UNITED STATES ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
STREAMLINING COORDINATION PACKAGE
FOR INTERSTATE 69
NATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY ACT DOCUMENTATION
To address the environmental streamlining provisions set forth in the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) agreed to cooperatively set goals and develop a systematic review approach for all EPA Regional Offices involved with the proposed Interstate 69 (I-69). This approach is meant to improve communication and cooperation within EPA and among EPA and other agencies involved with this important national priority project.
This streamlining coordination package represents a comprehensive inter-regional approach related to EPA involvement with the I-69 project. Specifically, the package identifies review and technical criteria upon which EPA will base our review of documentation prepared in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) for the I-69 project. This document has been developed in a coordinated fashion by all three EPA Regional Offices (Regions 4, 5, and 6) involved with I-69 with detailed input from other EPA programs (i.e., air, water, wetlands). Major NEPA topics have been addressed (e.g., purpose and need, alternatives, wetlands impacts/mitigation, and secondary and cumulative impacts).
This coordination package identifies a number of state and federal environmental programs with regulatory requirements which will likely apply to various segments of the I-69 project. The information is intended for use as a general framework that EPA intends to apply across all segments of I-69, yet allows for consideration of segment-specific project development processes or environmental issues into its framework. This information is intended to identify EPA's basic information needs and analytical expectations for NEPA documentation related to I-69.
Purpose and Need
The NEPA document for each Segment of Independent Utility (SIU) should include a summarized version of the National I-69 Purpose and Need documentation along with any information specifically referring to the SIU in question (e.g., route definition, logical termini, etc.). This should include a discussion of logical termini that are specified in the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), as part of the proposed National Corridor 18/I-69, as well as any other legislative mandates that would influence the route definition and the timing of this project. The international trade goals in accordance with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) should be stated. Documentation that identifies how the new interstate would accomplish these goals should be provided.
In order for EPA to fully evaluate the alternatives, the document should identify the basic underlying transportation problems (deficiencies) or needs between the two logical termini for the SIU under consideration. Traditional traffic data or analysis should be presented to substantiate each identified need. For example: if the problem is congestion, then Level of Service (LOS) data should be presented to support this need. In addition, traffic numbers [e.g., LOS, vehicle miles of travel (VMT), vehicle hours of travel (VHT), etc.], if applicable, for existing (current) and future (20 year) forecasts should also be presented.
The traffic analysis should include projected traffic volumes that would utilize the facility from the connecting portions of the proposed I-69. Even though a facility would presumably have independent utility, each segment of the proposed I-69 is envisioned to connect with other segments. The traffic analysis must include an estimation of additional traffic volumes, particularly truck traffic, that would utilize the proposed I-69. This should include traffic considered as "pass-through" (NAFTA-generated or other national traffic) to the study area, as well as traffic that either originates or would ultimately end their destination in the study area. This traffic information should be split out and reported separately.
As a NAFTA highway transporting goods, heavy truck traffic can be expected. Projections for truck traffic using the interstate highway should be consistent from state to state when incorporated in the air quality and noise analysis for each I-69 section, although additional national truck traffic may vary by state. It should also be noted that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has promulgated rulemaking and an associated Environmental Assessment (EA) regarding the safety standards for Mexican trucks traveling along the NAFTA highway. NEPA documents generated for the various sections of I-69 should be consistent with this rule and EA.
If an individual SIU states that there is an economic development need in the Purpose and Need statement, then that need must be credibly substantiated. This might include the use of unemployment figures, poverty figures, income figures as compared to the rest of the State. This data should support the location of the termini for each SIU. The international trade issues germane to the project, assuming they have been defined, should be stated as well.
Any local need identified and substantiated should have measurable objectives that will be used to assess whether an alternative or combination of alternatives would reasonably meet (i.e., solve) the problems or needs identified in the document. The overall purpose and need statement, including these objectives, should be developed with input from cooperating regulatory and resource agencies, as project alternatives, impacts, and impact mitigation are all evaluated in the context of project need.
EPA encourages consideration of a full range of feasible alternatives to accomplish the varied needs related to development of I-69. Generally, we expect that if an EA is prepared, a minimum of one feasible action alternative as well as the No Action Alternative should be considered. A Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) should include a minimum of two feasible action alternatives which should be fully considered, in addition to the No Action Alternative. Other alternatives that should be considered include Transportation System Management/Travel Demand Management alternatives which maximize the efficiency of existing highways or transportation networks. When applicable, a multi-modal alternative that contains a combination of transportation modes (i.e., rail, air, roadway, etc.) should also be considered (especially in metropolitan areas).
The NEPA document should also discuss the status of the adjacent SIUs, including those in other states, and identify and provide an analysis of different alternative termini locations within the Study Area in relation to the termini of the neighboring SIUs. EPA recommends that the Draft EIS should identify a preferred alternative. This minimizes some of the issues associated with rating every action alternative and enables us to provide a thorough review of the environmental issues associated with the preferred alternative. The preferred alternative should avoid or minimize adverse impacts, so that the need for mitigation of impacts will be lessened or eliminated. A critical factor of the analysis of alternatives is the avoidance or minimization of adverse impacts. When alternatives are rejected, a rationale for rejection should be provided. The rationales should include environmental reasons, along with other considerations.
If stimulating economic development is identified as a major/primary need, appropriate alternatives that consist of a combination of transportation modes with other economic development strategies in the study area should be identified and analyzed. The analysis of economic development alternatives must contain an evaluation of the environmental impacts that result from that economic development (see Secondary and Cumulative Impacts section).
Alternatives should include corridors or alignments that utilize existing highway to the maximum extent practicable, even if this includes extending the alignment outside the "green" I-69 representative corridor depicted in Exhibit 2 of the February 7, 2000, I-69 (Corridor 18) Special Environmental Study - Statement of Purpose and Need for Interstate Highway 69. Furthermore, appropriate flexibility should be allowed in siting specific alignments outside the "green" corridor if environmental or other information suggests movement of an alignment outside this area would avoid or minimize environmental effects. The number and type of alternatives that meet the overall purpose and need, as well as the rejection of specific action alternatives, should be developed with input and concurrence from cooperating regulatory and resource agencies in order to streamline review of the NEPA document and expedite permitting requirements in later phases, as appropriate.
