California Department of Transportation

Module 3: Visual Quality and Visual Impacts
Lesson 14: Mitigation

Slide 57


This lesson will look at four aspects of mitigation:  incorporating commitments from all sources; what are the general mitigation concepts; what are the issues that mitigation has created for Caltrans; and how is mitigation related to enhancement opportunities.


Slide 58

Incorporating Commitments

Commitments to resolve visual issues may come from anywhere at any time during the project delivery process.  Commitments to maintaining particular visual resources or views can be made in the project’s Purpose and Need.   They can be stated in the comments from regulatory agencies on environmental documents or by permitting authorities as a stipulation.  Commitments could be negotiated with the community or be made as promises stated by transportation or political officials during public meetings.   Regardless of their source, commitments to resolve visual issues need to be acknowledged and incorporated into the VIA.


Slide 59

Incorporating Commitments

As stated noted in Module 1, this chart, Caltrans Project Delivery - Visual Impact Assessment Process is available to print out.


Slide 60

Incorporating Commitments

The Environmental Commitments Record (ECR) is the Department’s record of keeping commitments to the public and resource agencies.  It is a “living” document.  The Environmental Generalist and Landscape Architect need to communicate about any commitments Caltrans has made about resolving visual issues.  The landscape architect needs to incorporate these commitments into the VIA.  The environmental generalist should let the landscape architect and the Project Development Team (PDT) know when there are changes to the ECR.  The PDT needs to report back to the environmental generalist when such commitments are made by the project or Caltrans management.

The document, Environmental Commitments Record Form, is available to print out.


Slide 61

Incorporating Commitments

The Environmental Certification Form must be signed before RTL certification can be completed.  This has been referred to as “a big hammer” to ensure environmental commitments, including visual commitments, are included in the project’s PS&E package.


Slide 62

Incorporating Commitments

The Certificate of Environmental Compliance at CCA Form is important—very important.  In order for the Department to reach Construction Contract Acceptance (CCA), the CEC must be completed.  If the Environmental Generalist and Landscape Architect approach this as a collaborative effort, it is their best and last chance to correct and ensure that all commitments to resolving visual issues have been completed.


Slide 63

Mitigation Concepts

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, mitigation of adverse impacts can be accomplished in the four ways listed on this slide.

Avoidance of adverse impacts should be considered as the first option.  Developing an alternative that avoids generating an adverse visual impact is preferred when considering other forms of mitigation.  If an adverse impact is unavoidable, it should be minimized so that the least damage to visual resources is accomplished, and thereby minimizing negative viewer response.  If an adverse impact already exists in the project area and the project has an opportunity to repair or otherwise rectify the previous damage, the project should do so.  If the adverse impact is inevitable, the project should compensate for that impact through some ameliorating action.

All of these types of mitigation need to be targeted to the actual adverse impact.  If the visual impact concerns the removal of trees, adding an ornamental bridge rail is probably not an appropriate response.  If the impact degrades dominance of natural forms by obliterating curvilinear lines in the landscape, perhaps the most appropriate mitigation would be to design the alignment as a series of spline curves.  There is no set or standard set of mitigation techniques.  Each set of mitigation must be in response to a particular degradation of visual resources or the views of particular group of viewers.


Slide 64

Mitigation Concepts

These are two rules to live by when suggesting mitigation:

  1. Mitigate by avoiding, minimizing, rectifying, or compensating only for what has been actually changed in terms of visual character or visual quality.
  2. Mitigate only for what is gone. For example, if unity has been degraded, compensate by creating better unity among constructed elements.


Slide 65

Mitigation Issues

Please review the key concepts listed on this slide. This list of key concepts is a good tool for verifying that project mitigation is being adequately addressed.  


Slide 66

Enchancement Opportunities

Some projects have enhancement opportunities.  Enhancements are project features that go beyond mitigation.  They can be improvement to visual resources or improvements to the ability for viewers to observe.  The costs of designing, constructing, operating, or maintaining enhancements must be borne by entities other than Caltrans.


Slide 67

Module 3 Part B Completion

You have completed Part B of Module 3.  In Part B we examined visual impacts, how to assess visual impacts, and how to provide mitigation.  In Part C, we will cover VIA documentation and then provide a summary of the course.


Module 3C, Lesson 15 - Documentation