As soon as practical after the FHWA determines that an EIS is the appropriate class of NEPA documentation for a project, TDOT, with assistance from the FHWA, will write a Notice of Intent (NOI) to Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement. The NOI is a requirement of the CEQ regulations (40 CFT 1501.7). The NOI initiates the mandated scoping process for all EISs.
The NOI provides a short description of the project, the proposed action and preliminary alternatives. The NOI also describes the scoping process, identifies any upcoming formal public meetings that are associated with the project, and includes the name, address and phone number of a TDOT contact person. The Environmental Division will generally prepare the NOI with assistance from the FHWA. FHWA will send the NOI to the FHWA Washington Office for submittal to the Federal Register. The FHWA Technical Advisory T 6640.8A contains guidelines for preparing and processing NOIs, as well as provides sample NOIs (see Appendix D [pdf 201 kb] to this manual). A more recent document entitled, Federal Register Document Drafting Handbook (October 1998 revision), provides detailed instructions on preparing Notices for the Federal Register. It can be found at: http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/write/handbook/
Section 1501.7 of the CEQ regulations describes the scoping process. Scoping is a process, not just a meeting or an event. It may involve one or more meetings with agencies and/or the public, as a part of the process. Scoping is intended to help determine the scope of the NEPA document (i.e., what will be covered in the document and in what amount of detail). It has specific and fairly limited objectives:
Scoping can be conducted by letter, phone or formal meeting. Formal scoping meetings are not required by CEQ or the FHWA guidelines and regulations.
However, scoping meetings can be helpful in obtaining information about the project area, existing resources, and issues of concern. One or more meetings may be held with public agencies, organizations and interested individuals. If TDOT decides to hold a scoping meeting, notification is made through any combination of the following: the distribution of the initial coordination package, legal notices in local papers, publicity in local print and other media, telephone contacts and the TDOT website. The planner responsible for the NEPA document will work to accomplish this notification with TDOT's Community Relations Division The meeting publicity and format will follow the public meeting guidelines summarized in Chapter 7, Public Involvement, and fully outlined in TDOT's latest Public Involvement Plan, which is available on TDOT's website.
Scoping meetings and initial coordination packages create opportunities for the early input and involvement in the development of purpose and need and identification of alternatives, as mandated by SAFETEA-LU Section 6002 and promoted in the Department's CSS Statement of Commitment.