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Linking Planning and NEPA Managers Workshop

Texas

Executive Charge and Action Plan

Charge to the Managers' Workshop

(The revised elements of the charge from the Executives are included in bold, below. They are followed by a list of possible sub-topics/strategies brainstormed by the Managers in small groups.)

The Executive Charge: To Develop Strategies and Steps to Achieve the Following:

  1. Federal/State/Local interagency (transportation and resource agencies and tribes) coordination, consultation and communication during the planning phase
    1. How can resource agencies be involved in planning, given funding and staffing constraints?
    2. What will it take to keep the agencies informed during planning and continuing through NEPA?
    3. How will the planning process address agency resource (human and natural environment) issues?
      1. Provide input opportunities (screening techniques) such as those used on I-69 before planning projects — how can this occur?
      2. Develop a committee for agencies to participate at long range planning level
      3. Develop an agency contact/mailing list of who to contact/inform/request information from and statement of when to use this list
      4. Develop a checklist of environmental issues and concerns so that planners will pay attention to these issues in the planning process
      5. Create two-way communication opportunities (resource/regulatory agencies to transportation planners and vice versa)
      6. Formalize the coordination and data acquisition process
      7. Create a symbiotic relationship between resource/regulatory agencies, MPOs and transportation agencies
  2. Acceptance of transportation planning products (such as narrowing of alternatives) and processes by consideration of natural and human environmental resources
    1. What data/process/documentation do the resource agencies need to see and in what format to be comfortable with accepting planning products?
    2. What do agencies need to know to be assured that their issues have been considered during planning?

      The strategy is to commit, over a short period of time, to:
      1. Consider and assist in addressing SEE (social, economic, environmental) impacts as resources allow
      2. Coordinate, consult and communicate (inter and intra agency)
      3. Participate in annual workshop/summit (1 -2 days) to share information about successes, ideas, lessons learned — focus on what's working
      4. FHWA — to serve as a champion helping encourage people to accomplish activities, inspiring others through: maintaining a clearing house of what people are doing well, contacts, training, website, regular communication, quarterly reports to all interests involved; identify all appropriate interests (need to look at who is involved); two way coordination
  3. Development of Purpose and Need in the Planning Process
    1. What should the Purpose and Need say at the planning level (LRP/MIS)?
    2. What format should it be in?
    3. What is the process for ensuring carry-forward of the planning Purpose and Need into NEPA?

      Strategies:
      1. Determine how the planning process can be used to frame the P&N
      2. Determine what level of information is needed at the planning level to build a purpose and need with standing
      3. What type of information is needed to lay a foundation for P&N
      4. How do we document the process and educate stakeholders
      5. Determine what the agencies will be looking for in Purpose and Need in order for them to support the P&N
      6. Clarify what a planning level P&N is and how it is different from a NEPA-level Purpose and Need — what Purpose and Need should be at the planning level and what is needed to refine it at the NEPA level.
  4. Incorporation of ecosystem stewardship in planning, including discussion of environmental mitigation
    1. What will be done with the information you can now obtain from GIS tools?
    2. How can this information help inform discussion of mitigation?
    3. What are the expectations of the resource/regulatory agencies regarding the use of this information?

      Strategies:
      1. Define what ecosystem stewardship means (e.g., Avoiding impacts to ecosystem and identifying large important areas (pristine/#5)
      2. Identify what other tools can be used for this purpose, in addition to the GIS-ST/Action Plan; are there other tools not known at this point?
      3. Develop appropriate tools for urban/high density areas (a GIS-ST-Urban). What layers need to be added? Who updates this database? Who ensures that there is a commitment to use it?
      4. Identify how to use these tools to enhance resources versus just avoiding — what opportunities exist to enhance?
  5. Use and acceptance of environmental screening tools and data sharing at the planning level, including conservation plans and maps and inventories of natural and/or historic resources
    1. How can we best use these tools at the planning level?
    2. How can the use of GIS-ST be expanded from I-69 to other areas?

