The Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is a process outlined by the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA. The NEPA process requires environmental analysis of proposed actions prior to making decisions, including constructing highways and other federal-aid facilities. The FHWA oversees the NEPA process at the federal level. Using the NEPA process, agencies evaluate the environmental and related social and economic effects of their proposed actions. Agencies must also provide opportunities for public review and comment on those evaluations. In cooperation with FHWA, NDOT must follow the NEPA process for all federally-funded projects. NDOT will ensure there is meaningful public involvement throughout the development of the Tier 1 EIS.
A Tier 1 EIS evaluates broad corridors, not project-level footprints. It will identify potential risks of impacts related to the identified alternatives.
The formal NEPA process is designed to ensure that:
- Reasonable transportation alternatives are considered
- Community input and involvement play a key role
- Environmental and community effects are fully disclosed
While there are two key public comment periods during the EIS process, there is ongoing opportunity for the public and regional stakeholders to remain engaged in the project planning. Throughout the development of the Tier 1 EIS there will be ongoing opportunities for public and stakeholder input in addition to formal in-person meetings and a public hearing for the Draft Tier 1 EIS.
Tier I Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) Process
- 1. Notice of Intent and Public and Agency Scoping
- 2. Alternatives Development
- 3. Prepare Technical Studies and Draft Tier 1 EIS
- 4. Review of the Draft Tier 1 EIS
- 5. Response to Comments on Draft Tier 1 EIS
- 6. Prepare Final Tier 1 EIS/Record of Decision (ROD)
Public and agency scoping begins with potential issues, opportunities, and concerns that will be solicited from various agencies, the community, and interested stakeholders to understand the scope of work and topics to address during the study. Scoping activities will include communications to promote the scoping period through mass media, social media, electronic notices, the project website, and multiple in-person public meetings. To accompany the in-person meetings, NDOT will host an Online Public Meeting during the scoping period. Input during the scoping period will be gathered at public meetings, through email and website comments submittal, and direct mail. All comments submitted and received during the 30-day scoping period will be integrated into the Scoping Summary Report as formal documentation of community issues, opportunities, and concerns.
Various corridor options will be screened using criteria consisting of multiple quantitative and qualitative measures that correspond with the Purpose and Need, public agency, and tribal input, as well as potential impacts to environmental resources. This process will enable NDOT and FHWA to screen, refine, and further consider corridor alternatives that best meet the purpose and need for the project. A reasonable range of corridor alternatives will be identified, along with a No-Build alternative, to be studied in the Tier 1 EIS.
The Draft Tier 1 EIS is an official report that will document the detailed analysis of corridor alternatives. The corridor alternatives will be compared against a No-Build Alternative. The Draft Tier 1 EIS will consider possible impacts that alternatives might have on a variety of social, environmental, and economic resources, and will evaluate their direct, indirect, and cumulative effects. Impacts that will be analyzed include, but are not limited to:
- Air Quality
- Biological Resources
- Economic Impacts
- Geology and Hazardous Materials
- Cultural Resources, including Tribal Lands
- Land Use
- Noise and Vibration
- Parks, Recreation, and Other Community Facilities
- Socioeconomic and Environmental Justice
- Visual and Aesthetics
- Water Resources
The Draft Tier 1 EIS document will be available for review by the public electronically on the project website as well as hard copies housed at key community repositories throughout the project area. During the public circulation period of the Draft Tier I EIS, multiple public meetings will be held along with an online public meeting to present the information and encourage public participation and comments.
The project team will compile and respond to all comments received regarding the Draft Tier 1 EIS and conduct additional analysis and coordination with stakeholders as needed.
It is anticipated that a combined Final Tier 1 EIS (FEIS)/ROD will be prepared for the project. The FEIS will incorporate changes to the Draft Tier 1 EIS based on comments received during the public comment review period. In addition, the FEIS will identify a preferred alternative that may be either one of the Action Alternatives studied in the Draft EIS or a No-Action Alternative. If an Action Alternative is selected, it could be implemented and constructed in smaller segments as funding is available. The FEIS will provide a phased implementation plan as required and a framework to move forward.
The ROD that will be included with the FEIS will:
- Confirm the selected alternative
- Present the basis for the decision
- Describe the alternatives considered
- Provide strategies to avoid
- Minimize or compensate for environmental impacts
The I-11 project team will evaluate and process all comments received during the public review period. Each submission will be logged, responded to, evaluated, and then sorted by topic. Public and agency comments on the Draft Tier 1 EIS will be responded to in the combined FEIS/ROD.