Due to the 1971 National Environmental Policy Act, each cell site construction process must undergo the NEPA process. To many in the industry—both carriers and tower owners—speed to market is a premium, and the NEPA process presents a hurdle that often slows down site construction.
Emily Kosmalski, a consultant from the consulting engineering firm Terracon, spoke at the 2016 South Wireless Summit yesterday, and offered advice on how this process can run more smoothly.
The standard NEPA process takes roughly 80 to 120 days, Kosmalski said. A hiccup during the NEPA process, though, can add a considerable amount of time.
“I put together a list to counteract the most common NEPA pitfalls,” Kosmalski told the audience:
– Make sure each site document is consistent… “All documents and drawings, everything needs to match,” Kosmalski said. “Access roads, tower height and type, utility easements—all these things have to be the same, and any inconsistency adds time to the NEPA process.
– Conduct a NEPA pre-screening to check for any obvious problem… “This is done to identify any obvious NEPA red flags prior to site section, and this can be done at the beginning of the NEPA process so these things can be taken into account in design.”
– Have your consultant conduct a feasibility study… “If you have a search ring with multiple candidates, have your consultant do a feasibility study and see which one of these candidates might the least impact on your NEPA items.”
– Build relationships with who you work with… “These aren’t just faceless government entities, you’re dealing with people, so use diplomacy and treat them with respect and develop relationships with consulting parties,” Kosmalski said. “If you have a great relationship with these people, they’ll be more inclined to help you out in your time of need.”
– Be creative to avoid potential issues…. “Think outside the box and try to stay ahead of the issues. If you think that there may be an issue with a flood zone, then design the site in a way that steers clear of this area.”
Terracon has more than 3,500 employees in 150 offices across the United States. Last year, it celebrated its 50th anniversary as a company. For more information on Terracon, please visit its website: http://www.terracon.com/