      Strategies:
      1. Identify strategies to ensure confidentiality/protocols for sensitive data sets; private land owner issues — regulated regarding how data is used; interpretation and use of the data
      2. Develop education approaches about and training on how to use data base
      3. Redefine GIS-ST for use in the urban area — requires resources ($/time); research opportunities to help fund effort
      4. Identify what data is available in GIS-ST and what resource/regulatory agencies will be looking at in urban areas but on a smaller scale (demographic/economic)
      5. Provide clarity regarding MPOs and resource/regulatory agency expectations from the use of the data
      6. Develop strategies to generate support from resource/regulatory agencies that the approach for use of this tool is appropriate
      7. Document the thought process regarding how the tools have been used
  6. Effective communication with and involvement of the public throughout the planning and NEPA decision-making processes
    1. What is appropriate and sufficient public involvement in planning?
    2. How do we reach out to and include low-income and minority populations, inform them and hear their views?

      Strategies:
      1. Build on existing effective public involvement processes
      2. Develop an approach to include the average/general citizen in the process
      3. Identify effective communication techniques such as visualization products

Action Plan

The Managers' whole group identified the interagency coordination/communication element and the elements related to data-sharing/use as the number one and number two priorities and focused most of their attention on these, working in small groups organized around MPO areas (HGAC, NCTCOG, CAMPO, SABC) on the communication element and in mixed groups on the data-sharing/use element. Aspects of the other "charge" elements were woven into the group discussions.

Action Plan — CAMPO

  1. Goal: To incorporate environmental considerations into long-range planning process and streamline planning/NEPA decisions through early resource agency involvement.
  2. Proposed action: To establish a regional working group that includes CAMPO, TxDOT (Austin District, ENV and TPP), FHWA/FTA, resource agencies, local governments, local participating agencies (LCRA, Edwards Aquifer District). The working group will gather data and formalize resource agency involvement. The regional working group's tasks will be to:
    1. Identify important environmental issues (ESA, groundwater/aquifer)
    2. Prioritize issues
    3. Collect and collate data
    4. Develop maps and analysis
    5. Draft policies and procedures
    6. Develop a measure of success
  3. Implementation/operational specifics of the proposed action, and responsible agency:
    1. Conduct at least two working group planning and organization meetings with:
      CAMPO, Austin District, ENV, TPP, FHWA, to:
      1. Develop contact/participant list (all)
      2. Gather data already available (MPO, Austin District, ENV)
      3. Prepare NEPA Project Status Map (MPO, Austin District)
      4. Draft a process for resource agency involvement and develop a MOU or MOA with each agency, detailing the level of involvement and commitment
    2. Draft Working Group Agenda for the first meeting
      1. The issue to be addressed (How to incorporate environmental considerations into long-range planning process and streamline planning/NEPA decisions through early resource agency involvement) (CAMPO/Austin District)
      2. How would the participants like to address meaningful participation for all and develop a formalized agreement (CAMPO, Austin District, others)
      3. Discuss MPO planning process, including timeline and opportunities for input (MPO)
      4. Review available data (MPO, Austin District, ENV) and determine additional data available from resource agencies (resource agencies)
      5. Define triggers for resource agency involvement (based on data and MPO process) (resource agencies)
      6. Discuss and draft formalized process MOU/MOA or protocol agreement (all)
      7. Next steps
        1. Get data from resource agencies
        2. Work on formal agreements
    3. Subsequent meetings — some would be topic-specific (water, historical, etc.) which will be cross-training opportunities
  4. Who needs to do what, in what timeframe?
    MPO/Austin District will take the lead on coordinating meetings and ensuring that the process continues.
    1. Hold work group planning/organization meetings:
      1. One within 2 weeks
      2. One within one month
      3. Others as needed
    2. The first Working Group meeting will be no later than May 1.

