Abstracts: Streamlining, Stewardship, and Sustainability
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Streamlining in Washington State
Measuring the Performance of Multi-Agency Programmatic Permits for Washington State Department of Transportation Activities
Gregor Myhr (Phone: 360-705-7487, Email: MyhrG@wsdot.wa.gov), Permit Program Manager, Washington State Department of Transportation Environmental Services Office, WSDOT HQ, 310 Maple Park Avenue SE, Olympia, WA 98504-7331, Fax: 360-705-6833
In 2001, the Washington State Legislature established the Transportation Permit Efficiency and Accountability Committee (TPEAC) to identify measures to streamline permit procedures for transportation activities and improve environmental outcomes. A programmatic subcommittee was created to develop a multi-agency approach for developing programmatic permits that would cover 60 to 70 percent of Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) activities (mostly maintenance and preservation work). The subcommittee envisioned that the process for developing programmatic permits would involve establishing common conditions between jurisdictional agencies for similar categories of transportation-related activities. Agreement on common conditions would lead to programmatic permit approval issued by each agency that would cover the subject activities as they occur throughout the state. Agencies involved in this effort included NOAA Fisheries, USFWS, Corps, Washington State Departments of Ecology and Fish and Wildlife, local agency representatives and tribe representatives.
In July 2004, the subcommittee had completed developing multi-agency programmatic approval for bridge and ferry terminal painting and washing, bridge and ferry terminal deck replacement, bridge and ferry terminal maintenance and repair, fish way maintenance, channel maintenance, culvert maintenance, culvert replacement, LWD removal from bridges, beaver dam removal, sediment test boring in all state waters, and 40 pile replacement in marine water. Much of this work was performed in the field during 2004 using programmatic permit coverage.
In January 2005, WSDOT received and compiled information regarding the performance of these programmatic permits during the 2004 calendar year. This presentation compares the performance results from 2004 with the initial goals and expectations established by the subcommittee (mainly focusing on percent activities covered). The presentation further expands on results including time and cost savings for both WSDOT and permit agencies, environmental benefit, and other lessons learned.
Streamlining Transportation Permitting in Washington Through Use of Integrated Web-Based Permitting Tools and Applications
Scott Boettcher (Phone: 360-407-7564, Email: email@example.com), Washington Department of Ecology, Olympia, WA 98504
The State of Washington, under the sponsorship and leadership of the State Office of Regulatory Assistance (Agency of the Governor's Office), has embarked on a multi-agency, multi-phased effort to integrate permitting and regulatory requirements across the state for Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) projects through use of innovative web-based technologies, applications, and leveraged partnerships. Partner agencies involved in this multi-agency, multi-jurisdiction integration effort include:
- Federal. US Army Corps of Engineers for Section 10 and Section 404 permits; US Coast Guard for Section 9 permits; and Federal Highways (WA);
- State. Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife for HPA permits; Washington State Department of Ecology for Section 401, CZM consistency, and shoreline permits; Washington State Department of Natural Resources for Aquatic Use Authorizations; Washington State Department of Health for on-site septic approvals; Washington State Department of Transportation; Washington State Office of Regulatory Assistance; Washington State Office of Financial Management; and Washington State Natural Resources Information Portal Project; and
- Local. King County for local shoreline, critical areas, and zoning permits.
Key elements of the web-based permitting approach include:
- One-Stop JARPA Permitting Site. Interactive web application providing WSDOT and others with: (i) a single, integrated source of local, state, and federal permitting and regulatory guidance, glossary, tips, FAQs, examples, and step-by-step instruction from the above permitting and regulatory agencies; (ii) downloadable "one-stop" permitting forms (e.g., web-enabled multi-agency Joint Aquatic Resources Permit Application (JARPA) form); (iii) secure upload functionality to ensure all regulatory agencies are looking at and seeing the same application materials and environmental discipline reports; and (iv) on-line search, retrieve, and archive capability. See http://www.one-stop-jarpa.org.
