Step 3.0 is a decision node because it is the point in the process where all the information from Step 2.0 is integrated into the larger planning and decision-making process. If the planning level is controlled by the NEPA process, then Step 3.0 would correspond to the Record of Decision or Decision Notice. Each agency will have its own process for this and it is outside the scope of this work to detail the processes involved. The major product of Step 3.0 is some form of decision on the mitigation appropriate for the project.
After a decision has been made, implementation is the next major step. An implementation plan can help ensure that decisions are successfully implemented in the spirit of the planners. Steps 3.1, 3.2 and 3.3 are designed to help ensure the intention of the hard work accomplished in previous steps is captured for the implementation phase.
This Decision Guide is designed primarily for decisions wherein wildlife crossing structures are selected as the preferred mitigation type. If your team chose an alternative form of mitigation, some aspects of the following Steps 3.0, 4.0 and 5.0 may not apply.
Wildlife crossing structures are major infrastructure elements and can be expected to be as durable as their transportation-only counterpart structures. Thus, similar maintenance schedules, costs, and responsibilities will likely apply. However, there may be a difference in funding source or duration for some elements of a selected suite of mitigation measures. For example, some state DOT’s have interagency agreements with resource agencies for fence maintenance. Others may have agreements with NGO’s. In the long run, it is likely to be more effective to house the maintenance responsibility within the DOT because of the maintenance systems already in place for other infrastructure elements. Strongly consider how personnel changes may make agreements with non-DOT organizations untenable over 50 years. Incorporate contingency plan agreements into any non-DOT responsible for maintenance.
Most wildlife crossing structures, like other infrastructure elements, require periodic maintenance if they are expected to function properly. It is imperative for the long term effectiveness of the system to develop workable agreements in writing for the entire duration of the structure.
Maintenance agreements among all stakeholders ensure that mitigation measures work throughout their design life. Some monitoring plans can incorporate periodic maintenance checks as well, however ensure that any maintenance agreement extends beyond the monitoring plan’s duration.
Consider the following Steps (3.2.1-3.2.4) in the development of a long-term effective maintenance plan.
Incorporating wildlife crossing structures into a transportation project involves a specialty that may be unfamiliar to some departments of transportation and ministries of transportation. Further, it is often the natural resource agencies that have the most concern about how the mitigation is implemented, yet often their lack of familiarity with transportation projects creates misunderstandings. Creating an implementation liaison position is a cost-effective approach to ensure daily problems are identified and handled as they arise, and to resolve differences in interpretation of issues among the stakeholder agencies. While implementation and maintenance plans will help forestall problems and provide agreed approaches to resolution, complex projects will inevitably require detailed knowledge of the project as well as a good working relationship among agencies.