Providing program management for the Oregon Department of Transportation's
OTIA III State Bridge Delivery Program
 

PARTNER CENTRAL - ENVIRONMENTAL

Performance Standards Overview

Performance Standards at a Glance

  • Performance standards specify conditions that must be met by OTIA III program activities.
  • Performance standards are goal-oriented. They specify allowable levels of environmental effect, not necessarily how activities must be performed.
  • Meeting the relevant performance standards ensures regulatory compliance with programmatic permits.
  • Performance standards do not cover certain types of permits.
  • Expert guidance from environmental professionals will be required to interpret and apply performance standards.

What are performance standards?

Performance standards are conditions that must be met by each project activity in the OTIA III State Bridge Delivery Program. Collectively, they address all phases of the OTIA III program: program administration, bridge design, bridge construction, and post-construction mitigation.

Performance standards define the acceptable level of effect that a project activity may have upon the environment, thereby limiting or avoiding impacts to the environment through the use of proper design, construction, and construction-related practices. To meet the goals of the performance standards, projects will be restricted to the terms and conditions specified in the relevant performance standards unless authorized by the ODOT Bridge Delivery Unit (BDU) and Oregon Bridge Delivery Partners (OBDP).

Performance standards are goal-oriented, and offer flexibility in implementing context-sensitive environmental protection measures. Rather than prescribe how an activity must be done, performance standards set the thresholds for that activity's effects, leaving room for flexibility and creativity in how the standards are met. For example:

  • Fluvial. At the highest level, this performance standard states: "Allow normative physical processes within the stream-floodplain corridor." The standard then outlines high-level requirements, including criteria for the design and location of bridge support structures. The design team will use these requirements, along with conditions at the specific site, to determine optimum span lengths and bridge support locations.
  • Habitat Avoidance. The streambank protection subsection of this performance standard limits actions to those "not expected to have long-term adverse effects on aquatic habitats." It then lists a variety of approved protection techniques, leaving project personnel to choose the most effective and economical measures for a particular site.

Why are performance standards important?

Performance standards constitute the core of the OTIA III and the environmental stewardship approach. Pursuing individual permits for each bridge project would extend the timeline for the bridge program unacceptably. Performance standards integrate and coordinate environmental protection, permitting, and enhancements for multiple regulatory agencies, thereby minimizing individual consultations and greatly decreasing the duration of the bridge permitting process.

Performance standards provide a new way to ensure that environmental regulatory requirements are met. It is critical that project personnel read and understand all performance standards before proceeding with bridge design or construction activities. Design teams will need to work with environmental professionals to understand and apply the performance standards.

What regulatory requirements are addressed by the performance standards?

Regulatory processes satisfied by the performance standards include:

  • National Environmental Policy Act
  • Federal Endangered Species Act
  • Oregon State Endangered Species Act (ODFW)
  • Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act
  • Migratory Bird Treaty Act
  • Bald Eagle Protection Act
  • Marine Mammal Protection Act
  • Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act
  • Clean Water Act § 404 (wetlands)
  • Clean Water Act § 401 (water quality)
  • Clean Water Act § 402 (MS4 & 1200 - CA: stormwater runoff)
  • Coastal Zone Management Act
  • Oregon Removal / Fill Law
  • Wild and Scenic Rivers Act
  • For more information see Guide to Permitting Requirements.

Do performance standards cover all permitting requirements? 

No. Performance standards address most state and federal regulatory requirements. However, some requirements must be addressed by other means.

  • Certain agency requirements are not covered under the programmatic permits.
  • Cultural resources (including historic built environment and archaeological resources): due to the nature of the resource, archaeological resources must be assessed on a case-by-case basis and require individual SHPO concurrence. Historic Bridges have been assessed programmatically, and a final MOA is currently being reviewed; however a review of any other historic built environment resources will also need to be included in individual SHPO submissions. Background survey data is available for all bridge projects, streamlining the initial start-up and review.
  • Local permits, such as those for land use or noise variances, may need to be obtained. The baseline reports and on-line data give useful background information and provide a starting point for determining local permitting requirements. With performance standards in place that address state and federal requirements, local permits may be on the critical path for scheduling bridge activities. Project personnel should investigate and apply for any required local permits, approvals, and variances as early as possible.
  • In some cases, it may not be possible or practical to meet all performance standards at a given site. In such cases, the project team will need to obtain individual permits, approvals, or variances. Permits and approvals addressed by those performance standards that are met for this site are still assured, however, and disruptions to the permitting process are minimized.

How were performance standards developed?

To write the performance standards, a multi-disciplinary team representing key federal and state agencies was assembled; this team included planners, scientists, engineers, and regulatory specialists. Their goal was to create well-integrated and consistent terms and conditions that would meet each participating agency's regulatory requirements. Topics from fluvial processes to program recycling goals were considered. Existing standards that were adequate to the OTIA III program needs and that provide sufficient resource protection were retained. Many existing standards that were incorporated into the OTIA III performance standards originated from SLOPES II, the US Army Corp of Engineers most recent programmatic Biological Opinion.

The result was a set of clear, consistent resource protection directives for contractors working on OTIA III bridge projects, and an improved ability to monitor and ensure regulatory compliance. Currently, most of these performance standards are in final or near-final form. The BDU and OBDP are working to finalize all environmental performance standards. Check the performance standards periodically for updated information.

How are performance standards applied?

Performance standards are intended to ensure consistent application and enforcement of environmental protections by defining environmental compliance requirements at the outset of the design process. It is vital that all performance standards be carefully read and understood prior to bridge design or construction.

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