Environmental review is a major phase of project planning. We take a good hard look at the project alternatives and assess their benefits and impacts. We gather input from the public, agencies and others who have a stake in the project.

The goal of the process is to gather the information we need to make an informed decision. It guides us in deciding which alternative to build and how to build it. Which alternatives we review and how we evaluate them are greatly influenced by what we hear from the community.

During environmental review, we prepare more detailed designs of the short list of alternatives. We look at how each alternative would affect social, cultural, built and natural resources. We also look at cost, ease of building, ability to survive an earthquake and other factors.

As part of the process, we will prepare an Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS. This is required by the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA.

What is NEPA?

NEPA is the basis of federal environmental policy. It applies to all federal agencies and their actions, including permitting, funding and building projects. NEPA sets a standard for how these agencies study and report environmental effects. It also defines how they involve the public in decision-making before taking action.

NEPA requires all federal agencies to take a thorough look at how their potential actions would affect the human and natural environment. This includes evaluating and ensuring compliance with other laws and regulations, such as the Clean Water Act and the National Historic Preservation Act.

There are currently no federal funds in the Earthquake Ready Burnside Bridge project. However, we must follow NEPA in order to be eligible for federal funding for design and construction. As the project sponsor, Multnomah County is a co-lead agency with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT).

What is an Environmental Impact Statement?

An EIS is a document required by NEPA. It describes the environmental effects of a proposed action and one or more alternatives. It is meant as a tool to assist in decision-making. It is required for any federal action that is expected to have significant environmental impacts or if there is significant public controversy.

First a Draft EIS is prepared, including selection of a preferred alternative. Following public comment, a Final EIS refines and updates the draft. Finally, a Record of Decision (ROD) makes a formal decision on which alternative to build. For this project, the ROD will be published along with the Final EIS.

Because we will be seeking federal highway funding, the lead agency for this EIS will be the FHWA.

What are the stages of an EIS?

Scoping

  • Identify the basic purpose and need of the proposed action

  • Identify and screen the alternatives that would best address the purpose and need

  • Identify the potential environmental impacts that need to be evaluated

  • Identify stakeholders who will be interested in the proposed action and its impacts

Draft EIS

  • Study the environmental impacts of the alternatives

  • Identify ways to minimize the impacts

  • Evaluate and demonstrate how the action will comply with other environmental regulations

  • Compare and contrast the alternatives

  • Document the analysis in a Draft EIS and invite public input

Preferred Alternative

  • Agency selects which alternative it thinks is best to proceed with

  • Can be done before or after the Draft EIS

Comment Period

  • Those affected by the project can provide input in writing or at public hearings

Final EIS

  • Respond to public input

  • Refine and update the alternatives and analysis as appropriate

  • Publish the Final EIS

Record of Decision

  • The federal lead agency approves a final finding and the ROD

  • Includes commitments to measures to minimize impacts

  • Demonstrates compliance with other federal environmental regulations

  • Can be simultaneous with the Final EIS

Next Steps

  • Waiting period, during which legal challenges to the ROD may be filed

  • After the waiting period, begin acquiring funding, permits and approvals

How can I be involved in the environmental review process?

The public and various agencies will be involved throughout the process. There will be public meetings and other ways to comment.

The three phases where public input is most crucial are scoping, review of the Draft EIS, and selection of the preferred alternative.

Learn more about how to get involved.

Timeline

We plan to produce a Draft EIS and a preferred alternative by fall of 2020.

The Final EIS and the Record of Decision are expected by fall of 2021.

Learn More