The NEPA document should contain a discussion of the transportation air quality regulatory requirements, regional air quality concerns in the project area, and a localized carbon monoxide (CO) analysis. The document should assess existing air quality conditions in terms of National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), Federal Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) increments, and state air quality standards (particularly if they are more stringent than the federal regulations). Any aspects of the project that could adversely affect air quality, in terms of creating new violations of Federal air quality standards, increasing the frequency and severity of existing violations of the standards, or delaying attainment of the standards should be identified. All emissions resulting from the project must be in compliance with applicable air quality regulations, particularly the NAAQS for criteria air pollutants [e.g., ozone, carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, lead and particulate matter (PM)] in designated non-attainment or maintenance areas.
Mesoscale Concerns: Ozone, hydrocarbons, and nitrogen oxides air quality concerns are regional in nature and as such meaningful evaluation on a project-by-project basis is not possible. Therefore, the EIS should include a discussion of regional air quality conditions, depending on the location of the project, as described below:
Non-attainment/Maintenance Areas: If the project is located in a nonattainment or maintenance area, the EIS must document that provisions of 40 CFR Part 93 Subpart A, Conformity to State or Federal Implementation Plans of Transportation Plans, Programs, and Project Development, Funded or Approved Under Title 23 U.S.C. or the Federal Transit Laws, have been satisfied. For example, the project should be included in a Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) and/or Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) that is in conformance with an approved State Implementation Plan (SIP). The relationship of the project to the SIP should be described in the EIS. Specifically, the EIS must show that the project (without significant changes to the scope and/or design) has been included in the LRTP and/or TIP, and that FHWA has issued a conformity determination for the most recent SIP.
Attainment Areas: If the project is not located in a nonattainment or maintenance area, the EIS should make a negative declaration for Section 176(c) of the Clean Air Act. In this case, the provisions of 40 CFR Part 93 Subpart A, Conformity to State or Federal Implementation Plans of Transportation Plans, Programs, and Project Development, Funded or Approved Under Title 23 U.S.C. or the Federal Transit Laws, will not apply.
Microscale (Project-level) Concerns: The primary pollutant that is analyzed at the project stage is carbon monoxide. Therefore, CO emissions must be addressed by a localized hot spot analysis. The locations and level of detail for conducting analyses should be collectively determined by the affected agencies. The requirements of 40 CFR Part 93 Subpart A for carbon monoxide emissions must be satisfied. A localized PM-10 quantitative hot spot analysis will not be required until EPA releases modeling guidance in the Federal Register.
Coordination with state/local/regional air pollution control agencies on air quality planning, air quality modeling, compliance with federal/state air quality standards, the need for air permits, air quality monitoring, and mitigation for adverse impacts should be identified in the NEPA document. The air quality analyses at the regional and local scales should include as modeling inputs the additional traffic volumes that would utilize the I-69 facility from other segments (as described in the purpose and need section above). Parties which will be responsible for implementing air quality mitigation measures should be included in the document.
Construction: It is recommended that all construction equipment be tuned to manufacturer's specifications to reduce air emissions. Open burning should also be minimized/avoided to reduce the emissions of ozone precursors. It is recommended that any necessary open burning be coordinated with the state and/or county regarding permitting needs. The NEPA document should discuss the types and effectiveness of any mitigation measures that will be used to protect air quality (e.g., vapor recovery systems, fumes incinerators, and dust control measures) during construction phase. We recommend water for fugitive dust control during construction, instead of oils and other chemicals.
Example (Segment 9): Shelby County, Tennessee, is currently a maintenance area for both ozone and carbon monoxide. As such, the LRTP must include an air emissions analysis that demonstrates conformity with the SIP. Since Segment 9 of the proposed I-69 traverses Shelby County, it must be included in the LRTP and the corresponding conformity analysis. This analysis and relationship to the LRTP should be identified in the NEPA document.
Interstate construction and operational (highway) noise should be predicted for the no build and each of the build alternatives. State-of-the-art noise modeling should be utilized and consistent methods used by the DOTs of the various states involved. In general, a greater level of consistency in approach, methodology and mitigation of noise impacts is needed for the I-69 project.
Construction Noise: The NEPA document should analyze construction noise attributable to the project. Typical noise levels produced by construction equipment (e.g., trucks, front end loaders, pile drivers, etc.) within 50 feet, which are available in the literature, should be disclosed. The total project construction time (months, years) should also be estimated to assess the magnitude of the construction noise impact. Attempts should also be made to estimate the temporary construction time associated with any one feature along the ROW or section thereof. For example, how long is construction expected to take near any given affected residence or for an average mile of roadway? This information would allow affected residents to approximate their degree of noise disturbance during construction.
Although temporary, construction noise should be reasonably mitigated in the vicinity of residential areas or other noise-sensitive land uses. Under normal circumstances, EPA recommends that construction should not start before 7:00 AM or continue after 7:00 PM during the work week and should be discontinued on Sundays (preferably the whole weekend) and on locally-observed federal and/or state holidays (exceptions could involve nighttime construction in urban areas that would otherwise involve lane closures during daytime peak traffic periods). In addition, the use of "hush houses" should be considered around any stationary equipment to shield noise at its source. EPA recommends that all motorized equipment be properly tuned to the manufacturer's specifications for additional source reduction. All construction equipment should be equipped with noise attenuation devices, such as mufflers and insulated engine housings. Such mitigative methods should be identified in the NEPA document for implementation as part of future construction-related activities.
