The Importance of Public Involvement
Public participation is an important part of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process. Submitting substantive and concise comments is one of the most important aspects of that process.
Public and agency input allows decision makes to benefit from local knowledge and consider community issues and concerns. The public participates in the NEPA process during the following stages.
- Scoping Period. Helping to identify the cope of the analysis, including potential environmental issues and viable alternatives.
- Draft Analysis Public Review and Comment Period. Evaluating and providing substantive comments on the draft analysis.
- Final Analysis Period. Reviewing the final analysis and Navy responses to substantive comments received.
Substantive Scoping and Public Review Comments
Submitting substantive and concise public comments is one of the most important aspects of the NEPA process. The most effective comments are those that provide useful information to the Navy. For instance, submit comments if you find:
- New information that would change the analysis and conclusions
- Any peer-reviewed scientific literature that should be considered in the analysis
- Something that should be clarified
- A substantially different alternative that meets the purpose and need that has not been considered
- An error in analysis that may affect the outcome (applicable once draft is released)
General recommendations to keep in mind when making comments on any NEPA document:
- Support statement with details. If, for example, you are concerned about biological resources, it is helpful to focus on a particular problem or issue, such as a species that you feel should be analyzed in the draft analysis, instead of making a broad statement such as "The Navy should adequately analyze impacts on biological resources."
- Back-up your statements with explanations, facts and references, as appropriate.
- Be as specific as possible with your comments.
- Keep your comments focused on the specifics of the proposed project under consideration.
- Submit your comments within the time frames announced to ensure that your concerns are considered and addressed in the draft analysis.
- Request to be included on the analysis mailing list, if applicable, to receive notification of public meetings and project information.
- Become familiar with the scope of the analysis, including the purpose and need statement, potential environmental issues, viable alternatives, and the responsibilities of the agency.
- Review the website to become familiar with the proposed project, learn about the NEPA process, understand the responsibilities and authorities of the federal agency, keep up to date on public meetings and comment periods, get answers to frequently asked questions, and view agency notifications.
- Comments on the scope of the analysis are not counted as votes or as part of a referendum on Navy decisions. They are used during development of the document and analyses, and ensure that the impacts are adequately determined before the Navy makes a final decision on the proposed project. Therefore, avoid comments that state "I am in favor of this project," or "I am opposed to the project." Remember the more clear, concise and relevant your comments are, the more effective they will be and the more likely it is that they will be utilized to improve the draft and final documents and affect the agency decision.