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Unified Federal Environmental and Historic Preservation Review Workshops

During this past year, the Unified Federal Review (UFR) Steering Group (DHS, FEMA, ACHP and CEQ) visited various areas around the nation that were most recently affected by catastrophic disasters.  Our goal was to learn from federal, tribal, state, and local agencies the best practices they used to expedite environmental and historic preservation reviews, and to also educate them on the newly established UFR Process. 

The UFR Steering Committee hosted three separate interagency workshops in New York City (April 2015); Denver, Colorado (June 2015); and Washington, DC (November 2015).  The agencies that attended included funding or permitting agencies that manage disaster recovery projects, land managing agencies, and agencies that oversee EHP compliance regulations.  Within these agencies, attendees included EHP practitioners, program and support staff, and senior leadership.

A summary of the workshops is provided below, including links to video recordings from portions of the workshops.

New York City, NY

On April 20, 2015, the Sandy Recovery Office and FEMA Region II jointly hosted a workshop to support implementation of the UFR Process.  Attendees included 67 participants from 13 different federal agencies, 11 state and local agencies, and one Tribe.

The objective of this workshop was to share information about the UFR Process with federal agencies and their stakeholders at the Sandy Recovery Office to:

  • Solicit feedback that would inform further development and implementation of the UFR Process

  • Determine what additional support is needed from headquarters offices to implement the UFR Process in the field

  • Validate the usefulness of Tools and Mechanisms developed as part of the UFR Process

  • Consider best practices and lessons learned from previous disasters to identify ways the UFR Process could enhance future disaster recovery efforts.

The Leadership Welcome and Overview & Implementation of the UFR Process sessions are available to view.

Best Practices and Lessons Learned Panel: The workshop included a session that discussed best practices from past disasters and lessons learned where principles of the UFR Process have already been applied, and how disaster recovery could have further benefited from the UFR Process.  Panelists included:

  • NJ embedded agency staff support – Colleen Keller, NJDEP; James Haggerty, USACE; Grace Musumeci, EPA; and Dan Saunders, NJSHPO

  • NJ Endangered Species Act matrix –Allison Shiffner, FEMA; Donna DeFrancesco, FEMA; and Carlo Popolizio, FWS

  • USACE/FEMA wet debris project – Greg Pollack, FEMA and James Haggerty, USACE

Below is a summary of the key themes that emerged from this workshop:

  1. Pre-disaster interagency coordination is key.  Attendees emphasized that Federal, Tribal, state and local agencies should build stronger relationships with one another to better understand other agencies’ perspectives and decision-making processes.  In addition, regular meetings with your intergovernmental partners should be established to proactively identify opportunities for pre-disaster programmatic approaches, as well as to identify potential bottlenecks in the EHP review process prior to a disaster.

  2. Embedded Agency Staff expedite EHP reviews and sharing of information.  Following Hurricane Sandy, several federal and state staff were embedded into various agencies in order to provide a conduit between the two agencies.  This relationship built trust between the agencies and allowed agencies to identify potential issues with proposed recovery projects.

Denver, CO

In September 2013, record-breaking rainfall caused flooding and mudslides in three major watersheds in central Colorado.  The floods resulted in the largest domestic evacuation since Hurricane Katrina, as it seriously damaged 500 miles of roads and 30 bridges.  This workshop provided an opportunity to learn about Colorado’s recovery efforts and primarily focused on how HQ could support regional staff needs.  Attendees include 63 participants representing 11 different federal agencies, and 19 state and local agencies.

Best Practices and Lessons Learned Panel: The workshop included a session detailing the formation of the Disaster Unified Review Team (DURT) and the interagency coordination which it conducted.  Panelists included:

  • FEMA RVIII Environmental Officer – Steven Hardegen

  • US Fish and Wildlife – Craig Hansen

  • FEMA (NDRF/FDRC ) - Dan Alexander

  • CO Department of Transportation – Vanessa Henderson

  • FEMA DR4145 Environmental and Historic Preservation Advisor – Portia Ross

  • CO Water Conservation Board – Kevin Houck

  • Federal Highways Administration – Stephanie Gibson

Case Studies: The workshop included a session detailing case studies, best practices, and lessons learned from past disasters where principles of the UFR had already been applied and illustrated how the UFR Process can assist the on-going recovery efforts for FEMA-4145-DR-CO, including: FEMA’s Public Assistance and Mitigation programs, HUD’s CDBG-DR program, FHWA’s Emergency Relief Program, and other federal assistance programs.  Topics and panelists included:

  • The Voice of a Compliance Community, NEPA as a Planning Tool and Adoption of Technology - Jeffrey Fullmer, FEMA

  • Improving Roadway Resiliency and Accomplishing Multi-Purpose Objectives on Larimer County Road 43 – Thomas Parker, Central Federal Lands

  • Creating Flood Resiliency in the City of Longmont with the St. Vrain Creek Improvement Project – Kim Shugar

  • UFR as it relates to Region VIII Tribal Communities – Charlie Bello, FEMA

  • Colorado’s 2013 Flooding – CDOT’s Unified Federal Review (UFR) Experience – Kelly Maiorana, CO Department of Transportation

  • Adoption of FEMA and Other Federal Environmental Reviews – Crystal Andrews, CO Department of Local Affairs

  • Governor’s Recovery Office – Iain Hyde

Below is a summary of the key themes that emerged from this workshop:

  1. HQ direction is critical.  Field staff need direction from their respective agency’s headquarters office on how to implement the UFR Process.  Without sufficient direction, field staff do not understand if this is a priority for their agency and whether they should devote time and resources to the UFR Process.  

  2. Coordination groups improve communication.  Regular staff level meetings are beneficial to facilitate collaboration in order to pass on new and/or reinforce existing tenets.

Washington, DC

This workshop was held to educate federal agency headquarters staff about the UFR Process, as well as to report on what we had learned from the previous two workshops.  Attendees included 55 participants from 23 different federal agencies.

The Leadership Welcome & Overview and Facilitated Discussion regarding Senior Leadership & Headquarters Role in the UFR Process sessions are available to view.

Panel Discussion: The workshop included a session focused on national best practices and programmatic approaches in order to identify how the UFR Process adds value to disaster recovery.  It also discussed how headquarters can support further development of these best practices.  Panelists included:

  • Sandy Regional Coordination Group, NY Joint Environmental Assessment, and FEMA/HUD NEPA Alignment –Danielle Schopp, HUD

  • Federal Flood Risk Management Standard –Michael Drummond, CEQ

  • Data Sharing Agreements – Kimberly Pettit, FEMA

Below is a summary of the key themes that emerged from this workshop:

  1. Regional leadership support is important for effective UFR implementation.  Attendees indicated that the socialization of the UFR Process should be top-down at the regional level (e.g., if Regional Leadership are proponents of the process, then Regional Staff will place a priority on its implementation). 

  2. HQ support can improve regional staff understanding of interagency relationships, roles, and responsibilities.  Workshop discussion indicated that there is a disconnect in the understanding of where relationships between agencies already exist.  There is a tendency of deployed personnel to advocate for new partnerships and agreements, because they do not have the background knowledge of where partnerships and agreements already exist.  Response deployments rarely overlap, with staff receiving little briefing of their predecessor's interagency lines of communication.  In addition, participants believed a web-accessed compilation of agency-specific summaries would be helpful; as it is integral for agencies to understand the roles and responsibilities of other agencies, as well as how others agencies approach compliance requirements.

Last Updated: 
10/18/2018 - 10:07