Questions & Answers
Alternative Arrangements Program
- What is the nature of the emergency in NOMA?
- What parishes comprise NOMA?
- What are the Alternative Arrangements?
- Why are the Alternative Arrangements being used in NOMA instead of preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)?
- Why are Alternative Arrangements for NEPA compliance needed for the FEMA-funded reconstruction of critical infrastructure?
- Will these Alternative Arrangements circumvent the basic concepts of NEPA?
- What types of critical infrastructure are covered under the Alternative Arrangements?
- When will Alternative Arrangements expire?
- Will alternatives to projects be considered under these Alternative Arrangements?
- How does FEMA ensure that individuals and local governments have a forum for involvement in the decision process?
- How can comments be submitted to FEMA on these Alternative Arrangements for NEPA compliance?
- How can comments be submitted on critical infrastructure projects?
- Why are levees being handled by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and not FEMA?
- What is environmental justice?
What is the nature of the emergency in NOMA?
Damage to the critical physical infrastructure in NOMA from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita rendered parts of the city inoperable and uninhabitable. Without the restoration of critical infrastructure, NOMA cannot adequately support a safe and healthy reconstruction and repopulation process.
What parishes comprise NOMA?
NOMA includes the following parishes:
- St. Bernard
- St. Charles
- St. John the Baptist
- St. Tammany
What are the Alternative Arrangements?
In December 2005, FEMA, DHS, and the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) agreed on an alternative arrangement to address those FEMA funded actions for the restoration of critical infrastructure in the New Orleans Metropolitan Area (NOMA) that were damaged as a result of Hurricane Katrina and Rita. Alternative Arrangements (AA) enables timely action on FEMA Public Assistance grant applications to restore safe and healthful living conditions in NOMA while observing the objectives of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
Why are the Alternative Arrangements being used in NOMA instead of preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)?
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita created an unprecedented level of devastation, an immediate need for action, and a need for extensive reconstruction. The number of reconstruction projects warrants that FEMA perform environmental reviews of critical physical infrastructure projects using the Alternative Arrangements rather than individually through the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process. For these reasons, Alternative Arrangements for environmental compliance have been approved by the Council on Environmental Quality for Public Assistance Grant Program activities in NOMA.
Why are Alternative Arrangements for NEPA compliance needed for the FEMA-funded reconstruction of critical infrastructure?
The NEPA Alternative Arrangements have been developed for NOMA because of the level of damage from Hurricane Katrina and the number of pending Public Assistance (PA) projects. As the principal funding agency, FEMA wishes to consider cumulative environmental effects rather than the impacts of each grant application individually.
The pre-disaster socioeconomic composition of the communities most heavily affected by the wind and flood damage was largely low-income and minority communities. There is a potential for projects to have environmental effects (i.e., land-use changes, air quality impacts of construction activities, air quality impacts of traffic patterns, water quality impacts) that disproportionately affect communities. The Alternative Arrangements process for NEPA compliance allows a comprehensive assessment of PA projects.
Will these Alternative Arrangements circumvent the basic concepts of NEPA?
The Alternative Arrangements cannot circumvent the National Environmental Policy Act because they are embedded in the procedures established to comply with the Act. The intent of this agreement between FEMA and the CEQ is to follow the principles set forth in the CEQ regulations implementing the NEPA requirement for a detailed statement to the extent practical in the time available [Section 102(C)]. This agreement will provide expedited but effective fulfillment of the NEPA objectives for public involvement, alternatives consideration, impact analysis, and informed decision making.
What types of critical infrastructure are covered under the Alternative Arrangements?
The Alternative Arrangements for NEPA compliance apply only to a limited subset of Public Assistance Grant Program project types. The six categories of critical infrastructure are:
- Detention centers (jailhouses)
- Government and court administration buildings
- Hospitals and health care facilities
- Permanent police and fire stations
- Permanent schools
- Utilities and wastewater treatment plants
When will Alternative Arrangements expire?
The Alternative Arrangements for environmental reviews will be available until FEMA-funded repair of critical infrastructure in NOMA is substantially complete.
Will alternatives to projects be considered under these Alternative Arrangements?
Non-federal applicants may include alternatives in their applications for funding for reconstruction of critical physical infrastructure in the affected area. These Alternative Arrangements allow for, but do not require, the submission or analysis of alternatives for individual projects. However, evaluation of alternatives, such as mitigation alternatives to meet other legal requirements like FEMA's Floodplain Management and Wetlands Protection regulations and Executive Order 12898, Environmental Justice, will be considered. For example, the evaluation of alternatives may also be used to assist in the identification of treatment measures for undertakings that may have adverse effects on properties that are listed or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.
How does FEMA ensure that individuals and local governments have a forum for involvement in the decision process?
FEMA will ensure that opportunities are provided for stakeholders to become involved in the project planning and environmental review process through various outreach mechanisms. These mechanisms may be provided by either FEMA or the applicants. For projects that will be addressed under the Alternative Arrangements process, FEMA will require the applicant to notify the public about proposed projects and to provide opportunities for the public to be involved in the planning and decision-making process. It is the responsibility of the applicants to document public involvement in their public involvement plan. The methods used and number of opportunities offered will depend on the type and size of the project and number of affected parties. Applicant documentation may refer to the public involvement process of significant large-scale endeavors such as the Unified New Orleans Plan (UNOP) and Louisiana Speaks.
Additionally, mechanisms to specifically involve NOMA residents who have relocated outside the area will also be used. These mechanisms include this website with environmental information about proposed actions in NOMA linking to other public involvement forums such as state, parish, local group, and committee meetings; outreach through various community groups; and notice through media outlets such as the Times Picayune.
How can comments be submitted to FEMA on these Alternative Arrangements for NEPA compliance?
You can visit our Contact Us page to submit comments or request information regarding Alternative Arrangements.
How can comments be submitted on critical infrastructure projects?
Comments on individual projects currently in review can be submitted to either FEMA or to the applicant administering the project. Visit the current projects link from the home page for descriptions. To submit comments to FEMA, please refer to the question above.
Why are levees being handled by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and not FEMA?
The USACE and the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) have primary authority for the repair of flood control works. Levees under the jurisdiction of the USACE are not eligible for FEMA Public Assistance grant funding.
What is environmental justice?
Environmental Justice (EJ) is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people—regardless of race, color, national origin, culture, education, or income—in the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. Fair treatment means that no racial, ethnic, or socioeconomic group should bear a disproportionate share of negative consequences resulting from industrial, municipal, and commercial operations, or the execution of federal, state, local, and tribal environmental programs and policies.
Meaningful involvement means that:
- Potentially affected community residents have an appropriate opportunity to participate in decisions about a proposed activity that will affect their environment or health
- The public’s contribution can influence the regulatory agency’s decision
- The concerns of all participants will be considered in the decision-making process
- Decision makers seek out and facilitate the involvement of those potentially affected