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  HOME »  PARTNERSHIPS
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Partnerships:
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The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) is committed to providing for North Carolina's transportation needs while protecting the State's environmental resources. It is the intent of the Department to continually forge more effective and efficient working relationships with agencies and organizations and to embark on partnerships that better serve the people of our state and foster the growth of healthy and safe communities statewide. NCDOT and our partners strive to serve as a national model for interagency partnerships for environmental stewardship and streamlining.

Leadership at NCDOT and our partner agencies recognize that the key to success hinges on establishing and maintaining trust at all levels within and between agencies, communicating effectively, and providing the resources to undertake initiatives that support specific goals. Moreover, these relationships with state and federal agencies, as well as the private sector, helps us leverage support and active participation, thereby increasing the potential for success.

These partnership efforts have been crucial to the success of numerous environmental stewardship and streamlining activities. Their ability to create a common vision with supporting goals and creatively share resources serves as a national model. The subsequent development of new tools, improved processes, and enhanced working relationships are the keys to responsible transportation decision-making and the protection and enhancement of North Carolina's precious environmental resources.

Pictured left to right: Secretary William Ross, Jr. (NCDENR), Colonel John Pulliam (USACE), Secretary Lyndo Tippett (NCDOT)

Partnership Examples...

Process Improvement Efforts

Evidence of the successful partnerships can be seen in the numerous environmental stewardship and streamlining initiatives that have been undertaken cooperatively by NCDOT and our partners. Most notable are the process improvements in the areas of environmental permitting and wetland, stream, and buffer mitigation. Senior leadership of the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), US Army Corps of Engineers - Wilmington District (USACE) and NCDOT served as sponsors for these process improvement initiatives and solicited the partnership of other state and federal resource agencies to make substantive changes to increase the efficiency of the processes without compromising the quality of the environment. In addition to these sponsors, the US Environmental Protection Agency, US Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, NC Wildlife Resources Commission, and NC Department of Cultural Resources were active participants throughout the initiative. Since the environmental permitting and mitigation processes are shared, leadership believed it was imperative that all the stakeholders come together to ensure that the improvements appropriately addressed the challenges that all the process participants were experiencing. These initiatives have required an intense commitment of resources and are improving the quality and efficiency of North Carolina transportation projects.

An interagency team during the week-long process improvement workshop redeveloping the mitigation process

Following the process improvement effort for wetland, stream and buffer mitigation, the Ecosystem Enhancement Program (EEP) was initiated. The EEP is currently in its developmental and transitional stages and will be fully operational in 2005. A national model, the EEP is being established collaboratively between the NCDOT, NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and the US Army Corps of Engineers - Wilmington District. The mission of the EEP is to protect the natural resources of North Carolina through the assessment, restoration, enhancement and preservation of ecosystem functions and to compensate for transportation and private sector developmental impacts at the watershed level. This program will substantially improve the quality of the life in NC's communities by improving the natural environment through collaborative planning and implementation. The goal of the EEP is to provide a program that identifies ecosystem needs at the watershed level and preserves, enhances and restores ecological functions through interagency and public participation and various funding sources.

DOT/DENR Senior Staff Meetings

NCDENR-NCDOT Senior Staff Meetings involve discussion about strategic transportation and environmental issues. Emerging issues, such as secondary and cumulative impact assessment and air quality conformity, have been successfully resolved by leadership in a manner that meets agency missions. Together, DENR and NCDOT have identified specific goals and strategies for their partnership, which are documented in one-year and three-year work plans. The leadership team works closely to set priorities for agency staff for alignment between and within the agencies and monitors progress. The USACE and Federal Highway Administration have also recently begun attending the NCDENR-NCDOT Senior Staff Meetings in an effort to further improve communication and participate in this forum.

Resolution/Elevation Process

DENR and NCDOT have also developed and instituted a formal dispute resolution procedure. The procedure ensures that difficult issues are resolved at the lowest level possible within each agency while allowing elevation of the issue in a timely manner, as needed, for resolution by senior management.

DOT Funded Positions Program

In order to enhance participation by agency staff early and throughout all phases of transportation project development, implementation and maintenance, NCDOT currently funds 22 positions within 5 different federal and state resource agencies. These positions bring issues and concerns to the table early and help develop proactive ways of dealing with them. In addition, some of the positions provide joint environmental training to NCDOT, DENR and other state and federal agency staff.

