“Net Benefit” rule could shorten environmental review

News AASHTO May 06, 2005
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The “final nationwide programmatic Section 4(f) evaluation” was published in the April 20 Federal Register. According to the FHWA, the new regulation is intended to both streamline the application of the Section 4(f) process while enhancing environmental stewardship of parks, recreation areas or historic properties that are protected under that regulation.

To qualify for the process, agreement must first be reached by the FHWA, the applicant and the official with jurisdiction over the property that the transportation use of the property and the mitigation measures will result in net benefit to the property. If that agreement is not possible, the process may not be used.

The official with jurisdiction would be defined as follows:

• for a historic property it would be the State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) or Tribal Historic Preservation Officer (THPO), whichever has jurisdiction under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act; or

• for a park or wildlife refuge it would be the federal, state or local authorities or agencies that own and/or manage the park or refuge.

The notice indicates that the agreement does not relax any of the Section 4(f) standards and the requirement for a documented agreement on the resulting net benefit will safeguard the preservation provisions of the law.

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