4.5 Tennessee Environmental Streamlining Agreement
In late 2004 and early 2005, TDOT and FHWA conducted a series of workshops to discuss improved interagency coordination and better integration of the resource and regulatory agencies and the Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) throughout the transportation project development process. The result of the meetings and discussion was the development of the Tennessee Environmental Streamlining Agreement (TESA) for the Environmental and Regulatory Coordination of Major Transportation Projects. The TESA applies to all major transportation construction projects in Tennessee, regardless of project funding source, that are administered by TDOT and require an EIS or an EA. It also applies to major projects requiring a Tennessee Environmental Evaluation Report (TEER) (see Chapter 10).
In addition to TDOT and FHWA, the parties to the TESA are:
- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Nashville District (USACE - Nashville District)
- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Memphis District (USACE - Memphis District)
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS)
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 4 (EPA)
- Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)
- USDA Forest Service (USDA), Cherokee National Forest
- Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC)
- Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA)
The Tennessee State Historic Preservation Office (Tennessee SHPO) is not a party to TESA at this time but does receive concurrence packages to review.
In addition to the agencies listed above that currently participate in the TESA process, TDOT anticipates involvement by the following parties in the TESA process in the future:
- National Park Service (NPS)
- U.S. Coast Guard (CG)
- Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs)
The streamlined environmental process is intended to achieve timely and efficient identification, evaluation, and resolution of environmental and regulatory issues. This agreement establishes "one decision-making process" to identify and address agency issues at four key points, termed concurrence points, during the planning and NEPA process for major projects. TESA requires concurrence from each of the signatory agencies at the following four stages of project development:
- The determination of purpose and need for the project and potential project impact area;
- The development of project alternatives to be evaluated as part of the environmental review document;
- The draft of the environmental (EA or DEIS) document; and
- The selection of a preferred project alternative which will include proposed means of mitigating environmental impacts.
The location of these concurrence points in the work flow for an EA, an EIS, and a TEER is shown in Figures 1.3, 1.4 and 1.6, respectively, in Chapter 1.
Under TESA, the following steps will take place:
- Determine Project Environmental Constraints - including preparation of a Transportation Planning Report (TPR) to identify environmental constraints and initiating consultation with any affected tribes.
- Provide Project Notification - upon completion of the TPR, by sending an early notification package to the signatory agencies
- Agree to Participate in the Project Environmental Review - in which agencies have 45 days from receipt of the Early Notification Packet to determine whether to participate in the project.
- Determine Environmental Document Type - during which TDOT submits a recommendation for the type of document to be prepared and FHWA reviews the request.
- Determine Timeline for Completing the Document - in which TDOT submits a draft recommendation that is reviewed by FHWA.
- Develop Purpose and Need and Study Area Package - for submittal to the participating agencies.
- Concurrence Point 1 - within 45 days of receipt of Purpose and Need and Study Area Package, participating agencies provide a response to the purpose and need, level of NEPA document, as well as input on environmental features, resources of concern, and potential alternatives.
- Public Scoping - including preparation of a Notice of Intent.
- Identify Project Alternatives to Be Evaluated - based on output from Concurrence Point 1 and any general alternatives analysis conducted by TDOT and development of a Project Alternatives Review Package for submittal to the participating agencies.
- Concurrence Point 2 - within 45 days of receipt of the Alternatives Review Package, the participating agencies provide a response on the alternatives to be carried forward and input on scopes and methodologies of detailed technical studies.
- Conduct Detailed Analysis of Alternatives - based on output from Concurrence Point 2, TDOT prepares a Preliminary Draft Environmental Document (EA, EIS or TEER) and forwards a copy to the participating agencies.
- Concurrence Point 3 - within 45 days of receipt of the Preliminary Draft Environmental Document the participating agencies review the document and respond to its adequacy.
- Draft Environmental Document - based on output from Concurrence Point 3, TDOT finalizes the EA or DEIS for approval by FHWA (or finalizes the draft TEER) and holds public hearings.
- Determine Preferred Alternative and Mitigation Measures - based on output from Concurrence Point 3 and any public hearings, TDOT prepares a Preferred Alternative and Mitigation Package that is forwarded to the participating agencies.
- Concurrence Point 4 - within 45 days of receipt of the Preferred Alternative and Mitigation Package, the participating agencies review and provide their concurrence on the selection of the preferred alternative and preliminary mitigation.
- Prepare Final Environmental Document - based on output from Concurrence Point 4, TDOT prepares the Finding of No Significant Impact, FEIS, or Final TEER for appropriate approvals.
- Applications for Applicable Permits - based on the final environmental document, TDOT prepares all necessary applications for all applicable permits.
With prior concurrence by each agency, the need and application for environmental permits should become an extension of earlier joint decisions. This, in turn, will facilitate the processing of these permits. The new approach is intended to achieve the timely and efficient identification, evaluation and resolution of environmental and regulatory issues.
The TESA agreement has been signed by TDOT, TDEC, FHWA, USACE, EPA, TVA, TWRA, USFWS, and USFS. TDOT continues to work with several of the signatory Resource/Regulatory Agencies to reach agreement on an individual agreement outlining specific responsibilities and, as appropriate, funding of supplemental staff and/or other operational costs. A signing ceremony with the agencies was held on September 16, 2008.