The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was enacted in 1969 to “ensure that information on the environmental impacts of any federal action is available to public officials and citizens before decisions are made and before actions are taken.” The NEPA process is intended to “help public officials make decisions that are based on understanding of environmental consequences, and take actions that protect, restore, and enhance the environment.”
In order to satisfy NEPA requirements for this project, an environmental document was prepared as project development progressed. Projects are classified for environmental review purposes based on project complexity and potential environmental impacts.
Summarized below are the steps that will be taken during the course of the project to satisfy NEPA requirements.
Where can I get more information? The complete environmental process is documented well in ITD’s Environmental Manual. Click on the link to get more information about the process.
The environmental process is initiated by publishing a Notice of Intent (NOI) which advises federal agencies that an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) will be prepared. Environmental scoping will begin in order to identify the types of actions to be completed, the range of alternatives and impacts, and the significant impacts to be addressed in the environmental document.
A Draft EIS (DEIS) will be prepared that identifies the alternative actions and presents an analysis of their relative impacts on the environment. It may identify a recommended course of action if one alternative is clearly preferred. The DEIS summarizes the early coordination and scoping process, identifies key issues, and presents pertinent information obtained through these efforts.
The DEIS will be published and a public hearing held. The DEIS will be circulated, as required under federal regulations, to environmental review agencies, cities and counties, local agencies, the media, public officials, private interest groups and others.
Based on DEIS review comments, additional environmental studies and documentation may be required. The final EIS (FEIS) will be prepared to document such studies, and to respond to formal comment. The FEIS is then published (in the same way as the DEIS), and a Record of Decision (ROD) is prepared and approved by the Federal Highway Administration.
Right-of-Way acquisition, PS&E (Plans, Specifications & Estimates) preparation, and construction may then commence.
The Idaho Transportation Department is continuing to work on final design plans and right-of-way appraisals for the U.S. 95, Thorncreek Road to Moscow Project. ITD anticipates this work will be completed this spring.
The Federal Highway Administration and ITD evaluated many alternatives for the new highway alignment, including western, central and eastern routes. The final eastern route (E2) was chosen after a multi-year environmental review process. ITD received a Record of Decision (ROD) from the Federal Highway Administration in March of 2016. The ROD gave ITD the authority to begin final design and purchase land.
A legal motion was brought against FHWA and ITD regarding the Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision for this project. In August 2017, the U.S. District Court for Idaho ruled against the motion in favor of FHWA and ITD. In January, an appeal to the ruling was filed in the ninth circuit court. The deadline for ITD and FHWA to comment on the appeal is March 31, 2018. ITD does not anticipate a decision until sometime later this year.
Please call Ken Helm at (208)799-5090 if you have any questions about the project.