Case Study

DC Water Anacostia Rivers Project Public Participation Program

Client: Hatch Mott MacDonald - CDM Joint Venture (2005-2006);
Greeley Hansen - Environmental Assessment (2006-2008)

Situation

DC Water had conducted an ongoing Public Participation Program as part of the development of the Long Term Control Plan and required its expansion in support of the Anacostia Rivers Project (ARP) Facility Plan to refine the locations and alignments of proposed ARP facilities. Subsequent to the completion of the Facility Plan, DC Water determined the need for continued public participation in support of an Environmental Assessment (EA), including facilitating a Public Meeting to solicit public comment on the Draft EA. The increased public participation for both the Facility Plan and the EA was required to foster public awareness and to facilitate citizen and stakeholder involvement in the decision‐making process to help develop the ARPs.

Solution

DPC worked in close concert with DC Water and the Facility Plan consultant team to create and implement a comprehensive communications and outreach plan to more directly inform interested and impacted citizens about the overall tunnel project and ensure that residents and elected officials were made aware, prior to its commencement, of exploratory drilling planned in their communities. DPC led the effort to identify key interested stakeholders as well as impacted residents; conduct targeted outreach to inform all of project processes, construction related issues and benefits as well as solicit input and addresses concerns. We directed the creation of audience specific messaging as well as a variety of project information materials including Frequently Asked Questions and Answers; Informational Sheet Summarizing Work in the Field and a Comment Card. Materials were distributed via electronic newsletters and listservs as well as at numerous meetings and presentations to Ward Councilmembers, Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, community and environmental advocates, and the general public. A Door Hanger Package, which included an introductory letter and informational materials, was delivered to all residents within two blocks of each boring location.

These materials provided background on the work being conducted and helped to update the community on the ARPs and were mailed to District-elected officials. Impacted local Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANC) were notified of DC Water’s plans to complete the soil boring effort prior to initiating further work in each respective community. Additionally, DPC facilitated DC Water informational presentations at regular ANC meetings to ensure residents understood the overall project and the rationale for and benefits of conducting the soil borings. Supplemental meetings were held with community groups and the general public. We also created a communications protocol detailing how the DC Water project‐specific phone number and e‐mail address established would record and respond to community comments or questions. This phone number and e‐mail address was included on all project materials distributed to the public. DPC also worked with DC Water to expand, update and reorganize its project related website content to include information on the Combined Sewer Overflows and the ARPs.

Subsequently, over a two-year period following the completion of the Facility Plan, DPC efforts ensured DC Water and the Environmental Assessment (EA) consultant team were able to take advantage of numerous meetings held by ANCs and local organizations as an opportunity for presentations related to CSOs, sewer separation efforts and the overall ARPs schedule as well as highlight the purpose of the EA. We facilitated a public meeting at Washington Highlands Library to inform the public and stakeholders of the proposed ARP preliminary environmental effects, design status and construction schedule outlined in the Draft EA. To encourage attendance and provide opportunities for the public comments to DC Water, DPC developed and implemented notification tactics including:

  • Advertised the meeting on DC Water and other websites, on local television (Channels 9, 13 and 16), and in six area city-wide and neighborhood based newspapers: the Washington Post, Washington Informer, El Pregonero News, East of the River, Hill Rag, and DC North;
  • Placed project information packets consisting of summaries from the LTCP and Facility Plan, the Consent Decree, Public Meeting fliers, and a Public Meeting informational brochure at eight District libraries;
  • Contacted District ANC leaders to inform them about the meeting and ask them to inform their constituents;
  • E‐mailed public meeting fliers to District and regional agencies and organizations prior to the meeting;
  • Accepted comments via mail, e‐mail, phone, or in person at the public meeting; and
  • Arranged for a CSO Control Facilities Update flier to be enclosed in the bill mailed to the full DC Water customer base. The flier also announced the upcoming Draft EA Public Meeting.

DPC facilitated the logistics of a series of subsequent meetings with ANCs as well as coordinated DC Water’s hosting of a Community Event at the Anacostia Community Museum to discuss the Long Term CSOs as well as other water and sewer infrastructure improvements planned for the surrounding communities.

Prior to release of the Draft EA, DPC facilitated the logistics related to a 30 day public comment period. We coordinated with DC Water and the National Park Service to ensure the Draft EA was available online for public review on both agency websites. Our efforts ensured hard copies were located at 8 public libraries in several Washington, DC neighborhoods and conducted as extensive and comprehensive notification campaign as possible was conducted. Midway through the comment period, as Draft EA public meeting was held to allow attendees to hear information about and give comments on the project in person. We also conducted efforts to advise the public that comments on the document could be submitted online at the DC Water website as well as mailed to DC Water until the end of the 30 day comment period.

Results

The comprehensive public outreach conducted facilitated the completion of soil borings in 5 of the 8 District of Columbia wards, most in densely populated neighborhoods with minimal negative feedback from affected residents and stakeholders. The information collected helped DC Water determine recommended alignments among the alternate option.

In facilitating all logistics for the Draft EA Public Meeting, all DC Water public outreach notification requirements were successfully met and exceeded. Additionally, public and stakeholder input was widely solicited and documented and provided to DC Water for incorporation in the Final EA and ARP design solutions.