Highway Noise: Given that I 69 is a national highway under NAFTA, several states will be crossed and consistency in the noise analysis could become an issue. In order to provide consistency within the streamlined NEPA process for the I 69 sections, EPA recommends the following measures:
Definitions of Substantial Noise Increases Pursuant to 23 CFR 772, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) provides the state DOTs discretion in their interpretation of what constitutes a "substantial increase" in noise levels attributable to their highway projects. When predicted traffic noise levels substantially exceed the existing noise level, it is defined as a traffic noise impact which warrants further attention. Some states consider a 10 dBA or greater increase as substantial while other states believe that increases are not substantial until increases are 15 dBA or greater. EPA believes that a 10 dBA or greater increase due to the project is substantial (significant) since a 10 dBA increase is perceived as a doubling of sound by the human ear. For those states that adhere to the 15 dBA or greater threshold, EPA requests that noise analysis also be provided for a 10 14 dBA increment category as well as the 15 dBA or greater increment category.
Consistent Use of Noise Metrics Similar to the states' discretion in defining substantial incremental increases, FHWA allows the use of either the Leq or the L10 metric in the noise analysis. In order to achieve consistency within the noise analysis of this national highway, EPA requests that if the use of L10 is prescribed by state regulation, a noise analysis using Leq should also be provided to supplement the required L10 analysis. However, if all states along the route use L10, then Leq data need not be secondarily provided since consistency would already be achieved.
Consistent Use of Noise Models Modeling should also be consistent for noise analyses along the I 69 NAFTA highway. It is particularly important that the same noise model version be used for both the Draft EIS and Final EIS and among EISs for I 69 sections to the extent possible. For example, use of STAMINA followed by the use of the Traffic Noise Model could create concern regarding model acceptability.
Noise Mitigation: Noise abatement should be considered by FHWA when project noise impacts approach FHWA Noise Abatement Criteria or meet or exceed the existing noise levels by the state thresholds, i.e., incremental increases of 10 dBA or greater (preferred by EPA) or 15 dBA or greater. Forms of noise mitigation include -- but are not limited to -- the construction and use of fabricated noise barriers and vegetated earthen berms (suburban areas). Vegetative screens included as part of highway landscaping can also be useful to visually remove receptors from the project, but have to consist of a substantial width of dense evergreen vegetation to offer any real attenuation. In general, avoiding noise impacts via alignment shifts is frequently the most effective form of "mitigation" (since it avoids or minimizes the need for attenuation) and should therefore be emphasized during the alternative analysis.
Waters of the United States and Aquatic Resources
The EIS should identify and discuss the location, amount, type, and quality of waters of the U.S., including wetlands, in the study area, by whom they were delineated (i.e., U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (COE), contractor, lead agency, etc.), the delineation method(s) used, and impacts to these resources for each action alternative. All discussions of waters of the U.S. should be broken out by rivers/streams and wetlands. Include maps, text, and tables that feature areas occupied by wetlands, aquatic systems, and non-wetland riparian habitat. Specific wetland and other waters of the U.S. requirements are as follows:
NEPA/404 Merger: If waters of the United States may be impacted by activities regulated by Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, EPA strongly recommends that the NEPA document contain a thorough discussion of the proposed project's consistency with Federal Guidelines for specification of disposal sites for dredged or fill materials [the 404(b)(1) Guidelines found at 40 CFR Part 230]. In order to demonstrate compliance with the 404(b)(1) Guidelines, the NEPA document should meet the following criteria to the extent possible:
The proposed action must be the practicable alternative which would have the least adverse impact on the aquatic ecosystem [40 CFR 230.10(a)]. If wetlands would be filled, then the NEPA document should explain why there are no practicable alternatives to locating the project outside jurisdictional wetlands and demonstrate how the project has been designed to minimize harm to existing wetlands.
The proposed action must not cause or contribute to significant degradation of waters of the United States including wetlands and other special aquatic sites [40 CFR 230.10(c)]. Significant degradation includes the loss of fish and wildlife habitat and the loss of other wetland habitat values and functions. Significant degradation also includes cumulative impacts.
The proposed project does not violate state-adopted, EPA-approved water quality standards or jeopardize the continued existence of any species listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act [40 CFR 230.10(b)].
Minimize the number of acres subject to Section 404 jurisdiction that would be permanently lost or degraded due to impacts other than the placement of fill (e.g., the impacts of erosion, sedimentation and runoff of pollutants on wetland habitats; diversion of water from wetland habitats).
Direct, indirect and cumulative impacts to these resources should be fully described.
Avoidance and Minimization: Impacts to wetlands and stream resources should be avoided and minimized to the maximum extent practicable. As described above, feasible alternatives that avoid wetland impacts should be evaluated consistent with the Section 404(b)(1) Guidelines. In addition, further fragmentation of remaining large contiguous undeveloped wetland or riparian areas should also be avoided. Special attention should also be given to avoidance and minimization of impacts in areas assigned special regional, state, or local designation or recognition (i.e. Scenic Rivers, wildlife management areas, etc.).
Characterization: Wetland types should be characterized using the hydrogeomorphic (HGM) classification for wetlands (Brinson 1993) and augmented with vegetation and hydroperiod modifiers, such as those utilized nationally by Cowardin et al. (1979)[Citation information is included in Appendix A below]. Where sufficient documentation exists, wetland types and descriptors should follow regional or local protocol, such as those found in the Tennessee Wetlands Conservation Strategy (GIWC 1998). Stream types should be delineated according to the Rosgen classification of natural rivers (Rosgen 1994, 1996) which is based on the fluvial geomorphic condition of rivers and their valleys.
Where rivers and streams are not adequately evaluated by the wetland functional assessment methodology utilized, impacts to river and stream channels should be evaluated utilizing appropriate local or State conservation plans or strategies (i.e., KDOW 2001) or regional guidelines, such as the North Carolina Stream Mitigation Guidelines (NCWRC 1996, NCDENR 2001) or the Compensatory Stream Mitigation Standard Operating Procedure developed by the COE Savannah District (COESD 2000).
