The environment, development and institutions are fundamentally interrelated, within a general context of sustainable development. Overuse, mismanagement, and contamination of natural resources are often the negative unforeseen consequences of development efforts characterized by unclear property rights, perverse economic incentives, poor governance, and badly designed production processes. A degraded environment stalls development, exacerbates social conflict, and undermines poverty reduction efforts and growth. These impacts are more acute where livelihoods directly rely on the services of natural assets.
In the Central Valley, much of the economy is based on environmental resources at its disposal. The vitality of agriculture-related businesses directly influences the well being of the community, and relies on the availability of natural resources, namely land and water.  As urban sprawl reduces the amount of land available for agriculture, the amount of water allocated for this land is also reduced.  This negatively impacts the Central Valley community in every aspect. 


The over-arching goal is to promote the informed use, management and protection of water, land, air, and related natural resources of the Fresno County region through inter-jurisdictional coordination and consistency in the development and implementation of laws, programs, and policies addressing resource management and environmental protection issues. Protecting Fresno County’s remaining natural resource lands in the urban and rural areas will build on past investments and will continue to offer opportunities for further investment in the regional open space system as the County grows over the next 40 years.


·         Understand the resource environment

Scientific, technical and policy advice available to each jurisdiction within Fresno County is vital to ensure science-based decision-making.  Research will be required to maintain and enhance the regional database so that policymakers and managers are armed with

accurate and comprehensive environmental resource data and information on which to

base their decisions regarding growth and development.

·         Support a well-informed and active public

Local agencies in Fresno County should coordinate on a regional scale to develop a system that contributes to the timely development and aggressive implementation of sound resource management and environmental protection programs. It is important to develop educational materials, such as kiosks, articles, and maps to inform public about the value of natural resources.

·         Preserve natural resources and enhance environmental protection

Create livable communities in the County where future development respects and integrates the natural resources by preserving adequate open space areas for major habitat types to maintain ecosystems in a natural balance for recreation, scientific, conservation, economic, educational, agricultural, and scenic purposes.

·         Manage the natural environment

Fresno County jurisdictions and other responsible agencies should protect wetlands, excessive slopes, tree canopy, significant natural habitats, and scenic views from environmentally insensitive development and encourage revegetation and management of areas to restore native habitat and natural aesthetic qualities that contribute to environmental quality. One of the first steps to identify and prioritize natural areas in the County is to encourage practices that stress soil conservation as a means to retain native vegetation, maximize water infiltration, provide slope stabilization, allow scenic enjoyment, and reduce flood hazards.

·         Reduce environmental impacts of growth and development

Local agencies in Fresno County should encourage activities that conserve energy and result in less pollution such as waste reduction, recycling, alternative transportation modes, alternative energy sources and composting. The agencies should also encourage and support sustainable farming practices, pest control practices and continue to provide and encourage the City of Fresno’s leading curbside recycling program through educational events, promotional materials and volunteer efforts. Other effective strategies include using natural resource open space to physically separate elements, which are incompatible by scale or function, work with appropriate landowners and government agencies to rehabilitate abandoned resource fields, and preserve mature trees and establish requirements for their replacement. Finally, local agencies in Fresno County should strive to ensure that protected animal species and sensitive native plant communities are not illegally destroyed as a consequence of any new development or urban activity.

·         Enhance recreation opportunities in natural areas

Local agencies should work with state and federal agencies to coordinate protection and enhancement of natural corridors and ensure the preservation of large, contiguous natural areas that provide the greatest opportunities for animal and plant habitat, as well as a contiguous trail system.

·         Address clean air and climate change

Meeting air quality standards for ozone and particulate matter and addressingclimate change will lead to creation of a healthier environment that helps maintain the economic vitality of the Fresno County region. Since pollution and climate change reduction measures typically reduce the use of fuel and electrical power, they may provide substantial cost savings as well. Valley counties should coordinate efforts to address climate change and improve air quality where technology and policy options are available that address both issues simultaneously.



