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Page Title: Environmentally Preferred Alternative(s)
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Framework for Dredged Material Management
May 2004
preferred alternative(s)) may be pursued in such studies, assuming that they can be
incrementally justified, and, in turn, approved and authorized by Congress.
For existing projects requiring periodic maintenance, project benefits/purposes
have previously been established by Congress. With few exceptions, the USACE cannot
unilaterally change or add to these project-specific purposes and benefits. As such,
USACE policy is to maintain these established project purposes(s) and benefits in the
least-cost and environmentally acceptable manner. As discussed in Chapter 1, compliance
with the MPRSA Criteria and/or CWA Section 404(b)(1) Guidelines is a major factor in
arriving at a decision of "environmental acceptability."
7.1.2 Environmentally Preferred Alternative(s)
Technically, no one management option can be considered a panacea for dredged
material nor can it be ruled out a priori in project-specific evaluations other than for
sound economic, environmental, or engineering reasons. Thus, unless specifically
prohibited by Federal environmental statute, the intention of this document is to
encourage full and balanced consideration of all practicable alternatives for the
management of dredged material.
CEQ NEPA regulations (40 CFR 1505.2) require that the Record of Decision
(ROD) for an EIS specifically identify, where applicable, the alternative or alternatives
that were considered to be environmentally preferable. These regulations further require
the ROD to identify and discuss relevant economic and technical issues and agency
statutory missions, including any essential considerations of national policy that were
balanced by the agency in making its alternative(s) selection. All other factors being
equal, the environmentally preferable alternative should also be the
preferred/recommended alternative.
Unfortunately, hard and fast guidelines for identifying the alternative that is
preferable from an environmental standpoint would be difficult to develop and apply.
Such guidelines would require objective criteria or standards for comparing
environmental impacts and/or the value of resources in aquatic, upland, and wetland
environments. In some cases, such environmental impacts/benefits can be quantified
(e.g., impacts to commercially important shellfish beds). In many other cases, however,
the relative environmental costs of adverse impacts and the relative environmental value
of resources and environmental enhancements in various environments are largely
Subjective comparison between alternatives found to be environmentally
acceptable is possible. Further, it is likely that one alternative would be clearly preferable
from an environmental standpoint. Environmental preferability may be based on lesser
adverse impacts or on greater environmental benefits, perhaps in the form of beneficial
use of dredged material. For example, if a clean sand is to be dredged, beach nourishment
is clearly an environmentally preferable alternative as compared with open-water or
confined disposal, assuming that there are beach nourishment needs. Or, if

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