The ABC's of FHWA's Guidance on Managing Conflict
FHWA's guidance provides agencies with a diverse menu of tools, methods, and strategies. The guidance includes information on:
- Approaches to managing conflict and resolving disputes at the project level, including interest-based negotiation, assisted problem solving, and upward referral of issues.
- Strategies for effective decision-making and conflict management.
- Best practices in conflict management from several states.
- Examples of disputes that arise during NEPA reviews of transportation projects.
No one technique suits all circumstances. Instead, states can tailor a variety of techniques to meet their unique needs, including:
- Interagency memoranda of understanding, programmatic agreements outlining operating procedures for specified categories of projects, and other streamlining agreements. These agreements have proven useful in expediting projects with limited environmental impacts, such as safety and maintenance projects.
- Negotiated timeframes and guiding principles on roles and responsibilities. Upfront planning has proven useful in expediting the review process of transportation infrastructure projects.
- Procedures for collaborative problem solving, dispute resolution, and the upward referral of disputes. Designing a conflict management process upfront with all partners has proven useful in preventing project delays.
Facilitated Workshops for Improving Transportation Project Development and Environmental Reviews through Collaborative Problem Solving
Educating front line staff involved in the preparation, oversight, and review of environmental documents and the issuance of environmental permits to use collaborative problem solving skills and ADR techniques is key to improving transportation decision-making and expediting environmental reviews. To education these staff, FHWA and IECR are developing a series of facilitated, customized workshops held in each of the ten standard Federal regions. The workshops will be based on the FHWA conflict management guidance and structured to reinforce working relationships, including the relationship among the Federal-Tribal-state teams involved in the NEPA review process for transportation projects. The workshops will also improve understanding of Federal agencies' roles and responsibilities. Staff at the practitioner level - those who are involved in early coordination meetings and who review and provide comments on environmental documents - are the intended workshop attendees. An important part of each workshop will be the discussion of topics of specific concern and interest to that region. FHWA and IECR are planning and scheduling the workshops, which will be held May through December 2003.
Conflict Management and Environmental Streamlining/Stewardship
Conflict management can help agencies meet the environmental streamlining goals of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), the Environmental Stewardship and Transportation Infrastructure Project Reviews Executive Order, and FHWA's Vital Few Goal for Environmental Stewardship and Streamlining. To foster streamlining, agencies should coordinate with partners early and often and integrate the project development and environmental review processes. Agencies can use conflict management tools and techniques to meet these goals through collaborative decision-making and problem solving among a wide variety of partners, including state and Federal resource and permitting agencies, local governments, interest groups, and the public.
Managed appropriately, conflict can be beneficial. By promoting involved parties to recognize differing perspectives and to accommodate diverse interests, managed conflict can lead to the development of innovative transportation solutions that enhance and protect the environment.