the constructions and equipment on water bodies or water use.
The application shall contain the information necessary to assess the legal conditions of the project, the impacts of the project on water and natural conditions and the use of water bodies, and the damage and harm caused by the project. The application must include basic information on the water body affected by the project and assess the impacts of the project on, for example:

  • land use in coastal areas (including land use planning)
  • protected and conservation areas and biodiversity
  • water levels and flows
  • use of water bodies
  • water quality
  • fish, benthos, other biota and vegetation
  • groundwater.

In addition to the permanent impacts, the application must assess the impacts caused during the project. The applicant's views on necessary monitoring can also be attached to the application.
The application must also include an assessment of the loss of benefits resulting from the project, their reduction and, if necessary, compensation.

In addition, the application may contain its own views on the prerequisites for granting the permit.

A preparation permit may also be applied for in connection with the permit application. If the application seeks the right to take measures to prepare for the implementation of the project even before the final decision (so-called authorisation for preparation), the application must specify the measures that would be taken on the basis of the right and the justification why an authorisation for preparation would be necessary for these measures. When preparing the application, it should be taken into account that an authorisation for preparation can only be granted for measures that can be carried out without causing significant harm to other water use or nature and its functioning, and for which the conditions can essentially be restored if the permit decision is repealed or the permit conditions are amended. If the authorisation for preparation is granted, the authorisation holder is, as a rule, obliged to lodge a security in case the permit is refused or its terms are amended as a result of the appeal.

More detailed information on the content requirements of the permit application concerning the project can be found, for example, on the application of the regional administration's e-services and the instructions for completing it.

 

The environmental permit application must be accompanied by the necessary reports for processing the matter in accordance with the provisions of the Environmental Protection Decree. The application texts must contain essential information on the activities specified in the application and the reports and studies prepared to assess its impacts. The necessary maps and drawings as well as the relevant reports on which the facts presented in the application texts are based must be attached to the application.

The permit application must indicate the location of the activity and its environmental conditions, the planned date of the activity, and assess the impacts of the activity on the environment. 

The application shall describe the information on the production, processes, equipment, structures and their location necessary for permit consideration. The application shall also be accompanied by information on the raw materials, fuels, chemicals and other materials used for production as well as their storage and use of energy and water, as well as an assessment of the efficiency of the use of energy and materials and the application of the best available technology in the intended activities.

The application must include the quality and quantity of emissions generated in the operations and provide information on waste and waste management. The activities can cause emissions to water, air and soil. In addition, the vibration, noise and light pollution caused by the activities must be described. The application shall set out the possibilities for reducing and cleaning emissions and an explanation of the measures taken to protect soil and groundwater. With regard to waste, the planned measures to reduce the amount and harmful effects of waste, to upcycle and dispose of waste and where the waste is to be disposed of for upcycling or disposal must also be presented.

The permit application must assess the risks associated with the activities and describe the measures planned to prevent accidents and the measures to be taken in the event of problems.
The application shall also describe the applicant's proposal for monitoring and observing the activities and the resulting environmental emissions and their impacts.

The application shall also include a summary for the public of the information provided in the application for authorisation and in the notification. In addition, the application must be accompanied by an account of the neighbours of the location of the activity and other interested parties who may be particularly affected by the activity and its effects.

If the application for a permit concerns the operation of an institute operating under a directive, certain specific contents presented in section 3(3) of the Environmental Protection Decree are required in addition. 

If the activities cause emissions to a water body, the application must also include information on the receiving water body in accordance with section 5 of the Environmental Protection Decree, or, if the activities are located in a groundwater area, information on the groundwater area in accordance with section 7. 

In addition, the Decree requires specific reports for applications for specific activities, such as urban waste water treatment and waste upcycling or disposal.
Information such as a possible agreement on connections to the sewer system and the discharge of waste water must be attached to the application. In addition, the following appendices must be attached to application:

  • a map showing the locations of the activities and sites that cause emissions, 
  • site plan showing the location of the most important processes and emission points for structures and the environment
  • a process diagram showing the relevant emission sources.

In connection with the permit application, the right to start activities subject to a permit can also be applied for in accordance with the permit decision already before the decision becomes final. In this case, the application must itemise the activities that would be started with the right and justify why it would be necessary to start the activities immediately after receiving the permit decision. When preparing the application, it should be noted that the right to start activities before the permit decision becomes final can only be granted if the initiation of these activities does not render the appeal process useless. If the right to start activities is granted, the holder of the permit is, as a rule, obliged to lodge a security in case the permit decision is revoked or its terms are amended as a result of the appeal.  

More detailed information on the content requirements of the permit application can be found, for example, on the application of the regional administration's e-services and the instructions for completing it.