Effective public involvement can help to generate support for a transportation project, or address public concerns and minimize opposition to a controversial project. Effective public involvement means that an agency listens and responds to all individuals and groups with issues and concerns about the project. 

The following tools and techniques for effectively communicating with the public are recommended:
  • Create a website dedicated to the project. Many projects can have a dedicated project website. Such websites can serve as a central clearing house of information and can be a one-stop-shop for the public to find the most up-to-date project information.
  • Utilize a public involvement coordinator and/or community liaison for projects that have particular community concerns. For a particularly contentious project, a public outreach office can be opened in the community and staffed with a Community Liaison. The liaison plays an integral role in improving Fresno County's relationship with the local community, which had been strained by previous transportation projects' negative impacts to the economic and social structures of the community. The community liaison works closely with local residents to keep them informed of all transportation projects in the area, and to ensure that their concerns were addressed.
  • Interact with the public. Standard public meetings or hearings often do not draw large crowds. To ensure that you are reaching a broad cross-section of the community, bring the project information to the people in their neighborhoods. One example is the Utah DOT's (UDOT) use of a "Talk Truck" — a billboard truck that went to various parking lots throughout the area during the day to provide the public with information on the project. Through the use of the Talk Truck, UDOT raised awareness of its Mountain View Corridor project and reached a far broader segment of the public than typical.
  • At public meetings, use question cards. For the Mountain View Corridor project, UDOT offered the audience question cards to encourage the public to write their questions down; the questions were then answered by the staff at the public meeting.
  • Use simple, straightforward language and avoid technical terms. The vocabulary used by engineers and transportation professionals is not always familiar to the general public. Be sure to use plain language and put the information in terms that the public will understand.
  • Conduct outreach to the press for projects. Often the opposition is the only one reaching out to the press. It is important to ensure that the positive aspects of the project are presented to the media as well. For example, the Maryland State Highway Administration's (SHA) public information officer worked with the press to ensure that a positive message regarding the Intercounty Connector Project (ICC) was presented.


  • Provide opportunities to educate stakeholders on the transportation planning and project development processes. As part of the environmental review process for the US 2 project, the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) developed three training modules — Transportation Planning 101, NEPA 101, and Funding 101 — to educate the public on the relevant issues. MDT presented these trainings at various public meetings and forums to provide the public with a common understanding on the transportation planning and development processes, creating an environment where all stakeholders could speak the same language. Educating stakeholders on the DOT's requirements will enable stakeholders to provide more informed feedback.


