NEPA goes online with every day counts effort
The NEPA approval process, as we know it, is changing and going online. For a number of years the Federal Highway Administration has promoted their Every Day Counts initiative. The initiative identifies new innovations to shorten project development and includes everything from project cooperation and NEPA documentation to construction. The announcement of the third round of innovations—EDC-3— focuses on innovations that make the most sense for unique program needs, establishes performance goals and commits to finding opportunities to implement innovations into practice over the next two years.
The North Carolina EDC-3 Summit recently held a live broadcast on behalf of the FHWA entitled “Improving Collaboration and Quality Environmental Documentation (e-NEPA and IQED).” The broadcast introduced the EDC-3 initiative and further explained the e-NEPA effort, an online tool for major projects requiring an environmental impact statement or an environmental assessment. The program aims to shorten wait times for NEPA project approval using tools which create accurate and easy-to-read documents.
Additional features and benefits of using e-NEPA include:
- Interagency coordination
- Applicable to EA and EIS projects
- Real-time comments and documents, including shared comments among multiple reviewers
- Ability to organize documents and share with the project team
- Track review deadlines and status
- Helps project manager to build the administrative record
e-NEPA is still in its early stages. The next step to widely implement e-NEPA is to encourage regional and state Departments of Transportation to identify and test e-NEPA with FHWA-sponsored projects. DOTs may adopt e-NEPA as a DOT-wide standard, not just for FHWA-sponsored projects.
Adopting a national standard with e-NEPA presents some preliminary challenges. States have varying workflows and initial planning steps that change state by state. Comprehensive education and training would also be necessary to clarify use and explain responsibilities. Wisconsin and North Dakota are among early test states to implement e-NEPA.
Visit FHWA for more information on e-NEPA and other related initiatives for innovation related to NEPA implementation, including the Implementing Quality Environmental Documentation effort.
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