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Improved projects through informed decision making

Steve Eckler,

Decision making is a process that requires information. Informed decision making requires information relative to several priorities, which vary depending on the proposed action. The need to understand the outcomes of our decisions promotes an information-based, decision-making process that, in the engineering realm, often considers and balances outcomes relative to economics, sustainability, human health, and the environment.

The State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) is a New York State regulatory-based tool aimed at understanding the environmental consequences of our actions, which are ultimately balanced with information relative to the pros and cons of other pertinent considerations. While the establishment of the SEQRA process was not intended to replace agency-based discretionary and jurisdictional decision making, it is a valuable procedure that can provide relevant information to support a hard-look evaluation of how our proposed actions could impact the environment, allowing for timely and appropriate project change and/or mitigation to eliminate or minimize those impacts. 

Case in point, OBG is coordinating the SEQRA-required review of the Mohawk Valley Health System’s (MVHS) proposed Integrated Health Campus in Utica, New York. Advancement of the project requires discretionary decision making by state and local agencies, which will require information to understand the potential environmental and socio-economic implications of their decisions. Information compiled and generated through this process is also beneficial to MVHS (the project sponsor), as it moves forward to implement a project, which balances healthcare objectives and economic considerations with a project design that minimizes its effects on the environment.

OBG is coordinating efforts with MVHS, the City of Utica Planning Board (as SEQRA Lead Agency) and other involved and interested agencies to provide for a coordinated process focused on providing the hard-look review of potential impacts and mitigation. A public scoping process was recently completed that allowed for community and agency input on topics to be included in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement. OBG is currently compiling information and performing impact assessments relative to topics identified in the scoping process, including potential impacts on the following resources: land, surface and groundwater, air, flora/fauna, traffic, cultural resources, growth-inducing aspects, solid waste management, and infrastructure.

Learn more about this project at the City of Utica’s project website. 

As is the case with most SEQRA-reviewed projects, the resulting project, which incorporates modifications and mitigation identified through the transparent process, will be one that minimizes impacts on the environment and that can be balanced with other MVHS priorities to become a positive transformative asset to the community for many years to come.

Watch as Steve Eckler, OBG’s SEQRA and economic development expert, discusses the importance of information gathering in the SEQRA process with WUTR-TV in Utica, New York.