US Army Corps of Engineers
Northwestern Division

What is the No Action Alternative?

Columbia River System Operations EIS
Published May 16, 2019
The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 requires federal agencies, including USACE, to consider the potential environmental impacts of their proposed actions and any reasonable alternatives before undertaking a major federal action.

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is a United States environmental law that promotes the enhancement of the environment and established the President's Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). The law was enacted on January 1, 1970. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969 requires federal agencies, including the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), to consider the potential environmental impacts of their proposed actions and any reasonable alternatives before undertaking a major federal action, as defined by 40 CFR 1508.18.

The National Environmental Policy Act requires agencies to always describe and analyze a “no action” alternative in an EIS. In simple terms, a No Action alternative for an existing or ongoing federal project considers what would happen if the federal agency continued to operate and maintain the authorized project with no changes.

Agencies are obligated to evaluate a reasonable range of alternatives in enough detail so that a reader can compare and contrast the environmental effects of the various alternatives. The No Action alternative analysis provides a benchmark to allow decision makers and the public to compare the levels of environmental effects of the alternatives.

In the context of the CRSO EIS, a No Action alternative means there would be no change from the operations, maintenance and configuration of the Columbia River System’s 14 projects in place at the initiation of this NEPA process in 2016. The No Action alternative generally includes actions proposed by the co-lead agencies on previous Endangered Species Act consultations with NOAA Fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The No Action alternative also assumes the implementation of structural measures already authorized, budgeted and scheduled. The majority of these structural projects are modifications to the dams to improve conditions for fish listed under the Endangered Species Act.

The detailed analysis of the No Action alternative will be available in the Draft EIS.