News: Corps connects with permit applicants
Story by Michelle Helms
PORTLAND, Ore. -- A little more than a year ago the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Portland District Regulatory Branch determined they could better accomplish their public service mission through intentional outreach and education, and that one way to do it was to take a road trip.
“Taking the Regulatory program out to stakeholders is a great way to explain what we do and to help people better understand our program,” said Kevin Moynahan, Portland District Regulatory Branch chief.
After several months of planning, Moynahan, project managers and section chiefs traveled to Medford and Salem, Ore., to spend time with nearly 200 people who need, or will need, Department of Army permits.
A permit is required for any project that involves placing dredge or fill materials in waters of the United States, including wetlands, and for any work in, over or under navigable waters. These projects range from building bridges to installing a culvert to repairing a fishing dock.
The laws outlining the protection of the nation’s aquatic resources can be confusing and Regulatory project managers realize that applying for a permit can be somewhat overwhelming.
“We believe these workshops will help people understand our processes and lead to more complete applications,” said Amanda Dethman, Portland District Regulatory project manager and outreach coordinator.
For the corps, improved applications mean the review process is more effective and efficient, which helps people get their projects built.
Another benefit of the outreach was the opportunity to meet the people the corps serves. Some of the people who attended the workshops have applied for permits in the past, but much of that communication happened over the phone or via e-mail. Presenters and attendees alike expressed their appreciation for the face-to-face contact.
“It was an opportunity to show that we are knowledgeable, professional and caring people,” said James Holm, Portland District Regulatory project manager and workshop presenter.
“I really appreciated the personal connection,” said Juna Hickner, Coastal State-Federal Relations Coordinator, Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development. “I’ve found that those types of connections often lead to stronger professional collaboration.”
The workshops are just one piece of the Portland District Regulatory Branch’s outreach plan. The team also produced a video giving an overview of the corps’ permit application process; they are working with a contractor to put the finishing touches on an online training module; and, based on feedback from workshop attendees, are considering workshops that focus on specific topics, such as mitigation.
Attendees say they appreciate the opportunity to learn more about the corps’ Regulatory program.
“The workshop helped solidify my understanding of all the different factors that go into the corps’ permit determinations,” said Hickner.
“As a natural resource specialist and project manager, it is essential to stay informed on changes to federal and state regulatory programs,” said Ed Emerick, natural resources specialist for the city of Salem.
Dethman says this experience gave her a keen sense of how important it is to set aside time to educate the public about the corps’ permitting program.
“I better understand the value of getting feedback about our programs from the public, particularly in areas where they have lots of questions and concerns, or need guidance on new and changing issues.”
Learn more about the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Portland District Regulatory program at http://www.nwp.usace.army.mil/regulatory/home.asp.