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Tennessee Environmental Procedures Manual

Chapter 10: Environmental Evaluation of State-Funded Projects

10.4 Environmental Evaluation of State-Funded Projects

Once it is determined that a TEER is necessary, there are a series of steps that are required to conduct the evaluation. Figure 10.2 illustrates the general flow of activities that should occur during the TEER process, particularly for a Major TEER. Not all of these activities are conducted sequentially; some occur simultaneously, or may be repeated as necessary. The length of time and the number of steps required to conduct the environmental review process are dictated by the size or complexity of the project, the level of controversy and the amount of coordination necessary.

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10.4.1 Early Coordination

Early coordination with other federal, state and local agencies and with the public is an essential ingredient in the project development process for transportation projects, whether they are federally- or state-funded. Early coordination is helpful in developing the project's purpose and need, determining alternatives, and identifying issues of concern, the scope of the environmental resources that would be affected by the project, permit requirements, possible mitigation measures, and opportunities for environmental enhancements.

Figure 10.2 Process to Conduct a Major TEER

Figure 10.2

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For major TEER projects, TDOT incorporates the process outlined in the Tennessee Environmental Streamlining Agreement (TESA). This includes the development and implementation of a Project Coordination Plan, as discussed in Section 4.1, Environmental Review Process. The coordination plan outlines lead agency responsibilities and the process for providing the public and other agencies opportunities for input. A major TEER project conducted following the TESA process also includes agency concurrence points 1 through 4 as discussed in Section 4.5, Tennessee Environmental Streamlining Agreement, and shown in Figure 10.2.

10.4.1.1 Agency Coordination

Agency coordination for state-funded projects is conducted as part of the gathering and assessing of data and information for the preparation of the environmental documentation. Such coordination is important for identifying issues of concern so that they can be resolved early in the project development process. Additional coordination with resource agencies may be necessary to develop mitigation commitments and to obtain necessary permits.

At a minimum, a TEER requires consultation with and notification of a core group of agencies that includes:

  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Nashville and/or Memphis District as appropriate);
  • Tennessee Valley Authority (if the project is within the Tennessee Valley Watershed and would affect TVA property and waters);
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 4
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service (if a national forest would be directly affected);
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service;
  • Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation,
  • Tennessee State Historic Preservation Office;
  • Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency;
  • Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (Local Planning Assistance Office);
  • Local Development District Office;
  • Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) if the project area is within MPO jurisdiction, or Regional Planning Organization (RPO); and
  • Local planners and elected officials.

Other agencies may need to be consulted depending upon the specifics of the project.

For major TEER projects, the TESA agency concurrence point #1 occurs once the need for the TEER has been identified and agencies have been notified of the preliminary purpose and need and options/alternatives. Concurrence point #2 occurs once reasonable alternatives have been identified.

10.4.1.2 Early Coordination Package

The Environmental Division conducts early coordination with the resource agencies, organizations, and the public by preparing and distributing an early coordination package for the TEER project. This coordination package is similar in format and content to the NEPA coordination package described in Section 4.3, Initial Coordination Packages.

The components of the TEER early coordination package are:

  • Project Data Summary Sheet (see Section 4.3.1 for suggested format and content);
  • Project Location Map (see Section 4.3.2 for suggested format); and
  • Transmittal Letter (see Section 4.3.3 for suggested format).

The early coordination package is sent to a project-specific list of recipients, which includes federal, state, and other agencies and local governments, which TDOT will coordinate with for the project. The list also includes private organizations and individuals who have requested to be included in early coordination. The starting point for developing the project specific list of recipients is the Environmental Division's existing database (described in Section 4.3.5 ), from which the TDOT Environmental Division planner creates the project-specific list. 1

10.4.1.3 Public Involvement

Public involvement in the project should be initiated at the beginning of the project, and should continue until a decision is made with the issuance of the Final TEER.

The public involvement components for the TEER are similar to those for a NEPA level environmental evaluation, as described in Section 7.3.6, NEPA Public Involvement. Section 10.6 of this chapter discusses the public involvement components of the TEER process. As with the projects evaluated under NEPA, the public must be provided an opportunity to provide early input on purpose and need and alternatives to be considered.

