Environmental Planning

Guidance for Federal-Aid Projects

Section 4(f) and Section 6(f)

Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act

Section 4(f) is part of The Department of Transportation (DOT) Act of 1966.   Section 4(f) specifies that FHWA cannot approve the use of land from publicly owned parks, recreational areas, wildlife and waterfowl refuges, or public and private historical sites unless there are no existing feasible and prudent alternatives to the use of the land and the proposed action includes all possible planning to minimize harm to the property.

In 2005, as part of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), a revision was made to Section 4(f).  The approval process for projects that have only de minimis impacts on lands impacted by Section 4(f) was simplified. Under the new provisions, if the impacts are de minimis, analysis of avoidance alternatives is not required and the Section 4(f) evaluation process is complete. If this is not the case, a Section 4(f) evaluation must be undertaken. A minimum level of coordination is required to determine applicability of de minimis. For more information, refer to the Section 4(f) Policy Paper (Part II Questions 11-13).

In 2012, FHWA updated their Section 4(f) Policy Paper which supplements regulations governing the use of land from publicly owned parks, recreation areas, wildlife and waterfowl refuges, and public or private historic sites for federal highway projects. The Section 4(f) Policy Paper replaces FHWA's 2005 edition of the document. For more information about Section 4(f), refer to the FHWA Section 4(f) Tutorial.

Section 6(f) of the Land and Water Conservation Fund  Act

Section 6(f) is included in the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act (LWCF) of 1965.  The LWCF is a federal program that was established by Congress in 1964 to provide funds and matching grants to federal, state and local governments for the acquisition of land and water, and easements on land and water, for the benefit of all recreating Americans.  The income for the LWCF comes largely from Outer Continental Shelf mineral receipts.  The LWCF is administered by the Department of Interior’s National Park Service (NPS).   The NPS oversight pertains to projects that would cause impacts on or the permanent conversion of recreational property acquired with LWCF monies.  Under Section 6(f), it is prohibited to convert property acquired or developed with LWCF grant money to non-recreational purposes without approval from the NPS.  Section 6(f) is discussed with Section 4(f) because, in some cases, Section 4(f) resources have received assistance from the LWCF.

NEPA Process

The US DOT requirements for documenting Section 4(f) analysis and approvals are incorporated into FHWA regulations, guidance and policy. The FHWA's procedures regarding the preparation and circulation of Section 4(f) documents is contained in 23 CFR 774.5 and FHWA's Technical Advisory, T 6640.8A, Guidance for Preparing and Processing of Environmental and Section 4(f) Documents.

Section 4(f) documentation and processing requirements vary depending on the type of Section 4(f) property used and whether or not the use meets the criteria of a de minimis analysis impact (23 CFR 774.17). However, all situations that involve Section 4(f) property will necessitate some degree of documentation, either analysis in the NEPA document or in a separate Section 4(f) evaluation. The ADOT EPG planner must be informed of any Section 4(f) or 6(f) property in the vicinity of the project.

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