The NEPA document should also identify farmed wetlands (FW) and prior converted wetlands (PCW) in the project study area. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has determined which areas are PCW and which areas are considered FW. If the State DOT, NRCS, or private landowners cannot verify a PCW or FW designation (which happens often since these determinations were made many years ago), then a delineation should be completed based on the current conditions at the site. Mitigation will be required for impacts to farmed wetlands.
Quality: The quality of the wetland resources proposed for impact should be evaluated using a wetland functional assessment methodology. Where the appropriate guidebooks have been developed (e.g., Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee), HGM should be utilized (Ainslie et al. 1999, Smith and Klimas 2000, Wilder and Roberts 1999). Where the appropriate HGM guidebooks have not been developed, equivalent functional assessment methodologies should be utilized.
Quantity: Impacts to wetlands and other waters should be appropriately quantified for each alternative considered in the EIS. For example, the amount of impacts to wetlands should be characterized in terms of acreage, while impacts to stream channels should be characterized in terms of linear feet of stream and stream order. Impacts for each alternative should be compiled to facilitate comparison.
Mitigation: A draft mitigation plan should be developed during the NEPA process to compensate for predicted wetland and stream losses that remain following efforts to avoid and minimize such impacts.
Wetlands: Wetland restoration is EPA's preferred mitigation option for impacts to wetlands. Wetland restoration is normally considered an action that successfully restores all three wetland parameters (hydric soils, hydrophytic vegetation, and wetland hydrology) to an area that was formerly a wetland, but where at least one of the aforementioned parameters has been removed. At a minimum, any restored site must meet the criteria outlined in the 1987 COE wetland delineation manual for a jurisdictional wetland (or the Clean Water Act definition of a water of the U.S.). However, site selection and the specific restoration measures employed should be designed to replace the aquatic ecosystem functions lost or impaired due to the proposed project, and this may entail more than simply the three parameters.
Enhancement is the second preference for mitigation for impacts to wetlands. Enhancement measures must address a suite of functions, as opposed to only a single function, and the enhancement measures themselves must not adversely affect other wetland functions currently performed or capable of being performed by the mitigation site. EPA does not view the conversion of one wetland type to another as enhancement. As with wetland restoration, it is important to establish a baseline condition for a wetland prior to any action, and then establish measurable performance criteria to quantify the level of enhancement. The results of the aforementioned wetland functional assessment will assist in determining the appropriate type, location and amount of mitigation for impacts to wetlands.
Streams: Stream restoration is EPA's preferred mitigation option for impacts to streams. Stream restoration includes actions taken to correct previous alterations that have destroyed, diminished, or impaired the character and function of streams or rivers. Restoration is the process of converting an unstable, altered, or degraded stream channel to its natural or referenced stable condition, with consideration of recent and future watershed conditions. This process may include restoration of the stream's geomorphic dimension, pattern and profile and/or biological and chemical integrity, including transport of water and sediment produced by the streams' watershed in order to achieve dynamic equilibrium. Other components of stream mitigation may include riparian buffer restoration and preservation of appropriately buffered streams. The results of the aforementioned wetland functional assessment will assist in determining the appropriate type, location and amount of mitigation for impacts to stream assessment.
Location: While mitigation for otherwise disparate impacts may be clustered to provide the maximum level of ecological benefit, impacts in "special designation" areas or watersheds may require mitigation in the subject watersheds.
The mitigation proposal should include the proposed mitigation replacement ratio, the habitat value and proposed location of replacement habitats, general grading and revegetation plans and a biological maintenance and monitoring program. Clear mitigation goals and objectives and quantifiable criteria by which to judge the success or failure of mitigation should be provided. The proposal should include commitments to ensure the restoration, creation, and protection of wetland habitats of equal or greater resource value.
Water Quality & Quantity
EPA is concerned about degradation of water quality in various waterways from erosion, siltation and other pollutants associated with road construction and operations. The NEPA document should discuss potential impacts to water quality, designated uses and biological resources from construction and operations of the proposed I-69. The discussion in the document should be of sufficient detail to determine which alternatives are environmentally preferable. Site-specific water quality problems need to be assessed in greater detail, if applicable, including the adoption of site-specific mitigation measures to protect water quality and designated uses.
Protecting water quality ensures the protection of its designated uses. Especially critical is the protection of several sensitive uses. It is important to protect water quality in order to maintain freshwater and wildlife habitats, since many species are sensitive to the introduction of pollutants or the adverse modification of their habitats. It is also important to protect groundwater recharge and freshwater replenishment, particularly if public drinking water supplies could be adversely affected. These sensitive beneficial uses should be carefully considered when evaluating potential impacts caused by the placement of fill, erosion, sedimentation, the runoff of pollutants, and the accidental discharge of hazardous waste or toxic substances.
Characterization: The NEPA document should identify all surface waters that may be affected by the proposed project, as well as current drainage patterns in the project study area. The document should identify the existing and potential designated uses of these surface waters. Protected designated uses for streams, creeks, lagoons, tidal areas and other surface waters may include one or more of the following: cold and warm freshwater habitat; marine habitat; fish spawning and migration; shellfish habitat; wildlife habitat; preservation of rare, threatened or endangered species; groundwater recharge; freshwater replenishment; public drinking water supplies; agricultural supply; and water contact and non-contact recreation. Individual waterbodies in the vicinity of the project not meeting designated uses should be identified in the NEPA document. The causes and sources of the impairments should also be identified.
Critical habitat areas (wildlife feeding and drinking areas; fishery migration, spawning or rearing areas; sensitive aquatic habitats such as wetlands; riparian resources; critical habitat for threatened and endangered species) should be identified in the study area, including a description of the existing designated uses and resource values of these critical areas.
