Environmental Services - NEPA Documentation

The NEPA process is concluded prior to the obligation of right-of-way funds. The NEPA process is documented. The level of documentation depends of the presence or absence of environmental impacts and the significance (context and intensity) of those impacts.

The three categories of NEPA actions include Categorical Exclusions, Environmental Assessments, and Environmental Impact Statements.

Categorical Exclusions (CEs)

Actions that FHWA has determined do not individually or cumulatively have a significant effect on the environment. There is a Programmatic Agreement between SCDOT and FHWA-SC that streamlines the approval process for Type A and B CEs. Approval by FHWA-SC for CE Type C concludes the process.

Environmental Assessment (EA)

Undertaken when the significance of environmental impacts is uncertain. FHWA-SC approves an EA before it is made available to the public. If it is determined that there will be no significant impacts, a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) will be prepared by FHWA-SC to conclude the process.

Environmental Impact Statements (EIS)

Undertaken for major projects having significant environmental impacts. SAFETEA-LU modifies the NEPA process for projects that require an EIS.

The Purpose and Need is the foundation of the environmental decision making process.

  • Describes a tangible, fact-based transportation problem (the need) and why the project is being pursued (the purpose).
  • Forms the basis for evaluating the reasonableness of each alternative and establishes reasons for moving forward with the project or a no-build action.

Alternatives Analysis involves the identification and consideration of a range of alternatives. The range of alternatives is eventually narrowed down to alternatives that best meet the Purpose and Need of the proposed project. The goal is to ultimately identify a Preferred Alternative that satisfies the Purpose and Need and avoids or minimizes impacts to the environment and affected community. All NEPA categories of actions require consideration of "no build" as an alternative. Those requiring an EA or EIS entail rigorous consideration of a reasonable range of alternatives.