Osprey Group report on "collaboration"

The PDF file of the report is archived several places, including at osprey-report.pdf
(that preserves the formatting)

Comments from WETLANDS are in bold red.

CONFLICT ASSESSMENT
FLORENCE-EUGENE HIGHWAY PROJECT

(commonly referred to as the West Eugene Parkway or WEP)

The official designation of the WEP is Oregon 126. The full 126 highway is indeed the Florence - Eugene highway, but titling this report "Florence Eugene" is extremely misleading. The western terminus of the WEP would be 52 miles from Florence and it would be more than five miles from Veneta.

 

-- Prepared for --

The Citizens of Lane County,
Interested Agencies and Local Governments, and
the U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution

 

-- Prepared by –
The Osprey Group

May 2006


The Osprey Group Conflict Assessment Page 2

I. BACKGROUND

Why was this Assessment Conducted?

The West 11th Street – Garfield Street, Florence-Eugene Highway Project has been under
consideration for over two decades. The project is now in the final stages of
environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) with the
Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) as the lead state agency and the Federal
Highway Administration (FHWA) as the lead federal agency. The Bureau of Land
Management (BLM) of the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers (USACE) are cooperating agencies in the NEPA review and approval process.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) plays an important role in the review of
endangered species issues and other state, federal and local levels of government are also involved.

Several community groups oppose the current preferred alternative, known as the West
Eugene Parkway or WEP, based on environmental and other grounds
. Other stakeholders
would like to see the Parkway constructed, and are frustrated with the slow pace of
project development and review. FHWA, ODOT and the City of Eugene agreed to
support an assessment of the controversy and asked for assistance from the U.S. Institute
for Environmental Conflict Resolution, a federal agency whose mission is to help
stakeholders resolve conflicts over public lands, natural resources and the environment,
where a federal agency or interest is involved.

This assessment describes the controversy surrounding the proposed West Eugene
Parkway, with particular emphasis on what, if any, expanded community involvement
might be helpful. We asked two fundamental questions: How did the situation evolve in
the way it has? What will it take to move ahead?
1

Who Conducted the Assessment?

The Osprey Group was selected to conduct this assessment. Osprey, based in Boulder,
Colorado, acts as a neutral third party to help address and resolve a range of public policy
disputes, often involving transportation, natural resources and environmental issues.
Dennis Donald and John Huyler, Principals with the firm, conducted this assessment.

How was it Performed?

A number of interested and potentially affected individuals and organizations were
interviewed as part of this assessment. Osprey conducted interviews with over 50 people
in Oregon, the vast majority of which were face-to-face. A list of those interviewed is
shown in Appendix A. Our goal was to gain a range and balance of perspectives from the
community.
Undoubtedly, we missed some people with worthwhile views. We

-------------------
1 It is interesting to note that the words “move ahead” were interpreted as a bias on our part by a few.
These people thought “move ahead” meant we were in favor of building the WEP. To be clear, we are not
in favor of any particular outcome.


The Osprey Group Conflict Assessment Page 3

augmented the personal interview process in several ways. Osprey hosted a “drop-in”
session at the Eugene Public Library, which approximately 40 people attended. Our
email address was published in local papers and nearly 100 people took the time to send
us substantive emails. In addition, we met with eight members of the Eugene
Roundtable, a bi-partisan group of community leaders who are interested in a range of
community issues.

All our interviews were conducted in confidence; the results of these interviews are
synthesized in this report without attribution.
This report is Osprey’s summary of the
issues and challenges facing this proposed project and the community as we understand
them. The report has been reviewed by the U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict
Resolution, but no one else. It is being sent simultaneously to an email distribution list
consisting of nearly 400 names. We have tried to impartially reflect what we heard about
the nature of the challenge and the potential for solutions. To the extent there are errors,
they belong solely to us.

Note: The Osprey Group did their best to avoid the fact there is already an alternative on the table, did not mention the June 2001 "No Build" consensus from the city, county, state and federal governments, and even tried to persuade at least one highway opponent that building half of the WEP might be a good thing. It is hard to understand how a study of a potential "collaborative" process makes sense if one ignores how the June 2001 consensus was overturned and is now ignored.

II. ISSUES

“The WEP represents a schism in Eugene’s community identity.”

“The Parkway has become a symbol for so many other things –
growth, development controls, wetlands.”

