The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), as amended, is a landmark environmental protection legislation establishing as a goal for federal decision-making a balance between use and preservation of natural and cultural resources. NEPA requires all federal agencies to: (1) prepare in-depth studies of the impacts and alternatives to proposed "major federal actions"; (2) use the information contained in such studies in deciding whether to proceed with the actions; and (3) diligently attempt to involve the interested and affected public before any decision affecting the environment is made. Section 102(2)(E) of NEPA requires an agency to "study, develop, and describe appropriate alternatives to recommended courses of action in any proposal which involves unresolved conflicts concerning alternative uses of available resources." An Environmental Assessment (EA) is the tool most often used for complying with NEPA and determining when an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) may be necessary. In this instance, the National Park Service has decided to prepare an EA to evaluate potential impacts to park resources and people by the proposed project. An EA "briefly provides sufficient evidence and analysis for determining whether to prepare an EIS or a [F]inding of [N]o [S]ignificant [I]mpact (FONSI). 40 C.F.R. §1506.9(a)(1)"
An EA must lead to either (1) a FONSI or (2) a Notice of Intent and an EIS. Therefore, if we find, by using an EA, that the preferred alternative will have significant effect on the human environment then an EIS will be prepared. If we find that alternatives analyzed in the EA would not significantly affect the human environment, a FONSI will be prepared.
The EA document will also address National Historic Preservation Act of 1966/Section 106, requiring Federal agencies to evaluate the effects of their undertakings on historic properties (36 CFR Part 800).
* indicates the current step in the planning process
Step 1. Public and Agency Scoping November 16 - December 23, 2010
Step 2. Public Scoping Meetings - November 16 and November 17, 2010
Step 3. Analysis of Public Scoping Comments - December 2010
Step 4. Preparation of Environmental Assessment Spring/Summer 2011
Step 5. Preliminary Alternatives Public Scoping Period - July 11 - August 15, 2011, Public Meetings - Preliminary Project Alternatives July 13 and 14, 2011
Step 6. Public Review of Environmental Assessment - April 27, 2012 - June 1, 2012
Step 7. Public Open House - Hancock, MD, 6:00 to 8:00 PM - May 16, 2012
Step 8. Public Open House - Paw Paw, WV, 6:00 to 8:00 PM - May 17, 2012
Step 9. Analysis of Public Comments - May/June 2012
Step 10. Preparation of Decision Document - June 2012
Step 11. Announcement of Decision on Proposal - September 2012 *