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10.4.2 Identify and Analyze Impacts

To conduct a TEER for a state-funded project, the Environmental Division staff collects data, reviews existing records, and conducts technical studies and impact analyses. Much of the information that needs to be gathered and analyzed for a state-funded transportation project and to complete the TEER documentation is similar to the information needed to complete a NEPA document. Chapter 5, Impact Analysis , of this manual, serves as a guide for gathering information and assessing impacts.

It is important to note, however, that not all of the laws and regulations listed in Appendix C [pdf 67 kb] of this manual apply to the non-federally-funded transportation projects. For example, only federal agencies are required to follow Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act; and Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act only applies to federally-funded transportation projects. In addition, there are several Tennessee laws that apply to the state-funded transportation projects, such as the Tennessee Water Quality Act and Public Law 699, which relate to reviews of state projects.

10.4.2.1 Records Check

A records check is conducted early in project planning, to provide a sound basis for developing or refining alternatives. The records check also provides background material needed to undertake field surveys and assess project impacts. Section 5.2, Records Check in Early Project Planning Phase , provides information on data sources and techniques for record checks for environmental screening that are also applicable to state-funded transportation projects. The use of a Geographic Information System (GIS) will facilitate the identification of problems and opportunities early in the project development process.

10.4.2.2 Technical Studies

Section 5.3, Technical Studies and Other Impact Analyses, describes the technical studies that are needed for the NEPA analysis of a federally-funded project. A variety of federal laws have been enacted and Executive Branch orders have been issued to mandate consideration of areas of concern and issues by federal agencies when they are proposing a federally-funded project. When a transportation project has no federal funds involved, the requirements of some of those federal rules and Executive Orders identified in Section 5.3 are not applicable. This section indicates when federal regulations discussed in Section 5.3 do not apply to state-funded projects.

The Environmental Division technical staff determines the issues of concern to be investigated during environmental evaluations of state-funded projects by reviewing the results of the records check and environmental screening, and by considering the issues raised by agencies and citizens in early coordination.

The types of technical studies that need to be prepared for state-funded projects include:

  • Cultural Resources (historic architecture and archaeological);
  • Natural Resources (threatened and endangered species, wetlands, water quality, terrestrial and aquatic resources);
  • Noise;
  • Air Quality;
  • Hazardous Materials;
  • Displacement and Relocation; and
  • Soils and Geology.
Cultural Resources

State-funded transportation projects must comply with TCA 4-11-111, Historical Review of State Projects (also known as Public Law 699). Under this law, all state agencies must consult with the Tennessee Historic Commission (THC) before demolishing, altering or transferring historically, architecturally or culturally significant state-owned property. The standard of review is the U.S. Secretary of the Interior's Standards. By law, the Commissioner of Transportation must consider the comments of the THC prior to demolishing, altering or transferring state property of historic, architectural or cultural significance.

Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act does not apply to state-funded projects unless a federal permit or action is required for the project. Section 4(f) does not apply to a state-funded project since no U.S. Department of Transportation action is involved.

For a state-funded project, TDOT identifies the National Register listed and/or eligible historic and archaeological resources that are found in the project area and assesses the project's effects on those resources. The approaches for identifying architectural/historical and archaeological resources are discussed below.

Architectural/Historical Resources. For architectural and historical resources, the Environmental Division's historic staff identifies the resources and prepares a report that is submitted to the THC for comment 2. The study process for architectural/historical resources is described in Section 5.3.2.3, Study Process for Architectural/Historical Resources.

A Survey Report, containing the results of the records search, literature review and research, historic context, and field survey, is prepared by the historic preservation technical staff (or its consultants). The Survey Report is submitted to the THC for comment. The Survey Report may be combined with an assessment of effects or a separate assessment of effects reports may be prepared. Coordination with the THC is required for both the survey findings and the effects assessment. If adverse effects are found, TDOT investigates ways to avoid, minimize or mitigate the project effects, and coordinates such measures with the THC. All measures agreed to by the THC and TDOT may be included in a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), which becomes a legal document and is appended to the TEER.

Archaeological Resources. TDOT follows the study process for archaeological resources, described in Section 5.3.2.4, Study Process for Archaeological Resources, of this manual. The records search and field work are conducted, site forms are completed, and the collected data and material are analyzed. The results of this work and an evaluation of whether additional investigation is warranted are presented in the Phase I Archaeological Survey report. The Survey Report is submitted to the Tennessee Division of Archaeology (TDOA) for comment in accordance with TCA 11-6-113, which calls for TDOT/TDOA cooperation.

