In our December blog I introduced the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and discussed what projects it may apply to. Coordinating and writing CEQA documents such as a Negative Declaration or an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) can be daunting and complex. Here are a few simple tips that can help you write a CEQA document.
Create an Outline
Creating an outline helps to organize your thoughts and key points. It is important to create a brief outline of the entire document and more detailed outlines for each resource area. Oftentimes CEQA documents have multiple authors; thus, having good outlines with consistent headings helps to keep authors focused and ensures that the document remains concise and consistent.
Use Thresholds of Significance to Determine Significance
Thresholds of significance set a level that determines the impact significance of a proposed project. If the impact exceeds the identified threshold, then the impact is considered significant. If the impact is below the threshold then the impact is considered less than significant. Thresholds of significance can be either quantitative or qualitative. Thresholds can be set by the county, city, or lead agency. Utilizing these thresholds of significance help to streamline the determination of significance process, eliminate grey areas when making a significance determination, and provide a substantiated significance determination.
Use Mitigation Measures to Reduce Impact Significance
If it is determined that an impact is significant, mitigation measures can be used to bring the impact below the threshold making it a less than significant impact. A good mitigation measure avoids, minimizes, rectifies, eliminates, or compensates for the impact. The mitigation measure must be feasible and enforceable. Be sure to explain the objective of the mitigation measure and how it effectively mitigates the impact. Determine and explain the design and implementation of the mitigation measure as well as performance standards to measure the success of the mitigation measure.
Establish Consistency Throughout the Document
Though having multiple authors helps disperse the workload of writing the document it can easily create problems in consistency throughout the document. A simple way to help maintain consistency is to provide a checklist with commonly used phrases and language, fonts, and text styling for each author. Finally, be sure to have a fresh set of eyes read the finished document in its entirety to ensure it reads as one voice.
We know that writing a CEQA document can be difficult. But with the application of these and other tips it can be much easier. Scout is ready to help guide you through the process. For further inquiries about CEQA, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.