Action Plan — NCTCOG

  1. Goal: To keep the agencies informed, recognizing funding and staff constraints; to provide a means to communicate without having lots of meetings
  2. Proposed action:
    1. Develop a contact list of the right people for the right function (who is responsible for what at each of the agencies for the various levels of activities; there is a need to understand who is the right person/position to contact in order to get the right people to the table)
    2. Hold an annual statewide meeting at the Environmental Coordinators' Meeting (one day additional break-out meeting)
      1. Purpose: To provide reciprocal training on the laws, requirements, and philosophies that form the basis for how we are doing our jobs
      2. Invitees:
        1. TXDOT (Planning and ENV)
        2. MPOs
        3. FHWA
        4. FTA
        5. Transit agencies
        6. Transportation authorities
        7. Regional Mobility Authorities
        8. Resource agencies, including: EPA, COE, TPWD, USFWS, NMFS, THC, HUD, NRCS, TWDB, TCEQ, GLO
        9. RR Commission
        10. Tribes
      3. Scope:
        1. Overall planning/NEPA process
        2. Regulatory updates
        3. Overall training
        4. Data exchange
    3. Hold an annual regional MPO MTP meeting
      1. Purpose: To provide a forum specifically for the metropolitan area, in which appropriate representatives of agencies meet to go over the planning process, develop more detailed description of products and decisions, identify what decisions are made at each level, share information, coordinate decision-making mechanisms and how they coincide, look at long-range plans, talk about major projects that are coming up, prepare for workload, share concerns, hear from resource/regulatory agencies regarding priorities in the metropolitan area and sensitive resources, share information about major initiatives, and look for opportunities to coordinate
      2. Invitees: (same agencies as above, but correct local, functional people)
      3. Scope:
        1. Resource agencies gain understanding of MTP process
        2. Resource agencies find out long-range, mid-range, and near-term regional priorities
        3. Resource agencies provide their priorities and needs
  3. Next steps and who will do what:
    1. The MPO will develop a contact list with assistance from all agencies
    2. TxDOT (ENV and TPP) statewide will:
      1. Discuss the scope of the "Annual" meeting
      2. Invite all the agencies listed above to the conference and the one-day break-out meeting
    3. The MPO will coordinate with agencies and set up the Regional MPO MTP meeting.
  4. Time frame:
    1. The statewide Annual Meeting will be held in conjunction with the Environmental Coordinators' Conference (the next one is in September 2006)
    2. The regional annual meeting will be held prior to April 30, 2006
  5. Champions:
    1. Statewide: TxDOT ENV and TPP Divisions
    2. Regional: NCTCOG (Jeff Neal)

Action Plan: SABC

  1. Goal: To develop a better process for early involvement
  2. Proposed Action:
    1. Formalize and expand the current planning process to include all resource agencies and planning entities
      1. Develop a Region-wide Integrated Long-Range Plan (Smart Growth/Sustainable)
      2. Include the following agencies: County, transit, TxDOT, COG, MPO, local government, USACE, TPWD, TCEQ, USFWS, EPA, EAA, THC, Texas Water Development Board, Economic Development Foundation, SAWS, CPS
      3. Needed: A Governor's Office state-level leader
    2. Develop an early exchange of information and a checklist about resources each agency has
      1. For all agencies, obtain contact name/information for policy and technical persons
      2. Request all regional studies — past, present, and future — and develop a catalog of these
      3. Request resource GIS files and other information for the MPO level and a checklist of available data from all agencies
    3. Hold a workshop to continue to pursue other opportunities in the existing process
      1. Focus of workshop will be on TTC-35 as a Tier 1 document
      2. Timeframe:
        • February 22 — TMPO in Austin
        • March — TAC — presentation by Jesse
        • April — TAC
        • May — Policy Board
        • June — hold workshop for all players