There are a number of challenging issues. We have divided them into two categories: (a)
major substantive issues in dispute and (b) issues related to the decision process, trust and
relationships that influence the conflict and how it might be addressed. Our analysis of
the issues in these two categories is what underpins our formulation of our statement of
the problem and options for addressing the problem.

What are the Major Substantive Issues?

This project has a long history (Appendix B provides a brief historical summary). During this
time, a range of substantive issues has emerged where there is disagreement. We have not
tried to present an exhaustive listing of issues here, but have summarized issues raised
during a number of our interviews.

 

Note: Osprey did not mention how many opponents of the WEP object to the highway on the grounds that it is overpriced, will not solve traffic problems and that there is a cheaper alternative more suited for the post-Peak Oil future. Their "history" ignored the most important parts of the story - particularly how the WEP was stopped in court in 1996 and how the different levels of government agreed to select "No Build" in 2001.

 

Purpose and NeedWe found a number of individuals, mostly those who oppose the
project or the expected preferred alternative, who thought the purpose and need
statement in the EIS was too narrow and overly prescriptive, i.e., that only a limited
set of alternatives could meet the purpose and need.
This sentiment has also been
expressed by some Federal agencies, such as the Fish and Wildlife Service and the
Army Corps of Engineers. It should be noted that the purpose statement has been


The Osprey Group Conflict Assessment Page 4

recently modified by the FHWA, but this revised statement had not been made public
during the time of our interviews.2

Note: a Purpose and Need cannot be changed at the last stage of an Environmental Impact Statement process. A new P&N would require a new EIS.
The WETLANDS alternative meets the P&N better than the WEP

 

Alternatives – Many of those we interviewed expressed concern about the alternatives
and how the alternatives have been narrowed. In addition, a number were unclear
about the criteria being used to identify a preferred alternative.


Many who support the project have confidence in the agencies’ review process.
While not necessarily committed to the specific solution, these WEP supporters see
the need for a transportation solution. As one business person said, “No one in the
business community believes this is the ideal solution” to the traffic problem. In other
words, other lines on the map or combinations of options would be acceptable, but
these individuals do believe there is a transportation problem that should be
addressed.

For those particularly concerned about wetland impacts, other alternatives that do not
bifurcate or further fragment the wetlands are frequently mentioned. It is probably
safe to say that most express concern about the alignments west of Beltline, again
primarily reflecting potential wetland impacts. The USFWS has voiced concerns
over wetland impacts in the past. In October 2005, the Service wrote to the ODOT
and FHWA citing meetings where “it became apparent that there is significant
concern by the Service and other TAC (Technical Advisory Committee) members
about the adequacy of the proposed SFEIS purpose and need statement, range of
alternatives, and the preferred alternative.”

One observation made by both opponents and proponents is that, as time goes on,
land use decisions are made that further constrain available alternatives. Some
concern is also expressed that any notably different alternative might require another
EIS process and years of additional analysis.

Note: the smaller version ($17 million) of the WETLANDS alternative could probably be accommodated with a "Categorical Exclusion," which would not require any NEPA process and could be implemented quickly (months, not years). The larger version ($88 million) would require either amending the existing EIS process with this new alternative, or revising the 1995 Beltline Environmental Assessment. Spending money to repair west 11th intersections makes more sense than shoveling more money into the black hole of consulting companies (money goes in, but practical solutions don't come out).

Wetland Preservation – There is widespread support for the value of the West Eugene
wetlands. For some, these lands are viewed as an important community amenity, but
they are not considered highly valuable or sacrosanct. Others have very strong
opinions about the value of these lands as key to the protection and survival of rare
habitat, plants and animals. It is clear that many of these individuals do not see all
wetlands as equal, but that particular values and functions need to be recognized
above and beyond acreage assessments.3 Some describe the wetlands less in terms of
its ecological function and more as a statement of Eugene’s commitment to make
hard land use choices in the face of development pressure. Among wetland
supporters, there are a range of views. Some see these lands as more pristine than

 

2
The purpose statement suggested by FHWA is “The purpose of the project is to improve the mobility of
people, goods and services to, from and through West Eugene, within the area bounded by Highway 126
near Oak Hill and Highway 99.” This statement was sent to the USACE for their review on 17 February
2006.
3
We understand that ODOT is preparing a draft “Wetland Functions Assessment for the West Eugene
Parkway Project Corridor Study Area” as part of the alternatives assessment.


