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Last Updated: Thursday, February 2, 2012 3:11 PM
Action - An “action,” a federal term, is the construction or reconstruction, including associated activities, of a transportation facility. For the purposes of this Handbook, the terms “project”, “proposal” and “action” are used interchangeably unless otherwise specified. An action may be categorized as a “categorical exclusion” or a “major federal action.”
APE - “Area of Potential Effect” A term used in Section 106 to describe the area in which historic resources may be affected by a federal undertaking.
ACHP - President’s “Advisory Council on Historic Preservation”
BCDC - San Francisco “Bay Conservation and Development Commission”
Beneficial Use - A use of a natural water resource that enhances the social, economic, and environmental well-being of the user. Twenty-one beneficial uses are defined for the waters of California, ranging from municipal and domestic supply to fisheries and wildlife habitat.
BMP - Best Management Practice
CAA - “Clean Air Act as amended” in 1990.
CARB - California Air Resources Board.
Categorical Exclusion - “Categorical exclusion,” under NEPA, covers various categories of actions which do not individually or cumulatively have a significant effect on the human environment and are exempt from the requirement to prepare an Environmental Assessment or an Environmental Impact Statement. This replaces the federal term “non-major action.” The federal term refers to the action as a whole having no significant impact on the environment. It does not refer to categories of project types.
Categorical Exemption - “Categorical Exemption” (CE) means an exemption from CEQA for a class of projects that have been determined by the Secretary of the Resources Agency not to have a significant effect on the quality of the environment. Article 19 of the CEQA Guidelines describes and gives examples for each class of categorical exemption. There are several exceptions which preclude a project from being considered a Categorical Exemption under CEQA: projects located on a site included on a list of designated hazardous waste sites (the Cortese List); projects that may result in damage to scenic resources on officially designated state scenic highways; or projects that may cause substantial adverse change to a historic resource.
CESA - California Endangered Species Act.
Cooperating Agency - “Cooperating Agency,” under NEPA, means any agency other than the lead agency which has jurisdiction by law or special expertise with respect to any environmental impact involved in a proposal for any action significantly affecting the human environment. Under CEQA, the term “responsible agency” is used.
Design concept - “Design concept refers to the type of facility identified by the project, e.g., freeway, expressway, arterial highway, grade-separated highway, reserved right-of-way rail transit, mixed-traffic rail transit, exclusive busway, etc.”
Design scope - "Design Scope refers to the design aspects that will affect the proposed facility’s impact on emissions, usually as they relate to carrying capacity and control, e.g., the number of lanes or tracks to be constructed or added, length of project, signalization, access control including approximate number and location of interchanges, preferential treatment for high-occupancy vehicles, etc.”
Environmental Assessment - An “Environmental Assessment” (EA) means a concise public document for which a federal agency is responsible that serves to briefly provide sufficient evidence and analysis for determining whether to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement or a Finding of No Significant Impact. It is the federal equivalent of the CEQA term “initial study.”
Environmental Document - “Environmental Document” means draft or final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) or Environmental Impact Report (EIR), Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI), Environmental Assessment (EA) or Negative Declaration (ND). A CE form is not considered an environmental document, it is rather the documentation that the project is exempt/excluded.
Agency (EPA) - An agency of the executive branch of the federal government charged with establishing and enforcing environmental regulations.
ESA - Environmentally Sensitive Area; Endangered Species Act
FHWA - Federal Highway Administration
FRA - Federal Railroad Administration
FTA - Federal Transit Administration, formerly the Urban Mass Transit Administration (UMTA)
FONSI - “Finding of No Significant Impact” means a document by a federal agency briefly presenting the reasons why an action, not otherwise categorically excluded, will not have a significant effect on the human environment and therefore does not require the preparation of an EIS. A FONSI is the federal equivalent of a Negative Declaration.
IS - "Initial Study" Under CEQA, the Initial Study is prepared to determine whether there may be significant environmental effects resulting from a project. The initial study is attached to the Negative Declaration or Mitigated Negative Declaration. It can become the basis of an EIR if it concludes that the project may cause significant environmental effects that cannot be mitigated below the level of significance.
ITIP - Interregional Transportation Improvement Program (Caltrans has authority to select projects)
IIP - Interregional Improvement Program (funding categories)
ITSP - Interregional Transportation Strategic Plan
Lead Agency - “Lead Agency” means the public agency which has primary responsibility for carrying out or approving a project which may have a significant effect on the environment and preparing the environmental document.
MAJOR INVESTMENT - Federal regulations define a “major metropolitan transportation investment” as “a high-type highway or transit improvement of substantial cost that is expected to have a significant effect on capacity, traffic flow, level of service, or mode share to the transportation corridor or subarea scale.” (23 CFR 450.104)
MIS - A “Major Investment Study” is prepared during the early planning phase to analyze the range of modal alternatives and cost/benefits of “major metropolitan transportation investments,” which are defined as being highway or transit improvements of substantial cost that is expected to have a significant effect on capacity, traffic flow, level of service or mode share at the transportation corridor or subarea scale. TEA-21 ELIMINATED THE REQUIREMENT FOR A SEPARATE MIS DOCUMENT, BUT THE ANALYSIS STILL MUST BE CONDUCTED.
MPO - Metropolitan Planning Organization, a federal designation for the forum for cooperative transportation decision-making for an urbanized area with population of more that 50,000.
Maintenance Area - A federal term to describe any geographic region of the United States designated nonattainment pursuant to the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 (CAAA) and subsequently redesignated to attainment subject to the requirement to develop a maintenance plan under Section 175A of the CAAA.
Metropolitan Transportation Plan - The Metropolitan Transportation Plan means the official intermodal transportation plan that is developed and adopted through the metropolitan transportation planning process for the metropolitan planning area.
Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND) - "Mitigated Negative Declaration" The CEQA document that is used when the Initial Study concludes that a project's potential significant effect on the environment can be reduced below the level of significance with the incorporation of mitigation measures.
NAGPRA - Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990
NAAQS - National Ambient Air Quality Standard
NOAA - National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration
NPDES Permit - “National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit which is required for facilities and activities that discharge waste into surface waters from a confined pipe or channel.
Negative Declaration (ND) - A “Negative Declaration” is the document within the CEQA process that states that a project will have not significant environmental impact.
Nonattainment Area - “Nonattainment Area” means any geographic region of the United States that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has designated as a nonattainment area for a transportation related pollutant(s) for which a National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) exists.
Nonpoint Source - A “nonpoint source” is a dispersed source of pollution that is not identifiable as to specific location, but may be identified as contributing to water quality degradation from a tributary drainage area, e.g. pesticide residues distributed over an agricultural area.
Notice of Availability - “Notice of Availability” means a formal public notice under NEPA announcing the availability of a completed EA, DEIS, or FEIS. Such notice is to be published in local newspapers. For EISs, publication of such notice in the Federal Register is also required.
Notice of Completion - The CEQA notice submitted to the State Clearinghouse when an EIR is completed. For Caltrans EIRs, the requirement for a Notice of Completion is satisfied by the cover sheet transmitting the EIR to the Clearinghouse.
Notice of Determination (NOD) - A “Notice of Determination” is a formal written notice under CEQA filed by a lead state agency when approving any project subject to the preparation of an ND or EIR.
Notice of Exemption - “Notice of Exemption” means a brief notice which may be filed by a public agency after it has decided to carry out or approve a project and has determined that the project is exempt from CEQA as being ministerial, categorically exempt, an emergency, or subject to another exemption from CEQA.
Notice of Intent - “Notice of Intent” is a notice that an environmental impact statement will be prepared and considered. The Notice of Intent is published in the Federal Register by the lead federal agency. The CEQA equivalent of this notice is called the Notice of Preparation.
Notice of Preparation (NOP) - "Notice of Preparation" is the CEQA notice that an EIR will be prepared for a project.
Project - CEQA (§21065) defines a “project” as an activity which may cause either a direct physical change in the environment, or a reasonably foreseeable indirect physical change in the environment, and which is any of the following:
a) An activity directly undertaken by any public agency.
b) An activity undertaken by a person which is supported, in whole or in part, throughout contracts, grants, subsidies, loans, or other forms of assistance from one or more public agencies.
c) An activity that involves the issuance to a person of a lease, permit, license, certificate, or other entitlement for use by one or more public agencies.
Record of Decision (ROD) - The “Record of Decision” is a formal written statement, required under NEPA, wherein a federal lead agency must present the basis for its decision to approve a selected project alternative, summarize mitigation measures incorporated into the project an document any required Section 4(f) approval.
RTIP - Regional Transportation Improvement Plan
RTP - Regional Transportation Plan. “...the official intermodal metropolitan transportation plan that is developed through the metropolitan planning process for the metropolitan planning area, developed pursuant to 23 CFR part 450.”
Responsible Agency - A “public agency, other than the lead agency which has responsibility for carrying out or approving a project” (PRC 21069). The CEQA Guidelines further explains the statutory definition by stating that a “responsible agency” includes “all public agencies other than the Lead Agency which have discretionary approval power over the project” (14 CCR 15381). State and local public agencies that have discretionary authority to issue permits, for example, fall into this category.
SAFETEA-LU - The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users. SAFETEA-LU authorizes the Federal surface transportation programs for highways, highway safety, and transit for the 5-year period 2005-2009.
Scoping - “Scoping” is a process for determining the scope of issues to be addressed in an EA and EIS and for identifying significant issues to be analyzed in depth in an EIS.
Significance - CEQA: CEQA defines a "Significant effect on the environment" as “a substantial, or potentially substantial, adverse change in any of the physical conditions within the area affected by the project, including land, air, water, minerals, flora, fauna, ambient noise, and objects of historic or aesthetic significance. An economic or social change by itself shall not be considered a significant effect on the environment. A social or economic change related to a physical change may be considered in determining whether the physical change is significant” (15382).
CEQA requires that the lead agency identify each “significant effect on the environment” resulting from the project and avoid or mitigate it.
The CEQA Guidelines include mandatory findings of significance for certain effects, thus requiring the preparation of an EIR.
Significance - NEPA: NEPA requires that an EIS is required when the proposed federal action has the potential to “significantly affect the quality of the human environment.” To determine that potential, one must consider both the context in which the action takes place and the intensity of its effect. Section 1508.27 of the CEQ regulations define the term “significantly” as:
Significantly as used in NEPA requires considerations of both context and intensity:
(a) Context. This means that the significance of an action must be analyzed in several contexts such as society as a whole (human, national), the affected region, the affected interests, and the locality. Significance varies with the setting of the proposed action. For instance, in the case of a site-specific action, significance would usually depend upon the effects in the locale rather than in the world as a whole. Both short- and long-term effects are relevant.
(b) Intensity. This refers to the severity of impact. Responsible officials must bear in mind that more than one agency may make decisions about partial aspects of a major action. The following should be considered in evaluating intensity:
(1) Impacts that may be both beneficial and adverse. A significant effect may exist even if the Federal agency believes that on balance the effect will be beneficial.
(2) The degree to which the proposed action affects public health or safety.
(3) Unique characteristics of the geographic area such as proximity to historic or cultural resources, park lands, prime farmlands, wetlands, wild and scenic rivers, or ecologically critical areas.
(4) The degree to which the effects on the quality of the human environment are likely to be highly controversial.
(5) The degree to which the possible effects on the human environment are highly uncertain or involve unique or unknown risks.
(6) The degree to which the action may establish a precedent for future actions with significant effects or represents a decision in principle about a future consideration.
(7) Whether the action is related to other actions with individually insignificant but cumulatively significant impacts. Significance exists if it is reasonable to anticipate a cumulatively significant impact on the environment. Significance cannot be avoided by terming an action temporary or by breaking it down into small component parts.
(8) The degree to which the action may adversely affect districts, sites, highways, structures, or objects listed in or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places or may cause loss or destruction of significant scientific, cultural, or historical resources.
(9) The degree to which the action may adversely affect an endangered or threatened species or its habitat that has been determined to be critical under the Endangered Species Act of 1973.
(10) Whether the action threatens a violation of Federal, State, or local law or requirements imposed for the protection of the environment. [43 FR 56003, Nov. 29, 1978; 44 FR 874, Jan. 3, 1979]
Sole Source Aquifer - An aquifer upon which a community depends exclusively for its fresh water supply.
State Implementation Plan (SIP) - The State Implementation Plan (SIP) means the portion (or portions) of an applicable implementation plan approved or promulgated, or the most recent revision thereof, under sections 110, 301(d) and 175A of the Clean Air Act.
State Water Resources Control Board - The principal authority of California for regulation of the quantity and quality of waters of the State, established by act of the legislature in 1967. It assumed responsibility for administration of the Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act of 1969.
STIP - "Statewide Transportation Improvement Plan" The STIP means a staged, multiyear, statewide, intermodal program of transportation projects which is consistent with the Statewide transportation plan and planning processes and metropolitan plans, TIPs and processes.
Statewide Transportation Plan - The official statewide, intermodal transportation plan that is developed through the statewide transportation planning process.
TIP - The Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) means a staged, multiyear, intermodal program of transportation projects which is consistent with the metropolitan transportation plan. It is a federal term.
TCM - Transportation Control Measure “... is any measure that is specifically identified and committed to in the applicable implementation plan that is either one of the types listed in § 108 of the CAA, or any other measure for the purpose of reducing emissions or concentrations of air pollutants from transportation sources by reducing vehicle use or changing traffic flow or congestion conditions. Notwithstanding the above, vehicle technology-based, fuel-base, and maintenance-based measures which control the emissions from vehicles under fixed traffic conditions are not TCMs for the purposes of Project-level conformity.
Trustee Agency - “a state agency having jurisdiction by law over natural resources affected by project which are held in trust for the people of the State of California. Trustee agencies include: a) the California Department of Fish and Game with regard to the fish and wildlife of the state, to designated rare or endangered native plants, and to game refuges, ecological preserves, and other areas administered by the department; b) the State Lands Commission with regard to state owned “sovereign” lands such as the beds of navigable waters and state school lands; c) the State Department of Parks and Recreation with regard to units of the State Park System; and d) the University of California with regard to sites within the Natural Land and Water Reserves System” (14 CCR 15386).
Wetland - Those areas that are inundated or saturated by surface or ground water at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions. (ACOE and EPA definition).