Right-of-Way Acquisitions (Uniform Act disclosures) in the NEPA Process
PROGRAM AREA: Environmental/Planning
Questions have been raised regarding the necessity of property acquisition/displacement disclosures at various stages in the environmental process. The purpose of this memorandum is to provide guidance on the requirements for property acquisition and displacement disclosures through the environmental review process.
The Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act of 1970 (Uniform Act), as amended to date, ensures that property owners and persons displaced for a federally-assisted project are treated fairly, consistently and equitably so that such persons will not suffer disproportionate injuries as a result of projects designed for the benefit of the public as a whole. Implementing regulations for the Uniform Act are found in the 49 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 24.
The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, or NEPA, as amended to date, declares a national policy that encourages disclosure and consideration of all significant and unavoidable environmental and economic consequences resulting from a federally-assisted project. This includes consideration of all irreversible and irretrievable commitment of resources involved with the proposed action in the alternative/decisionmaking process (42 USC 4321).
Often, one of the adverse social impacts associated with constructing a transit project is the need to displace homes and businesses. The comparison among alternatives of the number of such displacements may be a key factor in the decision of which alternative or alignment is selected. FTA expects at least a minimum level of specificity/disclosure of potential displacements at the conceptual environmental documentation stage. Although the specificity may increase during the environmental review process as preliminary engineering begins, detailed information will not be available until after the NEPA process is completed. Thus information disclosed in the environmental documents will necessarily be conceptual in nature. This information does not necessarily have to be identified by property or parcel, but if there are potential displacements, estimate ranges and a map or chart showing the types of land uses and parcels that may need to be acquired are often used in the environmental document. This format is often used in denser areas where further design work has a pretty good probability of changing what parcels are acquired and therefore displacements. If there are fewer displacements in less dense areas where displacements are more easily predicted, a table with the property addresses and business names are often used. It is important to give a sense of the magnitude of the displacements, impacts on the community, potential for relocation in the community, information on how and when they might occur, and that they will be done pursuant to the Uniform Act and any applicable State and local laws.
If you have any questions regarding these issues, please contact Linda Gehrke of the FTA Region 10 staff at (206) 220-4463.
R. F. Krochalis