When making decisions about construction activities, NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) compliance is an integral part of the process. NEPA compliance requires public input on a scale based on how controversial the action may be. Rocky Mountain National Park staff often use a process called Choosing By Advantages as another component of the decision-making activity. Choosing By Advantages is a process that forces participants to consider and document the advantages of all options, as well as the costs. The goal of the process is to balance advantages against the costs and find the option that provides the best balance between the two. Another feature of this process is that it identifies the next best option, the third best option, and so forth. Thus, if for some reason the best option is simply too expensive, or unacceptable for some other reason, the process does not have to be repeated to identify the fall-back position.
For example, park staff evaluated the various advantages involved in the last phase of the Bear Lake Road Reconstruction. A site visit familiarized participants with the area in question, and the potential impacts of all the options. Participants represented a wide variety of backgrounds and responsibilities, from road engineers, to natural resource managers, to water quality experts, to ensure that all important considerations were included. Some of the considerations included protecting wetlands, building a road that could be cleared of snow easily and safely, protecting fish, assuring the components of the road were durable, minimizing maintenance costs, protecting water quality for a municipal water supply downstream, assuring a good visitor experience while driving the road, and finding a solution that will best allow revegetation of any disturbed areas so the road corridor itself will return to as natural a state as possible as rapidly as possible.
Participants in the Bear Lake Road Choosing By Advantages meeting were able to identify the best value options for the final decision-makers. Through this and other efforts, Rocky Mountain National Park staff continue to strive to serve the public, provide the best value for dollars spent, and protect the resources of this special place.