The Osprey Group Conflict Assessment Page 5

others. One individual said, “There will be noise, light and traffic and this will
detract from the wetlands. It is not a pure wilderness. The wetlands are still within
the urban growth boundary. But, it will continue to be a major community amenity,
much like Central Park in New York.”

Note: anyone who thinks that the West Eugene Wetlands and New York's Central Park are similar habitats has probably never been to either location.

 

Endangered Species – There are growing concerns about several threatened or
endangered species. These include the Fender’s Blue Butterfly, Kincaid’s Lupine,
and Willamette Daisy. If a species is listed or critical habitat designated by the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service, the Endangered Species Act requires Federal agencies to
ensure that activities they authorize, fund, or carry out are not likely to jeopardize the
continued existence of such a species or to destroy or adversely modify its critical
habitat. The USFWS is currently in the process of receiving comments about its
proposed designation of critical habitat for these species.

Transportation Demand – While virtually everyone agrees that significant growth has
and is occurring in Eugene and surrounding communities, there is not parallel
agreement about the magnitude of the resulting demand for transportation or how this
demand should be met. Some say the proposed WEP is an expensive option,
financially and in terms of community and environmental impacts, to address a
relatively modest transportation problem. One person simply asked: “Do the traffic
projections warrant a project of this magnitude?” Those in this camp look to other
system improvements that might reduce the need for a concrete-intensive solution.
Some even believe the whole nature of transportation demand will dramatically
change over time as the price of fuel rises and driving individual automobiles
becomes more expensive. Others indicate it is time to make a difficult choice
because transportation demand is rising, in Eugene and between I-5 and the coast.
They particularly cite the growing truck traffic and congestion on West 11th Avenue
and believe that considerable new highway capacity is necessary, not just
improvements to the existing network.

note: this would have been a good place to mention that the WEP would worsen traffic at West 11th intersections with WEP feeder roads and along 6th and 7th Avenues. It would also be good to mention that the WEP is largely irrelevant for traffic between I-5 and the coast, since the WEP would not facilitate access to I-5 (since the 6th / 7th couplet would be overwhelmed with WEP traffic) and the western end of the WEP would be 52 miles from Florence. Lots of people may "believe" that more highway capacity is overdue, but few of those who want this outcome are willing to raise taxes to pay for it. Smarter use of the existing arterial network would create more benefits to motorists than the WEP.

 

Many also think of the traffic demand in two parts. We heard from several who
discussed urban needs as distinct from the regional or connectivity needs, with the
former generally being east of Beltline and the latter being west of Beltline.4

note: running Beltline traffic onto local streets in the industrial zone via a strange "couplet" would not address the urban needds. Spending WEP money on finishing Beltline would better address the regional connectivity needs.

 

Are there Other Issues that Complicate the Decision-Making?

Trust – The level of trust among key stakeholders is low. Almost every one of the
key stakeholders is seen as partisan. It might be expected that there would be limited
trust between environmental and development interests. And, indeed that exists. One
individual said simply, “The development community doesn’t want the environmental
community to get away with anything.” Sentiments are similar on the other side. It
should be said, of course, that neither the business community nor the environmental

4
While these are the “major substantive issues” voiced most frequently and explained most deeply by the
people we interviewed, clearly many others exist. They range from the details that are involved in the
permitting requirements of various agencies to suggestions of expanded rail service to the coast. Moreover,
there is often a vague line between substantive and procedural issues.

note: the Osprey report works hard to avoid the substantive issues raised in the WETLANDS report even though privately Mr. Huyler conceded that WETLANDS was very well described.

one reason that few environmentalists have any trust for the highwaymen is the years of lies that have been promulgated to mislead the public about the facts of the WEP.

"Stakeholder" is a poor substitute for "citizen" -- stakeholder is a term from casinos that refers to the person who holds the "stakes" of gamblers. Perhaps citizens who try to influence corrupt governmental processes are merely gamblers betting that logic and law will trump private-public partnerships to redirect tax dollars to benefit speculators.


The Osprey Group Conflict Assessment Page 6

community is uniform in its thinking. An interviewee noted, “The environmental
community is a tough one in this town. There is no one person who speaks for the
environmental community; there is no single figurehead.

note: while it would be incorrect to call the Eugene environmental community a democracy, it is a good thing that it is not a dictatorship with a "single figurehead."

