RAPID/BulkTransmission/Federal/Aesthetic & Recreational

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Federal Bulk Transmission Aesthetic & Recreational Resource Assessment(17-FD)

Developers should be aware that the potential effects of transmission projects on visual resources has been a major challenge in siting transmission facilities. Transmission line projects may cause visual contrast within the landscapes they cross due to their length, size and the regular geometric forms of the transmission towers. These projects may affect multiple sensitive viewers (i.e., residents, recreationist, etc.) located along the right-of-way.

At the federal level, a project required to go through the NEPA process must evaluate impacts to visual resources. Some public agencies have requirements or provide guidelines for evaluating and assessing impacts to visual resources for projects that cross their jurisdiction. For example, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), U.S. Forest Service (USFS), and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers (USACE) have developed methodologies for inventorying visual resources and assessing visual impacts on lands under their respective jurisdictions. Other agencies that do not have developed visual resource methods of their own often times use the BLM and USFS methods (or variations thereof) as the basis for conducting visual resource inventory and impact analysis. For example, the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs refers to the BLM and USFS methods in the Energy Transport Corridor Siting for Tribal Planners Guidance Manual.

BLM Method

Included as part of the BLM’s Visual Resource Management System are two manuals that provide methods for inventory and analysis of visual resources. The first is the BLM Visual Resource Inventory Manual, which provides methods for evaluating scenic quality and for assessing public concern for scenic quality using sensitivity-level analysis. The Visual Resource Inventory process is used on BLM lands to describe existing conditions. The second is the BLM Visual Resource Contrast Rating Manual, which provides a systematic process to analyze potential visual impacts of projects and activities. Contrast ratings are used to describe the level of change introduced by a proposed project by the amount of contrast it introduces in comparison to the extant conditions.

USFS Method

The Scenery Management System, as described in the USFS’s Landscape Aesthetics: A Handbook for Scenery Management provides an overall framework for the inventory, analysis and management of scenery. The USFS’s scenic management guidelines direct that the assessment of potential impacts to scenic resources be based on the public’s concern for scenic quality or scenic values within a landscape and on potential project’s related changes to the existing landscape.

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Determine Which Federal Permits Apply

Use this overview flowchart and following steps to learn which federal and state permits apply to your projects.