(a) An MPO may utilize the optional framework in this section to develop programmatic mitigation plans as part of the metropolitan transportation planning process to address the potential environmental impacts of future transportation projects. The MPO, in consultation with the FHWA and/or the FTA and with the agency or agencies with jurisdiction and special expertise over the resources being addressed in the plan, will determine:
(1) Scope. (i) An MPO may develop a programmatic mitigation plan on a local, regional, ecosystem, watershed, statewide or similar scale.
(ii) The plan may encompass multiple environmental resources within a defined geographic area(s) or may focus on a specific type(s) of resource(s) such as aquatic resources, parkland, or wildlife habitat.
(iii) The plan may address or consider impacts from all projects in a defined geographic area(s) or may focus on a specific type(s) of project(s).
(2) Contents. The programmatic mitigation plan may include:
(i) An assessment of the existing condition of natural and human environmental resources within the area covered by the plan, including an assessment of historic and recent trends and/or any potential threats to those resources.
(ii) An identification of economic, social, and natural and human environmental resources within the geographic area that may be impacted and considered for mitigation. Examples of these resources include wetlands, streams, rivers, stormwater, parklands, cultural resources, historic resources, farmlands, archeological resources, threatened or endangered species, and critical habitat. This may include the identification of areas of high conservation concern or value and thus worthy of avoidance.
(iii) An inventory of existing or planned environmental resource banks for the impacted resource categories such as wetland, stream, stormwater, habitat, species, and an inventory of federally, State, or locally approved in-lieu-of-fee programs.
(iv) An assessment of potential opportunities to improve the overall quality of the identified environmental resources through strategic mitigation for impacts of transportation projects which may include the prioritization of parcels or areas for acquisition and/or potential resource banking sites.
(v) An adoption or development of standard measures or operating procedures for mitigating certain types of impacts; establishment of parameters for determining or calculating appropriate mitigation for certain types of impacts, such as mitigation ratios, or criteria for determining appropriate mitigation sites.
(vi) Adaptive management procedures, such as protocols or procedures that involve monitoring actual impacts against predicted impacts over time and adjusting mitigation measures in response to information gathered through the monitoring.
(vii) Acknowledgement of specific statutory or regulatory requirements that must be satisfied when determining appropriate mitigation for certain types of resources.
(b) A MPO may adopt a programmatic mitigation plan developed pursuant to paragraph (a), or developed pursuant to an alternative process as provided for in paragraph (f) of this section through the following process:
(1) Consult with each agency with jurisdiction over the environmental resources considered in the programmatic mitigation plan;
(2) Make available a draft of the programmatic mitigation plan for review and comment by appropriate environmental resource agencies and the public;
(3) Consider comments received from such agencies and the public on the draft plan; and
(4) Address such comments in the final programmatic mitigation plan.
(c) A programmatic mitigation plan may be integrated with other plans, including watershed plans, ecosystem plans, species recovery plans, growth management plans, State Wildlife Action Plans, and land use plans.
(d) If a programmatic mitigation plan has been adopted pursuant to paragraph (b), any Federal agency responsible for environmental reviews, permits, or approvals for a transportation project shall give substantial weight to the recommendations in the programmatic mitigation plan when carrying out its responsibilities under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) (NEPA) or other Federal environmental law.
(e) Nothing in this section limits the use of programmatic approaches for reviews under NEPA.
(f) Nothing in this section prohibits the development, as part of or separate from the transportation planning process, of a programmatic mitigation plan independent of the framework described in paragraph (a) of this section. Further, nothing in this section prohibits the adoption of a programmatic mitigation plan in the metropolitan planning process that was developed under another authority, independent of the framework described in paragraph (a).