Environmental Review Toolkit
Planning and Environment Linkages

Linking Planning and NEPA Managers Workshop

Columbia, South Carolina

Draft Action Plan
July 27-29, 2004

CHARGE FROM JULY 26th EXECUTIVE SESSION:
To have more proactive, effective involvement by resource and regulatory agencies in early and intermediate decisions and continuing the collaboration through final approvals and permits.
Current Need —
To be Addressed
in Action Plan
Strategies/Actions Implementation/Next Steps Responsible Person(s) Action Date
Need for a shared data base of basic inventory information
  • Develop web-based GIS information for basic data sharing
    • Lexington County has a system
  • Develop a data dictionary to make existing information more useful
  • Identify information owner and establish update parameters
  • Develop mechanism to overcome information confidentiality
    • Share at broad level and establish sharing protocols
  • Develop an inventory list of existing information
  • Build on existing University of South Carolina GIS programs; determine if the University is an appropriate clearinghouse
  • Determine database "champion" that can guide development and implementation across agency boundaries
  • Identify and overcome technological barriers
  • Identify what information is available: who has it, where and how it is accessible, is it available on line, what is needed in order to see it.
  • Deal with the turf issue (ownership/control/agenda issues) to loosen the grip on some of this data.
  • Address issue of confidentiality and security so that this data can be available to the right people. Address the issue of FOIA requests.
  • Explore grants to develop funding to help inventory and/or manage this data.
  • Develop interagency agreements on sharing the data (could be a confidentiality statement that everyone signs)
  • Create a clearinghouse with links to the various data sets, accessible to state and local government and to the MPOs.
  • Identify a lead agency — a champion to lead this initiative.
  • Tap into the wealth of information that Lexington and Richmond County have online and learn how to access it.
  • Include this initiative as an agenda item for the October workshop.
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Need internal DOT communication (pre construction, planning, and environmental)
  • Seek to develop opportunities for staff from these internal sections of SCDOT to interact
  • Hold interoffice meetings and get-togethers
  • Develop a consistent approach to involving environmental and planning staff with preliminary design (the APPR should help)
  • Engage in joint field work
  • Work more in teams
  • Engage in more sharing of data, such as GIS files
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Determine what level of information is needed from planning to through NEPA to make sure decisions stick.
  • Support document template
    • Have MPO and COG review
    • Make sure template covers basic NEPA requirements
    • Understand significance, depth and an idea of level of detail
    • Fall timeframe for completion
    • Circulate electronically for initial review and comment
    • Sean has information to provide Chetna
    • Field test template with MPOs and COGs for feedback
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Better identify the problem that needs to be addressed rather than frame the project in terms of an upfront, pre-conceived solution
  • Current problem statements are too vague; they need to be "beefed up" to include additional detail
  • Develop a better review process for purpose and need
  • Consider environmental issues when developing purpose and need
  • Develop a "scoping tour" in order to better coordinate with local planners
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Need to build a mutual understanding of mission/mandates/regulations/strategic issues of each agency so we can work better together

Need to cross train and offer technical exchange in order to understand agency (resource and permit) roles

Foster internal and external relationship building; build trust with permit agencies

Take better advantage of lessons learned from other states; review innovation by others

Need for a contact list of the MPOs, COGs, SCDOT, FHWA, and the state and federal resource/regulatory agencies
  • Prepare for a late October 2004 meeting/conference
    • Include 1-hour presentation by each agency on their mission
    • Conduct meeting in a comfortable setting (Hilton Head?)
    • Anticipate over 80 attendees
    • Invite project level people for entire 2-3 days
    • Invite program level people for 1-day of key sessions
    • Assign a specific planning committee
    • In conjunction with the workshop, develop a contact list and distribute to all
Interagency Workshop
Conduct two-day meeting for FHWA, SCDOT, MPOs, COGs, and resource/regulatory agencies in conjunction with one-day October partnering meeting with MPOs and COGs.

Outcome:
Education and sharing of mission statements, goals, and needs; development of a contact list (whom to talk to about what); identification of what resources each agency can provide to help ensure good decisions

Agenda:
Day 1 morning
  • Presentations: all agencies' missions and goals (30 min each agency)
Day 1 lunch speaker
  • Outside expert on GIS (or progress on I-73 related to GIS data set)
Day 1 afternoon
  • Breakout sessions (permits, in lieu)
  • NEPA 101-a mini training: this is what happens to your projects down the road (in layman's terms)
Day 2 morning
  • APPR — what it is, what to expect and how to use it
Day 2 afternoon
  • Breakout sessions (NEPA/permit linkage, general permits, best practices, innovations) — send out email in advance inviting ideas
Product of workshop
  • A book or CD — so agencies can refer back to the information presented
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Need to maximize the value of the APPR

Need the ability to identify major issues earlier (showstoppers)

Need to better involve environmental agencies in earlier project phases
  • Refine goal
    • Tool to use by project manager, MPO, and COG to determine issues/challenges that will need to be addressed prior to/during pre-construction instead of years into the pre-construction phase.
  • Maximize goal
    • Determine specific customers, educate them, inform them on what is expected from them and when it is expected
    • Foster trust, get a rapport with specific customers — not necessarily at the executive level
  • Keep records
  • Use latest technology
  • Standardize procedure, perhaps develop a form for comments
    • Educate on expectation of comments
    • Consider a signature page
    • Consider a response timeframe — 45 days for example
    • Consider mechanism for reviewing agency to acknowledge receipt of APPR
  • Keep document and process development "alive" for adjustments as needed
  • Recognize this as a tool and use it!
The APPR is a tool. Use the APPR as a means to seek agency input prior to inclusion of projects in the STIP.

Purpose: To provide an opportunity for early coordination of long-range projects that will be going into the TIP/STIP. Provides early warning system so that SCDOT can avoid pitfalls. Goals are to: avoid putting projects in the TIP/STIP that have huge problems and are not likely to make it through the review process; to get input which can help set realistic project costs estimates; to help expedite the project development process.

Structure: An overview of the projects which serves as a request for early coordination with MPOs, COGs, and resource/regulatory agencies.

Timing: Prior to moving projects from long-range plan to the STIP. Apply on the interim TIP (2005-2007), as MPOs and COGs forward projects to SCDOT.

Next steps: Refine APPR, using input from this meeting. Begin its use on 2005-2007 projects. Introduce and explain the APPR at the October interagency workshop.
SCDOT (Ron Patton and Brian Taylor) spacer
Other areas to work on:

  • Need to have one environmental document that serves the purposes of NEPA and permitting
  • Need to consider impacts on a watershed basis (not just a project specific basis)
  • Need to determine difference between what is considered a "major" versus a "minor" project
  • Need to involve resource and regulatory agencies in the alternative analysis process in order to make this step more transparent
  • Need to track commitments made during planning, programming, review process so these commitments survive staff turnover.
  • Need to set natural resource goals that can be used in long range planning and programming
  • Need to distribute long range plan to larger list for better review/input
  • Demonstrate early success which will lead toward trust between agencies
  • Need to better inform local planners and decision makers on transportation decisions and outcomes
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For questions or feedback on this subject matter content, please contact Jody McCullough or Marisel Lopez-Cruz.

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