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Decision Points

The CSD/CSS Project Development Process includes a recommended set of decision points. These points are related to federal requirements under NEPA as well as state and local regulations.

The CSD/CSS Project Development Process includes a recommended set of decision points. These basic steps will support almost any planning process, but may need to be refined to suit a particular project. The particulars of the decision process should reflect the type of environmental review process required under NEPA for federally funded projects, and any other relevant state or local environmental regulatory processes. Specifics will differ in some respects for projects requiring an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) vs. an Environmental Assessment (EA) vs. a Categorical Exclusion (CE). The meshing of state or local environmental requirements with those at the federal level will require special attention in the design of a project's decision process.



The focus of a decision process is often mistakenly placed on only the final decision, overlooking the many intermediate decisions along the way. For example, in an alternative selection process, the alternative development and screening occurs prior to detailed alternative evaluation. Whether it is explicitly stated or not, the early steps involve decisions on compiling the list of potential alternatives, the manner and level of detail to which they will be outlined or described, the feasibility criteria to be used, and the list of feasible alternatives to be considered further. Specification of each decision step in this way highlights the importance of individual decisions. For example, if it is made clear that only alternatives emerging from an early screening process will be considered during the evaluation phase, the importance of active participation by staff, stakeholders, and decision makers in the early screening process will be heightened.



Breaking down larger decisions into their component pieces also helps to identify the differences in needed stakeholder involvement at various points in the process. It may be important for different stakeholders to be involved at various decision points, or for different parties to make various decisions. For example, some decisions require very specific technical expertise (for example, what are appropriate or feasible ways of mitigating traffic noise, and what are their costs and other attributes). Others require broader participation and perhaps less technically oriented input (for example, community inputs on the aesthetics of special bridge designs, or on the incorporation of public art as enhancements to a project).



The nature of decisions within the process often requires clarification as well. For example, are particular decisions binding or can they be revisited later in the process, and if so, under what conditions? Is the decision dependent on data or conclusions provided from another source outside the current project process? Can the decision be revised or reversed as part of a concurrent or future planning activity? Will it be used as the basis for another upcoming planning or programming activity? Knowing the answers to these questions at the outset of the project supports the credibility of the process and increases the likelihood that the resulting decisions will "stick."




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