- On-Line Permit Assistance System (OPAS). Interactive, query-based application designed to help applicants and WSDOT determine permitting requirements based upon answers given to select project questions and the extent to which certain regulatory thresholds are met or exceeded. Conclusion of query session is a customized, narrative report of applicable permits and their descriptions. See http://apps.ecy.wa.gov/opas/.
- Permit Process Schematics. Interactive process and timeline flowcharts depicting sequence and steps associated with select permitting and regulatory processes, including Section 404, Section 10, HPA, Shoreline, CZM, SEPA, NEPA, NPDES Stormwater, Air Operating, Water Rights, NPDES, and more. Permit Process Schematics coupled with customized OPAS narrative reports provide applicants and WSDOT with a comprehensive overview of applicable permit and regulatory requirements. See http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/sea/pac/ppds_info/review.htm.
Project Purpose Statement: The purpose of the Office of Regulatory Assistance's effort to work with WSDOT and others to advance integration of permitting and regulatory requirements through the above described web elements is largely to:
- Provide clear, accessible, and uniformly presented information in a similar format and level of detail;
- Enhance and promote permitting and regulatory accountability and transparency;
- Provide a means to foster and enable continuous process improvement and innovation; and
- Improve by lessening decision-making review and transaction times and increasing overall quality of submitted application materials and documentation.
Brief Project Overview and Methodology: Development of the above described web elements has largely occurred through cooperative agreement and participation from the above agencies. Leadership and staffing from the Office of Regulatory Assistance has provided the vision and sense of direction necessary to unify and secure the engagement and participation from the agencies. Development occurs through a consultant, agency IT staff, and a multi-agency steering group.
Explanation of Current or Anticipated Results: Beta testing to date has resulted in higher quality permit applications being submitted to local, state, and federal regulatory agencies (via the Washington State Multi-Agency Permitting Team for Transportation). Additionally, web elements have generated productive process improvement and process clarity changes within the regulatory agencies. Clear and accurate information, acquired and factored in early in the process, results in greater attention to regulatory and permitting requirements as well as better and more fully informed compliance (or better yet, impact avoidance as a result of likely regulatory obligation).
Recommendations for Future Research: Advance thinking and planning is underway for merging and linking work done in the environmental and natural resources realm with the work occurring in parallel with State Departments of Licensing, Revenue, and Community, Trade, and Economic Development.
The Use of a Multi-Agency Permitting Team (MAP Team)
Christina Martinez (Phone: 425-649-7286, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org), Washington State Department of Transportation Bellevue, WA 98008
Environmental permitting for transportation projects is complex and time consuming. Communication and sharing of information between permitting agency staff can be inefficient, partially due to staff location in different geographic areas. The establishment of a Multi-Agency Permitting (MAP) Team is a project to demonstrate the advantages of co-locating regulatory staff from multiple agencies in a common office to enhance interpersonal communication and interagency coordination. Effective communication early in project development is key to risk identification and project management and consequently, maintaining the planned schedule and budget. The purpose of the MAP Team is to cooperatively process environmental permits for Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) transportation projects while protecting natural resources in the public interest. Participating agencies hope to demonstrate the efficiency and cost effectiveness of this new concept of focused governmental cooperation. The primary goal is to provide thorough, expedited review of permit applications to ensure that transportation projects are consistent with environmental regulations and agency agreements and policies.
Project overview and methodology: The State of Washington is investing in strategies intended to streamline environmental regulatory and permit processes. The creation of the MAP Team is one such strategic investment that is designed to demonstrate how WSDOT and regulatory agencies can work together to meet transportation and environmental goals. The MAP Team charter agencies include: WSDOT, Washington State Department of Ecology, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, United States Army Corps of Engineers, and King County Department of Development and Environmental Services. MAP Team members are co-located together a minimum of one day a week at the Department of Ecology's Northwest Regional Office in Bellevue. The MAP Team concept is being tested on approximately 52 transportation projects primarily in western Washington. The MAP Team has been up and running since early November 2003 and is scheduled through June of 2007.