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The advance negotiation is an exchange of information and advice between the person responsible for the project and the authorities. Advance negotiations may be necessary if the technology used in the project is new in Finland, the project involves new legislation, there are existing conflicts of interest in land use in the project area, or if there are sensitive sites in the environment of the project area, such as groundwater areas or areas belonging to the Natura 2000 network, among other reasons. It is a good idea to invite all central government and municipal authorities central to the project to participate in the negotiations. In addition, the laws on environmental procedures require sufficient expertise from the party planning the project in both technical and procedural matters, which is why the assistance of an experienced consultant is often necessary.

The applicant should prepare for the advance negotiations thoroughly, and the planning of the project must be at a sufficient level to make the negotiations genuinely useful. The authorities must receive sufficient information about the project so that they can comment on, for example, the necessary reports and permit needs. The best benefit from the advance negotiation is obtained by sending sufficient material well in advance to the participants. 

The details of the procedures required by the project will not be decided on in the advance negotiation procedure, but an effort will be made to jointly agree on the necessary separate studies, the adequacy of the impact assessment, the licensing packages of later stages and the relationships between the different procedures. At best, the negotiations will improve the quality of the permit documents, thus speeding up the permit processing and increasing the availability of information to third parties (including citizens and environmental organisations) on the overall impacts of the project. 

The application must be submitted to the Regional State Administrative Agency well in advance of the planned start date of the project. As a rule, the application must be submitted electronically, and the Regional State Administrative Agency recommends that the application is created in the Regional State Administrative Agency's e-services. You can also find more information about the content requirements of the application in the e-service and follow the processing of the application. The application can also be sent by e-mail. At the request of the authority, copies of the application documents must also be submitted in hard copy if this is necessary for the processing of the matter. A natural person may still submit the permit application and its appendices in paper form.

The application is submitted to the Regional State Administrative Agency in whose area the project is planned to be implemented. Permit matters are processed by the Regional State Administrative Agencies for Southern Finland, Eastern Finland, Western and Inland Finland and Northern Finland. The Regional State Administrative Agency for Southern Finland also manages water and environmental permit matters in Southwest Finland, and the Regional State Administrative Agency for Northern Finland handles permit matters in the Lapland region. The electronic service automatically directs the application to the correct agency for processing.

Once the application has been submitted to the Regional State Administrative Agency, it will be checked. The first matter to be examined is whether the decision on the matter falls within the competence of the Regional State Administrative Agency. If it is found that the matter does not fall within the competence of the Regional State Administrative Agency, it shall be referred to the competent authority. The Regional State Administrative Agency informs the applicant of the transfer of the matter.

The next step is to examine the grounds for applying for a permit and to determine the composition of the case (usually the rapporteur and the decision-maker). When selecting the rapporteur and the decision-makers, it is taken into account that they have the expertise required for the matter in question.

In addition, depending on the area, the local Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment may be informed of the initiation of the application. 

The composition of the application shall carry out the initial examination of the application. At the same time, in certain areas, the local Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (overseer of the Water Act and/or Environmental Act) has been reserved an opportunity to present additional needs for the composition of the application. If the application is incomplete, it will be requested that the application be supplemented. Usually, a month is given to provide further information. 

It may be necessary to request that the application be supplemented several times in order to obtain all the documents necessary to process the matter. If the application has not been supplemented within the time limit or the necessary documents are not received despite the requests, the Regional State Administrative Agency may dismiss the matter.

If necessary, negotiations between the applicant and the authorities may be held to clarify/specify the matter.

Notification

When the application contains sufficient information, it shall be communicated to the other authorities and to the parties by publishing a notification. The notification and the documents to be notified are displayed in the water and environmental permit information service (ylupa.avi.fi/) for at least 30 days. Information on the public notification will also be published in the municipalities whose areas are covered by the application. The parties will receive a letter of public notice. Significant applications are also notified in newspapers that are published in the area affected by the activities.  

The notification states where the documents are visible and how to proceed if any party wishes to submit an objection on it. In addition, the notification shall state the time limit within which objections and opinions, including claims, must be addressed to the authority handling the matter. The matter can be resolved even if no objections or opinions have been expressed.

Opinions on the application

During the consultation period, the Regional State Administrative Agency requests statements on the application matter from the necessary authorities (e.g. the Environment and Natural Resources Department and the Fisheries Authority of the Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment, the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency, the Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency, the National Board of Antiquities, the municipality and the municipal environmental protection authority) and other parties. 

Objections to the application may be filed by those whose rights or interests may be concerned (interested party). Persons other than the parties concerned have the right to express their opinion on the application. 

Statements, objections and opinions are primarily requested to be sent to the Regional State Administrative Agency using the electronic form. The electronic form contains the most detailed instructions on how to prepare an objection and an opinion. The objection form does not require identification; however, the mandatory information on the form is the record number of the matter and the applicant to whom the statement, objection or opinion relates. An objection or opinion can also be sent by email.

