Once it is determined that the Office will engage in consultation with the NHC for the Action, the Office needs to prepare for this process and begin the development of a Consultation Plan. There is no “one size fits all” for consultation planning as the level of depth and detail are dependent upon the scope of the Action. However, there are common principles that all planning activities should consider:
- Goal/Purpose – Given the scope of the Action and statutory or policy context under which consultation is to be conducted, it is important to determine the goals or purposes for the consultation. For example, is consultation on the Action to:
- Provide information to the NHC about the Action and respond to questions;
- Engage in a dialogue to exchange ideas or solutions about the Action;
- Solicit and receive comments concerning the Action; or
- All of the above?
These types of goals or purposes are a key factor in guiding the appropriate mode and forum of consultation with the NHC.
- Mode or Forum – In general, there are three modes of consultation: in-person or face-to-face; e-remote such as teleconferences, video calls, or webinars; and written, either through hard copy or electronic submissions (email or FAX). Each mode of consultation has its strengths and limitations, and it will be incumbent on the Office to determine which mode is most appropriate given the goals and purpose of the consultation. In order to include participants who have connectivity or mobility issues or lack transportation, consider making hard copies of background information available by mail upon request or at a local library or government office and always provide a means by which the NHC may physically submit written input.
- Budget – In deciding on the most effective mode of consultation, another consideration for the Office (as with any government agency) is the available budget for the Action. The cost of consultation, especially if it involves in-person meetings, can be substantial in Hawaiʻi. Inter-island travel, lodging, facility rental and other expenses require thoughtful consideration given the Office’s annual budget and the scope of the Action. In some instances, while in-person meetings may be most desired by the NHC, budgetary constraints may dictate that meetings be conducted through e-remote or written means.
- Assemble a Team – Inasmuch as consultation is about communication and dialogue, another important consideration for the Office is the identification of personnel to conduct consultation and their respective roles in the process. Having a defined team with assigned roles allows the Office to meaningfully consult with the NHC. Team members can also be drawn as needed from the Department or other federal government agencies. When appropriate, outside consultants and NHC members may also be designated as Team members.
- Scope – The scope of the Action will largely guide the consultation process. Actions that are small or limited in scope and guided by policy may only require a single consultation in the form of soliciting written comments. Complex or controversial Actions that are part of a regulatory process (e.g., NEPA, NHPA, etc.) are much more structured and procedural. Consultation for Actions that involve new or amended Federal rulemaking are guided by the content and complexity of the proposed rule. The Office will need to determine the most appropriate mode and number of consultation meetings that align with the Action and available budget. In this planning effort, the Office will need to consider the geographic locations for any in-person meetings, and their respective ease of access and seating capacity, support equipment, etc. For e-remote meetings it is important to consider the call-in or access capacity of any teleconference or videoconference system.
- NHO and HBA Engagement – Another consideration in consultation planning is to engage an NHO or HBA for assistance. Such organizations and associations often have place-specific knowledge and long-standing relationships within the NHC and have an interest in the Action. Further, for in-person consultations, NHOs and HBAs may have facilities or other support services that can be provided to the Office to assist in consultation. Depending on the scope of the Action and purpose of the consultation, early outreach and engagement with such NHOs or HBAs can benefit the Office.
- Information for the NHC – To assist the Office in consultation (regardless of the mode), it is vital to provide NHC participants with sufficient information through which they can not only understand the scope and effect of the Action, but more importantly, provide the Office with meaningful comments that the Office can consider in its deliberation and decision-making. Information that will be helpful to the NHC in consultation can include, but is not limited to: FAQs, maps, graphics, prior studies or research, and regulations or policies concerning the Action. In general, more information provided to the NHC is better and demonstrates transparency of the Office. For some Actions, establishing a specific page on the Office’s website may be a convenient means of providing information and updates to the NHC.
- Report Out – In addition to providing the NHC information about the scope of the Action, it is also important to share with the NHC how their comments will be used and reported by the Office, and how they will inform decision-making on the Action. Additional details are provided in Steps 6 and 7 below.
As the Office considers the above-mentioned planning elements, the Office will benefit from documenting its analysis, decisions, and supporting rationale in a Consultation Plan for the Action. Again, the depth and detail of the Consultation Plan should be commensurate with the scope of the Action and the purposes and goals of consultation. At a minimum, a Consultation Plan should include:
- The basis and rationale for consultation;
- A description of how NHC input will be used and reported for the Action;
- An agenda/outline of the consultation meetings; and
- The mode, location(s), and schedule of consultation meeting(s) with key milestones.
 “NEPA” means the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, 42 U.S.C. §§4321 et seq. NEPA’s basic purpose is to assure that all branches of the Federal government give proper consideration to the environment prior to undertaking any major Federal action that significantly affects the environment.