After initially defining how to work together, the team began communicating with their customer base in an attempt to make permitting processes more consistent and predictable. The MAP Team has been using this feedback to initiate streamlining opportunities to: define complete application(s), create early project coordination and MAP Team permit processes, identify improvement opportunities within each agency, and to create model business practices that will use existing project experiences to deliver future projects. These investments in early project coordination are being tracked through eight performance measures. The MAP Team model is based on developing a foundation of trust and open communication between a diverse, highly capable group of decision makers from the five agencies. This formula provides an accountable, transparent process that is able to identify risks and opportunities and to address and avoid conflicts early, thereby achieving permit decisions in a predictable and timely manner.
Current results: To date, the MAP Team has been involved in reviewing permits for over 25 transportation projects. The MAP Team work
is being evaluated against a number of performance standards. These include permit processing time, baseline comparisons, agency investments, initiating change, conflict resolution, and meeting customer expectations. Evaluation of these performance standards will be used to determine the success of the MAP Team concept.
Recommendations for the future: Based on the initial stakeholder feedback from this pilot project, the MAP Team business model appears to be a good investment toward the delivery of transportation improvement projects. Because of this feedback, the MAP Team pilot project, which was to sunset in June 2005, was extended to June 30, 2007. After further evaluation, it is possible that Washington State may institute the MAP Team concept as a permanent business practice with the potential for growth in other transportation, intergovernmental, and private venture applications.
Washington State's Transportation Permit Efficiency and Accountability Committee (TPEAC)
Barbara Aberle (Phone: 360-705-7518, Email: email@example.com), TPEAC Implementation Lead, Environmental Affairs Office, Wetland Banking Program, Washington State Department of Transportation, Olympia, WA 98502
Washington State is about to complete a five-year effort to improve the environmental-permitting process for transportation projects. From its start in 2001, the Transportation Permit Efficiency and Accountability Committee (TPEAC) sought to streamline the environmental-permitting process for transportation projects in Washington State. Some of the goals of TPEAC are to reduce mitigation cost, increase environmental benefit, reduce the redesign of transportation projects, and reduce time required to obtain permits. Passage of the Transportation Streamlining Act by the Washington State Legislature in 2001 began the work of this committee. TPEAC has provided a valuable forum to bring together representatives of all entities involved in transportation permitting. TPEAC participants recognize the relationship between their individual roles and the importance of working together to bring about a more streamlined and integrated permitting process in order to use public resources more efficiently and achieve better environmental results. Several technical subcommittees established by TPEAC have developed some important transportationstreamlining tools and policies that help reduce costs and increase environmental benefits. TPEAC's work to improve Washington State's transportation permitting process serves as a model for collaborative, multi-stakeholder efforts to increase regulatory efficiency while maintaining high environmental standards.
Other Innovations Across the Country
Convert Natural Resource Liabilities into Business Assets
Jessica Fox (Phone: 650-855-2138 or 510-364-4636, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com), Senior Scientist, EPRI Solutions, Inc., 6161 Pomegranate Avenue, Newark, CA 94560
Market-based approaches to managing natural resources are becoming increasingly popular. In contrast to traditional command-and-control approaches, federal agencies are shifting to incentive-based structures where landowners are rewarded for activities that support vital ecosystem services such as clean water, clean air, healthy habitat, and biodiversity. Now, instead of tracking down and punishing those who do not comply with federal laws, government agencies are sitting at the same table with business managers to sign mutually beneficial land-management agreements.
Consensus for this approach has solidified in the past few years; recently, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, an international effort by nearly 1,400 scientists to determine human impacts on the environment, expressed encouragement for market-based systems as one tool for "taking nature's value into account" and achieving a more sustainable future (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, Statement from the Board. Living Beyond Our Means: Natural Assets and Human Well-being. March 2005 (available at http://www.maweb.org/en/products.aspx).
Market-based strategies enable landowners to buy and sell 'credits' for conserving ecological features such as wetlands, endangered species habitat, water-quality reduction (nutrients, oxygen, turbidity, etc.), carbon sequestration, and mercury reductions (specific to electric utilities). These credits that represent natural-resource values are banked for internal use or sold on the open market.
