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Tennessee Environmental Procedures Manual

Chapter 10: Environmental Evaluation of State-Funded Projects

10.6 Preparation of a Major TEER

This section describes the two stages of preparation for a Major TEER (draft and final), the content and format of a Major TEER, and the review and approval process.

10.6.1 Two Stages of a Major TEER

The Major TEER documentation is prepared in two stages: a draft and a final document. The draft Major TEER is developed, reviewed and approved, and circulated to the public and agencies for comment, much like a NEPA EA or DEIS. The final TEER is prepared following the comment period for the draft Major TEER and once TDOT has selected the alternative to be implemented. The final Major TEER records TDOT's decisions regarding the selected alternative and represents TDOT's commitment to implement the agreed-upon mitigation strategies for the project.

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10.6.2 Draft Major TEER

10.6.2.1 Content and Format

The Major TEER is intended to be a concise document that summarizes the results of the technical studies. It should not include detailed or lengthy descriptions of information that has been gathered for the analyses. Technical studies that form the basis of the conclusions presented in the Major TEER should be referenced in the document and copies of those studies should be maintained in the project files at the Environmental Division. Once the draft Major TEER is approved and ready for circulation, the technical studies, with the exception of precise locations of archaeological resources, should be made available to the public or agencies that ask to review them.

The size and complexity of a Draft Major TEER should be directly related to the size of the project and its expected impacts. For a simple project with few impacts, the Major TEER may be only a few pages in length; for a more complex project, the document will likely be substantially longer. The Major TEER should contain only the information that is applicable to the specific project. There is no need to recite standard methodologies for issues for which there are no anticipated impacts.

The suggested format for the Draft Major TEER is as follows:

  • Cover Sheet. The cover page provides the name and location of the project, a line for the TDOT approval signature and date, and the due date for comments. It also identifies the name, address and telephone number of the TDOT contact person(s) for the document.
  • Summary: A brief (one to two pages) summary is placed after the signature page. This summarizes the project, the alternatives, and the primary benefits and adverse impacts. Also included is a list of the environmental commitments that have been identified in the Major TEER, which will be printed on green paper.
  • Purpose and Need. This section includes a description of the proposed transportation project, the length and termini of the project, the project background, its consistency with existing plans, and the transportation or other needs that the project is intended to satisfy.
  • Alternatives. This section discusses the alternative(s) that are under consideration. This section also identifies and briefly describes those alternatives that were considered and found not to be reasonable or feasible, and thus were dropped from further consideration.
  • Impacts. This section describes the social, economic and environmental impacts and consequences of the proposed project. The level of analysis described should be sufficient to adequately address the impacts and appropriate mitigation measures, and address known and foreseeable public and agency concerns. The discussion should focus on the technical areas that are described in Section 10.4.2.2, Technical Studies.
  • Comments and Coordination. This section describes the public involvement and agency coordination activities, summarizes key issues/concerns and pertinent information received from the public and agencies, and lists those agencies and persons that were consulted.
  • Appendices. There may be one or more appendices, depending upon the size and complexity of the project. Coordination letters received from agencies, organizations and the public as a result of initial and ongoing coordination are included in a coordination appendix. Other appendices may include analytical information that substantiates an analysis that is important to the document, such as the noise impact analysis.

10.6.2.2 Quality Assurance Process

Section 6.6.1, TDOT's Environmental Document Quality Assurance Process, described the procedures by which the Draft and Final Major TEERs, and related TESA documentation, must be reviewed to ensure both the technical completeness and integrity and the editorial quality of the document. The process illustrated in Figure 6.1 applies to Major TEER level documents, with the exception of the orange boxes indicating FHWA review. Reviews of Major TEER documentation are conducted within TDOT.

10.6.2.3 Approval of Draft Major TEER

Once the Draft Major TEER has been completed, including reviews by Environmental Division staff, the Environmental Division Director elevates the document to the next higher level of TDOT management (currently the Bureau Chief for Environment and Planning) for approval and signature. The Environment and Planning Bureau Chief signs the cover, and the Draft Major TEER is printed and made available for public and agency review.

For Major TEER-level projects, the TESA concurrence point 3 (refer to Section 4.5, Tennessee Environmental Streamlining Agreement ) occurs when the Draft Major TEER has been prepared, and prior to its approval and circulation.

10.6.2.4 Public and Agency Review and Comment

The Draft Major TEER is made available for public inspection at the TDOT Environmental Division office, at the TDOT Region Office, at the public library in the county (or counties) where the project is to be implemented, and at other locations as necessary. A notice of availability is placed in the local newspapers announcing:

  • The availability of the Draft Major TEER;
  • Locations where the document can be reviewed;
  • Dates, times and locations of any public meeting or hearing on the Draft Major TEER;
  • Due date and addresses for written comments; and
  • A contact name, address and telephone number for more information.

TDOT may place an electronic version of the Draft Major TEER on the TDOT website.

While a public hearing is not required, TDOT will hold a public hearing if there is substantial public interest. When a hearing has been requested and it is unclear whether the request represents substantial public interest, TDOT will hold the hearing. Whether or not a hearing is held, comments on the Draft Major TEER and the project are accepted during the 60-day period following the date that the Draft Major TEER is made available. In addition, TDOT accepts written comments during the 21-day period following a public hearing on a Major TEER. At a minimum, at least 60 calendar days must be provided for comments to be received.

Following the comment period for the Draft Major TEER, the Environmental Division staff reviews the comments received and coordinates with staff in other TDOT divisions as necessary to determine how the comments will be addressed. The Environmental Division staff prepares a brief memo summarizing the public and agency comments and the responses to those comments; the memo may include a recommendation from the Environmental Division staff on how TDOT should proceed. The memo is reviewed by the Environmental Division Director and sent to the Chief of Environment and Planning.