If Phase II testing, as defined in Section 5.3.2.4 is required, Environmental Division archaeological staff or consultants conduct the testing and prepare the report for submittal to the TDOA, prior to the approval of a Final TEER. Any agreed upon mitigation work must be completed prior to the start of construction.

Natural Resources

There are several pieces of federal legislation and Executive Orders governing use of or impacts to natural resources by federal actions. The Endangered Species Act, Executive Order (EO) 11988 on Floodplain Protection and EO 11990 on Protection of Wetlands all apply specifically to federally-funded actions. The Clean Water Act (CWA), however, applies to federal, state, local and private actions.

For state-funded projects, TDOT evaluates the potential effects of a project on the natural environment by conducting ecological evaluations of streams, wetlands, and endangered species, as described in Section 5.3.3, Natural Resources . The provisions of the Tennessee Water Quality Act are applicable.

As part of the evaluation, TDOT requests information on federally threatened and endangered species from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and information on state species from TDEC's Natural Heritage Inventory Program. Formal consultation as required under the Endangered Species Act is not required for a state-funded project. However, TDOT contacts the FWS on state-funded projects to request information on federally threatened and endangered species to ensure that there are no species of concern that may be adversely affected. If federally protected species are in the project impact area, TDOT conducts a Biological Assessment (BA) to determine whether the project would have an effect on each listed species, and if there is an effect, its likelihood to adversely affect that species. The BA is forwarded directly to the FWS with a cover letter stating that the project is state-funded; this letter does not mention Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act as a reason for submittal. TDOT also checks the TDEC Natural Heritage Inventory Program database for threatened and endangered species.

The Environmental Division's Scope of Work for Ecological Studies provides detailed guidance for the performance of ecology-related work. The results of the technical investigations must be summarized in an Ecology Summary, the format of which is prescribed in Scope A of the Scope of Work for Ecological Studies. The Ecology Summary is incorporated into the TEER.

Noise

For state-funded projects on which noise is expected to be a concern, TDOT follows the approach described in Section 5.3.4, Noise , for the manual. TDOT's policies on highway noise and procedures for conducting noise studies are presented in the TDOT Noise Policy , which is available in the Environmental Division's Social and Cultural Resources Office, Air and Noise Section, and on the TDOT website at http://www.tn.gov/tdot/environment/airnoise/. The results of the noise study are presented in the TEER.

Air Quality

Section 5.3.5, Air Quality , explains the applicability of the federal Clean Air Act (CAA) and subsequent amendments. The act requires states and local MPOs to develop transportation plans and transportation improvement programs that conform to their allowable emission levels (emission budget), in order to reduce the severity and number of violations of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). The CAA allows for the withholding of federal funding for transportation projects if a region is found to be in violation of the conformity standards. Local transportation plans and Transportation Improvement Programs (TIPs) include all federally-funded projects, as well as those state and locally funded projects of "regional significance 3." Verifications of project conformity for currently approved TIPs for both MPO and non-MPO projects are on file at TDOT's Long Range Planning Division.

If a state or locally funded project in a non-attainment or maintenance area for air quality has been determined to be regionally significant, the project must be approved for conformity through the appropriate planning process. If it is not regionally significant, then a regional conformity analysis is not required.

In addition to a statement about the overall conformity of the project with adopted plans, a project specific analysis of carbon monoxide impacts may be needed for a state-funded project that is evaluated in a TEER. A localized area of concern such as an intersection, referred to as a "hot spot," may need to be evaluated if:

  • The project worsens an intersection level of service from Level of Service (LOS) C or D, and
  • The intersection is LOS D or worse and the project substantially increases the intersection delay.

If a hot spot analysis is conducted for a state-funded project, the study process outlined in Section 5.3.5.2 is followed.

The Environmental Division has drafted a PM2.5 Hot Spot Determination Process and Procedures document for use in completing PM2.5 hot spot determinations for transportation projects in non-attainment areas. This process applies to those counties that are in non-attainment for PM2.5 as identified in Table 5-7 in Chapter 5. While the EPA's PM2.5 hot spot determination requirements apply only to nonexempt projects that use federal funds, TDOT has determined that it will also evaluate the potential environmental impact of projects that do not use federal funds but that are still located in a non-attainment or maintenance area. If TDOT determines these state-funded projects have the potential to cause localized air quality problems, the process in Section 5.3.5.2 will be followed.

