David Williams, FHWA; Mike Ruth, FHWA Resource Center; Angela Berthaume, USDOT Volpe Center; Alex Wilkerson, USDOT Volpe Center; Lexi Kessans, Glenn Lukos Associates, Inc.; Jonathan Snyder, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Spencer MacNeil, Los Angeles District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Programmatic mitigation planning (PMP) identifies opportunities and establishes mitigation plans for potential impacts to resources based on forecasts, corridor transportation plans, and long-range transportation plans (LRTPs) prior to the environmental review process.
The presentation will:
• Describe the benefits of using the PMP approach, including improving environmental outcomes, streamlining project delivery, providing measurable cost savings, improving predictability, and building trust.
• Focus on how PMP was applied to the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) M2 Highway/Freeway Program (M2 Program) to allow for flexibility, maximize mitigation effectiveness, and meet project and permitting needs. The M2 Program addresses long-term transportation needs in Orange County by planning and funding a suite of 13 transportation projects that include road, rail, transit, and run-off improvements over 30 years through a sales tax initiative.
• Explain how OCTA engaged State and Federal permitting agencies in an innovative approach akin to Eco-Logical to develop a framework and mechanisms allowing for advance compensatory mitigation and accelerated approvals for these projects.
Program Partners involved: A coordinating body that dedicated time and resources for agency collaboration was established. OCTA, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District (USACE), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) partnered to create viable and streamlined environmental permitting solutions to satisfy multiple agency requirements for an entire project portfolio while ensuring protection of threatened and endangered species and sensitive habitats in Southern California.
Mechanisms used to Expedite Environmental Review for M2 projects while improving environmental outcomes: The project-specific Natural Community Conservation Plan/Habitat Conservation Plan (Conservation Plans), Section 404 Clean Water Act (CWA) letter of permission (LOP) procedures, Section 401 CWA assurance letter, and Section 214 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) Funding Agreement between USACE and OCTA address permitting and mitigation needs for the M2 Program of projects.
Resulting Human and Natural Environment Benefits: These mechanisms helped to provide substantial protection, conservation, and restoration benefits consistent with USACE, USFWS, and CDFW missions. Benefits for both the natural and human environments included:
• Provided consistency and certainty that reduces project risk;
• Enhanced conservation measures that provide improved environmental and community outcomes (e.g., 1,300 acres of preserved land and 350 acres of restored habitat); and
• Provided managed recreational opportunities for the public.
FHWA will introduce the event, describe principles/concepts of Eco-Logical and programmatic mitigation planning. Background on the M2 Program will be shared (likely by a speaker from the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA)). Then, panelists (e.g.: US Army Corps of Engineers, US Fish and Wildlife Service, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and/or OCTA) will explain the elements of the programmatic advance mitigation approach that was applied and respond to audience questions. Expect questions to pertain to implementation challenges, addressing challenges, and lessons learned applicable to other organizations attempting a similar approach.