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The Osprey Group
Conflict Assessment
Page 10
known. Moreover, it is clear that there are changes underway about the purpose and need
statement. Similarly, the criteria for evaluating alternatives are under review. It is highly
doubtful that there could be meaningful public engagement about these changes if a
December 2006 deadline remains the target. Furthermore, while ODOT and FHWA
could conceivably reach a decision by the end of the calendar year, it is doubtful that
three key Federal agencies would embrace this decision within the same time frame. The
agencies have expressed concern about the purpose and need statement, the range of
alternatives explored, and the preferred alternative. USACE, for example, under its
Section 404 Clean Water Act responsibilities must determine that the alterative proposed
by ODOT and FHWA is the "least damaging practicable alternative" (LDPA); there is no
indication that the Corps believes this LDPA has been found. There might well be legal
action regardless of the course chosen by ODOT and FHWA. Some see this as simply a
cost of doing business and making difficult choices in the public interest. At the same
time, this option probably engenders a stronger likelihood of litigation than other options
that allow for greater public involvement and openness.
Option II: A Collaborative Process
Any true collaborative community process involves a balanced group working together
openly, transparently and in good faith to seek a solution acceptable to all. Community is
defined more broadly than just Eugene. It requires participation by both community
stakeholders and the key decision-making agencies. A collaborative community process
could take a number of decision-making forms. It could, for example, be purely advisory
or it could be structured in a way that joint citizen-agency decision-making was
attempted, although the agencies' statutory decision-making responsibilities cannot be
altered. It would need to operate by a set of agreed-upon groundrules that were explicit
on important questions such as the group's decision-making model, the scope of its
charge, the extent of its influence, its timeline for operation, who would contribute any
necessary funding, how information would be supplied and handled, and who should be
at the table and how the broader public could be involved. Transparency is critical. Any
collaborative community process is beyond the expectations of the current NEPA review
process. Such a process necessitates a longer timeline for a Record of Decision than the
end of 2006.
When we asked people for examples of successful collaborative community processes in
Eugene very little was offered, particularly on complex issues. There are, however,
several ongoing, self-generated forums (such as the Roundtable and the City Club) that
bring citizens from different walks-of-life and points-of-view together voluntarily to
discuss issues of importance to the community. The recently established Sustainable
Business Initiative is another example of an attempt to reach across ideological
viewpoints to find common ground solutions for the community. These efforts might be
helpful in launching a balanced, collaborative community process that is both sensitive to
A number of potential legal challenges have been mentioned, such as impacting lands conserved with
Land and Water Conservation Funds, impacting wetlands or critical habitat, the Corps 404 permitting
process, as well as various issues being investigated as part of the EIS.