10.6.2.5 Selection of the Preferred Alternative

The agency and public comments are used by TDOT to help determine the alternative to be implemented. TDOT first makes the decision whether to build or not build the project as described in the Draft Major TEER. If the decision is made to proceed with the project, TDOT then determines which of the build alternatives (if there is more than one) is the preferred alternative. The selection of the preferred alternative is documented in the Final Major TEER.

For Major TEER projects, TESA concurrence point 4 (refer to Section 4.5, Tennessee Environmental Streamlining Agreement ) occurs once the preferred alternative and mitigation strategies have been identified.

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10.6.3 Final Major TEER

10.6.3.1 Format of Final Major TEER

The Final Major TEER is prepared to document the decision on the selected alternative for the project. Two choices are available for the Final Major TEER format, a revision of the Draft Major TEER or preparation of an abbreviated Final Major TEER document.

The first format is to revise the Draft Major TEER to serve as the Final Major TEER. The entire document is revised to identify the selected alternative, with the most substantial changes occurring in the Alternatives and Coordination Chapters. Throughout the document the name of the alternative chosen is changed to "Selected Alternative" and graphics are revised to show the selected alternative. The coordination chapter is also revised to include a summary of the public hearing and agency comments.

The second format for the Final Major TEER involves much less work, but serves the same purpose. In this scenario, an abbreviated Final Major TEER document is prepared that identifies the selected alternative and any changes that have occurred to the alternative as a result of public, agency, or public hearing comments. The comments are summarized and the Draft Major TEER is appended to the Final Major TEER.

Regardless of the Final Major TEER format, the following items must be incorporated:

  • Identification of the selected alternative and an explanation of its selection over other alternatives that were evaluated in the Draft Major TEER;
  • Description of changes in the proposed project and mitigation measures resulting from the comments received, and any impact of the changes;
  • Confirmation of the final mitigation measures for the project;
  • Other commitments made in the Major TEER; and
  • Discussion of the public and agency comments received and appropriate responses to those comments.

10.6.3.2 Approval and Distribution

Following reviews by the Environmental Division Director and the Chief of Environment and Planning, the Final Major TEER is forwarded to the Commissioner of Transportation for signature.

Copies of the signed Final Major TEER are distributed to TDOT's Design Division and other divisions as appropriate, the applicable TDOT Region Office, and the local government official(s) with jurisdiction over the project area. A notice of the availability of the Final Major TEER, in the form of a letter, is sent to the federal, state and local agencies that have expressed an interest in the action. TDOT also publishes a legal notice in the local newspaper in the project area to advertise the availability of the Final Major TEER at a local public library nearest the project area, the TDOT Region office, and on the TDOT website.

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10.6.4 Continuous Activities and Reevaluations

TDOT may need to revisit the TEER documentation if there is a substantial lag time between the environmental approval and construction letting, or if there have been substantial changes in the project or the project area between the environmental approval and the construction of the project.

10.6.4.1 Environmental Reevaluations

If more than a year has passed between the signing of the TEER and the construction letting, the Environmental Division conducts a reevaluation of the project. As a matter of course, TDOT conducts two reevaluations for each project: the first at right-of-way acquisition, and the second prior to construction. The purpose of the reevaluation is two-fold:

  • To ensure that the project design is being developed in a way that is consistent with the commitments contained in the TEER; and
  • To address changes in the design, planned mitigation measures, and the project area, as well as to address the unanticipated late discovery of sensitive environmental resources.

When there has been continuous activity on a project and there are no substantial changes in design, land use, or impact, a note to the project file is sufficient. When there are substantial changes in design, land use, or impact, or where there has been a substantial lag (greater than one year) in the project, a memorandum documenting the reevaluation may be necessary.

The reevaluation should focus on changes in the project, its surroundings and impacts, and any new issues identified since the last environmental documentation. To accomplish the reevaluation, it may be necessary to conduct field reviews, additional studies and agency coordination. The results of these reviews, studies, and written coordination are included in the reevaluation documentation, which is in the form of a memorandum or letter.

The written reevaluation is prepared by the Environmental Division staff, and reviewed and signed by the Environmental Division Director. The signed reevaluation is placed in the project file.

10.6.4.2 Supplemental Evaluations

A Supplemental TEER may be necessary when major changes, new information or further developments occur in the project that were not identified or discussed in the original TEER. The need for a Supplemental TEER may be revealed through the reevaluation process, discussed above in Section 10.5.

A Supplemental TEER may be prepared in the following cases:

  • Changes are made in the design or scope of the project after the TEER is approved, and these changes would result in substantial adverse environmental impacts not evaluated in the TEER;
  • New information or circumstances relevant to the environment would result in substantial adverse environmental impacts not evaluated in the TEER; or
  • New species or critical habitats are identified within the project area.

The supplement is developed using the same format and process as the TEER. If a Draft TEER has been circulated, and the circumstances described above occur prior to the Final TEER, the supplement documentation is included in the Final TEER. If the Final TEER for a project has been approved, and the above described circumstances occur, the supplement is prepared in the form of a Final TEER.

The Supplemental TEER should provide sufficient information to describe the proposed project, the reasons that a supplement is being prepared, and the status of the previous TEER. Unchanged information should be briefly summarized and referenced, rather than being repeated. Any new environmental requirements enacted since the last approval of the TEER should be addressed. The supplement should also summarize the results of any reevaluation that was performed. The Supplement TEER thus represents an up-to-date consideration of the project and its environmental effects.

The Supplemental TEER is reviewed, approved and distributed in the same manner as the Final TEER.

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