The Osprey Group
prove overly optimistic, especially if ODOT seeks to have the two cooperating Federal
agencies support the Record of Decision (ROD) in writing. Our interviews lead us to
believe that both the Corps and the BLM will find obstacles to the WEP as currently
These obstacles might prove to be either low or high hurdles. In any event,
both cooperating agencies will likely require additional time to address wetland and
conservation issues. There are also other Federal agencies that are likely to weigh in on
this proposed action, particularly the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Since the USFWS
is currently in the process of designating critical habitat and has concerns about
endangered species, their review process represents another potentially significant hurdle,
even though this agency is not formally designated as a "cooperating agency." Other
state and federal agencies are also involved in the formal review process.
to pubic involvement, this option employs the traditional public meeting format at
prescribed points in the NEPA process.
This "continue the course" option has merit. It recognizes there is pressure to reach a
decision after many years of study and analysis. It does not necessarily assume a
predetermined decision and allows for the potential of the "no build" option being
selected as the preferred alternative. It also recognizes that a different alignment might
emerge as the preferred alignment avoids or minimizes wetland and species impacts.
This approach also recognizes the ambiguity in the community about the WEP and
questions the value of attempting to reach a community consensus on what has to date
been a polarizing issue.
Funding is also an issue. We were told that the availability of initial funding for
constructing the project is linked to selecting the preferred alternative and timely
completion of the NEPA process. In addition, reimbursement by FHWA of money spent
by ODOT on its transportation analysis and environmental review may be tied to the
completion of the NEPA process.
There are clearly downsides to this option as well. In the words of one citizen, "It's a big
job educating people about how this process works." This approach, most notably, fails
in providing citizens of Eugene and Lane County a substantial opportunity to participate
meaningfully in the process. ODOT and FHWA may present an alignment(s) that
addresses major objections to the previous alternative(s), but any such details are not yet
Most of those we interviewed believe the alignment under consideration by ODOT is one that parallels
the Central Oregon and Pacific Railroad west of Beltline and divides the wetlands. However, we were told
the preferred alignment is under review as are the need statement and the criteria for evaluating
alternatives. The preferred alternative might be notably different from the alignment most are considering
"the preferred alternative" at this time.
Oregon has an approach intended to assist in the coordination and review of transportation projects. To
improve decision-making and develop an integrated land use and transportation planning process, Oregon
created the Collaborative Environmental and Transportation Agreement for Streamlining (CETAS). The
goal of CETAS is to promote environmental stewardship, agency collaboration, and, in the early stages of a
project, scoping. The agreement was approved in April 2001 by ten agencies, including the ODOT, FHWA,
USACE, US Environmental Protection Agency, USFWS, National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), and
several state resource and regulatory agencies. Because of this project's long history, the provisions of
CETAS are not being used in this NEPA review.