Integrating and Linking Public Involvement Efforts for Section 106, Environmental Justice, Title IV, and Indirect and Cumulative Impacts
Historic Preservation/Cultural Resources
Under 1 year
Every year a tremendous amount of work goes into public involvement for complex or controversial transportation projects. Creative and effective public involvement strategies have been developed for Section 106 consulting party and general public involvement. Public involvement strategies to comply with National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirements have been developed and refined throughout the country as well. Despite these efforts, each public involvement opportunity or requirement can be, and often is, an isolated incident. It is not uncommon for there to be a general lack of building on previous effort which can result in ineffective outreach and resolution of project related issues, or project schedule time wasted by redundancy. Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act requires consultation with the State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO). It also requires identifying groups and individuals who have an interest in preservation. There is also a requirement to consult with Native American tribes, but this proposal would not be applicable to that requirement. Entities other than tribes that could be involved in consultation can range from local, state and national preservation organizations, owners of historic properties, and local governments, companies, non-profits and individuals. Section 106 affords special status to members of the public who wish to participate in a more formal capacity. These individuals or entities are known as consulting parties. Communication with entities who have been granted consulting party status are carefully tracked and may be very complex due to the project and number of consulting parties. Thus, some Departments of Transportation (DOTs) have developed 106 public involvement protocols with SHPOs. In a very broad and general way, regulation partially addresses public involvement indirectly as part of effects findings. Regulations and guidance use soft terms to describe what one should do to ensure adequate and appropriate public involvement, for example 36 CFR 800.3. A DOT will need to engage in comprehensive public outreach in an area that has Title VI concerns, environmental justice issues, indirect and cumulative potential and historic properties if they are all present in a project study area and area of potential effects. When these complex issues overlap there is no literature to help DOTs navigate the communication and public involvement challenges these issues present when they occur together. Rather, there is mostly guidance regarding individual topics covered under the NEPA umbrella. Some mechanisms have been identified and presented for use in the NEPA process to help address issues on a community level such as information on how to develop and run a community advisory committee (CAC). Lacking is guidance with best practices to help a DOT acknowledge each issue and manage the complexity of issues in a way that would result in effective communication and resolution under NEPA and Section 106.
A best practice synthesis will help DOTs more efficiently engage the full range of public interests in an integrated manner, minimize duplicative efforts, and better ensure that all public interests are covered.
Texas Department of Transportation
May 5, 2016
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