Hazardous Materials

As stated in Section 5.3.6, Hazardous Materials , NEPA does not mandate the completion of hazmat studies, but other laws do. For state-funded projects, hazardous materials investigations are conducted as described in Section 5.3.6.2.

Displacement and Relocation

For all property acquisitions and relocations, TDOT adheres to provisions of the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act, as stated on the website: http://www.tn.gov/tdot/row/appraisal.shtml.

Soils and Geology

As explained in Section 5.3.8, Soils and Geology , the analysis of soils and geology is necessary to assist with locating the project and to identify the potential of the project to cause harm. The analysis is conducted as described in Section 5.3.8.2.

Section 6(f) of the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act

Section 6(f) applies to state-funded projects if the project would affect resources that have received grants from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. During the environmental evaluation of a state-funded project, the Environmental Division conducts the study process for Section 6(f) resources as described in Section 5.3.9.2, Section 6(f) of the Land and Water Conservation Fund .

Other Impact Analyses

Section 5.3.10 identifies several other technical analyses that are conducted during the preparation of a NEPA document. The types of analyses that may need to be considered as part of a TEER evaluation include:

  • Social and Community Impacts
  • Environmental Justice and Non-Discrimination
  • Economic and Business Impacts
  • Land Use Planning and Land Use Impacts
  • Farmland Impacts
  • Visual Quality Impacts
  • Traffic and Accident Impacts (if applicable)
  • Construction Impacts
  • Wild and Scenic Rivers Impacts
  • Floodplain Impacts
  • Pedestrian and Bicycle Considerations (if applicable)

The process for evaluating the effects of a state-funded project for each of these issues is similar to the process described in the subsections under Section 5.3.10, Other Impact Analyses . One exception relates to farmland impacts for state-funded projects, which do not require coordination with the Natural Resources Conservation Service as described in Section 5.3.10.5, Farmland Impacts , although TDOT may pursue farmland coordination for a TEER project.

While Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and Executive Order 12898 on Environmental Justice relate to programs and projects of federal agencies and their impacts on low- income and minority communities, TDOT endeavors to follow the intent of those acts in the evaluation of state-funded projects.

As appropriate for each technical issue addressed in the TEER, the analysis will include an assessment of indirect impacts and cumulative effects that may result from the proposed project alternatives, other reasonably foreseeable future government actions and private actions that would occur with or without the proposed action. Indirect and cumulative effects are discussed in Section 5.1.1.2.

In addition to the types of analyses listed above, the TEER should address park and recreation area impacts if such resources are presented in the study area and would be affected by the project. 4 The evaluation includes:

  • Identification and description of public parks and recreation areas in the project area that would be affected by the project alternatives (i.e., type, size, ownership, activities and facilities in the park, level of use, etc);
  • Identification of the type and level of impact of the project on the resources (i.e., land taken, facilities affected, noise impacts, visual impacts, etc.);
  • Evidence of coordination with agencies that have jurisdiction over such resources; and
  • Measures to avoid, minimize, and mitigate adverse impacts.
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Footnotes

1. Section 4.3.5, Initial Coordination List , indicates that a package of information on the coordination package is sent to FHWA. Since the TEER applies only to projects that have no federal action, FHWA is not provided with a package of information.

2. The Tennessee Historical Commission serves as the designated State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) for Tennessee under Section 106 of the Historic Preservation Act. The same agency and staff members review state-funded projects under Public Law 699 and federally-funded projects under Section 106.

3. According to FHWA's Transportation Conformity Reference Guide (May 2000), a "regionally significant project means a transportation project (other than an exempt project) that is on a facility which serves regional transportation needs (such as access to and from the area outside of the region, major activity centers in the region, major planned developments such as new retail malls, sports complexes, etc., or transportation terminals as well as most terminals themselves) and would normally be included in the modeling of a metropolitan area's transportation network, including, at a minimum, all principal arterial highways and all fixed guideway transit facilities that offer an alternative to regional highway travel."

4. Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act applies only to projects funded through the U.S. Department of Transportation. TDOT is not obligated to conduct a Section 4(f) evaluation of a state-funded project that could affect a public parkland or recreational resource, wildlife refuge, or historic site. TDOT, however, is committed to investigating ways to avoid, minimize and/or mitigate impacts to public parklands and recreational resources, wildlife refuges, and historic properties when developing a project.

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