In its most common application, a property owner agrees to preclude development on a sensitive tract of land in exchange for a cash payment. Under government-sanctioned guidelines, the property owner then collects payments from companies who need mitigation for impacting sensitive land elsewhere. EPRI Solutions has found that new niche markets have resulted in valuations of up to $125,000 per acre for land that supports rare plant and animal species (Fox, J. and Nino-Murcia 2005), up to $250,000 for an acre of wetland (Fox, personal communication), and over $25 for a ton of carbon in European markets (Carbon Finance Magazine). In this way, ecological resources are converted into financial assets, increasingly referred to as "eco-assets."
Managing Environmental Compliance for ODOT'S OTIA III State Bridge Delivery Program: Many Regulations – One Framework
Jason Neil (Phone: 503-587-2932, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org), Operations Manager, Oregon Bridge Delivery Partners, 1165 Union Street, Suite 200, Salem, OR 97301; Zachary O. Toledo (Phone: 503-587-2932, Email: email@example.com), Permitting and Mitigation Task Manager, Oregon Bridge Delivery Partners, 1165 Union Street, Suite 200, Salem, OR 97301; and Robb Kirkman (Phone: 503-587-2932, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org), GIS Services Manager, Oregon Bridge Delivery Partners, 1165 Union Street, Suite 200, Salem, OR 97301
The OTIA III State Bridge Delivery Program is part of the Oregon Department of Transportation's 10-year, $3 billion Oregon Transportation Investment Act (OTIA) program. In 2003, the Oregon Legislature enacted the third Oregon Transportation Investment Act, or OTIA III. The package includes $1.3 billion for bridges on the state highway system. During the next eight to 10 years, ODOT's OTIA III State Bridge Delivery Program will repair or replace hundreds of aging bridges on major corridors throughout Oregon.
Oregon Bridge Delivery Partners (OBDP) is a private-sector firm that has contracted with the Oregon Department of Transportation to manage the $1.3 billion state bridge program. OBDP, a joint venture formed by HDR Engineering Inc. and Fluor Enterprises Inc., will ensure quality projects at least cost and manage engineering, environmental, financial, safety, and other aspects of the state bridge program.
During the first 12 months of execution, OBDP has developed a framework to integrate the myriad of tools previously developed by ODOT for the Program, including environmental-performance standards, a joint batched-programmatic biological opinion, environmental and engineering baseline reports, a comprehensive mitigation and conservation strategy, and a web-based GIS. The purpose of this framework is to identify environmental concerns early in the project-development process and communicate these concerns to design teams and regulatory agencies to promote environmental stewardship through impact avoidance and minimization.
Innovative and creative use of technology has been a keystone to the framework. Environmental professionals input the relevant environmental data for a project in a comprehensive, online Pre-Construction Assessment (PCA) that links to a GIS database. The data are used to identify project challenges (e.g., archaeological sites or wetlands within the project footprint) and compile electronic reports to the regulatory agencies. Environmental metrics (such as exempted T and E species "take" and wetland mitigation debits/credits) are tracked using the GIS database. One system meets the needs of multiple stakeholders.
Three "levels" of the PCA have been developed that coincide with the stages of project development. The initial submittal (Level 1 PCA) identifies critical environmental concerns and permitting constraints. The second submittal (Level 2 PCA) outlines the solutions to the earlier concerns. The final submittal (Level 3 PCA) includes the project specifications necessary to comply with the Program-specific and standard environmental permits. Phasing the submittals in this way allows early and continuous communication between the design teams and the regulatory agencies, thereby promoting environmental stewardship through collaboration and coordination.
This electronic system allows the OBDP Environmental Team to verify that each environmental regulation is addressed, identify environmentally sensitive projects and project elements, track critical environmental metrics, and communicate with the regulatory community. The technological component of this framework has been a cornerstone of the Environmental Management System (EMS) developed for the Program. This system can be easily applied to other programs within ODOT and other DOTs.
