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NEPA Categorical Exclusions Process

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Projects that are not likely to cause significant adverse environmental impacts are classified as NEPA Categorical Exclusions (CE).  CEs typically do not involve impacts to growth or land use; relocation of significant numbers of people; or significant air, noise, or water quality.  They do not impact cultural, recreational, historic, or other resources, and are not controversial for environmental reasons. 


The information on this page is designed for a technical audience.  

New FHWA Guidance

  • FHWA and FTA have created new CEs in accordance with Section 1318 of MAP-21. The new CEs will become effective on November 5, 2014. Some of the new CEs have criteria that must be met before they can be applied as described in the Federal Register. FHWA will be hosting a webinar about the new CEs on November 12. Click here to register. The NEPA/SEPA Compliance Program will be developing guidance as information becomes available. (October 2014).
  • FHWA has updated their guidance for obtaining FHWA approval for di minimis use and Temporary Occupancy for CE level projects.  A process flow chart and forms are available on the Section 4(f) web page. (August 2014) 

Environmental Review Summary (ERS): Project Scoping

The NEPA Classification is determined during the project scoping phase.  The project is scoped in the ERS database (See EM Chapter 300).  The RES establishes the environmental baseline for the project and is used to build the project schedule and budget prior to project funding.  Guidance on how to fill out an ERS is found embedded within the database.  For access to the database contact your Region Environmental Coordinator.

Who can sign a CE is determined in 23 CFR 771.117 and 23 CFR 771.118

WSDOT Signed CEs 

CEs signed by Federal Agencies:

  • DCEs -- Section III(B) of the PCE lists 14 conditions that preclude WSDOT from signing the environmental documents.  Projects that meet any of these conditions require FHWA approval and FHWA signs the environmental document.
  • FTA CEs -- are defined in 23 CFR 771.118. Coordination with FTA is required for NEPA approval.

Environmental Classification Summary (ECS): Analysis & Documentation

Analyzing Impacts -- After a project receives design funding, the project record is exported from Project Summary (ERS) into the Environmental Classification Summary/SEPA Checklist database.

  1. As design issues are resolved, pertinent information is entered into the appropriate blanks in the Environmental Consideration section of the ECS database. 
  2. The Help index provides guidance for how to answer the questions in the database. Contact your REC for access to the database.
  3. Small projects that take place entirely within the existing ROW may use the new short 'c' List Form  (pdf 117 kb)
  4. The WSDOT Environmental Manual, Environmental web pages and GIS workbench provide additional information and resources.

Documenting Impacts -- Environmental documentation for CE/PCE/DCE level projects is accomplished in the ERS/ECS database.  This is an internal WSDOT application.  Contact your Region/Mode Environmental Coordinator to get access to the database.

The signed ECS Report and supporting documentation, if any, serves as the environmental document for CE/PCE/DCE level projects. 

Re-Evaluating CEs

CEs and DCEs may require re-evaluation (see EM Section 400.06) if:

  1. The project scope has changed.
  2. More than three years has elapsed since the last FHWA action.
  3. New environmental laws or regulations have been enacted.
  4. New ESA species have been listed.
  5. The project area has changed.

Methods for documenting Re-Evaluations

SEPA

Guidance can be found the SEPA Process web page and in the SEPA Online Handbook.

Resources