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Environmental Review Toolkit
 

Opportunities for Highway Programs to
Remediate Natural Resource Concerns in New York

A map of the Upper Susquehanna River watershed
Upper Susquehanna River watershed
(Courtesy of Upper Susquehanna Coalition)
Total cost: $132,390
FHWA share: $112,490
Period of performance: 48 months
Dates: March 4, 2008 – Present
Status: In progress
AOTR: Michael Lamprecht
Grant-project website:
https://www.tiogacountyny.com/programs-agencies/soil-and-water/

Project Goals
The goal of the Tioga County Soil and Water Conservation District (TCSWCD) Eco-Logical project was to work with the New York FHWA Division Office and New York State DOT (NYSDOT) staff to develop an REF (see footnote on page 28), consisting of natural resource maps covering the county's watersheds. TCSWCD planned to use the REF to assist planners in making better conservation and mitigation decisions in the Susquehanna Basin and the Finger Lakes-Lake Ontario Basin. The project team also assisted in the development of an in-lieu fee (ILF) program in the Upper Susquehanna River Basin, which would help implement the REF.

Project Activities and Accomplishments
Working closely with NYSDOT staff, the TCSWCD project team collected natural resource and transportation data to populate an online mapping tool for the REF, which was created specifically for use by NYSDOT. In 2012, the TCSWCD completed the first version of the tool and drafted a report on the project, which details conservation opportunities for a range of “keystone species” within the Susquehanna Basin. The report enables environmental planners at NYSDOT to consider habitats that may otherwise fall outside the scope of the transportation planning process.

The nonprofit Upper Susquehanna Coalition (USC) used data from the REF to develop the region's first ILF program for the Susquehanna River watershed, which entailed identifying sites that NYSDOT and other agencies can utilize for mitigation. USC is a network of soil and water conservation districts in New York and Pennsylvania whose mission is to protect and improve water quality and natural resources in the Upper Susquehanna Basin. The USC acted on behalf of TCSWCD through the ILF program to review and identify mitigation priorities and sought input from a multi-agency alliance. The relationships gained in developing the ILF will strengthen implementation of the REF.

Future Steps
NYSDOT staff in Region 6 will test the online mapping tool and offer feedback to improve its use with the DOT. TCSWCD then plans to update the tool based on the feedback and train NYSDOT environmental planners to use it in identifying mitigation sites; other NYSDOT staff are also welcome to attend the trainings. The data for the REF is regional but the template for the tool is statewide, which would allow other NYSDOT districts or organizations outside of the Upper Susquehanna region to adapt the tool with their own data.

Insights on Eco-Logical
While TCSWCD practices the Eco-Logical approach as part of its daily business, it recognized challenges in working with the specific contracting and financial protocols of transportation agencies. These protocols can make it difficult for transportation agencies to manage and fund one collective mitigation site for multiple transportation projects. The ILF program circumvents that problem by allowing an agency to purchase credits for a transportation project and then select a high-priority mitigation site, as identified in the REF, to mitigate impacts from several transportation projects.

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