Environmental impact statements (EISs) and environmental assessments (EAs) are written to document the environmental impacts of a planned activity or project on an area. EISs, EAs, land use plans, management plans, and mitigation plans are important sources of information about land. They include detailed information about plants and animals, historical background of the site, and cultural information, and they may have detailed maps, photographs, or drawings of sites. The general process is that a draft EIS or plan is posted online, made available by an agency, and/or deposited in libraries for a public comment period. The public comments are incorporated into the final EIS or other plan. The governing agency issues a decision about whether or not the environmental impacts are significant. If significant impacts are anticipated, the project may be halted, or a mitigation plan may be required.
State and federal laws govern the requirements for producing EISs, EAs, and other planning documents. Generally, EISs are written by government contractors who specialize in environmental planning. In Hawai`i, the state Environmental Review Program enforces the Environmental Quality Control Act. For an overview of the state EIS process, the ERP publishes a Citizen's Guide. Newly released drafts, decisions, and announcements of final actions are published in the Environmental Notice, which is available on the ERP website.
At the federal level, the National Environmental Policy Act governs the EIS/EA process. Announcements of draft and final documents and records of decision are published in the Federal Register. Other federal laws, such as the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act may also require the production of planning documents with public input.