 

Some believe there is a reason for optimism. As one person noted, “The old WEP
debate was a struggle between hard-line environmentalists and the hard-line business
community. The more responsible environmental community is willing to look at
alternatives and willing to compromise. Let’s consider highway improvements, but
avoid the wetlands
.” A number of individuals recognized that improved interactions
and creative thinking are more likely when people, organizations and agencies are not
stuck in their positions.

note: the City, County, ODOT, FHWA and BLM already agreed to look at a compromise alternative in June 2001, but the Pape brothers and Mayor Torrey apparently changed their minds in August 2001. It is strange for anonymous interviewees to claim that some environmentalists are not willing to look at alternatives while avoiding the fact that this has already happened. It is likely that the interviewee excoriating supposedly irresponsible environmentalists is not one of the voices in the environmental community expressing support for the June 2001 "No Build" consensus and / or the WETLANDS alternative.


Even recognizing openness in the search for solutions from many we interviewed,
there is an overlay of suspicion or acrimony that complicates discussions and
negotiations.
For instance, we were told that the Federal agencies, with distinctly
different mandates, apparently are not working as collegially or cooperatively as one
might expect toward common solutions. Moreover, conflict exists between Lane
County and the City of Eugene about the value of the WEP. The most recent tangible
evidence of this was in the Metropolitan Policy Committee’s effort to approve the
Metropolitan Transportation Implementation Plan (MTIP), when Eugene
representatives sought approval of the MTIP without the WEP and others said no.
This remains an outstanding conflict.

Growth versus No-Growth – Some Eugene residents would prefer to see little or no
growth in the City or even the region. They think growth causes a reduction in
quality of life. As one individual said in citing our over-reliance on the automobile,
“The party can’t go on. No solution that includes building a new highway makes any
sense from any number of perspectives.” There are others who see growth as
inevitable or desirable and that the challenge is to best plan for and manage the
growth that does occur. As one person put it, “There is a conflict between the vision
of Eugene as a village and the vision of Eugene as a city.” The WEP is a poster child
for this fundamental philosophical difference in viewpoints. Another commented
that, “This is a symbolic issue for the community. It is similar to the conundrum that
a lot of communities face about balancing growth and livability.”

 

note: endless growth is not possible with finite resources. Peak Oil and climate change mean that the era of growth is coming to an end, regardless what any real estate speculators want.

 

Openness in the Process – Any lack of transparency in WEP planning contributes to
suspicion and further lack of trust. Regardless of the level of public involvement to
date, some believe that more complete and timely information should have been
shared. A greater sense of openness and inclusion on the part of ODOT would help
community understanding and potential acceptance of a decision.
One person said,
“The debate has gotten over-simplified. No one listens and it’s hard to get folks to
move off their positions. We need a fresh look.” Others, however, see the problem
as the inability of Eugene citizens to agree on anything. When asked why this
process has taken so long, one individual said simply, “It’s Eugene.”

note: the real reason the process has taken this long is that the WEP is a failed idea from the 1950s that a few wealthy developers have continued to promote long after they realized it would probably not be built.


The Osprey Group Conflict Assessment Page 7

Clarity of Decision-Making Roles – As might be expected, most people do not
understand the intricacies of the decision-making process and agency roles for a
transportation proposal of this complexity. This, too, contributes to confusion and
distrust. Both proponents and opponents perceive the agencies as not working
collaboratively and seek to advance their particular perspective with the agency most
aligned with the result they want.

note: the agencies with responsibility for protecting the Earth have consistently demanded that ODOT and FHWA acknowledge federal laws. And FHWA's insistence to the City that local transportation plans had to conform with federal law blocked the City from pushing an illegal plan in 2000 -- the reason for the June 2001 "No Build" consensus.


Inter-Agency Collaboration – We were told there has not been consistent and
productive communication and coordination among the Federal agencies. Even
though there is a WEP Executive Coordination Team, it appears not to be functioning
at a high level. Part of this is may be attributable to the sequential nature of the
decision-making and the NEPA review process. This ineffective collaboration,
notably between ODOT and FHWA on the one hand and BLM and the Corps of
Engineers on the other, is at odds with the ODOT desire to complete the EIS by the
end of the calendar year. One person noted the difficulty in working with ODOT
saying, “ODOT is hard to start, hard to steer, and hard to get them to stop once they
are moving.”

note: FHWA and ODOT have refused to acknowledge that cooperating agencies (BLM and Corps of Engineers) must be included in the NEPA process at the start, not merely for the Final EIS.

