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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Modernizing Environmental Analysis: Mapping the Next Step for NEPA


The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was enacted in 1970 as a federal law tasked with reducing man made impacts on the environment through more informed federal decision making. NEPA documents are a critical tool used by federal agencies to aid in the decision making process when presented with a major proposed action that is likely to have an environmental impact. These documents provide an extensive amount of information that includes everything from the socioeconomic factors to the physical and biological environment where a proposed action will take place. The current infrastructure for handling these documents is extremely dated, and a recent effort to modernize their accessibility leaves much to be desired. A mandatory public comment period is required for all Environmental Impact Statements (EISs); however the lack of easy access to these documents can inhibit the potential of this process. This project investigates the potential development of a geospatial NEPA database for the marine environment in an effort to create a more user-friendly and publicly accessible platform. Suggested changes to the existing NEPA document requirements are described. These recommendations are designed to aid in enabling the use of a geographic information system (GIS). In order to demonstrate the potential benefits of a geospatial NEPA database, this project identified and mapped over 30 NEPA documents with project areas within the United States West Coast and Alaska Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) using ESRI ArcGIS 10 software.

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