Impacts and Coordination: The document should discuss any proposed crossings of water bodies. In general, crossings should be minimized. Unavoidable crossings should be strategically placed to reduce harm by avoiding fish spawning areas, avoiding fringe wetlands, approaching at right angles to streams, etc. Impacts to critical habitat areas, described previously, that cannot be avoided should be discussed. The document should assess how altering drainage patterns and characteristics will affect drainage hydrology, surface runoff, erosion potential, soils vegetation, and water quality. The document should include an analysis of project effects on floodplains in the study area. This includes using maps prepared by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, National Flood Insurance Program, and other appropriate agencies to determine whether the proposed action is located in or will likely affect a floodplain. The document should discuss these impacts and also describe the alternatives considered. Compliance with Executive Order 11988 on floodplain management should be documented. EPA strongly recommends bridging of floodplains whenever feasible. Any wetland loss or other impacts contributing to loss of floodwater storage or retention functions should be appropriately mitigated with in-kind replacement of those functions.
The NEPA document should discuss how the project will comply with state and local water quality management plans, state water quality objectives; and state-adopted, EPA-approved water quality standards. The state DOT should work closely with state water pollution control agencies, state fish and game agencies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and/or the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) on water quality standards; the protection of water quality, designated uses and biological resources; mitigation and monitoring for adverse impacts. If the proposed project includes disturbance of five or more acres of land during construction, and point source discharges into waters of the United States (i.e., water bodies such as rivers, lakes, wetlands, etc.), coverage under an EPA stormwater National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) General Permit or state equivalent may be required. The state DOT should contact the appropriate state environmental agency for further information on the NPDES program.
In addition, Section 319 of the CWA requires states to assess nonpoint source water pollution problems, develop nonpoint source pollution management programs, and implement controls to protect and improve water quality and beneficial uses. The state DOT should work closely with appropriate state water pollution control agencies to determine what pollution control measures should be adopted to advance the state's nonpoint source management plans in the project area. Specifically, the status of development of Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) for any waterways in the study area should be identified and how the proposed project could affect implementation of restoration efforts in these watersheds.
Mitigation: The NEPA document should discuss what mitigation measures (e.g., nonpoint source controls) will be implemented to protect or improve water quality, designated uses, and biological resources. Mitigation measures related to protection of water quality should be tailored depending on the condition of the specific water resource as well as the severity of the potential impacts. Best Management Practices (BMPs) should be used to reduce erosion during construction and operation of the facility. In the vicinity of impaired surface water resources in the project area, it is recommended that all storm water runoff from the proposed roadway be collected and treated before being discharged to surface waters. In other areas, typical BMPs, including the use of staked hay bales, silt fences, mulching and reseeding, and use of buffer zones along water bodies, are appropriate. The document should include an erosion control plan or reference the State erosion control regulations and a commitment to compliance. Compliance should include both BMP application and long-term maintenance.
Groundwater: For each alternative under consideration, the NEPA document should:
Describe current groundwater conditions in the project area. Any likely impacts to groundwater quality and quantity from the proposed action should be assessed.
Identify mitigation measures to prevent or reduce adverse impacts to groundwater quality and discuss their effectiveness. The state DOT should work closely with state and local agencies which regulate the protection of groundwater resources (i.e., state health departments and water pollution control agencies.)
Sole Source Aquifers: Pursuant to Section 1424(e) of the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974, all Federal financially assisted projects which have the potential to contaminate designated sole source aquifers (SSA) are subject to EPA review. The NEPA document should identify if there is a designated sole source aquifer in the vicinity of the project and the potential for impacts to this sensitive resource. Segments of the proposed I-69 should be designed in a manner that will prevent the introduction of contaminants into the SSAs in quantities or concentrations which may create a significant hazard to public health. The document should determine whether the proposed project may contaminate the aquifer through its recharge zone so as to create a significant hazard to public health, or which may require a public water system to install additional treatment to prevent such adverse effect.
Public Water Supply Systems: A concerted effort should be made to avoid locating capacity adding transportation projects within water supply recharge of defined critical areas associated with water supply impoundments and intakes. If unavoidable, any projects that are located in these areas should be carefully designed to avoid or minimize any adverse effects from accidental spills and runoff. Source water protection areas are areas defined and delineated by each state for the purpose of geographically identifying the surface and ground waters currently used as a source of public drinking water. States are required by the Safe Drinking Water Act, through EPA-approved Source Water Assessment Programs (SWAPs), to conduct a source water assessment at every public water supply in each State. State deadlines for completing source water assessments are dependent upon each state's SWAP approval date.
Example (Segment 9): There are no surface water sources of drinking water in Mississippi (MS) in the areas of concern for I-69 (and probably few, if any in Tennessee (TN)). These areas within TN and MS have extensive and very productive confined aquifers that public water supplies typically use. For the well locations in Mississippi, a 3,500-foot radius around each well location will sufficiently capture the source water protection area for these wells. Mississippi is still conducting source water assessments for many of the counties throughout the northern Mississippi Delta and have not specifically delineated the source water protection areas yet. Therefore, a 3500-foot radius will be sufficient.
Background: Executive Order 12898: (Federal Actions to Address in Minority and Low-Income Populations) requires all federal agencies to identify and address disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of federal programs on minority or low-income populations. The general purpose is to foster non-discrimination in federal programs and to provide minority and low-income communities greater opportunities for public participation in, and access to public information regarding human health and environmental issues.
