The Bureau of Environmental Services works to improve the health of our urban watersheds by controlling combined sewer overflows (CSOs), improving Portland’s wastewater collection and treatment system, restoring endangered fish habitat, and managing stormwater runoff to protect rivers and streams.
Our ratepayers support these important water quality investments when they pay sewer bills. Our construction projects have broad impacts on the community. Engaging Portland citizens to actively participate in making decisions about these projects is critical to their success. Our public involvement activities provide opportunities for such active citizen participation.
Citizenship, in its deepest sense, is work, whether paid or unpaid, that has public meaning and lasting public impact. Environmental Services recognizes that citizenship requires skills that are not inherent, such as issue evaluation, strategic thinking, public communication, and conflict resolution. We will provide opportunities for enhancing those skills for community members who want to become involved.
The following information is intended to be a helpful tool for bureau program and project managers and the Portland community.
In a broader context, public involvement helps put the "civil" back in civil service and bring citizens closer to their government. When citizens work together, they begin to see each other outside of the narrow categories of environmentalist, bureaucrat, customer, or neighborhood activist. Public involvement can, in the words of Thomas Jefferson, allow all of us to become "participators in the governance of affairs."
Environmental Services is committed to meaningful public involvement as an essential element of all bureau programs and projects. Public involvement provides opportunities for Portland's citizens to participate in decision-making, take part in stewardship activities, and help build sustainable community partnerships.
Principles For Success To provide consistent, comprehensive public involvement services and management, Environmental Services staff incorporate the following principles into their activities as appropriate:
- Public involvement is an early and integral part of the concept, design, and implementation of programs and projects.
- The decision-making process requires a wide range of opportunities for citizen participation.
- Information about programs and projects, including their potential impacts on the community, will be accurate, timely, and complete.
- Partnerships with community organizations encourage and facilitate public involvement.
- Other city staff and public agencies should be part of the public involvement partnership.
- Opportunities to foster stewardship of the Willamette River and our urban watersheds are important.
- Citizens and community groups may need training in the skills needed for effective public involvement.
- Classes, workshops, and site visits provide opportunities for learning about watershed health.
- The public involvement process requires monitoring and evaluation, and can be modified to adapt to new or changing circumstances.
Public involvement is integral to the success of the bureau's activities. It results in programs and projects that are responsive and acceptable to the community and that meet regulatory or environmental requirements. Public involvement provides the following demonstrated benefits:
- Public issues and concerns are identified and addressed early in the process.
- Conflict is managed and issues are resolved.
- Activities are consistent and coordinated.
- Two-way communication with the community is enhanced.
- Public understanding and support for bureau projects and programs is increased.
- Projects and programs are completed on time and within budget.
- Project and program outcomes are strengthened.
- Citizen knowledge and stewardship of Portland's watersheds are improved.
Environmental Services public involvement staff develop and manage the public involvement elements of all bureau programs and projects by:
- Working with project managers to develop public involvement plans.
- Providing expertise on public involvement methodology and techniques.
- Overseeing implementation of public involvement activities.
- Serving as the liaison between the community and the bureau.
- Coordinating public involvement activities with other agencies.
- Providing facilitation services for internal project and program forums.
Public involvement activities are tailored to the particular circumstances and needs of each program or project. Bureau public involvement staff work with project managers to identify stakeholders, issues, and public involvement goals, designing plans that specify what, how, and when activities will be conducted. Commonly used approaches and techniques include the following:
The bureau develops and distributes printed and electronic materials about the program or project. Public information materials are mailed, emailed, or posted on the Environmental Services website. Informational materials include:
- Project purpose overview.
- Map of the project area and the alignment or construction route.
- Project timeline and scheduled activities.
- The bureau's commitment to mitigate construction impacts and, when possible, provide community enhancements.
- Telephone number and email of primary contact person.
- Announcement of project meetings and activities.
- Feedback form for public to express ideas and concerns, if appropriate.
Presentations to stakeholder groups and open house meetings provide opportunities for citizens to review programs and projects and communicate directly to bureau staff. When possible, meetings are co-sponsored with existing organizations. The information covered in presentations and meetings includes:
- Project or program purpose, overview, and timeline
- Design and construction issues
- Construction routes and traffic plans
- Mitigation measures to address project impacts
- Community concerns and ideas
Site visits help maintain ongoing, face-to-face contact with businesses and residents affected by the project (e.g., along construction routes). The purpose of these visits is to discuss the project and identify and resolve design and construction issues, such as access, parking, construction hours and impacts, and traffic management. Taking community members to the site where the work will be done provides another opportunity to identify and discuss concerns, issues, and public involvement opportunities.
Advisory Committees and Task Groups
Advisory committees help make decisions about policy issues for bureau programs, such as the combined sewer overflow (CSO) and stormwater programs. Task groups provide direct input and guidance for a specific project.
Educational opportunities are free and open to the public, and help broaden the knowledge base of the community about watershed health and stewardship opportunities, the CSO control program, wastewater collection and treatment, and other bureau projects. These opportunities are enhanced if they are co-sponsored with local community organizations. Evaluation As programs and projects progress, especially those that are long term, there are benefits to evaluating public involvement services. Evaluations are specifically designed for particular activities and include surveys, focus groups, and feedback forms.