The purpose of the Tennessee Environmental Streamlining Agreement (TESA) is to establish a coordinated planning and project development process for transportation projects in Tennessee in order to ensure significant agency and MPO participation and involvement early and throughout the project development process. Although the agencies that participate in the process to develop and implement transportation projects operate under different and varied regulations, the common responsibility of all agencies is service and accountability to the public.
This streamlined environmental process is intended to achieve the timely and efficient identification, evaluation and resolution of environmental and regulatory issues, by:
- Improving cooperation, consultation, and efficiency of the various agencies,
- Allowing documentation developed by FHWA and TDOT, to serve as a substantial part of the documentation required by other permitting and funding agencies,
- Streamlining the NEPA process,
- Coordinating the process for compliance with NEPA requirements and compliance with Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, Section 401/State water quality certification, and the Aquatic Resource Alteration Permit (ARAP) requirements,
- Linking the information generated from the transportation planning process to the NEPA process,
- Implementing the environmental stewardship and environmental review process improvements established bySAFETEA-LU,
- Accomplishing the project development coordination functions and public involvement functions called for under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, and
- Facilitating more realistic and predictable transportation projects, schedules and budgets.
This Agreement establishes “one decision-making process” to identify and address agency issues at four (4) key points, termed concurrence points, during the planning and NEPA process for transportation projects.
- Purpose and Need and Study Area
- Project Alternatives to be Evaluated in the Environmental Document
- Preliminary Draft Environmental Document
- Preferred Alternative and Preliminary Mitigation
The streamlined environmental review process will be based on joint interagency decision-making in regular meetings, with the ultimate goal of gaining concurrence from participating agencies that the information presented is adequate and that the project can be advanced to the next stage of project development. All participating agencies will be allowed the opportunity to explain their jurisdiction and interests and seek to understand the interests of others. The decision on whether or not to concur at a certain point should be based on a full understanding of the issues and relative tradeoffs associated with the final decision. Ultimately, though, each individual participating agency must make a decision of whether or not to concur at each concurrence point.
The intent of the concurrence points in the process is to achieve general agreement between agencies before a project moves forward and to preclude the routine revisiting of decisions that have been agreed to earlier in the process.
The process outlined in this Agreement applies to all transportation construction projects in the State of Tennessee, regardless of project funding source, administered by TDOT requiring an Environmental Assessment (EA) or an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) under NEPA, or all major transportation construction projects requiring a Tennessee Environmental Evaluation Report (TEER).
In addition to TDOT, the following parties are signatory to the Agreement:
- Federal Highway Administration, Tennessee Division (FHWA)
- US Army Corps of Engineers, Nashville District (USACE – Nashville District)
- US Army Corps of Engineers, Memphis District (USACE – Memphis District)
- US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)
- US Environmental Protection Agency, Region 4 (EPA)
- Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)
- National Park Service (NPS)
- USDA Forest Service (USDA)
- US Coast Guard (CG)
- Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC)
- Tennessee State Historic Preservation Office (Tennessee SHPO)
- Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA)
- Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs)
As of September 2008, the Tennessee Environmental Streamlining Agreement has been signed by TDOT, FHWA, TDEC, USACE (Memphis District), USACE (Nashville District), EPA (Region 4), USFWS, TVA, and TWRA. The purpose of these individual agreements is to outline a specific review and coordination process for each agency. In 2010, the Agreement was Amended and signed by these agencies. (To view Agreement and Amendment see TESA Library.)