 

Indecisive Community – There are a numerous indications of a community that is
split over the WEP. In 2001, the City of Eugene and the Oregon Department of
Transportation hosted a charrette. This group suggested a “no build” decision as their
preferred alternative. In the same year, the Eugene voters narrowly indicated their
ongoing preference for the WEP and, by a larger margin, a desire to not pursue other
alternatives. This division is reflected in mayoral leadership in Eugene, with Mayor
Torrey seen as an advocate for the WEP and Mayor Piercy seen as questioning the
project’s merit. Recent City Council votes mirror the divide in the community. Some
indicated to us that there’s an element in the community that would rather fight than
find a solution.
Situations like this often occur when there are complex issues on the
table. As one person said, “Eugene residents enjoy the fight and the complexity of
the issues.” This division in the community no doubt makes it challenging for
organizations like ODOT, which because of technical and funding challenges must
plan far into the future. Reflecting this long-term planning horizon, one person said,
the “gestation period for these projects is so long, you need to have a local partnership
that can be sustained over time.” Another individual in talking about Eugene said,
“We’re not so different than other communities, except that we have perhaps a larger
contingent of anarchists than normal.”

 

note: it is unlikely there are any WEP opponents who would rather fight the highway forever, although there are a few opponents who pretend (in public) that there are not actually any existing solutions. The WEP dilemma is similar to failed freeway proposals in many other communities where 1950s plans for overbuilt highways have collided with evolving understanding of energy, pollution, and transportation problems of excessive roads.


The Osprey Group Conflict Assessment Page 8

III. THE CHALLENGE

We think the current challenge can be captured is a single question:

“How can the State and the community get to
a transportation solution for West Eugene
that has widespread understanding and acceptability?”

This challenge is clearly complicated by the issues of substance and dynamics in the
community cited above. We see any meaningful solution as being at the intersection of a
technically sound transportation approach and something the community understands and
accepts from growth management and environmental perspectives.

note: a prerequisite for this happy outcome would include a rational discussion of the June 2001 "No Build" consensus

 

IV. OPTIONS FOR MOVING FORWARD TOWARD A DECISION

We have identified three options that have merit. None is a panacea and each has its own problems.

We have termed the approaches:

Proceed with Current NEPA Review Process
A Collaborative Process
Heightened Commitment to Public Engagement

The following narrative describes the approaches. Without a doubt, there are many
permutations for each, but we offer them as fairly distinct choices that could address the
current challenge. We describe below how each approach is functioning or could
function. For each there is discussion about the upsides and downsides of the specific
choice.

It is important to recognize that at “the end of the day” the various agencies must exercise
their statutory responsibilities and make decisions consistent with their legal mandates
and in accordance NEPA procedures. All options cited below recognize the authority and
responsibility of ODOT and FHWA, as well as other decision-making agencies, such as
the USACE. What is significantly different in the three options is the nature and extent
of public involvement.

Option I: Proceed with Current NEPA Review Process

We see this option as a “continue the current course” option. It means that ODOT,
working with FHWA, will complete the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact
Statement (FSEIS). ODOT and FHWA have indicated a desire to have the FSEIS
complete by the end of the 2006 calendar year. In our opinion, this deadline will likely


The Osprey Group Conflict Assessment Page 9

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
proposed
.5 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.6 With respect
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.

note: it also avoids the question of whether many of those who support the WEP would be willing to support the No Build consensus or WETLANDS alternative. If then City Councilor Pat Farr was willing to support the No Build consensus a month after it was proposed, then it is likely that many WEP supporters (who are not personally hoping to profit from construction contractors or real estate speculation) could be persuaded to change course.


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.

 

Note: in Salem and Portland, money allocated for canceled highways was reallocated for substitute projects in those communities.


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

5
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.

note: the FHWA "Southern Alignment" option proposed in June 2006 does not solve any of the legal, financial or traffic problems of the WEP, nor does it invalidate the need for the sensible WETLANDS alternative.

 

6
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.


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.
7

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.

 

note: in reality, a collaborative process that started from the June 2001 No Build consensus would be able to finalize the alternative much faster than the Osprey Group is proposing - but that fast track approach would not result in a long term contract for their work.

 

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

note: the "Roundtable" is an elite group that does not seek public input and meets in secret. City Club is a bit more open, but it does not qualify as a common ground meeting place for the community. The "Sustainable Business Initiative" is a mix of a good intentions and a political inability to recommend required minimal changes (it lacks leadership that understands environmental progress in recent decades have come from requirements, not nice statements of intent).

7
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.


The Osprey Group Conflict Assessment Page 11

the need to make a timely decision and to the need to have more openness within the
community as alternatives are explored.

