7 CFR 650.20 - Reviewing and commenting on EIS's prepared by other agencies.
(a) NRCS employees assigned to review and comment on EIS's prepared by other agencies are to be familiar with NRCS policies and guidelines contained in this part, and NEPA.
(b) EIS's received for review by NRCS for which NRCS has expertise or interest shall be responded to promptly. Comments are to be objective with the intent to offer suggestions to help minimize adverse impacts of the proposed action to ensure the health and welfare of the agricultural community. Comments are to be based on knowledge readily available. Field office technical guides, soil surveys, field investigation reports, and other resource data and reference materials developed by NRCS and other agencies should be used and cited. It is not intended that special surveys or investigations be conducted to acquire additional information for use in preparing comments.
(c) The NRCS reviewer should consider the following kinds of concerns -
(1) The suitability or limitations of the soils for the proposed action. Would an alternative route, location, or layout minimize land use problems and adverse environmental impacts?
(2) Provisions for control of erosion and management of water during construction. Are there resources downstream that would be affected by sediment from the construction area, and does the statement provide for adequate control measures? Will lack of erosion control cause air pollution? Is the stockpiling of topsoil for future use considered in the EIS?
(3) Provisions for soil and water conservation management measures on project lands, rights-of-way, access roads, and borrow areas. Does the statement indicate that enduring soil and water practices are to be installed and maintained?
(4) The effect of water discharges from project lands or rights-of-way onto other properties. Will discharges cause erosion or flooding on other lands? Will discharges affect water quality?
(5) The effects of disruption of the natural drainage patterns and severance of private land units. Does the statement indicate that natural drainage patterns will be maintained? Will bridges, culverts, and other water control structures be located to ensure that adjacent lands are not flooded or otherwise restricted in use? Does the EIS describe the effects of severance on private land ownerships?
(6) The impact on existing soil and water conservation management systems. To what extent will conservation systems be altered, severed, or suffer blocked outlets? Will land use or cover be affected?
(7) Impacts on prime and unique farmland. Would an alternative location or route require less prime farmland? Does the EIS consider secondary effects on prime farmland? What benefits are foregone if prime farmland is taken?
(8) Impacts on ecosystems. Does the EIS describe impacts on major plant communities, and terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems?
(9) Impacts on NRCS-assisted projects. Does the statement reflect the effect of the proposed action on present or planned NRCS assisted projects?
(d) EIS's referred to NRCS for departmental comments. EIS's referred by the USDA Coordinator for Environmental Quality Activities to the NRCS national office may designate NRCS as the lead agency for preparing comments for USDA. In this case, the NRCS national office determines whether inputs from STC's and other USDA agencies are needed. If so, STC's and other USDA agencies are requested to forward comments to the Environmental Services Division fo use in preparing the USDA response.
(e) EIS's referred to NRCS for agency comments. EIS's received by the NRCS national office are screened by the Director, Environmental Services Division to determine which office within NRCS will prepare comments. If the proposed action is within one State, the draft EIS will be forwarded to the appropriate STC and he will reply directly to the agency requesting the comments. If the proposed action involves more than one State, one STC will be designated to forward NRCS comments directly to the agency requesting the comments. In some cases, the action may be national or regional in scope, and require inputs from several offices within NRCS. In this instance, comments will be assembled in the Environmental Services Division for preparation of a response to the agency requesting comments. A copy of each response prepared by a STC should be sent to the Director, Environmental Services Division.
(f) EIS's sent to NRCS offices other than the national office. If a STC receives an EIS from another agency, he is to respond to the initiating agency. A copy of his comments should be sent to the Director, Environmental Services Division.
(1) EIS's addressed to NRCS area or field offices. If an EIS is received by a field or area office of NRCS, the STC will coordinate the response.
(2) EIS's submitted to conservation districts. NRCS may furnish needed soil, water, and related resource information to the district for their use in preparing comments.
(g) Distribution of NRCS comments on other agencies' draft EIS's. Five copies of review comments made by NRCS on draft EIS's prepared by other Federal agencies are to be sent to CEQ.
(h) Third party requests for a copy of NRCS comments on another agency's EIS will be filled after NRCS has forwarded copies of its letter of comments to CEQ.