Chapter 3: EnvironmentalAnchor: #i1007566
Section 1: Preliminary Environmental IssuesAnchor: #i1007573
A sustainable highway approach provides decision makers with balanced choices among environmental, economic, and social values that will benefit current and future road users. In early project development, it is vital to identify the environmental, economic, and social concerns regarding a project.
This section describes identifying a project’s environmental variables and planning public involvement. These activities should be conducted concurrently with developing the preliminary schematics and determining utility and right of way ownership. Public involvement process applies equally to state and federal projects.
By the Memorandum of Understanding (Assignment MOU) between the US Department of Transportation through the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the State of Texas through the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), the department has accepted jurisdiction of the federal courts for the compliance, discharge, and enforcement of any responsibility assumed under the Assignment MOU. The department will be deemed to be a federal agency with respect to the environmental review, consultation, and other actions required under the assumed responsibilities. The Assignment MOU is a five-year agreement.
This section includes discussion of the following tasks. These tasks should be performed concurrently as much as possible.
30100. Public involvement
30130. Collect environmental dataAnchor: #i1007612
30100: Public involvement
Description. Public involvement is an integral continuous part of project development. The public should have accurate timely access to information and decision making processes. The level of involvement should reflect department policy for public involvement best practices. Focusing on interests rather than positions, successful involvement addresses the public need to communicate community interests and transportation needs while gathering useful information. Using interest based problem solving can expand dialog with constituents and gain support of the public.
Required public involvement involves the following opportunities:
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- Scoping meetings. See Task 30110: Develop and implement scoping process. Anchor: #HPABVHUG
- Public meetings. See Task 20300: Conduct public meetings. Anchor: #MIBQCKMK
- Public hearings. See Task 30400: Opportunity for public hearings.
The Transportation Planning and Programming (TPP) Division - Office of Public Involvement (OPI) can provide latest best practice techniques and strategies for public involvement activities throughout the life-cycle of the project.
Pertinent Project Types. Regardless of state or federal oversight, any project can include public involvement elements. The extent of participation depends on project type, level of public concern, and complexity. Some projects have specific public involvement requirements to obtain environmental clearance.
Responsible Party. Project manager
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- Contact Office of Public Involvement (OPI), for guidance. Anchor: #KTXFTEAP
- District and OPI should schedule a joint meeting to discuss the project and public involvement strategy. Anchor: #NHWWQKAE
- Gain approval of the plan from OPI. Anchor: #TJEVBAXP
- Conduct project public involvement according to the plan.
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- Plan public involvement for the beginning of the planning phase.
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- Texas Transportation Commission Policy, Minute Order 112555, January 27, 2011 Anchor: #LABXXGDN
- Federal Projects: 23 CFR §771.111 Anchor: #XCOKPRDU
- State Projects: Texas Transportation Code §203.021, 43 TAC §2.101 et seq., and 43 TAC §1.5
Resource Material.Anchor: #i1007750
30110: Develop and implement scoping process
Description. Scoping is an early and open process involving the public and other federal, state, preservation and interest groups, and local agencies, conducted to identify the issues to be addressed and for identifying the significant issues related to the proposed project. Scoping meeting is required for the environmental impact statement (EIS) process.
The environmental review process is a useful tool in preparing environmental assessments (EAs) for controversial projects. Scoping may involve preparing a “coordination” or “overview” EA. See Task 10410: Determine need for feasibility (route or corridor) study to analyze modal alternatives.
During scoping or through scope amendments, the core team determines required technical studies for the environmental documents. Coordinate with core team and subject matter experts on appropriate approaches and methodologies. A technical report QC review can be done by peer review or other subject matter expert not directly involved in the report generation.
Project Scope must be approved by the department delegate.
Pertinent Project Types. Projects requiring an EIS. Projects requiring large amounts of ROW, access changes, or substantial public controversy. Seal coats and overlays are exempted.
Responsible Party. Core team – The core team is comprised of a district environmental project manager and ENV project manager. Either may expand the team to include planners, local agency sponsor representatives, consultants, engineers, and subject matter experts.
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- As soon as the decision is made to prepare an EIS, initiate the scoping process. Anchor: #GJGGNMBJ
- Define the study area and logical termini for the scope of work. Anchor: #VRBOOKXV
- Contact TPP - Office of Public Involvement (OPI) for guidance and meeting planning.