We think this type of approach has great potential, but only under certain conditions. It
has been our experience that the additional time devoted to such as effort can pay
dividends in reaching a decision that has considerable understanding and support from
the community and addresses the needs of the stakeholders. These efforts are more
appropriate as complexity rises. So the good news is that a collaborative process can
increase public understanding about the nature and magnitude of the challenge, the range
of alternatives that might address the problem, and the impacts associated with the
alternatives. It is a helpful way to ensure community priorities are truly reflected in the
criteria used to evaluate alternatives, and it may lead to better solutions.

At the same time, collaborative efforts can add little if the necessary ingredients for
success are not in place. Under the worst conditions they translate into more time and
resources being spent on a controversial issue and no resolution.
Some we interviewed
voiced the concern that a collaborative effort might be used as a tactic to delay or kill the
project. Several necessary conditions need to be in place for a collaborative process to be
effective:

note: the best way to reduce the time and resources would be to inform the community about what happened with the June 2001 No Build consensus.

 

TABLE 1
OPTION II. CONDITIONS FOR SUCCESS

 

How reimbursement for the NEPA review and funding for the project construction would
be affected under this option is unclear. Some have told us that failure to select a

8
We find it particularly valuable to have a number of individuals in the group who are well respected and
civic minded. Even though it is important to have some who might have good reasons to be for or against a
proposed project, it is often most helpful to have citizens who bring obvious credibility and strong
commitment to the community; we call these individuals the “radical middle.” One person spoke of the
usefulness of such people by saying, “Consultants and ODOT often hear from the vocal minority the most.”


The Osprey Group Conflict Assessment Page 12

preferred alternative quickly might mean that funds for this transportation priority are
likely to be moved to other Oregon transportation needs.

note: if Oregon Transportation Commissioner Randy Pape agreed, the $17 million for the $169 million WEP would easily be transferred toward finishing Beltline.

 

Option III: Heightened Commitment to Public Engagement

This option falls between the first two options. It allows for more meaningful additional
public involvement, but is not a collaborative process.

This approach entails expanding the current public involvement process in an attempt to
foster much deeper understanding of and solicit input on alternatives, evaluation criteria,
possible environmental and other impacts, and the mandates of the agencies. It would
likely involve a sequential series of workshops. The workshops might have a specific
topical focus, such as:

No representative group of people would be selected to participate; everyone would be
welcome. Extensive participation by all involved agencies, including ODOT, FHWA and
the two cooperating agencies, and local governments would be expected, and an open
exchange of information and ideas would be encouraged. Additional resources and
interagency cooperation would be necessary to organize and execute the workshops and
other means of outreach.

This approach has certain positive attributes. It allows additional public engagement in
several substantive areas under debate, such as the purpose and need, the criteria being
employed to evaluate the alternatives, and the range of alternatives under review. The
workshop format is suggested so that the sessions are informative and beyond the
traditional public meeting format. There should be ample opportunity for an exchange of
ideas and information. This approach could be undertaken in a fairly expeditious fashion.

There are also certain downsides to this approach. It is likely that more time would be
needed for this approach than for Option I (albeit less than Option II). Some will argue
that the level of involvement is not sufficiently meaningful. They might say, for instance,
that having a sole session to address alternatives would be inadequate.
Moreover, this
format does not allow for the richness and depth of discussion that the collaborative
process would entail. What this approach gains in breadth, it loses in depth. Perhaps
some would be concerned that this model gives the illusion of public engagement, but
there might be little commitment on the part of the agencies to truly listen and be
responsive to what they are hearing. In this sense, Option III could smack of cooption
rather than true public involvement.

note: many who have participated in governmental public involvement processes have complainted that they are merely cooption


The Osprey Group Conflict Assessment Page 13

Some of the conditions for success for this option are summarized below:

 

TABLE 2
OPTION III. CONDITIONS FOR SUCCESS

 

How reimbursement for the NEPA review and funding for the project construction would
be affected under this option is unclear.

In the charts that follow, each of these options is presented with a summarized set of pros
and cons.


The Osprey Group Conflict Assessment Page 14

 

OPTION 1. PROCEED WITH CURRENT NEPA REVIEW PROCESS

ODOT and FHWA, with reviews from the Corps of Engineers and BLM as cooperating
agencies, continue with the NEPA process as planned and make a decision. USACE, in
consultation with the USFWS, then decides whether to issue a 404 permit.

