Preparing quality environmental documents

This page guides project teams in the preparation of environmental impact statements (EISs) and environmental assessments (EAs), but many of the tips also apply to categorical exclusions (CEs). This page provides resources for authors and reviewers to ensure NEPA/SEPA (National/State Environmental Policy Act) documents are of high quality and readable to the general public.

Before you start

Individuals responsible for preparing NEPA/SEPA documents for the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) should carefully review the following documents:

Document Basics

Refer to the following documents for tips for reviewers, direction on ensuring quality in documents, as well as requirements for legal sufficiency checks and disclosure text for final documents.

Discipline Report Guidance and Tools

Whenever possible, document environmental impacts by writing directly to the environmental document (e.g., the EA or EIS). Include supporting analysis in the appendix. In rare cases, the subject may be so complex and the supporting analysis so lengthy that a separate discipline report is warranted. The following documents will help you determine when and how to write quality discipline reports.   

Using visualization techniques assists in depicting various design options in the report. You can do anything from hand-drawn renderings to photo-simulations and animations using 3D CADD modeling, digital photography, survey data, and animation based software. Visualization empowers the design and visually explains the intent and impact of a specific transportation infrastructure change upon the community and environment alike. 

Project offices working on an EA or EIS project, may partner with WSDOT’s Visual Engineering Resource Group (VERG) to produce visualizations or simulations as needed for community outreach. 

The type of graphics and extent of visualization needed for a discipline report highly depends on the scope of the EA or EIS project. The author can produce most visualizations, but in special circumstances, VERG can help you with a higher quality visualization. 

Reader-Friendly Environmental Document

A quality environmental document clearly and concisely explains the effects and benefits of a proposed project. 

While WSDOT no longer requires project teams to apply the Reader-Friendly format, the general approach and tips are still very helpful. For more information, see the Reader-Friendly folio (pdf 310 kb) that gives a quick overview of WSDOT's Reader-Friendly approach. For details, see Reader-Friendly Document Tool Kit (pdf 1.3 mb) and appendices (pdf 2.7 mb). 
Contact the NEPA/SEPA program for additional examples of quality documents.

Additional References

  • Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA’s) Technical Advisory TA6640.8a Section V includes the cover sheet, outline, and description of recommended content.
  • FHWA’s NEPA Documentation provides essential direction for preparing quality environmental documents. 
  • AASHTO Examples of Effective Techniques for Preparing High Quality NEPA Documents (2014) is a companion to the Handbook 15 that provides examples to illustrate specific techniques (3 of WSDOT projects are included)
  • The WSDOT Communications Manual provides specific background to WSDOT staff and contractors for written documents, web pages, graphics, and media relations. You can obtain a copy from our Communications Office, if you do not have access to our intranet.
  • The Federal Plain language website provides general guidance and a wide variety of examples (not specific to NEPA).