What is an EIS?
Combined NEPA/SEPA environmental impact statement
To comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA), the Co-Lead Agencies (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Whatcom County and Washington Department of Ecology), are preparing an environmental impact statement (EIS). Environmental review under both NEPA and SEPA is required to provide federal, state, and local decision makers with objective information prior to making decisions on permit applications.
Both NEPA and SEPA require the disclosure of environmental effects of a proposed action and the alternatives under consideration. An EIS is prepared when a proposed action is likely to have a significant environmental impact on the quality of the human environment. Because this proposed action requires federal, state, and local decisions, the Co-Lead Agencies are preparing a combined EIS meeting both NEPA and SEPA requirements. The EIS process includes three major milestones: scoping, draft EIS, and final EIS. Because SEPA was originally modeled after NEPA, the policies and intent of the two laws are similar, making preparation of a single combined EIS possible.
Steps for a combined environmental impact statement
The scoping process is used to determine what factors to analyze and what extent they are considered in the environmental impact statement (EIS). The Co-Lead Agencies have asked the public, tribes, and other agencies to comment on what the EIS should analyze (comments were collected through January 22, 2013). Verbal and written comments (including online submissions) were collected about what the EIS should study and suggestions for measures to avoid, minimize, and mitigate effects of the proposals.
After considering comments, the Co-Lead Agencies will decide what should be included in the EIS. The Co-Lead Agencies will summarize comments received during the scoping process into a publically available scoping report.
Following scoping, the Co-Lead Agencies will review whether there is a reasonable range of alternatives available for review in the EIS. The alternatives must include the proposal, the no-action alternative and other reasonable alternatives.
The draft EIS documents environmental consequences and any appropriate mitigation or measures to reduce adverse impacts. When the draft EIS is released for comment, the Co-Lead Agencies will accept comments for at least 45 days, holding at least one public hearing to collect comments. Information on how members of the public can review and comment will be available when the draft EIS is ready to be published.
The final EIS responds to public comments on the draft EIS. The final EIS will include an appendix containing all comments received on the draft EIS, along with responses from the Co-Lead Agencies. The body of the final EIS will have corrections and edits based on comments received. The final EIS completes the Co-Lead Agencies’ environmental analysis for the proposal. Following the final EIS, each of the Co-Lead Agencies and other agencies have unique decision processes.