Pros

Cons

note: a discreet way of saying that the WEP is not possible to be built


The Osprey Group Conflict Assessment Page 15

OPTION 2: A COLLABORATIVE PROCESS

A representative and balanced group of stakeholders and relevant agencies examines the
purpose and need for a project, reviews alternatives to meet that need, and works toward
a consensus solution. ODOT, FHWA and the cooperating agencies support and
participate in the process.9

Pros

Cons


9
See Table 1, the Option II conditions for success.


The Osprey Group Conflict Assessment Page 16

OPTION 3: HEIGHTENED COMMITMENT TO PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT

This option presumes an expanded approach taken by the agencies, lead by ODOT and
FHWA. It recognizes a need for enhanced public engagement through a series of
workshops.10

Pros

 

Cons:


10
See Table 2, Option III conditions for success.


The Osprey Group Conflict Assessment Page 17

V. CONCLUSION

We believe that if the agencies and the community can rise to the challenge, the
collaborative process, Option II, can best address the current challenge of “getting to a
transportation solution for West Eugene that has widespread understanding and
acceptability.” The hurdles, however, are serious. Several are cited in the text that
describes this option. It is clear, for example, that without willing and active ODOT
participation, such a process should not be pursued.

note: in other words, it all boils down to Randy Pape, the region's Oregon Transportation Commissioner who blocked implementation of the June 2001 No Build consensus

Option III provides the next best course if the agencies are truly committed to listening
and understanding, and believe that a heightened commitment to public engagement is in
their interests. This option could be pursued to enhance public involvement while
simultaneously seeking improved inter-agency coordination and agreement.

Proceeding on the current course, Option I, is unlikely to increase public understanding
or acceptability of whatever decision is made. Any build option that fragments the
wetlands will be strongly opposed by many. This option, despite the appearance of being
most committed to a timely decision, has the greatest potential of facing difficult and
time-consuming agency reviews and litigation.


The Osprey Group Conflict Assessment Page 18

APPENDIX A
LIST OF INTERVIEWEES

note:
Red designates WEP supporters
Black designates government officials who need to appear neutral
Blue designates WEP opponents
Green designates WEP opponents who actively opposed the Crandall Arambula sabotage option that would have promoted a worse version of the WEP - these opponents were only included on the guest list following considerable pressure from environmentalists that the process was elitist and exclusive.

 

John Alcott
Preferred Futures

Nick Arnis, Transportation Manager
City of Springfield

Anne Ballew
Councilor, City of Springfield

Bonny Bettman
Eugene City Councilor

Mark Buckbee
BLM Eugene District Office

T. J. Brooker, Mayor
City of Veneta

Steve Calish
BLM Eugene District Office

Terry Connolly
Eugene Chamber of Commerce

David Cox
Federal Highway Administration

Gary Foglio
Gary Foglio Trucking

Gerry Gaydos
Lane Transit District
[LTD was the only local government that was unanimous in its support for WEP when TransPlan was amended in 2002 - a reason for an elected board that cares more about transit than real estate]

Steve Gordon
LCOG Planner and semi-retired
[privately has stated his support for building half of the highway]

Bobby Green
Lane County Commissioner
[assured the community in 2001 that "the money is there" for the WEP]

Rob Handy
WEP Gazette

James Hanks
JRH Engineers

Michele Hanson
Corps of Engineers

John Harris
Bi-Mart Corporation

Dave Hauser
Eugene Chamber of Commerce

Ric Ingham, City Administrator
City of Veneta

David Kelly
Eugene City Councilor

Ken Kohl
Oregon Department of Transportation

Emily Lawton
Federal Highway Administration

David Leal
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Jane Lee
Oregon Department of Transportation

Ann Marie Levis
Funk, Levis & Associates

Troy Likens
The Jerry Brown Company

Mona Lindstromberg
Veneta Neighbors for Responsible Growth

John Marshall
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service


The Osprey Group Conflict Assessment Page 19

Greg McLauchlan
University of Oregon

Anna Morrison
Lane County Commissioner

Teena Monical
Corps of Engineers

Debra Noble
Business Owner

Mary O’Brien
WETA
[note: West Eugene Transportation Alternatives is a new project sponsored by Friends of Eugene that does not mention there are already alternatives to the WEP - O'Brien was a primary promoter of the short-lived "Crandall Arambula" option that would have been worse than the WEP.]