Oregon Department of Transportation's OTIA III State Bridge Delivery Program: 400 Bridges One Biological Opinion
Michael B. Bonoff (Phone: 503-224-3445, Email: email@example.com), Mason, Bruce & Girard, Inc., 707 S.W. Washington St., Suite 1300, Portland, OR 97205; Zachary O. Toledo (Phone: 503-587-2932, Email: ztoledo@OBDP.org), Oregon Bridge Delivery Partners, 1165 Union Street, Suite 200, Salem, OR 97301; William A. Ryan (Phone: 503-986-3478, Email: William.A.Ryan@state.or.us), Oregon Department of Transportation, 355 Capitol St. NE, Room 301, Salem, OR 97301-3871; and Robert G. Carson (Phone: 503-224-3445, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org), Mason, Bruce & Girard, Inc., 707 S.W. Washington St., Suite 1300, Portland, OR 97205
The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) concluded a study in 2001 of the condition of Oregon bridges nearing the end of their design life—those built in the late 1940's to the early 1960's. Funded under the first two phases of the Oregon Transportation Investment Act (OTIA I and II), this study found varying degrees of shear (diagonal cracking) in a large number of the state's bridges. In July 2003, Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski signed legislation authorizing OTIA III, a $2.5 billion transportation package, including $1.3 billion to repair or replace over 400 bridges under the OTIA III State Bridge Delivery Program (Bridge Program) over the next 10 years.
Timely completion of environmental regulatory permitting was critical to meet the Bridge Program's aggressive construction schedule. To facilitate this, ODOT and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) began working with a number of federal and state regulatory and resource agencies in late 2002 to develop permitting strategies that would meet the dual goals of timely review of individual permitting and protection and enhancement of fish and wildlife habitat.
In addition to coverage under the Federal Endangered Species Act (ESA), the preferred regulatory compliance approach needed to ensure compliance with other state and federal statutes designed to protect fish, wildlife, and plant species and their habitat, including the Oregon ESA, Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA), and Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act.
As a contractor to ODOT, Mason, Bruce & Girard, Inc. (MB&G) worked closely with ODOT and other state and federal agencies from 2003 through 2004 to prepare a programmatic Biological Assessment (BA) for the Bridge Program. Critical to the BA was the development of a set of environmental performance standards designed to minimize and avoid impacts to ESA listed species. In addition, a fluvial performance standard was developed to ensure that bridges replaced under the OTIA III Program would enhance, not simply maintain, geomorphological features at the bridge site.
The BA was submitted to the regulatory agencies in March 2004. In June 2004, ODOT received a joint Biological Opinion from NMFS and the USFWS addressing 73 threatened, endangered, proposed, and selected sensitive species and their designated or proposed critical habitat. In addition to listed fish, wildlife, and plants, the BA also satisfied the requirements of the MMPA, MBTA, FWCA, and MSA.
ODOT expects that 85 to 90 percent of the bridges under the OTIA III Bridge Program will be permitted using the programmatic approach, resulting in significant time and cost savings. ODOT anticipates that the programmatic approach to environmental compliance will, program-wide, result in time and cost savings of two years and $54 million over the 10-year program, exclusive of time saved on the part of state and federal resource agencies. Bridge design using the environmental performance standards developed for the program is now underway.
Species Conservation in Idaho – Going Beyond the ESA
Brent J. Inghram (Phone: 208-334-1843, Email: email@example.com), Federal Highway Administration, Idaho Division, Boise, ID 83703
Results of listing species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) have been less than inspiring. Since enactment of the ESA, slightly over 1300 species have been listed as threatened or endangered. Only 12 of these species have recovered to the point of being delisted. Roughly 40 others have been removed from listing due either to extinction, errors in the original listing decision, or other reasons. Congress directs that 75 percent of funding for recovery of species goes to about 10 species, leaving the remaining 25 percent to be applied to all the remaining listed species. A major focus of the Endangered Species Act is on listing of species. Once a species becomes listed, time-consuming and complex consultation is often required to avoid liability under the act. That consultation process can discourage and delay implementation of actions beneficial to the species. In Idaho, efforts have been made to utilize Candidate Conservation Agreements (CCAs) and Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances (CCAAs) to avoid the need to list additional species and provide direct beneficial effects for species.