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- NEPA, Environmental Quality Improvement Act of 1970, as amended
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- Best Practice Working as a Core Team Anchor: #APPLMAID
- ENV Guidance: Scope Development Tool Anchor: #UTCDDSKC
- Comment Response Matrix and Peer Review Request for Environmental Documents ( WORD files) Anchor: #KWJYYHMQ
- ENV Handbook: Quality Assurance/Quality Control Procedures for Environmental Documents (QA/QC) Anchor: #VUWKUEYQ
- FHWA NEPA and Transportation Decision making:
30120: Conduct meeting with affected property owners
Description. Informal meetings with affected property owners (MAPO) is not a limit to public involvement efforts; additional public involvement may be needed. One or more MAPOs may be held prior to the environmental decision if the project requires detours, temporary construction easements, or minimal right of way acquisition.
The department will hold a MAPO in addition to previous public participation, if a location or design revision results in substantial changes or impacts to affected property owner(s) and occurs after public requirements have been completed.
Property owner(s) are owners of property adjacent to the project as well as other residential or commercial property owners and government agencies impacted by the project.
Pertinent Project Types. Projects involving any of the following factors:
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- Limited right of way acquisition Anchor: #VPNGDFMR
- Temporary construction easements Anchor: #CXAWPFYC
Responsible Party. Project manager
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- Contact Office of Public Involvement (OPI), for guidance. Anchor: #PJYPXHYA
- Make arrangements to conduct the MAPO. Anchor: #MWEKCEAT
- Ask members of the project team to attend the MAPO to answer questions in their areas of expertise. Anchor: #RVFNKXRF
- Project specifics are presented to the public at the MAPO. Anchor: #MNKKDTIN
- Retain a record of the MAPO in the project file. Include summary of meeting, date(s), who conducted the meeting, attendees, and correspondence. Records will be forwarded to the department delegate when requested.
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- If the number of affected property owners does not appear manageable for a MAPO, a standard public meeting may be more appropriate.
- Anchor: #TSRCXDVS
- MAPOs may occur at any stage of the project development process, but must be completed prior to the final environmental decision.
- Anchor: #SKYBDTHV
- TPP - Office of Public Involvement, MAPO templates Anchor: #RGLEFSKL
- Online: Inside TxDOT, Environmental Affairs Division, Public Involvement Toolkit
30130: Collect environmental data
Description. Environmental document research includes obtaining information from federal, state, and local agency databases, as well as on-the-ground surveys. This data should be used to assess the existing baseline environmental conditions, identify “red flag” resources and areas requiring avoidance considerations, current transportation system, land use trends, local agency planning, and type of environmental document to be prepared.
Maintain an accurate project file. The file allows the project team quick access to important documents and reduces inefficiency and duplication. If a lawsuit is filed challenging the environmental decisions, the project file provides a starting point for the administrative record preparation.
Pertinent Project Types. All projects except preventive maintenance or restoration projects.
Responsible Party. Core team
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- Perform a site visit to identify and assess environmental constraints, potentially sensitive areas, historic structures, habitats, and landscapes. Anchor: #PPGPDPUA
- Gather information in addition to that gathered during detailed site visits performed earlier. See Task 10110: Perform site visit. Anchor: #NYLKPXDV
- Prepare a baseline environmental constraints map showing the location of sensitive environmental features. The roadway design engineer and environmental coordinator use this map to determine potential environmental effects of proposed alignments.
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- For complex projects or projects with more than one potential corridor, Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping data can be used to automatically calculate impacts.
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- Preliminary environmental surveys, data collection, and coordination with local impacted agency goals/objectives should be started early during preliminary design. Anchor: #BIFFCTCL
- Develop the baseline environmental constraints map as soon as practical. It will be used for project decision making. It will serve as an important tool in communicating environmental constraints, and it is the first step in preparing the project’s environmental document.
- Anchor: #IWDRHKOK
- Inside TxDOT: Environmental Affairs Division, Best Practices for the Environmental Document Process Anchor: #DGOERQMY
- AASHTO Practitioner's Handbook - Maintaining a Project File and Administrative Record for a NEPA Study, 2006 Anchor: #PFLLFGCO
- TxDOT Resource for Linking Planning with Project Planning in support of NEPA, 0-6701-P1 Anchor: #QNPVFYCQ
- CDOT Planning and Environmental Linkages (PEL) Handbook, 2012 Anchor: #RIESIBOC
- Environmental Affairs Division: NEPA and Project Development Toolkit
30140: Identify potential Section 4(f) property
Description. Survey the project corridor to locate Section 4(f) property as early as possible in the development when alternatives are under study. Section 4(f) refers to the original Department of Transportation Act of 1966, which implemented policy for preservation of parklands and policy on public lands, wildlife and waterfowl refuges, and historic sites.