Working cooperatively with project stakeholders creates an atmosphere of partnership that may prove valuable in advancing the environmental review process. Including agencies early and often throughout the process enables issues to be identified and addressed early, thereby minimizing project delays. Communicating with agencies throughout the process reduces the likelihood that reviewing agencies will be surprised by any information or details in the actual environmental document, leading to a more efficient review. The following tools and techniques for effectively collaborating with stakeholders are recommended:
  • Hold face-to-face meetings. Direct contact with agency staff provides an opportunity to build better relationships. As part of the Mountain View Corridor project, UDOT spent a great deal of time meeting with resource agencies, including holding monthly coordination meetings. UDOT noted that it was important for such meetings to be well planned to ensure that agencies felt it was in their interest to participate. While email communication serves a purpose, it should not be used as a substitute for speaking and meeting directly with agency staff.
  • At the beginning of the process, work with partner agencies to develop and agree upon a project schedule. In its ICC project, the Maryland SHA and FHWA worked with partner agencies from the very beginning to secure buy-in on the accelerated project schedule. When asking agencies to respond to an expedited schedule, it is important that they be involved with developing the schedule.
  • Establish regularly scheduled meetings with agencies to prepare for key decision points. As part of the ICC project, SHA established two special interagency coordination groups to facilitate problem-solving — the Interagency Working Group (IAWG) and Principals plus 1 (P+1).
    • Interagency Working Group (IAWG) — Participants included environmental managers and staff-level experts from the 21 Federal, state, and local resource and transportation agencies with jurisdiction over some aspect of the project. The group met 37 times to provide input and technical expertise and to guide the drafting of environmental documents and permit applications.
    • Principals plus 1 (P+1) — consisted of one executive-level official from each agency represented in the IAWG plus one staff assistant. The group met 11 times throughout the process to build consensus and resolve broad policy issues related to key project milestones and EIS document components.
Involving agency decision makers in the meetings helps to ensure that decisions      agreed upon by the group will be implemented.
  • Use a neutral third party/facilitator during interagency meetings in order to reach workable solutions when faced with conflicting ideas. SHA hired a professional mediator selected through the U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution to facilitate all IAWG and P+1 coordination meetings. The mediator served as the project neutral and played an integral role in encouraging agencies to work through complex issues. The professional mediator ensured that all agencies clearly defined their concerns and worked with stakeholders to develop innovative solutions. Utilizing a mediator can help opposing interests move past a roadblock to reach a mutually agreeable solution.
  • Respect the fact that each agency has its own mission to achieve. Understanding the resource agencies' missions, and in turn ensuring that they understand the SDOT's mission, helps the various parties understand where the other is coming from.
  • Develop Community Advisory Groups or Task Forces. Both the Missouri DOT (MoDOT) and MDT established Community Advisory Groups as part of the project development and environmental review process. In Missouri, the public was concerned with specific details on what the constructed Paseo Bridge would look like. In order to address their concerns, MoDOT created an advisory group, which consisted of business, community, and neighborhood leaders. The advisory group played an integral role in the selection of the design-build contractor for the Paseo Bridge — the group rated the aesthetics of the proposed designs and controlled 20 aesthetics-related points of the total 100 points used to rank the proposals. Creating opportunities for the public to be more intimately involved in the project development process provides the public with a feeling of ownership over the project, and empowers them to help develop solutions.
A collaborative working relationship between transportation and resource agencies requires mutual trust. How a SDOT works with other agencies on a day-to-day basis lays the foundation for developing this trust. Implementing the techniques highlighted above will help a DOT gain the trust of a resource agency staff, which in turn will make it easier to work with those agencies when major projects arise. 

Establishing a collaborative internal working environment is another essential element in streamlining the environmental documentation process. Tools and techniques to effectively collaborate with internal DOT staff include:
  • Establish regular status meetings with the project team to share information. As part of Utah's Mountain View Corridor project, the team maintained a "punch list" of items that need to be addressed. The project team held weekly status meetings, where items on the punch list were reviewed. Holding these regular meetings allows the project manager to identify areas that are in danger of falling behind schedule while at the same time providing motivation for staff to adhere to the project schedule.
  • Involve legal counsel early in the process to ensure that the project is moving forward on the right track. The MDT legal staff is involved throughout complex projects. Having legal staff involved in key decision points is beneficial to expediting subsequent legal sufficiency review.
  • Review the environmental document concurrently. Throughout the development of the Paseo Bridge project, MoDOT and FHWA were in constant communication. MoDOT did not wait until the document was put together before it was shown to FHWA; instead it utilized a concurrent review process.
  • Conduct internal review of the environmental document in a collaborative process. For its Mountain View Corridor project UDOT streamlined the internal review process by having all reviewers sitting down together to review and discuss the document. All reviewers were asked to come to the review meeting with prepared comments, and during the meetings staff identified the major topics to address in each chapter, shared and discussed their comments, identified a solution, and subsequently made the changes to the EIS document. While the review meetings were lengthy, the face-to-face process meant that each issue was only discussed once instead of the typical back and forth of emails that result when reviews are done individually.


Demonstrated agency commitment to priority projects and project schedules provides the impetus for moving projects forward in a timely manner. Establishing consistency in how the environmental review process is managed and in the quality of information provided helps to build trust and bolster a SDOT's credibility with agencies and the public.

