Pinar Balci’s passion for ecosystem sustainability has taken her from the saw grass of the Florida Everglades to the urban streets of New York City. Balci is assistant commissioner for the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Bureau of Environmental Planning and Analysis.
Among its tasks, the Bureau conducts environmental reviews for DEP in accordance with City Environmental Quality Review and State Environmental Quality Review regulations; provides technical assistance for the preservation of natural resources such as wetlands remediation and development of natural landscaping plans; and conducts long-range planning that unearths information on population, employment, resource consumption, and demand/flow. That strategic planning is augmented by forecasting, trend analysis, regulatory review, scientific modeling, and research. Within that framework, Balci specializes in management, coordination, and implementation of water resources and environmental restoration projects. She brings to the table her familiarity with the range of environmental regulations including the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, and associated requirements such as environmental impact statements and environmental and biological assessments. As a contract manager, Balci has served as a client liaison; prepared project plans; conducted multidisciplinary team management and work order development; and engaged in cost and schedule control, problem resolution, report preparation, and QA/QC of technical activities and deliverables. While at the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), she managed its federal and state policy and permitting division, which included a team of 22 engineers, planners, and regulatory staff working on Everglades restoration and capital projects. Balci also worked as the northern Everglades implementation manager, overseeing and coordinating planning, permitting, and capital project activities. Balci serves as a member of the Water Environment and Reuse Foundation board of directors. The foundation conducts research to treat and recover beneficial materials from wastewater, stormwater, and seawater including water, nutrients, energy, and biosolids.
What She Does Day to Day
In her current position, Balci spends her days managing the NYC DEP’s sustainability portfolio of projects, including $1.5 billion green infrastructure implementation to reduce combined sewer overflows in the city and improve water quality, water conservation program and reuse initiatives, integrated stormwater management implementation in separate storm sewer areas of the city, climate resiliency planning, ecosystem restoration, and environmental reviews for infrastructure projects. “I also develop new policies and regulations for a more sustainable, equitable, and resilient city,” she adds.
What Led Her to This Line of Work
Balci says she knew since first grade that she would end up in an environmental field because of her love of nature. She studied biology as an undergrad and then pursued her master’s and doctoral degrees in environmental science, earning a Ph.D. from the University of North Texas. “Utilizing my science background in policy and planning really helped me to think strategically and identify solutions to the environmental challenges we are facing today,” says Balci. After her academic career, Balci went to work for SFWMD as a senior supervising environmental scientist and a section lead and then as a federal and state policy division director. While there, she managed the permitting clearinghouse for all district construction and maintenance activities for the central and south Florida flood control system. She obtained state and federal permits for construction and operation of a variety of restoration projects and had oversight of compliance for previously permitted restoration projects. Balci provided guidance on federal and state policy, environmental and regulatory issues, and association committees and programs. She conducted wetland assessments and permitting and coordinated with state and federal regulatory agencies on the progress of NEPA, threatened and endangered species review, environmental analysis, biological appraisals, and other documentation. Balci also developed work plans in conjunction with the organization’s strategic priorities.
What She Likes Best About Her Work
“I love every day of my work,” Balci says. “I like the challenges and opportunities it provides. I love the creativity and innovation to adapt to changing needs, and most importantly the staff and colleagues I work with.”
Her Greatest Challenge
“Meeting the competing needs and prioritizing to find the most cost-effective approaches with no-regret strategies,” is her biggest challenge, notes Balci.