Randy Pape
Oregon Transportation Commission

Cynthia Pappas
Acting City Manager, City of Springfield

Ethen Perkins
Natural Areas Management Specialist

Kitty Piercy, Mayor
City of Eugene

Chris Pryor, City Councilor
City of Eugene

Gary Reed
Reed’s Fuel Company

Jim Reed
Preferred Futures

Larry Reed
JRH Engineers

Mark Robinowitz
WETLANDS
[interviewed the same afternoon that the completion of this report was made public - which makes it unlikely that any comments received during the interview were included into the report's analysis - privately told by John Huyler that the WETLANDS alternative was well written, but perhaps not well enough to be mentioned in this report]

Tom Schwetz
Lane Council of Governments

Majeska Seese-Green
Whiteaker Community Council

Lauri Segel
1000 Friends of Oregon

Marty Smith
Bi-Mart Corporation

Jennifer Solomon, City Councilor
City of Eugene

Pete Sorenson
Lane County Commissioner

Phil Speers, General Manager
Sheppard Motors

Jan Spencer
Citizens for Public Accountability

Faye Stewart
Lane County Commissioner

Dave Stone
Audubon Society

Linda Swisher
West Eugene Environmental Advocate

Dennis Taylor, City Manager
City of Eugene

Jim Torrey
Former Mayor, City of Eugene

Clayton Walker
C.W. Walker & Associates, LLC

Rob Zako
1000 Friends of Oregon

[primary sponsor of failed "Crandall Arambula" pseudo-alternative that undermined environmental objections to the WEP]


The Osprey Group Conflict Assessment Page 20

APPENDIX B
BRIEF HISTORY OF THE PROPOSED PROJECT

This project has been under consideration for two decades. During this time, much has

note: actually since 1951, although the Environmental Impact Statement process was started in 1985

happened. The project has been subject to considerable environmental review. There have been two community votes. Wetlands were acquired through the efforts and investment of public and non-profit entities. Local transportation and wetland planning has been conducted. There is additional knowledge about endangered species and critical habitat designation is now under review. Some key events are shown below:

a more accurate history is at history.html

1978 The T-2000 transportation plan is adopted, which replaces the proposed Roosevelt Freeway with a new east-west corridor

1985 ODOT and FHWA publish a Draft Environmental Impact Statement, initiating the WEP

1986 A city referendum, required by City charter, that requires any freeway or throughway constructed within the City must have the route approved by a majority of voters in a City election, passed with an 80 percent affirmative vote.

note: about five thousand "undervotes" suggest the real outcome was closer than this

1990 FHWA and ODOT publish Final Environmental Impact Statement

1994 ODOT, LCOG and City of Eugene publish the West Eugene Parkway Supplemental Needs Analysis, an update needed to assess the project in the context of the adopted 1992 West Eugene Wetlands Plan

no mention of 1996 lawsuit that overturned the 1990 Record of Decision

1997 FHWA and ODOT publish the second Supplemental Draft EIS with description and analysis of 22 alternatives

no mention of failed efforts in 2000 and 2001 to find a WEP option that was legal and fit the long term transportation budget

2001 A West Eugene Area Transportation Charrette is held to examine the transportation situation and determine if a path forward could be developed

2001 A special election is held with two ballot measures, one which a narrow margin of voters reaffirmed the 1986 decision to build the WEP and a much wider margin voting against a measure calling for the continued study of alternatives to the WEP

2002 The Eugene City Council votes 7 to 1 to authorize amendments to the West Eugene Wetlands Plan and local transportation plans to include the WEP

note: that vote was in 2001, and the Council was more split on the actual amendments (5 to 3 on one vote, 5 to 4 on the other vote - Mayor Torrey broke that tie)

no mention of the secret selection of new alternatives during 2003 and 2004

2004 FHWA approves a re-evaluation report for the WEP that allows the project to proceed to a Supplemental Final EIS

2005 The Fish and Wildlife Service proposes to designate critical habitat for the Fender’s blue butterfly and two plants in several areas, including lands in Lane County

note: that proposal was in response to a lawsuit ...

2006 FHWA proposes language to the Army Corps to clarify the purpose of the project

note: the "Purpose and Need" of the project cannot be arbitrarily changed just before publishing a Final EIS -- that step must be concluded before a range of alternatives is "scoped," which then must be followed by the Draft and then the Final EIS.

Currently, ODOT is planning to publish the Supplemental Final Environmental Impact Statement and submit a draft Record of Decision to FHWA by the end of 2006.