Tools and techniques to demonstrate commitment to the environmental review process include:
  • Secure executive support for a project to help identify the project as a priority. Many of the projects that experienced a streamlined environmental review process, including Maryland's ICC, Missouri's Paseo Bridge, and Montana's US-2 project, were identified by agency and government leadership as priority projects. This commitment from leadership can serve as a motivation for all stakeholders to participate in the process and agree to work together. In addition, prioritizing projects leads to a better utilization of staff time, both within the SDOT and in the resource agencies. When resource agencies understand that a particular project is a priority, they can plan their work loads accordingly.
  • For high priority projects, assign the project as the project manager's sole responsibility. For both the Paseo Bridge and the ICC projects, the project was the project manager's sole responsibility. This allowed the project manager to dedicate 100 percent of his efforts to keeping the project on schedule.
  • Establish a schedule and commit to following it. The MDT coordinated with Federal and State agencies in developing the project schedule and agreed to provide the agencies with a "heads up" on when they would be sending a document over for review and comment. In order to ensure adherence to the schedule, SHA built a dispute resolution process into the schedule to allow the project to stay on track even if issues were to arise.
  • Conduct a gap analysis for projects where studies were conducted prior to the current environmental review process. In the ICC project, studies and information collected during a previous environmental review process were analyzed to determine which data was still valid. Outdated information was updated and new studies were initiated to fill in any remaining gaps. The gap analysis eliminates redundancy of work while ensuring that the best data is being used.
  • Create and maintain a solid Administrative Record.The SDOT should develop a plan on how to organize both electronic and paper files from the very beginning of the environmental review process. This is critical to overcoming any legal challenges that may arise against the validity of the environmental document. For example, SHA anticipated legal action as part of its ICC project, and as a result they involved the Attorney General's Office early to help with the preparation of a strong administrative record right from the beginning. When the agency did get sued as anticipated, the U.S. District Court ruled that because of the thoroughness and transparency of the process, as documented in the Administrative Record, there was no legal or equitable basis to prevent the ICC from being built.
  • Utilize consultants to develop expert project teams. For complex projects choose the best qualified team available from the SDOT's available consultant pool. In the ICC project, SHA utilized an open-ended contracting approach to secure a high-quality project team. From the consultants with whom SHA has an open contract with, the best consultants were chosen to work on specific elements of the project including environmental, engineering and revenue studies. Similarly, the MDT hired experienced NEPA preparers, who were critical in helping to keep the project on track. The consultants knew the right questions that needed to be addressed in the study, and they played a critical role in pushing both internal and external stakeholders to provide input and address issues in a timely manner.
  • Be responsive to public and agency comments. In order to build trust with the public and agencies it is important to not only listen to their comments but to also respond tor their comments as much as possible. A response of "comment noted" is not a sufficient answer. In the Mountain View project, UDOT reviewed each comment, identified a solution, and then shared the response with the resource agencies prior to releasing the draft environmental document.
  • Track environmental commitments and follow through to implementation. In the case of the ICC, innovative approaches to minimization, mitigation and stewardship played major roles in the project. In order to ensure that the environmental commitments were met, multiple project-team members including the engineering contractor, the design-build contractor, and SHA were required to establish an environmental coordinator position. The environmental management team worked with the design-builder's environmental manager to confirm that plans and construction methods were in compliance with stated commitments. In addition, an independent environmental monitor held environmental oversight responsibility. This effort demonstrated, to the public and resource agencies, the commitment of the SHA to the stewardship of the resources affected by the project. By establishing credibility on tracking and fulfilling environmental commitments, a transportation agency can establish its reputation as a trustworthy partner.
A wide variety of resources and programs are available to help the San Joaquin Valley region engage stakeholders and the community.  The following listing contains relevant programs, resources and contacts for technical assistance, financial tools and specialized expertise available locally, as well as at the state and national level. 

·         List here (to be inserted at a later date)