NPS Director's Order 12: Conservation Planning, Environmental Impact Analysis and Decision Making
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Congaree Swamp National Monument, SC4.6 Environmental Impact Statements — The Final EIS

Following public review of the draft EIS (see section 4.8 for more information), the office issuing the EIS must finalize the document (unless a decision is made to terminate the EIS, see section 4.10). The final EIS is to be a thorough and correct documentation of the analysis completed by the NPS IDT, with all issues explained or resolved.

A. Substantive Comments

You are required to respond to all substantive written and oral comments raised by the public or by agencies as part of finalizing the EIS, and to make every reasonable attempt to consider the issues or alternatives raised.

Substantive comments are defined as those that do one or more of the following:

(a) question, with reasonable basis, the accuracy of information in the EIS.
(b) question, with reasonable basis, the adequacy of environmental analysis.
(c) present reasonable alternatives other than those presented in the EIS.
(d) cause changes or revisions in the proposal.

In other words, they raise, debate, or question a point of fact or policy. Comments in favor of or against the proposed action or alternatives, or comments that only agree or disagree with NPS policy, are not considered substantive.

B. Response Options

CEQ (1503.4) recognizes several options for responding to comments, including:
(a) modifying the alternatives as requested.
(b) developing and evaluating suggested alternatives.
(c) supplementing, improving, or modifying the analysis.
(d) making factual corrections.
(e) explaining why the comments do not warrant further agency response, citing sources, authorities, or reasons that support the agency's position.

Format of Responses — Responses to public or agency substantive comments that add clarifying or new information should be made in text wherever possible, rather than as lengthy responses to individual comments in a separate section (Q29a).

However, because members of the public or agencies may wish to know how NPS responded to their comment, a short response to each substantive comment, and a section or page citation where the change was made, may be appropriate as well. It is particularly important for the public and agencies to be able to track NPS responses, and either a subject or author index or page/section citation or a direct and complete response to agency or public comments is required. You may also choose to summarize similar comments and respond to them once, or use a side-by-side comment-and-response format. In any of these formats, you may refer commentors to other responses or summarize similar comments and respond only once.

You are required to reprint in full any federal, state, or local agency or tribal letters. All public substantive letters must also be reprinted in a final EIS; however, if you have received an exceptionally voluminous number, these comments may be summarized. If you choose to, you may reprint all comment letters in full as part of the final EIS. Reprinted letters should appear in the “consultation and coordination” chapter or, if necessary, in a separate volume of the final EIS.

C. Cooperating Agency Comments

When a cooperating agency comments on an NPS document, or when NPS is a cooperating agency on another project, it must (1503.3):

(a) describe alternative methods for analyzing impacts if it criticizes methodology in the EIS and
(b) specify mitigation measures it finds acceptable if it criticizes the level of impact.

D. Abbreviated Final EIS

If all comments on a draft EIS require only minor responses, you may choose to prepare an errata sheet containing the responses and attach it to the draft (1503.4 (c)) as a final EIS. This is referred to as the “abbreviated” final EIS. Minor is defined as making factual corrections, or explaining why comments do not warrant further agency response.

In deciding whether an abbreviated EIS is appropriate, you should also consider whether the project is controversial or is of national interest, the number of substantive comments received, and the scope of the project. As a general rule, a full final EIS is preferable for NPS documents. Because a draft EIS is often required to understand changes in an abbreviated EIS, send the appropriate number of draft EISs with the abbreviated final EISs to EPA when filing the final.

An abbreviated final EIS must contain a cover sheet, a foreword sheet that explains the document (this must be combined with the draft EIS to be complete), the errata sheets, any responses to comments, and copies of substantive and agency comment letters. You must consult with OEPC through EQD before you prepare an abbreviated final EIS.

E. Changes in the Selected Alternative

If an NPS decision-maker chooses to modify one of the alternatives after the final EIS has been released and ultimately selects it for implementation, additional analysis is required unless the alternative will have no additional impacts on the human environment or will have impacts that are different from those stated in the EIS. The analysis of this new alternative will usually take the form of a supplement to the EIS (see section 4.7).

Further Links:

Example of Issue Summary and Response (Get the Adobe Acrobat PDF Reader 5.0 to read document.)

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