Quarterly Focus, May 2009
Since we are currently involved in preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to restore natural quiet to the Park, this article will focus on the EIS process.
The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 is our basic national charter for protection of the environment. It requires federal agencies to use a systematic, interdisciplinary approach to analyzing the effects of a proposed action. By preparing an EIS that includes the environmental impact of the action, any adverse effects that cannot be avoided, and alternatives to the proposed action, the NPS and FAA provide information to public officials and citizens before decisions are made and actions are taken.
The FAA and the NPS are joint-lead agencies for this EIS, and have hired a contractor to facilitate conducting analysis and writing the document. Both agencies policies are being utilized in developing this EIS. The two agencies are jointly participating in the development and review of the EIS by providing guidance and oversight on all products and aspects of the NEPA process. The FAA will provide Section 4(f) determinations and will prepare a safety analysis of the routes. The NPS will select the preferred alternative for the EIS, but both agencies will approve the joint record of decision. The FAA will implement the NPS decision on the preferred alternative through aviation rulemaking.
Public scoping in February 2006 provided information to the agencies on various tools to use to substantially restore natural quiet to the Park while maintaining a viable air tour industry. We are also working with the NPOAG Grand Canyon Working Group, a group consisting of representatives from stakeholders such as the air tour industry, tribes, environmental groups, and visitor interest groups, to ensure that the public document has the support of the stakeholders and to reduce the potential for litigation of the outcome.
The agencies used information from the Grand Canyon Working Group and from public scoping to develop a range of alternatives: