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Section 3

Excerpt from Technical Advisory T6640.8A
Section 4(f) evaluations, format and content


Excerpt from: http://environment.fhwa.dot.gov/projdev/impTA6640.htm

NEPA Implementation


T 6640.8A



A Section 4(f) evaluation must be prepared for each location within a proposed project before the use of Section 4(f) land is approved (23 CFR 771.135(a)). For projects processed with an EIS or an EA/FONSI, the individual Section 4(f) evaluation should be included as a separate section of the document, and for projects processed as categorical exclusions, as a separate Section 4(f) evaluation document. Pertinent information from various sections of the EIS or EA/FONSI may be summarized in the Section 4(f) evaluation to reduce repetition. Where an issue on constructive use Section 4(f) arises and FHWA decides that Section 4(f) does not apply, the environmental document should contain sufficient analysis and information to demonstrate that the resource(s) is not substantially impaired.

The use of Section 4(f) land may involve concurrent requirements of other Federal agencies. Examples include consistency determinations for the use of public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, compatibility determinations for the use of land in the National Wildlife Refuge System and the National Park System, determinations of direct and adverse effects for Wild and Scenic Rivers, and approval of land conversions under Section 6(f) of the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act. The mitigation plan developed for the project should include measures which would satisfy the various requirements. For example, Section 6(f) directs the Department of the Interior (National Park Service) to assure that replacement lands of equal value, location, and usefulness are provided as conditions to approval of land conversions. Therefore, where a Section 6(f) land conversion is proposed for a highway project, replacement land will be necessary. Regardless of the mitigation proposed, the draft and final Section 4(f) evaluations should discuss the results of coordination with the public official having jurisdiction over the Section 4(f) land and document the National Park Service's position on the Section 6(f) land transfer, respectively.

A. Draft Section 4(f) Evaluation

The following format and content are suggested. The listed information should be included in the Section 4(f) evaluation, as applicable.

1. Proposed Action.

Where a separate Section 4(f) evaluation is prepared, describe the proposed project and explain the purpose and need for the project.

2. Section 4(f) Property.

Describe each Section 4(f) resource which would be used by any alternative under consideration. The following information should be provided:

  • (a) A detailed map or drawing of sufficient scale to identify the relationship of the alternatives to the Section 4(f) property.
  • (b) Size (acres or square feet) and location (maps or other exhibits such as photographs, sketches, etc.) of the affected Section 4(f) property.
  • (c) Ownership (city, county, State, etc.) and type of Section 4(f) property (park, recreation, historic, etc.).
  • (d) Function of or available activities on the property (ball playing, swimming, golfing, etc.).
  • (e) Description and location of all existing and planned facilities (ball diamonds, tennis courts, etc.).
  • (f) Access (pedestrian, vehicular) and usage (approximate number of users/visitors, etc.).
  • (g) Relationship to other similarly used lands in the vicinity.
  • (h) Applicable clauses affecting the ownership, such as lease, easement, covenants, restrictions, or conditions, including forfeiture.
  • (i) Unusual characteristics of the Section 4(f) property (flooding problems, terrain conditions, or other features) that either reduce or enhance the value of all or part of the property.

3. Impacts on the Section 4(f) Property(ies).

Discuss the impacts on the Section 4(f) property for each alternative (e.g., amount of land to be used, facilities and functions affected, noise, air pollution, visual, etc.). Where an alternative (or alternatives) uses land from more than one Section 4(f) property, a summary table would be useful in comparing the various impacts of the alternative(s). Impacts (such as facilities and functions affected, noise, etc.) which can be quantified should be quantified. Other impacts (such as visual intrusion) which cannot be quantified should be described.

4. Avoidance Alternatives.

Identify and evaluate location and design alternatives which would avoid the Section 4(f) property. Generally, this would include alternatives to either side of the property. Where an alternative would use land from more than one Section 4(f) property, the analysis needs to evaluate alternatives which avoid each and all properties (23 CFR 771.135(i)). The design alternatives should be in the immediate area of the property and consider minor alignment shifts, a reduced facility, retaining structures, etc. individually or in combination, as appropriate. Detailed discussions of alternatives in an EIS or EA need not be repeated in the Section 4(f) portion of the document, but should be referenced and summarized. However, when alternatives (avoiding Section 4(f) resources) have been eliminated from detailed study the discussion should also explain whether these alternatives are feasible and prudent and, if not, the reasons why.

5. Measures to Minimize Harm.

Discuss all possible measures which are available to minimize the impacts of the proposed action on the Section 4(f) property(ies). Detailed discussions of mitigation measures in the EIS or EA may be referenced and appropriately summarized, rather than repeated.

6. Coordination.

Discuss the results of preliminary coordination with the public official having jurisdiction over the Section 4(f) property and with regional (or local) offices of DOI and, as appropriate, the Regional Office of HUD and the Forest Supervisor of the affected National Forest. Generally, the coordination should include discussion of avoidance alternatives, impacts to the property, and measures to minimize harm. In addition, the coordination with the public official having jurisdiction should include, where necessary, a discussion of significance and primary use of the property.

Note: The conclusion that there are no feasible and prudent alternatives is not normally addressed at the draft Section 4(f) evaluation stage. Such conclusion is made only after the draft Section 4(f) evaluation has been circulated and coordinated and any identified issues adequately evaluated.

B. Final Section 4(f) Evaluation

When the preferred alternative uses Section 4(f) land, the final Section 4(f) evaluation must contain (23 CFR 771.135(i) and (j)):

  • (1) All the above information for a draft evaluation.

  • (2) A discussion of the basis for concluding that there are no feasible and prudent alternatives to the use of the Section 4(f) land. The supporting information must demonstrate that "there are unique problems or unusual factors involved in the use of alternatives that avoid these properties or that the cost, social, economic, and environmental impacts, or community disruption resulting from such alternatives reach extraordinary magnitudes" (23 CFR 771.135(a)(2)). This language should appear in the document together with the supporting information.

  • (3) A discussion of the basis for concluding that the proposed action includes all possible planning to minimize harm to the Section 4(f) property. When there are no feasible and prudent alternatives which avoid the use of Section 4(f) land, the final Section 4(f) evaluation must demonstrate that the preferred alternative is a feasible and prudent alternative with the least harm on the Section 4(f) resources after considering mitigation to the Section 4(f) resources.

  • (4) A summary of the appropriate formal coordination with the Headquarters Offices of DOI (and/or appropriate agency under that Department) and, as appropriate, the involved offices of USDA and HUD.

  • (5) Copies of all formal coordination comments and a summary of other relevant Section 4(f) comments received an analysis and response to any questions raised. Where new alternatives or modifications to existing alternatives are identified and will not be given further consideration, the basis for dismissing these alternatives should be provided and supported by factual information. Where Section 6(f) land is involved, the National Park Service's position on the land transfer should be documented.

  • (6) Concluding statement as follows: "Based upon the above considerations, there is no feasible and prudent alternative to the use of land from the (identify Section 4(f) property) and the proposed action includes all possible planning to minimize harm to the (Section 4(f) property) resulting from such use."


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