In an effort to determine whether there are potential environmental justice (EJ) areas of concern (areas that have high levels of minority and/or low-income populations relative to the reference area), the demographic characteristics of the proposed project area are examined. Information regarding potential EJ areas identified in the screening process is used to ensure that these communities have access to both concise and clear information sufficient to effectively participate in the public involvement process and to ensure that these communities/areas are not disproportionately adversely affected by this project area. Consistent with Executive Order 12898, potential EJ impacts should be considered in the NEPA document. The following items should be incorporated into all EJ analyses related to the I-69 project:
Demographic Characterization: The NEPA document should identify potential EJ areas of concern. Appropriate geographic boundaries surrounding the communities that may be potentially impacted by the proposed project must be identified. General screening to identify potential EJ areas involves comparing the minority and low-income characteristics of smaller geographic areas (project area) with those of a larger geographic areas (reference area). U.S. Census data for 1990 (or more recent data if possible) should be used for the minority and low-income analysis. Data should be collected at the block group level for the project area and the county, metropolitan statistical area, or state for the reference area. The block group data level should be used because it provides the best combination of demographic accuracy and data accessibility. The appropriate reference area should be selected based on the scope and intent of the project. Given the magnitude of the proposed I-69, state-level data should be used as the reference areas. The NEPA document should indicate what demographic threshold or methodology was used to determine whether low-income and/or minority populations exist in the study area. EPA recommends the use of a relative threshold in EJ analyses for determining significant minority and low-income populations. In an effort to ensure inter-regional consistency, the relative threshold recommended for use in I-69 NEPA documents is 1.2 times the State Average of low-income and minority populations. The 1.2 figure is recommended for use because it allows the determination of areas that contain a "meaningfully " greater percent minority or low- income population than the reference population which is consistent with recommendations from the Interim Federal Interagency Working Group Guidance, EPA Region 4 Interim Policy and other regions EJ Guidance to Identify and Address Potential EJ Areas. This threshold is merely used as a benchmark in determining whether or not a target area has a significant minority or low-income population. Therefore, additional analysis or information may be necessary for certain segments.
The following information includes some data sources or tools that may be used to identify low-income and minority communities:
Maps provide by state, county and local agencies that delineate political and population boundaries
U.S. Census Bureau geographic data
Sources such as Chambers of Commerce, civic groups, trade associations and commercial organizations
Standard demographic surveys that identify minority and low-income populations
Local resources such as community and public outreach groups, community leaders, state universities
Tools such as maps, aerial photographs and geographical information systems
Environmental Characterization and Impact Assessment: If percentages of low-income or minority populations are elevated within the project area, alternatives should be considered that avoid or minimize impacts to potential EJ areas. The issue of disproportionately high and adverse impacts should also be evaluated in the document by comparing environmental impact data to EJ information for highway segments. Adverse effects are defined as "disproportionate" if the risk of adverse environmental impacts are predominately borne in areas with minority or low-income populations or if the impacts are greater in magnitude in areas with minority or low-income populations than in other areas. When analyzing these impacts, it is important to assess both the negative and positive impacts, consider both the short and long-term effects as well as the secondary and cumulative impacts. One of the most detrimental aspects of controlled access can be to divide defined communities regardless of whether they are EJ communities. This potential impact must be assessed.
Public Involvement: If impacts are unavoidable, EPA recommends that coordination with these affected populations be conducted to determine the affected population's concerns and comments regarding the proposed project. This coordination should include a clear discussion of the project, project updates or expansions, environmental impacts, any economic benefits (job opportunities, etc.) of the project to the affected population, and the opportunity for informal and/or formal comments (e.g., EIS scoping meetings, public hearings, or other public meetings). Because public involvement is an important part of the NEPA process, we recommend early involvement with the potentially impacted communities and documentation of community coordination in the NEPA document.
Maps: The NEPA document should contain maps of potential EJ areas of concern within the proposed project corridor. Maps for the route should evaluate population density, minority status, and low-income status.
Economic Development: In those segments where economic development is a primary objective, efforts should be made to describe any opportunities the impacted community, especially EJ communities, may have for economic benefit. These opportunities should be described as clearly and in as much detail as possible. For example, the document should discuss how many jobs (or other economic development opportunities) would be created as a result of the proposed project and what percentage of the affected EJ community would likely be the recipient of these opportunities. The document should also address any adverse economic effects on potential EJ communities that may occur.
Example (Segment 9) - Based on preliminary EJ screening analysis using 1990 Census data, it appears as though there are a substantial amount of potential EJ communities along Alternative A (Memphis area). Therefore, EPA recommends that additional analysis should be conducted based on some of the recommendations above and that potential EJ communities should be involved throughout the EIS development process.
Archeological and Historic Property
Federal agencies are required to consider the effects of their actions on historic properties that are on or eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places in compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. If identified early, federal undertakings often can avoid historic properties, or minimize adverse effects when avoidance is not feasible. EPA believes the flexibility to merge the NEPA and Section 106 processes, which the revised implementing regulations offer agencies, also can serve to minimize potential conflicts between the natural environment and cultural resources. To gain the greatest streamlining efficiencies, EPA recommends that merging the two processes be considered for segments which may effect historic properties. At a minimum, EPA believes each NEPA document should describe the cultural resources which the undertaking may effect, and demonstrate to the public that appropriate consultation with the State Historic Preservation Officer/Tribal Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO/THPO) is underway or has occurred. If consultation is completed, EPA also believes any mitigation for adverse effects agreed to through the Section 106 process should be included in the NEPA documentation so the public, as well as EPA, has a complete picture of the action and all of its potential impacts to the environment, both natural and man-made. This enables all reviewers to give better, more informed comments.
Additionally, EPA is concerned that some of the proposed corridors in eastern Texas, for example, may affect sites to which a tribe may attach religious and/or cultural significance. EPA encourages FHWA to work with the SHPO/THPO as appropriate to avoid or minimize effects to such sites as early as possible.
The NEPA document should clarify if any agricultural land, specifically prime and unique farmland, would be impacted by the program. If so, the document should use the U.S. Department of Agriculture classification scheme to describe the present use of agricultural land which would be affected. If this acreage includes prime agricultural land (Class 2), consideration should be given to the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) guidelines (August 30, 1976 and August 11, 1980) which urge the protection of prime agricultural land. Mitigation measures should be developed to avoid loss of such valuable resources.
