• 2023 Section 404/NEPA Merger Process

    ​The Merger Management Team (MMT - made up of NCDOT, USACE, NCDWR and FHWA staff) has finalized the update to the Section 404/NEPA Merger Process. The MOU, guidance documents, and training materials are included on this page. Please refer to th​e Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) below for an overview.​

    ​We recommend that everyone involved in the Merger Process review the training on Merger Basics and Combining Merger Meetings, at a minimum. If you are new to the Merger Process, you will benefit from reviewing all training modules. For those experienced in Merger, you will also want to review the concurrence point modules or other resources as you are preparing for upcoming concurrence points on your respective projects.


    The last update to the Section 404/NEPA Merger Guidance was in 2012. Since that time, there have been many changes to the Department’s program and to resource agency mandates. Many agencies and NCDOT have had staff turnover since the last Merger Process Training. In addition, there has been a necessary increase in virtual Merger meetings.

    The updated agreement simplifies the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), provides a framework that allows the Merger Management Team (MMT) to more easily update guidance documents, and allows for a more flexible, project-specific approach to be utilized through the Merger Process. Details of the updates are provided below.

    To update the agreement, NCDOT conducted a survey of agencies, NCDOT staff, and consultants to determine what was working with Merger and what could be improved. Subsequent to the survey, focus groups were held with Merger stakeholders to further test potential merger refinements. Based on this information, a draft MOU was developed with input and approval of the MMT. For final MOU approval, guidance documents and Merger training materials were submitted and approved.

    • NCDOT developed an internal Merger Pre-screening process for all projects
    • A Merger Plan will be developed for every project. All current projects that have not yet reached Concurrence Point 3 (Least Environmentally Damaging Practicable Alternative) should develop a Merger Plan Prior to their next concurrence point. Merger Plans lay out the Merger Team, meeting format, and tentative Concurrence Point schedule that will be updated through project development
    • Additional flexibility has been added to determine meeting format
    • The Merger Team will document Avoidance and Minimization at each step of the Merger Process
    • If the Merger Public Involvement Guidance is followed, there is no need to develop a Merger Application
    • A Commitments Dashboard has been added to allow increased commitment visibility and accountability from project development through construction.

    ​It is anticipated that all Merger Projects implement the new process by June 30, 2023. Please note the following Merger Process changes:

    • There is now an internal NCDOT Merger Pre-screening process that should be applied to all NCDOT projects.
    • Every project will have a Merger Plan. Projects currently in the Merger Process will need to develop a Merger Plan that shows completed concurrence points and the plan to move forward.
    • There is a new public involvement process for Merger Projects that meets USACE needs for permitting – this replaces the Merger Permit Application.
    • Merger Training modules are available and NCDOT Project Managers are encouraged to use them.
    • Merger packet templates and supporting information examples are available and NCDOT Project Managers are expected to use them.

    This guidance is specific to the Section 404/NEPA Merger Process. It does not take the place of any needed or required coordination for other regulatory compliance (e.g. effects determinations under Section 106 of NHPA). As such:

    • NCDOT maintains its responsibility to ensure projects are permittable.
    • Many Merger Projects have project-specific needs that may not be covered in this training. The NCDOT Project Manager should work with the MMT to ensure agencies are provided with any required information to achieve concurrence.
    • If agency-specific issues arise, proactive coordination with that agency should take place.
    • Agency representatives maintain their responsibility to ensure that all of their statutory and regulatory requirements are met.
    • Project designs through CP 4C should be considered preliminary and subject to change. It is the responsibility of the NCDOT Project Manager to alert the Merger Team Chair if any proposed design change negatively impacts a previously agreed upon avoidance and minimization measure or project commitment. Their input will be shared with the Merger Team to determine if a design change requires revisiting a previously agreed upon concurrence point.
    • If a project is placed into Merger after initially being screened out, all concurrence points must be completed.
    • NCDOT has developed multiple trainings on NEPA, project management, and other technical requirements which should be used to ensure compliance with those requirements.

    The formal Merger Process is complete after comments on CP 4C have been addressed. All projects, including those in Merger, must comply with all agreed upon avoidance and minimization measures, commitments, and regulatory requirements through permitting, construction, and operations and maintenance.

    ​Refer to the Table of Contents at right to review specific parts of the MOU, guidance documents, and training materials. While it is not anticipated that there​ will be frequent updates of this guidance, practitioners should review this webpage prior to developing Merger Packets to ensure you are following the most current guidance. Those who wish to be informed when materials are updated can subscribe to email updates by registering at the following link.

  • Merger Tips

    • ​To have a defined process to follow when addressingcompeting resources​
    • To build consensus and confidence in our decision-making with our stakeholders and the public
    • ​​To document agency concurrence at each step of project development, which helps us more easily acquire permits

    • Do email EPU@ncd​ot.gov​​ to request a concurrence point at least 6-8 weeks​ in advance of you preferred date
    • Do coordinate with EPU and your Merger Team Leads (FHWA, Corps, NCDWR) at least 4 weeks before a concurrence point, get tyheir buy-in and respond to any comments (pre-meetings are very helpful!)
    • Do keep concurrence packets concise and meaningful
    • Do provide an agenda and invitee list to EPU ​3 weeks prior to the anticipated concurrence date to help ensure your meeting is scheduled, agencies receive adequate notice, and security is aware of attendees)
    • Do ensure your concurrence materials are posted to the NCDOT website at least 2 full weeks prior
    • Do be flexible - your concurrence may get moved on the calendar to accomodate agency schedules
    • Do clearly state the project funding source, the lead federal agency, and the anticipated permits to be applied for (NWP, GP31, IP, CAMA, etc.) 
    • Do be clear what level of design and which assumptions the concurrence materials are based upon
    • Do reiterate action items and unresolved issues at the end of any Merger meeting
    • Do document each concurrence meeting with thorough meeting minutes that are circulated to all attendees for input​

    • Don't assume the agencies remember the last meeting or discussion ​you had about your project, and work with your PM and EPU to help refresh the Team (especially after long gaps)
    • Don't arbitrarily decide that your project is or is not in Merger - work with your lead agency(s) and EPU staff to make this determination
    • Don't surprise the Team by pushing for unanticipated decisions
    • Don't add any new information​ once the concurrence materials are posted 2 weeks prior to the anticipated concurrence
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