Coordination is federal law that requires "federal agencies to resolve policy conflicts with State and local plans, policies, and programs for the purpose of reaching consistency." This means, before any federal activity can proceed, the agency is obligated to meet with local government representatives such as county commissioners, and ensure that whatever activity they are planning must be "consistent" with local land use policies. If not, then the activity must be revised until consistency is reached between policies. Coordination is a "government to government" relationship and these federal laws protect local authority, placing the local government on an equal, not subordinate, position with the federal government. Collaboration, cooperation, consultation, or partnering, words the federal government likes to use to give the appearance of working with local governments, is not Coordination.
Funding for the Hwy 20 road project comes from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). Concerns have already been expressed regarding the lack of engagement with the public and county government on the Targhee Pass road project, including the full Hwy 20 transportation corridor. But under federal law, the FHWA, along with the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD), should have engaged Fremont County in coordination at the very beginning of the project.
While terms such as cooperation and consultation are used, federal law also includes explicit information on Coordination such as with the BLM (43 CFR 1610.3-1, 43 CFR 1610.3-2). The Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) states in 43 US Code 1712, "...to the extent consistent with the laws governing the administration of the public lands, coordinate the land use inventory, planning, and management activities of or for such lands with the land use planning and management programs of...local governments within which the lands are located...", and "...assist in resolving, to the extent practical, inconsistencies between Federal and non-Federal Government plans, and shall provide for meaningful public involvement of State and local government officials, both elected and appointed, in the development of land use programs, land use regulations, and land use decisions for public lands...".
23 CFR 771.111 - Early Coordination, Public Involvement, and Project Development, applies to the FHWA. In section 771.107, the following three definitions apply to the Targhee Pass project:
(b) Action - A highway or transit project proposed for FHWA...funding.
(c) Administration action - The approval by FHWA...of the applicant's request for Federal funds for construction (In our case ITD applied for and received funding from FHWA).
(d) Administration - FHWA...is the designated lead agency for the proposed action (FHWA is the designated lead agency).
Aside from very clear requirements for public involvement, it also states under (h)(v)(A) that a state agency should hold a public hearing and explain, "The project's purpose, need, and consistency with the goals and objectives of any local urban planning." This was never done by ITD, nor did FHWA engage with Fremont County Commissioners for coordination on land use policies to ensure consistency of those plans with the Hwy 20 transportation project.
An example of how coordination was used in transportation is the Trans Texas Corridor transportation project, which was a plan to build a transportation network, or "supercorridor", from Mexico, through the U.S., into Canada. While this project exceeds the size of Targhee Pass, was further into the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirements, and involved significant private property rights, coordination was successfully used to discontinue it.
In the Trans Texas Corridor case NEPA law, 42 USC 4331 (NEPA Section 101) was cited. It partly states, "...it is the continuing responsibility of the Federal Government to use all practicable means, consistent with other essential considerations of national policy, to improve and ‘coordinate’ Federal plans, functions, programs, and resources...". This was not done by the FHWA and five Texas mayors, along with school districts, joined together to "...require the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) to coordinate the project with the Commission." The attorney who worked on this case was Fred Kelly Grant, who recently created the Coordination Institute. The history and an explanation of coordination is on his site.
Mr. Grant recently completed a series of five videos on coordination. Below is Video #1. Video #2, #3, #4, and #5 are each about 15 minutes. These videos give insight into his previous cases and how coordination works.
From the beginning of the studies conducted on the Hwy 20 corridor in Island Park to present, no coordination on the project has occurred between the FHWA and local governments. They too, must start over and ensure this project is consistent with land use policies of Fremont County.
There is some confusion that coordination mandates federal actions must adhere to local government land use policies, that county policies must be integrated into federal actions, or that federal actions must be integrated into county land use policies. That is not what coordination requires. Coordination requires that the federal government "shall" achieve "consistency" between federal actions and local policies.
The Targhee Pass transportation project, in its 5 alternatives, involves land and private property, with the most extensive land changes being proposed by wildlife overpasses. FHWA must come to the table with Fremont County Commissioners on coordination before proceeding any further with the Targhee Pass project.