While InterGroup was originally brought into Bluefish to help with the contract, that role quickly expanded to include assistance with both general project management as well as the securing of the proper environmental licences the dam would require. In the case of the latter, Bowman says that early on in the consultation process InterGroup discovered that there was some confusion over which environmental approvals would be required. Some believed that because the new dam was an emergency project, therefore it didn’t require an environmental assessment, that normal licensing procedures could be bypassed.
“Even if you don’t need an environmental assessment, you still need all of your licensing and permits,” said Bowman. “If you apply for them without an environmental assessment you won’t have the evidence to know whether or not you are harming the environment. And without that evidence how do you get a fish permit? How do you get a land permit? How do you testify before the Water Board and give them the answers they need?”
So InterGroup was asked to lead and coordinate the environmental approvals process to make sure that all of the necessary work was done in time. According to Bowman, the biggest challenge was to get everyone – the licensing boards, the consulting engineers and scientists and even the client itself – working together to the same objectives and timeline.
He says that the challenge on projects like this is that people often get focused on their small piece of the puzzle, with no one helping to coordinate all of the work into one cohesive presentation.
“Sometimes people working on large projects don’t realize how many moving parts need to come together to make a project work. It’s common for some of those moving parts to think that they are all that matters and they lose sight of the big picture.”
It is here that InterGroup’s previous involvement with the Bluefish Dam, as well as its understanding of NTPC’s overall operations through its rate work, started to pay dividends. Not only was InterGroup able to draw on its own records, it could also draw on the memories and experience of staff who had worked with NTPC for more than a decade.
“When you are going through these regulatory processes there is a lot of history involved and often times with some of these clients we find that we have a better institutional memory for them than their own staff because we’ve been around longer; we don’t have the same turnover of staff.”
“In the case of Bluefish we knew the history of the dam, the business case for making the purchase and the environmental work that was done in support of that decision. A lot of times the easiest way to get yourself tripped up in some of these regulatory proceedings is to present information not consistent with what you previously said.”
Dan Roberts agrees that InterGroup’s greatest contribution to NTPC on Bluefish was in project management and the environmental side.