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FONSI: Process and Content

What is a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for an EA document?
The CEQ regulations 40 CFR Part 1508.13  states that:

“[a] finding of no significant impact is a document by a federal agency briefly presenting the reasons why an action, not otherwise excluded (40 CFR 1508.4) will not have a significant effect on the human environment and for which an environmental impact statement therefore will not be prepared. It shall include the environmental assessment or a summary of it and shall note any other environmental documents related to it (40 CFR 1501.7(a) (5)). If the assessment is included, the finding need not repeat any of the discussion in the assessment but may incorporate it by reference.”

When does FTA prepare a FONSI for an EA document?
FTA will review any comments received from other agencies or the public.  FTA will also review the grant applicant’s responses to the comments and any revisions that may have been made to the EA document in response to the comments.

If FTA agrees with the grant applicant’s recommendation pursuant to 23 CFR Part 771.119(f) that a FONSI be issued, FTA will prepare a separate document for the FONSI, incorporating by reference the EA and any other relevant environmental documents. A FONSI constitutes the final stage of the environmental review process for a project requiring an EA, but monitoring the implementation of mitigation commitments would continue during final design and construction.The FTA Regional Administrator has the delegated authority to sign a FONSI after the 30-day public review period of the EA. As with any NEPA decision document (i.e., a ROD, FONSI, or CE determination) signed by FTA, the FONSI does not commit FTA to awarding a grant for the project.

What information is in a FONSI?
A FONSI should contain the following information:

  • Brief description of the project selected and any other alternatives considered, with reference to the EA for details;
  • Summary of the environmental impacts that factored into the selection process;
  • Any mandatory findings required, such as Department of Transportation Act Section 4(f), Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, the Clean Air Act, or the DOT Orders on Floodplain Management, and Protection of Wetlands; etc.;
  • Summary of mitigation measures to which the grant applicant and FTA are committed, preferably formatted in a table with references to the EA;
  • Description of interagency coordination;
  • Summary of substantive comments received during the 30-day comment period, including written comments and any oral comments obtained through a public hearing if one was held, and the responses to the comments; or incorporation by reference of the comments and responses section of a revised EA, if it was changed after the comment period;
  • For FONSIs which are supplemental to an earlier documents, explanation that the scope of the EA is strictly limited to the project changes and the finding is that no new or changed significant impacts not already evaluated in the original NEPA document would result from the changes to the project;
  • An attachment with the signed National Historic Preservation Act Section 106 Agreement, if applicable.

The FONSI commits FTA and the grant applicant to all mitigation included in the EA for the alternative that is the subject of the FONSI.

Additional Resources:
23 CFR Part 771.121 Findings of no significant impact 
These regulations discuss the process FTA is required to follow in order to issue a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI).

Updated: Wednesday, March 16, 2016
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