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Successes in Stewardship
Monthly Newsletter
October 2001

Oregon's Process of Balancing Business
Needs with Environmental Concerns

Sister South in Oregon (Oregon Department of Transportation photo)
Sister South in Oregon (Oregon Department of Transportation photo)

Overview of Success

Transportation decision-making involves balancing business needs (such as schedule, cost, safety, and quality) with environmental needs (such as public concerns, fish and wildlife habitat, wetlands, and water quality.) To improve decision-making and develop an integrated and streamlined land use and transportation planning and project development process, Oregon developed the Collaborative Environmental and Transportation Agreement for Streamlining (CETAS). The CETAS is visionary in its promotion of environmental stewardship, agency collaboration, and project scoping. The agreement was approved in April 2001 by ten agencies, including the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the US Army Corps of Engineers, the US Environmental Protection Agency, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) , the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), and several state resource and regulatory agencies.

Oregon's strong land use laws, endangered species protection, and statewide support of sustainability are at the foundation of the CETAS. All Oregon transportation jurisdictions are required to have comprehensive and integrated land use and transportation plans developed in accordance with statewide goals (for example, reductions in Single Occupancy Vehicles), and all cities have urban growth boundaries. In addition, all maintenance projects must adhere to a "fish-friendly" ODOT/NMFS agreement. Oregon has several listed salmonid species, affecting streams in about three-quarters of the state. "We are, in a normal year, a wet state with many drainages, so the [environmental] issues are very pervasive," explains Donna Kilber of ODOT.

The CETAS allows agencies in Oregon to expand the state's environmental goals and guidelines. Oregon transportation agencies are mapping natural and cultural resources, developing a habitat mitigation program, improving partnerships with resource agencies, instituting an environmental Project Summary

Since the passage of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), the number of transportation projects in Oregon has doubled. To streamline the review process, in 1996 Oregon merged its NEPA and Section 404 processes. However, ODOT's increased workload prevented it from fully participating. In addition, several species of salmon were listed on the Endangered Species List, adding another layer of review. The merger was never fully implemented.

Recently, ODOT and the Oregon FHWA Division recommitted to implementing the NEPA/404 merger accord. The CETAS Group, formed in June 2000, committed to promoting environmental stewardship while providing for a safe and efficient transportation system and signed the Vision for Joint Environmental and Transportation System Stewardship in Oregon Collaborative Environmental Agreement in January 2001. The final CETAS was signed in April 2001.

Obstacles had to be overcome in developing the CETAS. For example, some resource agencies did not have the staff to participate. ODOT now funds three TEA-21 coordinator positions at NMFS, one position at FWS, and three positions at the Oregon State Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The CETAS allows agencies in Oregon to expand the state's environmental goals and guidelines. Oregon transportation agencies are mapping natural and cultural resources, developing a habitat mitigation program, improving partnerships with resource agencies, instituting an environmental management system, and developing a seamless transportation development process with local partners and contractors. The Oregon transportation planning process now considers habitat restoration and the protection of threatened and endangered species. In addition, ODOT is working with NMFS and FWS to fund GIS-based inventories of threatened and endangered species. CETAS participating agencies are now working to help resource agencies conduct natural resource planning.

Promoting Environmental Stewardship

The CETAS is successful because top management at ODOT and the Oregon FHWA Division promoted environmental stewardship, pushed the CETAS process forward, and brought other state and Federal agencies on board. ODOT has asked its managers to include the implementation of environmental considerations into their annual work plans in order to "change the way we do business." Progress was maintained through top management meetings, and the commitment was then passed down to the staff level.

Interagency Cooperation in the NEPA Process

"The CETAS provides a structure to have good working relationships," explains Donna Kilber. Participating agencies attend regular meetings, share knowledge, and ensure that their agency implements the CETAS, improving communication and decision-making. Early resource agency involvement accelerates the NEPA process by avoiding agency conflicts and subsequent permit delays during final design, allowing projects to be completed in budget and on time. Communication has been further enhanced by education and training. ODOT has begun internal training on the goals and technical provisions of the CETAS and its Major Transportation Projects Agreement. Training will soon expand to resource agencies.