Biodiversity is defined as the variety of plants and animals (biota) of a site or region, and is typically measured by the number of different species and number of individuals per species. In general, the more diverse an area (number of habitat types and animal inhabitants) and the better represented these components are (population counts), the more rigorous (resistant, undisturbed, natural, "healthy") the area is considered. Consistent with CEQ guidance, the NEPA document should discuss biodiversity aspects of the proposal as appropriate. For example, will the project increase, restore, or decrease biodiversity of the area or region? Coordination with the USFWS/NMFS and the state fish and wildlife agency is recommended regarding the design of any project mitigation areas to enhance or restore biodiversity.
In addition to important natural areas in the vast Lower Mississippi River ecosystem, a number of other critical environmental resources exist in the I-69 project area, such as national and state parks/refuges, wildlife management areas, and other important habitat and greenspace areas on private lands. However, successful protection of natural resources requires more than "spot" conservation of isolated highly valuable and sensitive ecological areas, but also the links between them. One of the biggest threats to the environment is loss of ecosystem functionality due to fragmentation. Roads, agriculture and other development often lead to cutting natural systems into smaller pieces. Large, contiguous tracts of natural land are required not only for species habitat range, such as migratory birds or black bears, but for ecosystem function. Many ecological processes require large areas of land, often crossing more than one land cover type. Viable landscape linkages are needed to connect these different land types, or the processes are disrupted and their capabilities to function healthily are compromised. For these reasons, conservation must take on the new challenge of not only protecting pristine areas, but ecological connectivity as well.
EPA strongly encourages utilization of existing roads and discourages placement of new interchanges in the vicinity of these areas to minimize potential direct and indirect impacts to these important conservation areas and other important connecting ecological areas. EPA has developed various geographic information system (GIS) tools that attempt to identify linkages between important natural resources. EPA encourages state DOTs in the I-69 corridor to utilize this information for inclusion in the NEPA document in order to refine alternatives such that impacts to these resources could be minimized. Any proposed routing of I-69 on new alignment should be sited to minimize fragmentation of forested areas or other important natural resources in the project areas. Appropriate compensatory mitigation for impacts to these resources or loss of critical ecosystem functions should be addressed in the NEPA document. Coordination between the appropriate EPA Regional Office and other natural resource agencies in the project area is encouraged to identify important areas, habitat connections, and potential mitigation opportunities. EPA Regional GIS points-of-contact are provided at the end of this document.
The USFWS and NMFS are the agencies with responsibility for overseeing compliance with the Endangered Species Act. EPA recommends early coordination with the UFWS/NMFS and that the NEPA document demonstrate adequate coordination with the USFWS as part of the identification of any listed species in the project area, the potential for adverse effects, and any measures taken to avoid and minimize these impacts. "Adequate coordination" includes either a concurrence letter from USFWS or a biological opinion from USFWS for the species concerned. Mitigation measures (including reasonable and prudent measures) should be incorporated in the appropriate places in the NEPA document.
Cumulative and Secondary Impacts
NEPA requires the analysis and disclosure of the direct, secondary and cumulative impacts of major federal actions on the environment. While the direct impacts of transportation projects may or may not be significant, the secondary or indirect effects of the project on land use and the subsequent environmental effects can be both temporally and geographically more extensive. Similarly, there could be cases where the cumulative impacts would be great due to existing environmental conditions or other projects planned in an area. With respect to transportation projects, such as the proposed I-69, which both appear to serve and induce land use changes, the
analysis of these changes and their subsequent environmental effects is important to the understanding of the overall impact of the federal action on the natural, cultural and socioeconomic environment. Consideration of secondary and cumulative impacts requires the assessment of an area's ability to absorb additional development, the loss of businesses or residences, and the watershed's ability to absorb the loss of additional wetlands.
EPA is concerned about the environmental effects of secondary development in the project study area that would come about as an indirect result of the new roadway. For example, one of the goals for I-69 is to "facilitate economic development and enhance economic growth opportunities domestically and internationally through efficient and flexible transportation with specific emphasis being given to economic growth in the Lower Mississippi Delta Region." In this context, highway investment is meant to attract new businesses and expand existing businesses. If the impact area of interest is the geographic area along the highway, an increase in economic activity is almost certain in this area along the highway. The NEPA document should include a more detailed analysis of the economic and environmental implications of secondary development, focusing more directly within the project study area.
The NEPA document should examine the relative impacts of the various alternatives on potential land use changes. It should not only identify areas for development potential in the project study area, specifically in the vicinity of proposed interchanges, but also the secondary environmental impacts of the projected land use change associated with improved access and economic development. For example, what will be the secondary impact on service-related businesses along existing roadways through towns that will be bypassed? What will be the environmental effects of potential land use change associated with varying degrees and locations of access to the facility? The specific environmental impacts at these areas should be quantified and compared between alternatives, as much as possible. In particular, if there are important existing natural resources, such as high quality wetlands or wildlife habitat, in the vicinity of proposed access points for any of the alternatives, these areas should be identified for potential acquisition as mitigation sites.
A critical aspect to the process will be to provide the local communities with a better understanding of the land use implications that will be expected from implementation of the project. With this information, these communities can develop future land use plans and potential zoning regulations that could be enacted in concert with development of the transportation infrastructure.
The NEPA document should estimate the cumulative impacts associated with the proposed project. Cumulative impacts include the additive effects of a given parameter for all contributing projects in the area, as well as the cumulative impact of all parameters for all projects in the area. The document should define what cumulative impacts would result from implementation of the proposed project. Existing or future projects (federal and non federal projects) with attendant pollutants should also be considered. EPA also suggests that the spacial/temporal criteria of the analysis be given and that they be uniform throughout the analyses of the interstate highway project, if appropriate given the varied terrain.
As an organizational approach, EPA recommends discussion of the secondary and cumulative impacts of each of the alternatives within each impact section, as opposed to a separate section at the end of the "Environmental Consequences" section. A specific break-out of the direct, indirect (secondary), and cumulative effects is suggested.
