What is an Environmental Impact Statement?
An Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is a full disclosure document describing the effects of a proposed Federal action that may significantly affect the quality of the natural and human environment. The EIS details the purpose and need of the project, existing environment, range of reasonable alternatives considered, analysis of potential impacts resulting from those alternatives, appropriate mitigation measures that would avoid or minimize adverse impacts, and compliance with other applicable environmental laws and executive orders. Coordination with federal, state, and local governments, and early public involvement are integral components in the development of the EIS. If a project requires the preparation of an EIS, there are several opportunities for public involvement throughout the process.
Step 1. Notice of Intent and letters to interested parties
A Notice of Intent (NOI), which states an agency's intent to prepare an EIS for a project, is published in the Federal Register (https://www.federalregister.gov/). The NOI describes the need for action, provides preliminary information on the scope of issues to be addressed in the EIS including alternatives and potential environmental impacts, and outlines the proposed scoping process, including any public meetings that will be held and how the public can get involved. In addition to publishing the NOI, letters are sent to landowners, tribes and interested stakeholder groups to invite participation in the EIS process.
Step 2. Scoping
Scoping is an early and open process during which the Corps of Engineers solicits public input on EIS development including what issues should be evaluated, possible alternatives, and potential environmental impacts. The scoping process lasts at least 30 days for an EIS and includes at least one public meeting. Individuals are encouraged to place their name on a mailing list to receive updates throughout the EIS process.
Step 3. Draft EIS
The Corps considers scoping comments and collects environmental data in preparing a draft EIS. The draft EIS compares alternatives and describes their potential environmental impacts. The Corps is required to consider the “no action” alternative in its EISs and identify ways to avoid, minimize or mitigate adverse environmental impacts. The draft EIS also identifies the agency’s preferred alternative, if known at that time. By asking to be included on the project mailing list, you will be kept updated on EIS schedules and related project information.
Step 4. Comment on a Draft EIS
When the Corps issues a Draft EIS, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) publishes a notice of availability (NOA) in the Federal Register. This kicks off an official public draft EIS comment period that lasts at least 45 days. Included are details about public meeting(s) for the Draft EIS and how to comment during the comment period. If you’re on the mailing list for an EIS, you’ll receive notice when the draft EIS is available for review. You also can check your local paper about the dates, times, and location of public meetings and ways to submit comments. Be sure to submit comments before the close of the comment period. For more information about an EIS that has been filed with the EPA, visit www.epa.gov/compliance/nepa/eisdata.html.
Step 5. Final EIS
The Corps considers and responds to timely substantive comments on the Draft EIS and makes any necessary changes to the EIS text in preparing the Final EIS. The Final EIS also identifies the Corps’ preferred alternative, if it was not identified in the Draft EIS. When the Corps issues the Final EIS, the EPA once again publishes a NOA in the Federal Register. If you previously requested it, the final EIS or summary will be mailed or e-mailed to you.
Step 6. Record of Decision (ROD)
The Corps must wait at least 30 days after the NOA for the Final EIS is published in the Federal Register before issuing a ROD. The ROD announces and explains the Corps’ decision and identifies alternatives, specifying the environmentally preferable one. It identifies and discusses decision factors and describes any commitments for mitigating potential environmental impacts.