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Environmental Impacts of Dispersed Development from Federal Infrastructure Projects Mark Southerland Versar, Inc.
Historical Origins • Dispersed development, a.k.a. urban growth or sprawl, began in early 20th century as Americans began expanding into suburbs to escape poor conditions in cities • Trains, streetcars, and cars facilitated this trend • After 1916, state and federal funds became available for highway and other infrastructure construction
History of Federal Involvement • 1930s federal housing policies and mortgage insurance for new homes • 1950s development of federal infrastructure (highways, water, sewer) • Policies and monetary incentives to increase automobile use • 1980s regional planning and smart growth initiatives
Situation Today • Dispersed development is real - even when population does not increase, the total area developed and VMT often increase • Dispersed development is often associated with federal infrastructure projects, such as highways • Resources are being significantly affected, so NEPA must consider dispersed development
EPA Role • Dispersed development is ripe for more attention • EPA Development, Community, and Environment Division focusing on Smart Growth • NEPA Review Mandate • NEPA practice has improved, especially consideration of indirect and cumulative effects • EPA Office of Federal Activities may soon develop guidance for 309 reviewers • Arthur Totten • Joe Montgomery
Dispersed Development- Defined • A population that is widely separated in low-density development • Separation between homes, shops, and workplaces • Roads marked by large blocks and poor access • A lack of well-defined activity centers, such as downtowns and town centers
Federal Infrastructure Projects • Transportation, such as highways, transits, airports, and harbors • Built infrastructure, such as water supply reservoirs and treatment and distribution systems, wastewater treatment plants and sewer systems, and power generation and transmission facilities • Modified natural infrastructure, such as flood control structures, beach replenishment, and fire protection breaks
Federal Infrastructure Projects • Public land conversion and redevelopment of properties, such as military installations and brownfields • Construction of federal facilities, such as office buildings, prisons, and border crossing stations • Large traffic generation developments requiring federal permits
Affected Resources • Air quality degradation from auto emissions, power plants, and fires
Affected Resources • Water quality degradation from runoff from impervious surfaces
Affected Resources • Adverse human health effects • Americans make < 6% of daily trips on foot • 75% of trip less than 1 mile are by car • 13% of children walk to school • 65% of Americans are overweight and 31% are obese
Affected Resources • Loss and degradation of wetlands, streams, and coastal ecosystems • Loss and fragmentation of habitat of sensitive speciesand communities • Loss of agricultural land
Affected Resources • Overtaxed water supply and wastewater treatment • Overuse of recreational resources • Degradation of viewscapes • Loss and degradation of cultural resources
EPA and NEPA Process • EPA should get involved at scoping or earlier stages of the project • EPA’s expertise in Smart Growth and GIS may help agency select alternatives that minimize dispersed development impacts • EPA’s up-front investment can identify critical resource issues, reduce delays in project review, and avoid third-party litigation
Questions for 309 Reviewers • Is project likely to induce or influence dispersed development? • Has NEPA document described likelihood of significant secondary environmental impacts from dispersed development? • Have alternatives or mitigation measures been included to address secondary impacts, even though not responsibility of the lead agency?
309 Reviewer Questions - General • Does project provide capacity for growth? • Are the following conditions present? • Absence of local comprehensive planning or zoning or subdivision ordinances • Land development is project’s purpose • Provides substantial additional access • Large amount of developable land near project
309 Reviewer Questions – Specific • Population increasing >5% per 10 years? • Favorable for receiving FHA/VA loans? • Major institutional growth generators? • <10% commercial vacancy rates? • <one-third of larger parcels developed? • No master plans < 10 years old? • Region’s business and civic leadership committed to rapid development?
Tools for 309 Reviewers Federal Infrastructure Project Dispersed Development Intermediate Stressors (construction, runoff, emissions) Effects on Resources (land, water,air, and communities)
309 Tools – Land Use Projections • Methods for Projecting Land Use Change • Qualitative methods • Allocation rules • Statistical methods • Regional economic models • Formal land use forecasting models
309 Tools – Effects Models • Models for Describing Effects of Dispersed Development • Air dispersion models • Hydrologic regime models • Oxygen sag models • Soil erosion models • Sediment transport models • Species habitat models
Mitigation • Modifying project location and design to reduce or redirect likely dispersed development • Participating in restoration or preservation activities to compensate for impacts • Educating and supporting local communities in planning for dispersed development impacts
Mitigation OptionsModifying Project Location and Design • Local adoption of developer fees • Concentrated activity centers • Mixed land uses • Balance of jobsand housing
Mitigation OptionsLocation and Design of Transportation • Interchanges as transit and freight centers • Transit accessibility • Support for pedestrians and bicycles • Compact development and reduced impervious surface • Low-impact road and parking designs
Mitigation OptionsPreservation and Restoration • Habitat preservation through land acquisition • Purchase of conservation easements or development rights • Implementation of best management practices • Installation or upgrade of on-site wastewater systems • Wetland and habitat restoration or creation • Brownfields remediation
Mitigation OptionsInforming/Supporting Local Planning • Long-term comprehensive growth plans • Transportation management areas • Traffic access management planning • Watershed planning tools • Strengthened state environmental review requirements • Watershed zoning • Limits on sewer connections for new growth • Creation of stormwater utility
Sample 309 LetterLake County IL Transportation DEIS • “Some of the smaller townships may experience a discernable difference in growth as a result of implementing a build alternative. …impacts will have a significant adverse effect on the environment, unless the transportation agencies implement actions to control induced development and preserve the natural corridor. …future NEPA documentation should include commitments to implement such preservation activities. …agencies should consult with U.S. EPA while planning and implementing these activities. ….are interested in seeing that the build alternative is consistent with local land use plans.”
Sample Mitigation AgreementWisconsin U.S. Highway 12 MOA • Commitments from collective vision for future “livability” of region along U.S. Highway 12: • $250,000 from WI DOT and Region 5 for secondary land use impact methodology study for future use • $500,000 from the Governor, WI DOT, and FHWA to support of a Dane County/Madison Commuter Rail/Transit Alternatives Study • $250,000 from WI DOT for local planning • $10,000,000 for long-term protection of Baraboo Hills National Natural Landmark through land and scenic/conservation/agricultural easements • WI DOT reduce access points on U.S. Highway 12
EPA Resources • EPA Encouraging Smart Growth at www.epa.gov/smartgrowth/index.htm • EPA Smart Growth Database at http://cfpub.epa.gov/sgpdb/sgdb.cfm • EPA Our Built and Natural Environments at EPA 231-R-01-002 • EPA Projecting Land Use Changes at EPA 600-R-00-098
Other Resources • Smart Growth Network 100 Policies at www.smartgrowth.org/pdf/gettosg.pdt • NCHRP Estimating Indirect Effects of Transportation at nationalacademies.org/trb/bookstore • Maryland Green Infrastructure at www.dnr.state.md.us/greenways/greenprint/greenprint.html • U.S. Southeastern Ecological Framework Project at www.geoplan.ufl.edu/projects/epaindex.html
Summary • Dispersed development is major cause of environmental degradation • Smart growth and landscape planning solutions are at hand • EPA has a role in reducing dispersed development through NEPA review