In this episode of “5 Questions with…” we’re talking to Tim Kroeker, Environmental Planner with Berg Oliver. Tim has been described as “a very witty and caring guy who always gives 110%, whether it involves work, family, or friendship.”
What one piece of advice would you give to a new NEPA Pro today?
Embrace change. NEPA was a pretty stable, fairly consistent machine for a very long time. You will find that things are now evolving almost on a daily basis. Learn everything you can about key subjects like indirect and cumulative impacts analysis, LEP, EJ, and permitting. Those are the emerging big issues. At the same time, get conversant with cultural resources and things like T, E, and SOC species. You can’t specialize, but you need to find your niche. More and more companies want to develop aspects of expertise that they can trust will be done properly, but they also want people who are ably cross-trained.
What is one improvement that you hope to see in NEPA documents in the near future?
This is a very sensitive topic, and one that is loaded with a lot of vested interests. Anything I’d want to see changed in one way, at least one person would want kept the same or changed the other way. That said, I’d like to see more meaningful data. For example, when we do EJ to the block level we are missing out on the elderly, single moms, poverty, and disabled. I once designed a low-income housing project and gave it to female architect friend of mine who was a single mom, and I asked her to critique it. I really should have had her in on the ground floor, because by the time I got done with her revisions it was a whole different complex. For example, we don’t consider the impacts on wheelchair bound folks and moms who need to get three kids (one is a stroller) to the bus stop when we temporarily relocate it.
What is the most exciting development in NEPA work today?
I think the most exciting thing is that the work is becoming more complex. In the old days you could write an entire EA without talking to a single resident or ever leaving your office. Now I find that I need to visit my sites almost on a weekly basis. I’ve been working on a project for a couple years and not so long ago I learned something about the changing neighborhood I’d never known before. New neighbors move in and things that were constant for the whole project change over night.
How do you keep up with trends and developments in NEPA and environmental documents?
I think it’s a mindset. I think a lot of people feel that once they have their requisite hours of whatever they can settle into their jobs. Sharks die if they stop moving. You need to look for places that you can actively (not academically) expand your knowledge base. Read, write, and speak.
What is biggest challenge facing NEPA pros in the coming years?
Pretty much everything I’ve said so far. But I think you’ll find that if you wait for the coming years you’re in for a big shock. New massive challenges are coming almost daily. Expect more stringent review from the Corps. State, federal, and local budgets are shrinking so expect them to want more for less. The recession won’t last forever and the developers will be back. Expect a lot of work from those folks, so learn how to fight and which fights are worth stocking up on bandages, extra blood, and gauze.