nepa process

The Coastal Texas Study’s NEPA Approach

The product delivery team for the Coastal Texas Protection and Restoration Study (Coastal Texas Study) was authorized to develop a comprehensive risk reduction and restoration plan for the entire Texas coast.

Because of the size of the study area, the scale of the plan and the complexity of the proposed features, some features will require further refinements to reduce cost and environmental impacts, and the Corps has decided to use a tiered approach to NEPA to make recommendations regarding the development of the Coastal Texas Study.

The Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) is being prepared pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and in compliance with the NEPA regulations issued by the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) (40 CFR Part 1500-1508) and issued by the Corps (33 CFR Part 230).  The CEQ (40 CFR 1508.28) and Corps (33 CFR 230.13) regulations allow NEPA studies for large, complex projects to be carried out in a two-stage or “tiered” process.  This tiered approach to civil works decision-making under NEPA involves the preparation of a first (Tier One) NEPA document that describes the project and its impacts at a broader level.  As stated in 40 CFR 1508.28 regarding tiering:

Agencies are encouraged to tier their environmental impact statements to eliminate repetitive discussions of the same issues and to focus on the actual issues ripe for decision at each level of environmental review.

At the Tier One level, broad issues are addressed, while taking into account the full range of potential effects to both the human and natural environments.  After broad issues are assessed in Tier One, the focus would shift to Tier Two environmental studies (NEPA documents) and to issues associated with a more exact determination of effects and the avoidance, minimization, and mitigation of adverse effects.   The initial, broad EIS, the Tier One, will identify data gaps and discuss future plans to supplement the data needed to prepare and circulate Tier Two site specific EISs or EAs as appropriate (33 CFR 230.13). As the Tier Two EIS or EAs are completed, additional public comment periods will be held to address any public concerns regarding the impacts to the project area.

The purpose of the Tier One EIS is to select a preferred alternative for the Coastal Texas Study at a measure and alignment level of analysis.  CSRM and ER measures were developed and evaluated through several iterations of screening, after which CSRM and ER alternatives were formulated to address specific needs for the Texas coast.  The final array of CSRM alternatives consisted of a No-Action Alternative and two action alternatives to address the issues such as damages from storm surge inundation, waves, and erosion, as well as sea level change inundation. The final array of ER alternatives consisted of a No-Action Alternative and six action alternatives to address issues such as loss of fish and wildlife resources caused by SLR and coastal storms. 

The second draft report contains Tier One level information for many aspects of the study due to additional details being developed in later phases of the project, as mentioned above. However, the South Padre Island CSRM Beach and Dune Nourishment and Sediment Management measure, as well as, seven of the ER measures (all except B-2 Follet’s Island Beach and Dune Restoration) are considered “actionable measures” These actionable measures have enough design and impact detail for a Tier Two analysis. The Draft EIS explains these impacts for these actionable measures, both positive and negative, in Chapter 5.

For more information about the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), please reference the Council on Environmental Quality Executive Office of the President “A Citizen’s Guide to the NEPA, Having Your Voice Heard” December 2007, publication