The successful implementation of large-scale Capital Improvement Program (CIP) projects is typically the result of a well-planned, highly orchestrated effort between the client, designer, contractor, regulatory agencies and other project stakeholders such as community leaders and adjacent property owners. All of these partners must work together to achieve the objectives of the project within the allowances of safety, external liability, permit conditions, and cost. In recent years elements of environmental compliance, both in design and construction, have become critical path items on the road to success of large-scale CIP programs. Those entities that adequately plan for work in and around sensitive environmental features will find an easier process when it comes time to the permitting stage of a project.
While wholesale avoidance of impacts to wetlands, streams and other sensitive habitats is typically preferable, there are times when these resources can stand in the way of meeting certain project-driven objectives (namely safety and ensuring adequate public convenience). In these instances, a consultant that is well versed in local, state and federal permit processes can help to accurately map resources and recommend alternatives or potential opportunities for mitigation, effectively shaving months and sometimes years off of a project timeline. Successfully navigating the myriad permits and other approvals in a timely fashion can save millions of dollars in project cost and can help the general public see the ultimate benefit of the project all that much sooner. During construction, environmental personnel can serve to keep the project on track by ensuring compliance with all applicable regulations and permit conditions and can quickly get a project back underway if/when an environmental issue arises. In short, considering environmental elements in all project phases is not just a task that our government, municipal, industrial, contractor, and private clients have to complete, but it is something that they want to do.
Construction engineering and inspection services have evolved in recent years to include not only environmental inspectors but also designated specialists as part of the construction team. While the contractor may have the legal responsibility to ensure compliance with all permits and environmental commitments, an inspector who is knowledgeable in areas of wetlands and waterways, forests/specimen trees, critical areas, stream closure periods, NPDES stormwater discharge permits, stormwater design, erosion and sediment control, and spill prevention protocols can save valuable time and money by helping to avoid permit violations or scenarios that would lead to stop work orders. A designated specialist’s sole focus is to support the contractor or client in the successful implementation of the project’s environmental elements (stream restoration, wetland grading, tree clearing/planting).