When an EA is prepared, the
decision-maker must determine before public release whether the alternatives
have the potential for significant impact. If so, the preparation of an
EIS begins, and an NOI to prepare an EIS is sent to the Federal Register.
If not, the EA proceeds, public comments are solicited, and upon completion
of response to comments, a FONSI is signed.
A FONSI is an explanation of why the selected action
will have no significant effects on the human environment. It is based
on the EA and comments of agencies and the public. The FONSI states which
alternative has been selected, very briefly describes other alternatives
considered in the EA, and discusses how criteria were used and how they
were weighed in the selection process. The FONSI is separate from the
EA, and it is detailed enough in drawing from sections in the EA to stand
alone. The FONSI is signed by the Regional Director. The FONSI's signature
block may also include a line for approval recommendation from the Park
Superintendent to the Regional Director.
- Content A FONSI
serves two functions in the NPS. It is the proof that no
significant impacts would occur if the proposal is implemented, and
it explains the rationale used in selecting the alternative for implementation.
Therefore, after describing the proposed action, a FONSI should follow
the list of significance criteria (section
4.2), and any measures integrated into the selected alternative
that apply should be explained. For instance, if the proposal is to
allow visitors to view an ongoing archeological excavation, and public
safety is an issue (criterion 2 in the list of significance criteria),
the alternative selected may include fencing the site, or
only allow visitation on guided tours with park rangers,
and note that these measures have proven nearly 100% effective
in other parks (e.g., Park X, Park Y) in protecting public safety.
This kind of synopsis of information taken from the EA assures readers
(including NPS decision-makers and any reviewing court) that concerns
that could mean significant impact have been adequately addressed. In
most cases, 5 pages are adequate to provide the specific proof required
in a FONSI. In cases in which a mitigated EA has been prepared
that is, the impact has been reduced to below a significance
threshold through the use of mitigation 5 pages may not
be adequate. The environmentally preferable alternative as indicated
in the EA must also be identified. If it is not the selected alternative,
reasons for non-selection must be clearly stated. In a FONSI, the reasons
must be described for rejecting all alternatives except the one ultimately
selected, similar to the process described in section
6.2(A) for Records of Decision.
- Mitigation Because
an EA is an analysis document, simply identifying mitigation measures
does not commit NPS to adopting or implementing them. If mitigation
is integral to an alternative, and this is clearly stated in the EA,
adopting the alternative in the FONSI does automatically mean the mitigation
is binding. Any mitigation that is dependent on funding or other factors
must be specifically adopted and stated as such in the FONSI. It is
suggested that a matrix or table be attached to the FONSI itemizing
mitigations, critical milestones, and responsible party.
- Errata sheets If
factual corrections need to be made to the EA as a result of comments,
you can use errata sheets instead of republishing the entire document.
If substantive comments have been made, but do not necessarily require
a change in the text of the EA, NPS should respond to these comments
in an errata sheet. Because errata sheets in combination with the EA
form the completed EA, errata sheets should be sent to all who have
commented with a letter noting that the errata sheets and the original
EA form the final document. The errata sheets are attached to the FONSI
and distributed. See 5.5(D)
for more information on use of errata sheets and completion of the record.
- Wetlands and floodplains
If the preferred alternative would be located in or adversely
affect a floodplain or wetland, and if the EA has led to a FONSI, a
wetland/floodplain SOF must be combined with the public review copy
of the EA. If the final preferred alternative still results in adverse
impact to a floodplain or a wetland but results in a FONSI, a final
SOF must be attached to the FONSI as a separately identifiable document.
- Section 106 of the NHPA
compliance If the preferred alternative affects a historic property
and thus requires consultation under section 106 of NHPA, the information
gathered as part of the section 106 review must be included in the NEPA
document and the section 106 process must be completed before a FONSI
can be signed. The FONSI must include a statement about consultation
under section 106.
- Section 7 of the Endangered
Species Act All consultation requirements must be completed,
as defined by section 7 of the Endangered Species Act, before a FONSI
can be signed. It is highly recommended that consultation documentation
accompany the public review EA document.
period for FONSIs (1501.4 (e)) In certain limited cases, NPS
must make the FONSI available for a 30-day minimum public review before
it decides whether to prepare an EIS or implement the project. If a
FONSI has been prepared, the issuing office must wait 30 days before
it implements the project or prepares an EIS for the project if the
selected alternative (a) is an NPS project, or closely similar to an
NPS project, that normally requires an EIS (see section
4.4) or has in the past required an EIS, or (b) is without precedence
in the NPS. Notice of such a waiting period should be published in the
Federal Register, but it must also be published in the local newspaper
- Impairment From the
facts presented in the analysis in the environmental assessment and
summarized in the FONSI, the FONSI must indicate that after a review
of the impacts that the alternative to be selected for implementation
will not impair park resources or values and will not violate the NPS
- Signatory The signatory
authority for a FONSI rests with the Regional Director.
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