The Regional State Administrative Agency requests an explanation and a response from the applicant for a permit in matters under the Water Act concerning the statements, opinions and objections expressed in matters under the Water Act. The deadline is usually one month.

In connection with the request, the Regional State Administrative Agency may request further information for the application if necessary. The authorities may need to be consulted again about the additional information.

If necessary, negotiations between the applicant and the authorities may be held to clarify/specify the matter.

The Regional State Administrative Agency may carry out a review in accordance with section 38 of the Administrative Procedure Act if this is necessary for deciding the matter. The party concerned shall be given an opportunity to be present at the review and to express their opinion on the issues raised. An authority whose duties under the law are to supervise the activities in question or whose expertise is needed to resolve the matter is also invited to participate in the review. A record shall be kept of the main observations made by the authority and the comments made by the party concerned during the review. The minutes shall be attached to the application dossier and notified to the party concerned and to the other parties invited to the review.

The Regional State Administrative Agency may also carry out an on-site inspection as referred to in section 39 of the Administrative Procedure Act. The party directly concerned shall be informed of the beginning of the inspection unless the notification jeopardises the achievement of the purpose of the inspection. The party referred to above has the right to be present at the inspection and to express their opinion and ask questions on the matters related to the inspection. During the inspection, the party concerned shall, if possible, be informed of the objectives of the inspection, its performance and further measures. A written inspection report will be drawn up on the inspection, showing the course of the inspection and the key observations made by the inspector. The inspection report shall be attached to the documents and notified to the party entitled to attend the inspection.

The Regional State Administrative Agency will start preparing the decision once the matter has been sufficiently clarified and the matter has been notified. The decision is taken on the basis of the rapporteur's proposal for a decision. Depending on the nature or scope of the matter, there may be several decision-makers.

The decision is made on the basis of the provisions laid down in the legislation.

The decision shall be given in writing. It explains the matter and the demands of the parties. In addition to the decision, the criteria on which it was based are presented. At the same time, when a project or activity is granted a permit, provisions are made that the project must follow (including the time during which the project must be started and implemented in essential respects) or how the activity should be carried out. The decision also responds to the demands made. The decision shall be accompanied by instructions for appeal, indicating how the decision can be appealed if a party is not satisfied with the decision.

Conditions for granting a water permit

In general, granting a permit requires that the benefits of the project outweigh the disadvantages. 
A water permit is granted if: 

  • the project does not significantly violate public or private interests or
  • the benefit gained from the project to public or private interests is considerable in comparison to the losses incurred for public or private interests. 

A permit cannot be granted, if the project: 

  • endangers public health or safety 
  • harms the environment or the aquatic environment and their functions 
  • causes major deterioration in the local living conditions or economic conditions. 

In addition, the permit holder must have a right of use to the areas required for the project. If the applicant does not own the area or control it through a permanent right of use, a permit may be granted if: 

  • the conditions for granting the applicant the right to use the area are fulfilled, or
  • the applicant presents a reliable account of how the right of use to the area will be arranged. 

Conditions for granting an environmental permit

An environmental permit is granted if the activity meets the requirements laid down in the Environmental Protection Act and the Waste Act. The requirements of the Nature Conservation and Waste Act are also taken into account in the processing of the application.

When processing an environmental permit application, the impacts of the activity are assessed, taking into account the location of the activity and the fragility of its environment. The environmental permit may also include provisions to limit the impacts of the activity.

In the area affected by the activity, taking into account the restrictions laid down in the permit, the activity must not, alone or in combination with other activities, result in:

  • harm to health  
  • unreasonable harm to neighbours under the Neighbour Relations Act  
  • environmental pollution or risk of pollution  
  • soil, groundwater or marine pollution  
  • deterioration of special natural conditions  
  • risk to water supply or other important public access. 

Authorisation for preparation or right to start activities

In connection with permit consideration, a decision may approve or reject the application for an authorisation for preparation under the Water Act or an application concerning the right to start activities under the permit during the appeal period.

In connection with an approved decision, unless this is manifestly unnecessary, the applicant is ordered to pay a security before starting the work permitted in the authorisation for preparation or starting activities subject to an environmental permit. The requirement to pay a security does not apply to the state, central government agencies, municipalities or joint municipal authorities. The security must cover compensation for any damage, nuisance and costs that may result from repealing the decision or amending the permit provisions. 

As a rule, a water permit and an environmental permit are valid until further notice (i.e. permanently) unless the permit has been granted for a fixed period. A fixed-term permit will lapse on the day it expires, unless otherwise provided in the permit decision. 

A water permit valid until further notice expires if the measures required in the permit decision have not been implemented in essential respects or if the measures have not been started within the specified time limit. For special reasons, you can apply for an extension before the time limit ends.

