Major Milestone Achieved! CATS Publishes Draft Environmental Impact Statement
Applicants for federal funding of major transit projects are required to complete an environmental document, called a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (Draft EIS) that examines the social, economic and environmental impacts of a proposed project. CATS has completed the Draft EIS and the associated 45-day Draft EIS circulation period for the LYNX Blue Line Extension (LYNX BLE) light rail project.
The Draft EIS includes an inventory of existing environmental conditions, the assessment of potential positive and negative impacts of the project, and proposed mitigation to reduce any negative impacts. This study complies with the National Environmental Policy Act, which is a federal law that requires projects receiving federal funds to consider environmental impacts in their decision-making process; therefore, a wide range of topics are studied in the report. Key findings of impacts for the LYNX BLE are included in the report.
During the publicly advertised 45-day circulation period for the Draft EIS, CATS held two public meetings (September 9 and 14, 2010) and one public hearing (September 22, 2010). Written comments were accepted during the entire 45-day circulation period. Written and verbal comments were accepted at the public hearing. To view the transcript of the public hearing or information presented at the public meetings, please see the BLE Public Meeting Summaries page.
Comments received during the 45-day circulation period are addressed in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (Final EIS). Upon completion and approval of the Final EIS, FTA will issue a determination that sufficient environmental analysis has been completed and will identify the locally preferred alternative. This determination, called a Record of Decision, describes the basis for the decision, identifies alternatives that were considered, and summarizes specific mitigation measures that will be incorporated into the Project.
More Information About the Environmental Process
What is an EIS?
The purpose of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is to provide a full and open evaluation of environmental issues and alternatives, and to inform decision-makers and the public of reasonable alternatives that could avoid or minimize adverse impacts and enhance the quality of the environment. The following is a list of tasks that are performed in order to prepare an EIS:
Notice of Intent and Scoping:
The EIS process begins with FTA's publication of a Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare an EIS in the Federal Register along with similar grantee announcements in local newspapers and other media. At this time, a tentative list of alternatives and impacts is established and presented to the public and interested government agencies for comment. This notification is part of scoping - the process of affording an early opportunity for the public and agencies to identify potential issues to be addressed in the EIS. The NOI for the LYNX BLE was published in September 2000.
Draft Environmental Impact Statement:
The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is prepared in two stages - draft and final. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement (Draft EIS) provides an opportunity for government agencies and the public to review a proposed project and alternatives. The principle components of a Draft EIS include discussion of the following 1) the purpose of and need for action; 2) alternatives, including the proposed action; 3) the affected environment; and 4) environmental consequences.
Agency/Public Review and Comment:
Once the Draft EIS has been completed and signed by the appropriate FTA official, a notification of availability (NOA) is published in the Federal Register and advertised through local media to solicit public comment by the local lead agency. The Draft EIS is circulated to agencies, parties that have expressed an interest and other entities potentially affected by any of the alternatives. The circulation period must last a minimum of 45 days and a public hearing must be held with at least 15 days prior notice. The LYNX BLE Draft EIS NOA was published in the Federal Register on August 27, 2010. This notification commenced the 45-day circulation period, which concluded on October 12, 2010. The public hearing for the LYNX BLE Draft EIS was held on September 22, 2010.
Final Environmental Impact Statement:
After completion of the circulation period, all substantive written comments and the public hearing testimony are addressed and the preparation of a Final Environmental Impact Statement (Final EIS) begins. The principle components of the Final EIS include: 1) identification of a preferred alternative; 2) responses to comments made during the circulation period; 3) commitments to mitigate adverse impacts of the project; 4) evidence of compliance with related environmental statutes, Executive Orders and regulations; and 5) a description of changes that have been made to the project since the Draft EIS was published. Once the appropriate FTA official has approved the Final EIS, it is distributed and advertised through local media by the local lead agency. CATS completed the Final EIS in August 2011.
Record of Decision (ROD):
Following the circulation period, the FTA issues a Record of Decision (ROD), a report that states FTA's determination that NEPA has been completed for the project. The ROD describes the basis for FTA's decision, identifies alternatives that were considered, and summarizes specific mitigation measures that will be incorporated into the project. If the project is approved, then the applicant may proceed into the Final Design and construction phases, including right-of-way acquisitions. FTA signed and issued the ROD in December 2011.
From the FTA website: http://www.fta.dot.gov/