Action Plan — HGAC

  1. Goal: To develop a definition of planning and the process, including defining:
    1. What level of data should be used at the planning levels
    2. Development of Plans
    3. Level of detail of environmental constraints
    4. Level of agency and public involvement
    5. Mutual understanding of terminology — e.g., "LO" "Jeopardy"
    6. Broad-based planning/growth patterns, infrastructure, water
    7. A framework for the progression of planning (see table below)
      10 years 7 years 3 years
      Feasibility studies; MIS Project development TIP
  2. Proposed Action:
    1. Land Use Plans — incorporate environmental concerns; develop various growth scenarios to identify trends if we anticipate growth (node, corridor scenarios); after identifying growth scenarios provide information to resource/regulatory agencies
    2. Conduct agency reviews and coordination (multi-level); realization that there are different levels of information needed depending on the stage of planning; important not to try to get all information at one time but that the level will be determined by the detail and time frame
    3. Partnering in advance for mitigation (Look at regional transportation plan and anticipate the compensatory mitigation needed; especially at the 10 -15 year level to find a creative way to identify land for anticipated compensatory mitigation; this will save taxpayer dollars and allow for possible enhancements versus only mitigation)
    4. Document process and decisions
    5. Change institutional mindsets and barriers to anticipatory NEPA/resource planning
  3. Implementation/operational specifics of the proposed action
    1. Incorporate existing information in growth scenarios
    2. Leverage funding for mitigation
    3. Utilize TCEQ programs to help off-set urban impacts (smaller natural habitats)
    4. Hold quarterly meetings
    5. Document meetings, discussions, contacts
  4. Next steps
    1. Set coordination meetings
    2. Codify process in MOUs
    3. Develop and refine data maps and checklists for each agency
    4. Identify funding sources
    5. Develop a regulatory map to identify where jurisdictions' responsibilities kick in and how each can be involved effectively in the process
    6. Identify and begin to address institutional barriers
  5. Who needs to do what?
    1. Planning agencies — begin setting coordination meetings
    2. Resource/regulatory agencies — provide information regarding available data, maps, issues
  6. Timeframe
    1. Hold coordination meetings in the next 3-6 months
    2. Documentation — immediately
  7. Champion: The agency that "owns the project" (MPO, TxDOT, transit agency)

Action Plan Discussion on Data Use and Sharing

  1. Benefits of using the GIS-ST data and TxDOT GIS database
    1. Just having the information is useful
    2. This can reduce resources and time
    3. It provides resource/regulatory agency acceptance of data
  2. What is missing from the GIS/ST program?
    1. Historical resources agencies and their issues are not represented in this workshop and are unable to comment on this
      1. Need to include historical resources agencies
      2. This is part of public outreach that is needed
    2. Need to include community impacts (societal issues) especially Environmental Justice
    3. Need to help the public understand the planning and regulatory processes
    4. Need to incorporate drinking water resource planning in the planning phase of data
    5. NRCS may want to have input
    6. Need to look at what other data (besides GIS) may be useful to include
  3. What is needed to make statewide use of the GIS-ST program? What other data needs exist?
    1. Inclusion of urban criteria for higher-density areas; make the data useful for urban areas
    2. A program that runs the GIS data; one-stop shop
    3. Ability to just get the data sets that are available, separate from the GIS-ST program
    4. In the metropolitan areas, we need a smaller grid to address land use issues and develop sustainability strategies
    5. Need another color "black" to signify "no go"
    6. Need finer granularity, so we can dig deeper and achieve a greater level of accuracy
    7. Keeping the data up-to-date — statewide and local information
    8. Need to address how to fund efforts
    9. Need a tool to identify growth concentrations and consider alternative growth scenarios

Closing Remarks and Next Steps

  • Meetings (planned at this workshop) will be held in the next couple of weeks:
    • To plan interagency meetings
    • To develop mechanisms and tools to make this work
  • Immediately, there will be more up-front environmental information built into the decisions in planning.
  • We will carry the message to our organizations that there needs to be more early involvement of resource agencies.
  • Texas Parks and Wildlife Department will work with the MPOs/TxDOT during planning — we will provide an access/contact list
  • The MPO will send TPWD a letter (to Bob Cook) requesting TPWD participation
  • The USACE will report back to their District and Engineer and will participate to help define a process and triggers for participation that will not overburden the agencies
  • FHWA (Michael Leary) will prepare a letter to send to the CAMPO Board and TxDOT regarding the Feb 22 TMPO meeting
  • SABC will attend the Feb 22 TMPO meeting, will report to the technical advisory committees in April, and will report to the Policy Board in May
  • NCTCOG — Is taking the next steps in their Action Plan
  • All will network across the agencies
  • More robust plans
  • Follow-on to identify resources to make it happen
  • Participants will communicate with others who are outside of this room
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For questions or feedback on this subject matter content, please contact Jody McCullough, Dave Harris, or Bruce Bender.

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