Slickspot Pepppergrass (Lepidium papilliferum, or SSPG) is an annual or biennial white flower thought to occur only in southern Idaho. It is found in the sagebrush habitats of the Snake River Plain and possesses an unusual habitat requirement ("slick spots" of clay soils). Information on the plant's historical range, habitat needs, and population trends had been limited and largely anecdotal. On and off, SSPG was designated as a candidate species under ESA for over a decade. Threats to the species include grazing, non-native plants, development, recreation, wildfire, fire suppression, and fire-prevention activities.
A lawsuit was initiated in 2001 demanding emergency listing of SSPG under the ESA. In settlement of that that suit, the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) was under a court order for a decision to list SSPG as threatened or endangered by July 2003. In early 2003, the state Office of Species Conservation was made aware that FWS believed that an endangered listing was appropriate based on the information available and that significant changes in land use would result from this listing. Through negotiation by interested parties including the Office of Species Conservation, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Idaho National Guard, Idaho Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and a consortium of ranching interests, efforts were made to avoid listing of the species through development of a CCA. In July 2003, FWS delayed their listing decision by six months in order to allow for completion of the CCA and resolution of some final issues. FWS and NOAA's Policy for Evaluation of Conservation Efforts (or PECE policy) was applied as a guideline for the development of this CCA; this was the first application of the PECE policy in development of a CCA. Conservation measures prepared to address each threat to SSPG were included in the CCA. A FWS-facilitated scientific review panel validated conclusions reached by the SSPG partnership and found that the CCA would substantially delay risks of extinction of SSPG. In January 2004, FWS issued a determination that the proposal to list SSPG was not warranted because of the management plans developed and instituted under the CCA.
This was a win-win solution for all parties to the agreement and for the species. The benefits include: 1) conservation measures to benefit the covered species are developed and put into place on both public and private lands across a large geographic area, 2) users such as grazing permittees get routine processing of renewals, assuming the terms of the CCA are being met, 3) landowners and state agencies get Section 10 incidental take coverage and assurances that additional restrictions will not be placed on their lands or operations, and 4) federal agencies get reduced consultation requirements.
Since this CCA was developed, another CCA has been developed for the Southern Idaho Ground Squirrel (Spermophilus brunneus endemicus). A programmatic CCA is currently being completed for the Southern Idaho Ground Squirrel that will allow other parties to enter into the CCA and participate in the benefits by agreeing to implement the conservation measures described. A multi-species CCA for Idaho is also currently under development.
More applications of this concept are possible, but they can be challenging to develop. Early establishment of a baseline of the "best available scientific information" for a species is one of the most important early steps that can be taken to facilitate development of a CCA and/or CCAA.
Temporal Loss of Wetlands as Justification for Higher Mitigation Ratios
Paul Garrett (Phone: 720-963-3071, Email: Paul.Garrett@fhwa.dot.gov), Senior Ecologist, Federal Highway Administration (HEPN-30), 12300 West Dakota Avenue, Suite 340, Lakewood, CO 80228, Fax: 720-963-3232
"Temporal loss," or the time between initiation of mitigation and maturation of anticipated ecological functions on a compensatory mitigation site, is a concept which has long been used by regulatory and commenting resource agencies as justification for higher mitigation ratios in compensatory mitigation Also, preservation is typically given as the last alternative in a sequence of mitigation options in regulatory guidance, which runs restoration, enhancement, establishment, then preservation. This is in spite of the fact that preservation of exceptional resources at risk can provide full ecological functions over the period of time which would be required for establishment of a full suite of ecological functions on a restoration, enhancement, or establishment site. This time can be significant on sites such as bottomland hardwoods, scrub-shrub, or salt marshes, if indeed a full suite of functions is ever established.
If "temporal loss" is recognized, then it is logical that "temporal gain" of functions attendant to a preservation site in high functional condition should be similarly recognized. A more complete rationale for recognizing "temporal gain" is given, and alternative methods for measuring this gain are given. The concept of temporal gain provides a rational approach for accepting more reasonable mitigation ratios on preservation sites at risk. Absent the recognition of temporal gain by regulatory and resource management agencies, the concept of temporal loss should be abandoned in regulatory determination of mitigation needs.