Screening Alternatives that Meet Community NeedsMarch 17, 2015
Developing a range of project alternatives is at the heart of the EIS evaluation process. Project alternatives are identified by their ability to satisfy the primary objectives of the project that are defined in the P&N statement. The goal of the alternatives development phase is to reach a set of approvable and buildable projects that pass the screening criteria and meet the P&N while protecting environmental and community resources.
Two sets of screening criteria will be developed. The first set of criteria is based on the project’s P&N. Working with the community, agencies, and other stakeholders, these screening criteria are developed to compare the numerous alternatives that will be considered and to screen for potential alternatives that meet the needs set forth and help identify which ones do not and can be disregarded from further analysis. Once project alternatives go through an initial screening, they are then screened for their potential environmental impacts to the human and natural environment.
The environmental impacts screening is based on the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969, which established the United States’ national policy promoting the enhancement of the environment. NEPA requires the analysis of the environmental impacts of each of the possible alternatives. There are 23 categories that will be evaluated, including:
- Impacts to threatened or endangered species
- Air and water quality impacts
- Impacts to historic and cultural sites, (particularly sites of significant importance to Native American tribes)
- Social and Economic impacts to local communities, often including consideration of attributes such as impacts to available housing stock, aesthetics and noise within the affected area
- Safety and traffic impacts to at-grade road crossings
- Cost analysis for each alternative, including costs to mitigate expected impacts, to determine if the proposed action is a prudent use of taxpayer dollars