Using Streamlined Procedures to Scope Transportation Projects

Agencies scope projects to determine if they should follow the Major Transportation Projects Agreement, a part of the CETAS which guides the review of projects likely to require an Environmental Assessment or Environmental Impact Statement. At monthly meetings, agencies receive project briefings and concur on Purpose and Need, Range of Alternatives, Criteria for Selection, and Preferred Alternative. Once concurrence is reached, issues are not revisited unless major changes occur, such as ODOT project changes or new endangered species listings. Scoping projects standardizes the review process, keeping agencies on track and allowing time and resources to be used efficiently on projects with significant environmental impacts. Streamlining efforts for minor transportation projects will focus on techniques such as broadening the use of programmatic agreements and implementing wetlands and habitat banking. Once a programmatic agreement is in place, it can be applied to elements of larger project as well.

Lessons Learned

Continual promotion by top Oregon Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration Oregon Division management of environmental considerations into transportation decision-making has fostered environmental stewardship at both the staff and management level and pushed the CETAS process forward.

Transportation and resource agencies in Oregon discuss issues early in the NEPA process through regular working group meetings, fostering relationships built on trust. Agencies address issues at standardized NEPA concurrence points, saving agency resources and time and avoiding permit delays and interagency conflicts. Efficiency in the project permitting process is achieved without compromising agency missions.

Scoping transportation projects based on environmental impact allows Oregon agencies to work together during the NEPA process on projects with the most significant impact, saving time and resources and protecting Oregon's unique environment. As a result, location decisions are specified early without jeopardizing the NEPA process of disclosure and discovery.

The Oregon Department of Transportation funds seven positions at two Federal resource agencies and one state resource agency, providing the environmental staff needed to review and permit Oregon transportation projects.

Project Summary

Since the passage of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), the number of transportation projects in Oregon has doubled. To streamline the review process, in 1996 Oregon merged its NEPA and Section 404 processes. However, ODOT's increased workload prevented it from fully participating. In addition, several species of salmon were listed on the Endangered Species List, adding another layer of review. The merger was never fully implemented.

Recently, ODOT and the Oregon FHWA Division recommitted to implementing the NEPA/404 merger accord. The CETAS Group, formed in June 2000, committed to promoting environmental stewardship while providing for a safe and efficient transportation system and signed the Vision for Joint Environmental and Transportation System Stewardship in Oregon Collaborative Environmental Agreement in January 2001. The final CETAS was signed in April 2001.

Obstacles had to be overcome in developing the CETAS. For example, some resource agencies did not have the staff to participate. ODOT now funds three TEA-21 coordinator positions at NMFS, one position at FWS, and three positions at the Oregon State Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The CETAS is already a success. ODOT was able to obtain permits in one week to build a temporary culvert in place of a failing bridge, allowing emergency equipment such as fire trucks to reach a part of eastern Oregon. The culvert will be removed in time for local endangered fish to spawn, and the bridge will be repaired in an environmentally-sound manner.

Calendar of Events

Environmental Streamlining Training
US Fish & Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service

Spring 2002


Contact Information

Michelle Eraut
Environmental Program Manager
FHWA Oregon Division
The Equitable Center
530 Center St, NE - STE 100
Salem, OR 97301
Phone: (503)587-4716
Fax: (503) 399-5838
Email: Michelle.Eraut@fhwa.dot.gov

Successes in Stewardship is brought to you by the United States Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration Office of NEPA Facilitation.

For more information on environmental streamlining, please visit: www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/strmlng/index.asp.

The U.S. Government does not endorse products or manufacturers. Names appear herein because they are considered essential to the objective of the document

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