To be able to have shovels to dirt in 2021, consultants have evaluated the area for potential environmental impacts and to ensure any work done supports and protects natural resources. In technical terms, this is captured as “NEPA – Environmental Clearance” and is a critical checkpoint for the project. NEPA stands for National Environmental Policy Act. According to the EPA, NEPA requires federal agencies to assess the environmental effects of their proposed actions prior to making decisions. The range of actions covered by NEPA is broad and includes:
making decisions on permit applications;
adopting federal land management actions; and
constructing highways and other publicly owned facilities.
Using the NEPA process, agencies evaluate the environmental and related social and economic effects of their proposed actions. Agencies also provide opportunities for public review and comment on those evaluations.
As a federally funded project, the Mullan BUILD team is required to comply with the requirements of NEPA. Missoula County and the City of Missoula must first disclose any environmental consequences before proceeding with final design, right-of-way acquisition, and construction.
This information is presented in the environmental document for the project, which was approved through a Categorical Exclusion. Categorical Exclusions are a category of actions which do not individually or cumulatively have a significant effect on the human environment. As such, neither an environmental assessment nor an environmental impact statement is required to continue advancing the project.
The environmental process has involved conducting several technical analyses to document existing conditions and help identify potential impacts, if any, resulting from the proposed project. The results will be incorporated or referenced in the environmental document. The technical analyses include:
Wetland and Stream Delineation Report;
Detailed Noise Analysis; and
Cultural Resources Inventory.