Public involvement should be initiated early and solicited throughout the NEPA documentation process. It is essential to know the values of a community in order to avoid, minimize and mitigate impacts as well as narrow the field of alternatives. The community also needs to understand the tradeoffs and constraints of the process. Some useful strategies that EPA has employed in public involvement throughout the NEPA process includes the following:
Identify stakeholders - the affected or potentially impacted people and communities with an economic, cultural, social or environmental "stake" in the action. Stakeholders can be identified through conducting community profiles and/or by holding public meetings. State, local and tribal governments; Federal agencies with jurisdiction by law or expertise; civic and environmental organizations; interested or affected private citizens; and communications media should be informed of key upcoming project decisions or milestones throughout the NEPA process. Participants should be sought out through effective outreach methods, such as the utilization of existing community-based organizations and communication networks.
Make information available in an understandable form. It should be clear, simple and straightforward to encourage mutual understanding and discussion. It should be tailored to the audience, including the provision of bi- or multi-lingual formats, depending on the demographics of the project area.
Information can be provided via direct mailing, display advertisements, inserts in local newspapers, information hotlines, internet web sites, mall exhibits, open houses, civic meetings, public meetings, and workshops. The media used should be selected for its ability to reach all members of the target audience. For example, notices should be run in papers with diverse readerships, which specifically cater to each sector of the target audience. Multiple public meetings/hearings should be held in locations closest to potentially impacted communities.
Another successful strategy for community outreach is the establishment of a project office at a central location in the project corridor. The primary benefit of such an office would be to provide qualified project representatives empowered to meet with the public regarding any issue of concern they may have (e.g., environmental or property information, project location, design) throughout all phases of project planning, engineering, and construction.
Public participation strategies should be designed to avoid conflicts with cultural events and beliefs.
All public involvement activities and input should be well documented.
U.S. EPA Regional Points-of-Contact for I-69
Region 4 (KY, TN, MS)
Office of Environmental Assessment
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 4
Atlanta Federal Center
61 Forsyth Street, S.W.
Atlanta, GA 30303-8960
Phone: (404) 562-9611
Fax: (404) 562-9598
Office of Environmental Assessment
Same Region 4 Address
Phone: (404) 562-9643
Fax: (404) 562-9598
Policy and Analysis Branch
Same Region 4 Address
Phone: (404) 562-8276
Fax: (404) 562-8269
Region 5 (IN)
Environmental Planning and Evaluation Branch
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 5
Mail Code: B 19J
77 West Jackson Boulevard
Chicago, Illinois 60604 3507
Phone: (312) 886-2910
Fax: (312) 353-5374
Environmental Planning and Evaluation Branch
Same Region 5 Address
Phone: (312) 886-7501
Fax: (312) 353-5374
Mary White or Charles Maurice
Same Region 5 Address
Phone: White (312) 353-5878; Maurice (312) 886-6635
Region 6 (AR, LA, TX)
Office of Planning and Coordination
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 6
Mail Code: 6EN XP
1445 Ross Avenue, Suite # 1200
Dallas, Texas 75202 2733
Phone: (214) 665-6580
Fax: (214) 665-7446
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 6
c/o Federal Highway Administration
826 Federal Building
Austin, Texas 78701
Phone: (512) 916-5012
Fax: (512) 916-5013
Office of Planning and Coordination
Same Region 6 (Dallas) Address
Phone: (214) 665-8352
Fax: (214) 665-7446
Appendix A - Wetland References
Ainslie, W.B., R.D. Smith, B.A. Pruitt, T.H. Roberts, E.J. Sparks, L. West, G.L. Godshalk, and M.V. Miller. 1999. A regional guidebook for assessing the functions of low gradient, riverine wetlands in western Kentucky. Technical Report TR-WRP-DE-17, Army Corps of Engineers, Waterways Experiment Station, Vicksburg, MS.
Brinson, M.M. 1993. A Hydrogeomorphic Classification for Wetlands. Technical Report WRP-DE-4, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Waterways Experiment Station, Vicksburg, MS.
Cowardin, L.M., B. Carter, F.C. Golet, and E.T. LaRoe. 1979. Classification of wetlands and deepwater habitats of the United States. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, D.C. FWS/OBS-79/31.
Governor's Interagency Wetlands Committee (GIWC). 1998. Tennessee Wetlands Conservation Strategy, 3rd Edition. Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Environmental Policy Office, Nashville, TN. http://www.state.tn.us/environment/news/release/sept98/wetlands.htm
Kentucky Division of Water (KDOW). 2001. Draft Kentucky Stream Mitigation Guidelines. Kentucky Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Cabinet, Frankfort, KY.
North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NCDENR). 2001. Draft Internal Technical Guide for Stream Work in North Carolina. Division of Land Resources & Division of Water Quality, Raleigh, NC. http://h2o.ehnr.state.nc.us/NDbranch/wetland/strmgide.html.
North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC). 1996. Draft Guidelines for Stream Relocation and Restoration in North Carolina. Habitat Conservation Program. Raleigh, NC.
Rosgen, D.L. 1994. A classification of natural rivers. Catena(22):169-199. Elsevior Science, B.V. Amsterdam.
. 1996. Applied River Morphology. Wildland Hydrology Books. Pagosa Springs, CO. 390 p.
Smith, R.D. and C.V. Klimas. 2000. Draft Hydrogeomorphic Regional Guidebook for Selected Wetland Subclasses in the Yazoo Basin, Lower Mississippi River Alluvial Valley. Technical Report TR-WRP-DE-tbd. Army Corps of Engineers, Waterways Experiment Station, Vicksburg, MS.
Wilder, T.C. and T. H. Roberts. 1999. Draft Regional Guidebook for Assessing the Functions of Low Gradient, Riverine Wetlands in Western Tennessee. Technical Report TR-WRP-DE-tbd. Army Corps of Engineers, Waterways Experiment Station, Vicksburg, MS.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District (COESD). 2000. Draft Compensatory Stream Mitigation Standard Operating Procedure and Definitions of Factors.