An open-ended permit granted for activities subject to an environmental permit may be ordered to expire, for example, if the activity has not started within five years of the granting of the permit or if the operator notifies the permit authority that the activity has ceased.

The decision is a public document. The decision is delivered to the applicant, to the authorities that received a request for an opinion and to those who have separately requested the decision. 
The parties who have been informed of the application and those who have filed a reminder or expressed their opinion on the matter will be informed of the decision. 

The Regional State Administrative Agency provides information on the issuing of a decision by publishing the notification and the decision on the website of the Regional State Administrative Agency. In addition, information on the notification is published on the municipal website. The decision shall also be notified, when appropriate, in the regional newspaper.

Appeal to Vaasa Administrative Court

Decisions of the Regional State Administrative Agency are appealed to the Vaasa Administrative Court (VHaO). An appeal may be filed by:

  • a person whose right or interest may be affected,
  • a registered association or foundation whose purpose is to promote the protection of the environment, health or nature or the comfort of the living environment and whose operating area is affected by the environmental impacts of the activities,
  • the municipality in which the activities are located and other municipality whose area is affected by the environmental impacts of the activities,
  • Regional Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment as well as the environmental protection authority of the municipality in which the activities are located and the area affected; and
  • other public interest authority.

Instructions on how to file an appeal are appended to the decision. The appeal period mentioned in the decision (30 days) must be strictly observed. Letters of appeal must reach their destination by the deadline, before the end of office hours on the day in question.

The persons and authorities concerned shall be informed of the appeal. They may submit a response or an opinion on the appeal. The Administrative Court will issue a decision on the matter after processing it.

If an authorisation for preparation or a right to start activities has been granted in the matter, the Administrative Court may order the activities or measures to be interrupted or restricted. An appeal concerning an authorisation for preparation and a right to start activities is processed as urgent.

Authorisation for preparation / right to start operations during the appeal period

You can also apply for an authorisation for preparation / right to start operations during the appeal period or within 14 days of the end of the appeal period with a separate application. Before making the decision, the supervisory authorities and those who have appealed against the permit decision will be consulted.  The Vaasa Administrative Court and those who have appealed will be notified of the granted permit.

Appeal to the Supreme Administrative Court

Those dissatisfied with the decision of the Vaasa Administrative Court can still appeal to the Supreme Administrative Court (KHO). You can appeal to the Supreme Administrative Court only if you have been granted permission to appeal. Instructions on how to proceed if you wish to apply for an appeal permit and appeal the decision to the Supreme Administrative Court are attached to the decision of Vaasa Administrative Court.

Final decision

If the decision of the Regional State Administrative Agency is not appealed or the appeal authority (VHaO or KHO) does not revoke or return the decision for reconsideration, it becomes legally valid.

Asset Publisher

It is prohibited to start the activities before the water or environmental permit has been granted or before the permit has become final. If the project has been granted an authorisation for preparation or a right to start activities during the appeal period, the decision may be implemented in the parts described in the authorisation for preparation or right to start activities regardless of the appeal. The permit holder must comply with the permit regulations laid down in the decision. If the decision is appealed to the Administrative Court, the Administrative Court may suspend enforcement at its discretion.

For a water management project, the permit authority and the state supervisory authority must be notified of the completion of the project or the introduction of a construction required for the project. In the case of an environmental permit, the supervisory authority must be informed beforehand of the commencement of operations if the start date is not indicated in the permit decision or if it changes from the date notified in advance.

However, other permits, licences and notices may also be necessary before a project can go ahead. Examples include municipal action permits, building permits and noise notices. It is the project coordinator’s responsibility to find out about these permits and licences and to make sure that they are in order.

Often the permit holder must monitor the impacts of their activities on the water body. The permit shall specify the details of the monitoring. Monitoring may be permanent or temporary, depending on the duration of the impact. The permit holder must usually report the results of the monitoring to the Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment and the municipal environmental protection authority.

The permit holder is responsible for the maintenance of the structures related to water management permits and their lawful use.

After the permit decision, there may be a need to interpret the permit or individual permit regulations. The interpretation is made by the supervisory authority. If, on the other hand, it is necessary to amend the permit decision or permit regulations, the permit holder must submit an application concerning the change to the permit authority.

Compliance with the Water Act and the Environmental Protection Act, and with the permits and the permit provisions issued pursuant to it, is enforced by the Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (state supervisory authority) and the municipal environmental protection authorities. If the act or provisions issued under it have not been complied with, the supervisory authority shall, taking into account the nature of the matter, instruct the police to terminate the non-compliance, initiate an administrative enforcement or request an investigation.

The supervisory authority regularly monitors activities subject to environmental permits, declarations and registrations through periodic inspections.

Asset Publisher

Dredging, removal of aquatic plants, shore modification, improvement of the shore and construction of a pier:

Water restoration planning and project implementation: