The Bureau of Reclamation, like all federal agencies, must comply with a number of environmental and cultural resource requirements for any action that requires our authorization. In order to work with you to approve your request as quickly as possible, this brochure provides a brief overview of the various requirements, the information we need to fulfill those requirements, and a general idea of the time required to complete our compliance activities.
We would like to stress that you consult with us as early as possible while planning your project in order to ensure timely completion of all requirements. As mentioned below, some aspects of environmental compliance may be initiated before final design, but others require final design to begin. Because Reclamation’s compliance requirements could affect the timeline of project implementation, we urge you to review this brochure and contact us with any further questions you may have. As a general rule, for environmental and cultural resource clearance we need written project descriptions, detailed maps, and final project designs in order to begin work on your projects.
Most small projects lacking individually or cumulatively significant impacts will qualify for a CE, meaning that the project clearly falls within a category of actions that never has significant environmental impacts. In order to determine whether a proposal qualifies under a CE, the Environmental Group needs a detailed project description, any applicable maps and designs, acreage of surface disturbance, and may need to conduct a site visit. The documentation to verify a CE typically requires three months to complete (including SHPO and tribal consultation) after this information has been received.
Federal actions that may significantly affect the quality of the human environment are subject to compliance with NEPA. Federal action may include application of federal dollars, changes in operation of facilities, proposed new facilities, or permission to use or cross Federal land, among other things. The degree of effort required to comply with NEPA ranges from the Categorical Exclusion (CE) which is relatively simple, to the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for major or controversial projects. In many instances, the NEPA process can and should begin quite early in the project design phase.
The Endangered Species Act provides a means to protect threatened, endangered, and candidate species (listed species) and their habitats. If the potential exists for the occurrence of listed species in a project area, Reclamation must determine if the species may be potentially impacted by project implementation. A site visit by a biologist from the Environmental Group may be necessary. If it is determined that listed species exist in the project area, and that they may be impacted, varying levels of consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) will be required. This process can take 30 days to a year to complete.
The EA represents the next level of NEPA documentation, and analyzes whether or not a proposed action will have significant impacts. The degree of analysis of an EA is much more than a CE, and thus requires more time. If it is determined that the proposal will have no significant impact, a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) is issued to complete the required NEPA compliance. If the EA shows that significant impacts are likely, then an EIS must be prepared. The time required to complete an EA may range from six months to a year. The same initial project information as for a CE is required, and additional site visits and data gathering are generally required.
The Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act ensures that wildlife conservation will receive equal consideration during the permitting process. It requires Reclamation to consult with the Service and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources regarding potential impacts to wildlife from projects requiring permits. This process has no time limits.
If it is determined that significant impact is likely to result from the project proposal, an EIS is required. The EIS is the most detailed and complex of NEPA documents, and includes requirements for significant public coordination and involvement throughout its preparation and review. The period required to complete an EIS may span several years.
For virtually all projects, Reclamation must comply with a number of requirements related to cultural resources and tribal consultation. This process takes a minimum of 60 days and is best accomplished if early notice is given to the Provo Area Office archaeologist, whose attendance at project meetings can be very helpful. When draft design work is completed, a literature search can be conducted to determine whether there are any historic properties in the project area. During early project stages, a paleontological literature search and initial consultation with tribes and/or the Utah State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) can also begin.
Once final design is complete, 7.5’ topographic maps of the project area should be provided to the archaeologist (either Reclamation’s archaeologist, or archaeologists working under contract for the project). A cultural resource inventory of the project area including any new access roads, staging areas and borrow areas can then be completed. The time required for this inventory depends on the size of the project area. Generally, such inventories are completed at a rate of 20 to 30 acres per day, or five miles per day on linear surveys of 50-foot corridors
Following the required surveys, a cultural resource report must be completed and submitted to SHPO. Report preparation takes one to several weeks. Once a report is received, SHPO has 30 days to concur with Reclamation’s findings regarding any effects of the project on historic properties. No ground-disturbing activity can begin until a concurrence letter is received from SHPO. If there are no effects, and SHPO concurs, the project can proceed. If there are adverse effects, or if mitigation is required, further consultation is often necessary, including when applicable the preparation of a Memorandum of Agreement. This could add several weeks to several months to the compliance process. Tribal consultation is usually necessary and takes place concurrent with SHPO consultation.
Reclamation’s archaeologist should attend pre-construction hearings to advise construction workers of the procedures to be followed in the event of inadvertent discovery of cultural material. Monitoring during construction by a professional archaeologist or tribal member is sometimes necessary.
The CWA authorizes the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (COE) to regulate discharges into waters or wetlands of the U.S. If a project might impact wetlands, streams, or rivers, a Section 404 permit from the COE may be needed. A site visit can determine if a 404 permit is required. This permit process involves identification and analysis of wetlands, preparation of a report, and completion and submittal of an application. It is often necessary to conduct on-site analysis during the growing season. A detailed project description, maps, final design, amount of fill material in cubic yards, etc. must be received before this work can begin. The 404 permit process may take from one to several months.
In certain instances involving tribal lands or direct discharges into waters, Section 401 certification may be needed from EPA Region 8. This process can take place simultaneously with the 404 application. State permits may also be needed in the event of construction activities or discharge, though the time interval for obtaining these permits is relatively shorter than COE or EPA permits.
Where construction takes place near water bodies, contractors must develop a Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) according the requirements of Section 402 of the CWA. This requirement is usually addressed in the project specifications, and the contractor must submit this plan to Reclamation, allowing up to one month for approval.
For more information, contact the Bureau of Reclamation, Provo Area Office Environment Group:
302 East 1860 South, Provo, Utah 84606-7317 (fax: 801-379-1159)
Environmental Group Chief/NEPA Compliance: Peter Crookston
Phone: (801) 379-1152