Perhaps the most important activity in the EIA process is preparing written reports which document the impact study findings. The resultant document or documents include EAs, EISs, environmental impact reports, environmental impact declarations, and FONSIs. To illustrate the importance of written documentation in the EIA process, the CEQ regulations (1987) state in paragraph 1502.8:
Environmental impact statements shall be written in plain language and may use appropriate graphics so that decision makers and the public can readily understand them. Agencies should employ writers of clear prose or editors to write, review, or edit statements, which will be based upon the analysis and supporting data from the natural and social sciences and the environmental design arts.
The broad topics included in an EA prepared to meet the requirements of the CEQ (1987) are:
• Need for the proposal
• Description of alternatives
• Environmental impacts of proposed action and alternatives
• List of agencies and persons consulted
Table 2.6.1 shows a topical outline for an EIS (Council on Environmental Quality 1987).
Basic principles of technical writing must be applied in written documentation. These principles can be used in both planning the document and preparing written materials. Five such principles are delineated by Mills and Walter (1978):
1. Always have in mind a specific reader, and assume that this reader is intelligent, but uninformed.
2. Before you start to write, decide the purpose of your report; make sure that every paragraph, sentence, and word makes a clear contribution to that purpose, and makes it at the right time.
3. Use language that is simple, concrete, and familiar.
4. At the beginning and end of every section, check your writing according to this principle: First, tell your readers what you are going to tell them, then tell them, and then tell them what you have told them.
The target audience of impact study documentation typically consists of two groups: (1) a nontechnical audience represented by decision makers and interested members of the public and (2) a technical audience represented by professional colleagues in government agencies and specific public groups who have interest in the study. Accordingly, written documentation on impact studies must address the information needs of both nontechnical and technical audiences.
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