Infrastructure projects typically involve a complex web of stakeholders, regulations, and funding parameters that can pose significant challenges. However, you can pave the way for project success by establishing open lines of communication and proactively collaborating with regulatory agencies.
The coordination of multiple agencies, each with jurisdiction or oversight over various aspects, is necessary for project success. You may find that the number of agencies and vested parties involved grows as you plan and execute a project. These agencies may include local, state, and federal entities, such as those overseeing environmental protection, transportation, public health, and economic development, to name a few. Projects of all types and sizes, with varying levels of agency involvement, can benefit greatly from proactive agency coordination.
While juggling these complexities may seem daunting, the effort is worthwhile, as effective agency coordination often enhances project outcomes by leveraging expertise and resources.
“Consider regulatory agency staff part of your project team, working to protect public health and the environment, alleviate liability concerns, and avoid project delays.” - Abby Reichling
To achieve seamless communication, collaboration, and problem-solving among multiple organizations, here are four actionable steps that can help ensure project success:
1. Reach out early
Early in the project planning and design phase, introduce yourself and your project stakeholders to the agency – either during an in-person meeting, conference call, or even via email. Project sponsors should provide clear and concise information about the project objectives, scope, schedule, budget, impacts, benefits, and risks. They should also be prepared to answer questions and address comments from agency staff. These steps help:
- Identify the scope and requirements of the project and the applicable regulatory frameworks
- Establish rapport and trust with agency staff and foster a collaborative mindset
- Identify potential issues or concerns and address them proactively
- Solicit feedback and input from agencies on project alternatives and design features
- Align expectations and timelines among all parties
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2. Establish a relationship
As you move through the required regulatory processes, there are likely going to be points along the way where you will need consensus or guidance from regulators. Having an established relationship will strengthen your ability to collaboratively discuss the project’s goals and determine a solution that benefits all parties. Building a strong relationship can:
- Enhance communication and information sharing among all parties
- Facilitate problem-solving and decision-making processes
- Promote flexibility and adaptability to changing circumstances
- Foster a sense of ownership and accountability for project outcomes
- Increase trust and confidence among all parties
Creating a successful relationship requires regular and consistent communication, respect, transparency, honesty, and professionalism. Project sponsors should maintain open lines of communication with agency staff throughout the project lifecycle, providing updates on project progress, challenges, changes, and achievements. They should also acknowledge and appreciate the contributions and efforts of agency staff, as well as address any issues or conflicts in a timely and constructive manner.
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3. Ask for guidance
Agency staff have valuable knowledge and experience in their respective fields and can provide useful insights and advice on various aspects of infrastructure projects. Seeking guidance from agency staff can be done through formal or informal channels, such as requests for information, consultations, workshops, trainings, site visits, or peer reviews. It’s important to not only be proactive in seeking guidance but also be receptive to the feedback and guidance you receive. This input leads to:
- Learning about the best practices and lessons learned from previous or similar projects
- Identifying potential funding sources or opportunities
- Accessing additional technical assistance or resources
- Complying with regulatory requirements and standards
- Optimizing project design and performance
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4. Know your end goal
Coordinating with the agency upfront and clearly defining the project’s purpose and overall vision will help keep everyone moving in the same direction. Project sponsors should have a clear understanding of the purpose and objectives of the project, as well as the desired outcomes and impacts. Having a clearly defined vision helps to:
- Communicate effectively with agency staff about the project vision and expectations
- Align project activities and deliverables with the project goals and objectives
- Measure project performance and progress against the project outcomes and impacts
- Demonstrate project value and benefits to agency staff and other stakeholders
- Celebrate project achievements and successes
Need guidance for your project?
Our team of experienced planners, funding experts, scientists, and engineers is dedicated to guiding you through the complexities of regulatory processes. Contact us today for personalized assistance tailored to your project's unique needs and challenges.
About the Experts
Abby Reichling, PE*, is a senior environmental engineer with over a decade of expertise in brownfield redevelopment, regulatory compliance, and grant funding. Notably, she has a strong background in agency coordination, showcasing an impressive track record of securing EPA grants and guiding clients through site investigations, groundwater and soil remediation, and environmental regulatory compliance.
*Professional Engineer in WI
Natalie White is a seasoned professional wetland scientist and Minnesota-certified wetland professional. With her extensive background in wetland permitting, National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) environmental review wetland plant ecology, and wetland restoration and mitigation projects, Natalie plays a crucial role in fostering collaboration with various agencies. Her expertise extends to threatened and endangered species surveys, development of conservation management plans, and wetland mitigation.