Selected Conservation Sites

DENR and NCDOT have pooled resources to purchase environmentally sensitive tracks of land that were subject to developmental pressure. A recent purchase, in cooperation with the Clean Water Management Trust Fund, was made of Bird Island in Brunswick County on North Carolina's southern coast. This 147-acre island, which is surrounded by approximately 1,100 acres of marshland, is now part of the state's Coastal Reserve Program System and will be preserved from development forever. The island serves as a sanctuary for a variety of birds and sea turtles and was one of only three remaining undeveloped barrier islands in the state and still in private ownership. The two state agencies also participated in the purchase of two view sheds along the Blue Ridge Parkway in the Appalachian Mountains of western North Carolina (a National Byway) with assistance from the federal Enhancement Program. The Conservation Trust of North Carolina, a non-profit organization, also played an important role in acquiring these properties, one which is now part of the North Carolina State Parks system and the other which was gifted to the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The NCDOT and several partners have taken outstanding proactive steps to protect the natural environment and the federally endangered red-cockaded woodpecker (RCW) by acquiring two tracts of land in eastern North Carolina. The Palmetto-Peartree Preserve is an exceptional example of a unique partnership strategy. This project was the acquisition of 2,500 acres of RCW habitat in Hoke County, NC. The project is a partnership between NCDOT, US Fish and Wildlife Service, The Nature Conservancy, The Conservation Fund, the US Army - Fort Bragg, NC Wildlife Resources Commission, and several local governments. The Palmetto-Peartree Preserve is potentially the first mitigation strategy of its kind in the United States. The second property was the acquisition of 9,732 acres in Tyrrell County, NC. The goals of these projects are to preserve, enhance and manage existing and future colonies and habitat for the federally protected RCW. These acquisitions have also helped link together one of the largest remaining longleaf pine ecosystems in the southeastern United States.

River Basins

Basinwide Restoration Plans, which are comprehensive water quality improvement plans, have been developed by DENR's Wetland Restoration Program largely through NCDOT's grant of $2.5 million annually for a period of seven years. These plans will enable wetland and stream mitigation to be targeted in a manner that most effectively addresses the specific water quality needs of a particular watershed. These plans are also being used by other entities for watershed enhancement and mitigation opportunities.

DENR's River Basin Signing Program has been facilitated with NCDOT's involvement. In a cooperative effort, DENR and NCDOT identified the appropriate locations for the placement of river basin signs along primary routes designating boundaries of each river basin. The river basin signs were purchased through a grant from the federal Enhancement Program, and installed by NCDOT. North Carolina's state transportation map also includes the 17 river basins throughout the state, as well as contact information for DENR's Office of Environmental Education,who shepherd the River Basin Signing Program. This collaborative effort helps to heighten the public's awareness of the importance of water quality and what they can do to improve the water quality in their communities.

Memoranda of Understanding

Building off the excellent foundation of previous DENR-NCDOT efforts, the Secretaries of DENR and NCDOT formalized their partnership in 2001 in the form of a Memorandum of Understanding which outlined a set of common goals that support environmental stewardship and responsible and timely transportation decision-making. Further, NCDOT, DENR, USACE and other federal and state agencies have committed to several partnering relationships though Memoranda of Agreement and Understanding, such as process improvements, mitigation strategies and hurricane repair efforts, to name a few.

Other cooperative initiatives that are sponsored and supported by NCDOT include:

  • Information technology improvements, such as updating and adding components to the Geographic Information System that have facilitated responsible environmental and transportation decision-making among resource agencies

  • Delegation of DENR's Sedimentation and Erosion Control Program to NCDOT for the transportation projects implemented by the state

  • Joint training, such as Indirect and Cumulative Impact Assessment and Context Sensitive Design Solutions training

  • Turbidity and Erosion Control Research with North Carolina State University

  • Ecosystem Enhancement Program

Partner agencies and organizations include but are not limited to:

State Agencies
North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources
North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources
The University System of North Carolina
North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission
North Carolina Department of Commerce

Federal Agencies
Federal Highway Administration
United States Army Corp of Engineers - Wilmington District
United States Fish and Wildlife Service
United States Environmental Protection Agency

Organizations
Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPO's)
Rural Planning Organizations (RPO's)
The Institute for Transportation Research and Education
The Center for Transportation and the Environment
The Nature Conservancy
The Conservation Fund
The Conservation Trust of North Carolina




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