Public land properties of national, state, or local significance include the following:
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- Parks Anchor: #PPNQWXQL
- Recreation areas Anchor: #TDKJLOMH
- Wildlife and waterfowl refuges Anchor: #GNOCWWDG
- Historic sites
Section 4(f) properties cannot be used for a federally funded transportation project, unless it is determined that:
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- There is no prudent and feasible avoidance alternative to use of land from the property. Anchor: #BLYCMPWK
- Project includes all possible planning to minimize harm to the property resulting from such use.
Recreational lands purchased or improved with Land and Water Conservation Fund (L&WCF) assistance may also be subject to Section 6(f)(3) L&WCF Act of 1965, administered by the National Park Service (e.g. Wimberley Blue Hole Regional Park or Matagorda Bay Park & Preserve).
Section 4(f) does not apply to recreational areas, parks, or wildlife and waterfowl refuges owned by private institutions, organizations, or individuals, even if such areas are open to the public. If a permanent easement is needed on these properties, FHWA will determine on a case-by-case basis whether the property should be considered publicly owned and therefore a Section 4(f) property.
Regardless of ownership or public use, historical sites listed or eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places at the local, state, or national level are Section 4(f) properties.
Pertinent Project Types. Projects involving right of way acquisition or impacts to Section 4(f) property.
Responsible Party. Department delegate
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- A Section 4(f) evaluation does not necessarily include a Section 6(f) property, but impacting Section 6(f) property will trigger the Section 4(f) process. Anchor: #ODKEKIYL
- Projects with minor Section 4(f) involvement properties may qualify for a Programmatic Section 4(f) Evaluation, or a de minimis finding. Anchor: #IMDVCJTW
- Section 4(f) properties should be avoided to the maximum extent feasible.
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- Identify Section 4(f) and Section 6(f) property while developing roadway alignment alternatives. Anchor: #BYURPBUK
- The FHWA Area Engineer should be the first point of contact for Section (6f) project specific questions.
- Anchor: #YLGXROKP
- Parks, Recreation Areas, Wildlife and Waterfowl Refuges, and Historic Sites (Section 4(f)) 23 CFR Part 774 Anchor: #TXLGUHCY
- Parks and Wildlife Code, Chapter 26. Protection of Parks and Recreational Lands
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- FHWA Environmental Review Section 4(f) Anchor: #GUCQHKUH
- Online: Inside TxDOT, Environmental Affairs Division, Environmental Compliance Toolkits, USDOT Section 4(f) Toolkit and Section 6(f) LWCF Act
30150: Evaluate impacts on waterways and floodplains
Description. Preliminary structure and hydraulic studies are needed to evaluate environmental impacts of highway encroachments on waterways and floodplains. Changes in water surface elevation, construction in channels, bridge construction methods, etc. commonly impact environmental resources. In addition, an Army Corps of Engineers Section 404 permit may be required for wetland area disturbance, work in channels, channel/stream modifications, and dewatering/construction methods necessary to construct the water crossing structure.
No improvement shall be passed over, under, or through flood protection facilities such as improved channels, floodways, and levees. Excavation, construction, or alteration may adversely impact the function of the protective facilities. USACE should be consulted, if the project will impact protective facilities.
Pertinent Project Types. Projects encroaching on waterways and floodplains
Responsible Party. Core team
- Anchor: #KJXFUXUP
- Bridges, Structures, and Hydraulics: 23 CFR 650 Anchor: #NFCWSRKB
- Local flood protection works: 33 CFR §208.10 Anchor: #OXEVPAMX
- Flood damage reduction measures in urban areas: 33 CFR 238 Anchor: #UQVNYYPU
- Permits for discharges of dredged or fill material into waters of the Unites States: 33 CFR §323.3 and 323.4 Anchor: #MPCOKWYN
- Floodplain Management, Executive Order 11988, May 1977
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- Review the waterways in the field and provide input to the drainage engineer regarding environmental aspects of the project. This information can help the drainage engineer develop recommendations. Anchor: #ACISWUKQ
- Review previously conducted hydraulic studies, FEMA maps, local flood control policies, and Corps of Engineers requirements for specific floodplains. Anchor: #MQNBRDET
- Obtain structures/hydraulics studies when completed and recommend project modifications that reduce environmental impacts.