Environmental compliance is foundational to the program’s success.
To achieve environmental compliance, the IBR program is committed to meeting federal, state and local laws and regulations for protecting the natural, developed and cultural environment.
The IBR program will seek opportunities to enhance communities and the environment within the scope of the program activities.
What is environmental compliance?
It involves the review of a project to (1) understand how the proposed solutions could affect the existing environment and (2) confirm that a project will comply with federal, state and local regulations. Environmental compliance efforts identify the environmental consequences of a project and search for solutions that avoid impacts, minimize impacts if avoidance is not possible or mitigate adverse impacts where feasible.
The IBR program must obtain multiple permits and approvals related to land use and the environment before construction begins. A key requirement is compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
How will the IBR program preserve and enhance the environment?
The IBR program will comply with all relevant federal, state and local environmental regulations.
Some compliance efforts that the IBR program must address include:
Cultural, tribal and historic resources
Cultural, tribal and historic resources are federally protected through Government to Government treaties and laws like Section 106 of the National Preservation Act, and at the state level with ORS 358.653 and 358.905 and Executive Order 21-02. To better understand these resources, the IBR program is consulting with Tribes, Native Hawaiians, Oregon State Historic Preservation Office, Washington Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation and other consulting parties.
Fish, wildlife and plants
The Endangered Species Act (ESA) protects federally listed threatened and endangered species, including their designated or proposed critical habitats. There are also state and local agency requirements that protect state and local sensitive species, and regional Tribes have protections in place for species of cultural importance. The ESA requires federal agencies to consult with the National Marine Fisheries Service and US Fish and Wildlife Service for all actions that may impact listed species.
Waters of the U.S., waters of the state, and water quality
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulates pollutants and establishes quality standards to protect water via the Clean Water Act (CWA). The CWA also gives the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers authority over U.S. waters and navigable waters. Oregon and Washington have other state and local regulations to protect wetlands, shorelines and overall water quality. ODOT and WSDOT have implementing agreements through the CWA to manage stormwater generated on highways they manage. Other requirements include Portland and Vancouver’s stormwater regulations and Washington’s Shoreline Management Act.
People and communities
The Executive Order on Environmental Justice was signed with the goal of providing fair treatment to and meaningful involvement from all people and assuring that federal actions do not disproportionately impact minority and low-income populations. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act prohibits the exclusion of anyone from participation or benefit from a federally funded program on grounds of race, color or national origin. One way the IBR program provides meaningful involvement is through the Equity Advisory Group, which helps ensure that the program remains centered on equity. See the community engagement discussion below.
Marine navigation and levees
The Columbia River is an important marine route supporting a variety of marine vessels including barges, recreational boats and government vessels. The Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 regulates navigation and federal civil works projects on the river. The program will require a bridge permit from the U.S. Coast Guard to construct a new bridge. The Columbia River Navigation Channel and Portland Metro system of levees are federal civil works projects maintained by the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). Modification of the navigation channel and levees requires approval from the USACE.
Other environmental requirements
The IBR program will address many other federal, state, regional and local requirements as well as tribal treaty rights. Examples include the Federal Aviation Administration Title 14 CFR Part 77, Washington’s SEPA and the Oregon Statewide Planning Program. The IBR team is coordinating with the appropriate agencies and Tribes on the required reviews and approvals.
About the IBR environmental compliance process
Who is responsible?
The IBR program is responsible for developing a solution that addresses the program’s purpose and need and communities’ vision and values, in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations. The program’s federal partners, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), have the ultimate authority over compliance with applicable federal regulations, including NEPA. ODOT and WSDOT have authority over compliance with applicable state and local regulations. Many other federal, state and local agency partners are also involved.
What environmental compliance has already been completed?
A lot of environmental work was previously completed for the Columbia River Crossing (CRC) project, including site evaluations and technical studies of various topics (e.g., fish and wildlife, climate and parks and recreation) along the I-5 corridor. In 2011, a Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Record of Decision (ROD) were published that identified and selected the Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA), which then could advance to further design and construction. The ROD also includes mitigation measures and environmental commitments.
After the ROD was published, the LPA was further refined to comply with the U.S. Coast Guard’s issued bridge permit and a phasing plan to advance the different components of the LPA. In 2013, the FHWA and FTA approved two NEPA re-evaluations that formally amended the LPA. However, in 2014, the CRC project was suspended after it did not secure adequate funding to move forward.
How is today’s environmental compliance effort building on past work?
The prior NEPA decision is still valid; however, many changes to the physical environment, regulatory context, local jurisdictions’ and communities’ priorities have shifted since 2013. In response to those changes, the IBR program will collect additional data and update technical analyses, which will be used to inform decision-making for a better solution to address changed conditions.
The IBR team will apply the valid environmental data and analysis from the CRC project to the IBR program. Examples of work (not a complete list) that could still be valid or require minimal updates include geological conditions and many land uses. On the other hand, community demographics, visual impact assessment methodology and the transportation analysis from the previous project are outdated, and the IBR team will update these items.
Where are we going?
Following a design option and screening process to modify the former LPA (you can read more about that process here), the IBR program’s Executive Steering Committee unanimously agreed that the Modified LPA should move forward into the federal environmental review process for further study.
By mid-2023, the IBR program plans to publish a Supplemental Draft EIS. This document will summarize environmental review findings and proposed mitigations for adverse impacts. The community will have an opportunity to review the Supplemental Draft EIS and provide feedback. Design refinements will occur based on findings and public input, resulting in a combined Supplemental Final EIS and Amended ROD issued by the FHWA and FTA. At this stage, the Modified LPA will be designed to an approximately 30% level and will allow the IBR program to apply for permits and update cost estimates as design reaches final stages.
The IBR program will continue to work and foster relationships with agencies and tribes, including them in the IBR process, and guiding them through the regulatory process and requirements.
Environmental technical analyses
Previous environmental studies will be updated to reflect today’s environmental context. The term “environment” is not limited to the natural environment, and includes topics such as transportation access, neighborhoods and public health. Technical analysis is needed for the program to obtain permits, including analysis of air space impacts, navigation impacts, species’ habitat requirements and mitigation needs. As they are finalized, technical reports will be uploaded to the IBR library.
What technical analyses will the IBR program update?
• Air quality
• Environmental Justice
• Geology and Groundwater
• Hazardous Materials
• Historic Built Environment
• Land Use
• Neighborhoods and Population
• Noise and Vibration
• Parks and Recreation
• Public Services
• Section 4(f)/Section 6(f)
• Visual and Aesthetics
• Water Quality and Hydrology
How does community engagement shape environmental compliance?
Community engagement during the environmental compliance process is an important requirement under NEPA and various permits and approvals. The IBR program will coordinate opportunities for input as part of the overarching community engagement process and to follow permitting agencies’ notices for public review.