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Q. 4, Short EAF (Part 2) Critical Environmental Area

Short Environmental Assessment Form Workbook

Will the proposed action have an impact on the environmental characteristics that caused the establishment of a Critical Environmental Area?


Critical Environmental Areas (CEA's) are specific locations identified by local governments or the State. They are designated as such due to their unique characteristics which can include: a benefit or threat to human health; an important or unique natural setting (e.g., fish and wildlife habitat, forest and vegetation, open space and areas of important aesthetic or scenic quality); important agricultural, social, cultural, historic, archaeological, recreational, or educational values; or an inherent ecological, geological, or hydrological sensitivity that may be adversely affected by any change.

It is important to know both the unique characteristics that resulted in the designation of the CEA, and the possible impacts to that feature. Wherever these two might overlap, there is the potential for some impact. The wide variety of reasons for forming a CEA makes it difficult to apply a one-size-fits-all approach to evaluating potential adverse impacts.

If the CEA is an archeological site whose boundaries have been documented as being within the limits of a single parcel, and the proposed project is located on an adjacent parcel, there will be no disturbance of the CEA, and therefore probably result in no impact at all. If the CEA is a municipal water supply, and the aquifer or watershed extends over many acres of surrounding land, a proposed project may have an impact, even though it is not adjacent to the CEA

Applicable Part 1 Information

Some of the Part 1 questions that should be specifically reviewed when answering this question are:


In order to decide if impacts will occur, the reviewing agency should look at the available information and ask:

  • Is there a CEA located on the proposed project site?
  • Are there any CEAs in the surrounding area?
  • If there is a CEA, for what purpose was it established?
  • Do any of the reasons for the CEAs establishment extend outside the CEA boundaries?
    • If the CEA is a water supply, how extensive is the aquifer?
    • If the CEA is a wetland, where does the water come from?
    • If the CEA is a landfill, is there a groundwater connection?
    • If the CEA is a wildlife corridor, what larger habitats does it connect?
  • Could there be a negative impact to the CEA, even though the CEA may not be within the proposed project boundaries?

Will there be an impact?

If there is no CEA within the proposed project boundaries, and off-site impacts will not extend into or affect a nearby CEA, there will be no impact. The reviewing agency can check the "No, or small impact may occur" box next to this question on the form.

If, however, the proposed project does contain a CEA, or a nearby CEA could possibly be affected by the proposed project, you must then determine how large an impact there might be.

If there is an impact, how big will it be?

If there will be an impact, the reviewing agency must then evaluate the magnitude of that impact. This will depend on the overall scale and context of the proposed project as described in the Introduction to Part 2. The reviewing agency should be reasonable when conducting this review. For additional information on the concept of reasonableness as it applies to SEQR, refer to section F in the Introduction of the SEQR Handbook (PDF) (1.9MB).

Small Impact

A proposed project may be entirely or partially within a CEA. Likewise, a CEA might be entirely contained within, or partially overlap a proposed project's boundaries.

If there is very little conflict between the reasons for a CEA's designation, and the proposed projects goals, there will likely only be a small impact.

Moderate to Large Impact

A moderate to large impact could occur if the proposed action is incompatible with the reasons for designating the CEA.

Recording your decision

If you have determined that there are no impacts, or that only a small impact may occur, no further analysis of this topic is needed. Simply check the box under "No, or small impact may occur" next to the question and move on to Question 5. You may choose to include an explanation in Part 3 as to why you decided there were no, or only small impacts, but you are not required to do so.

If you have determined that one or more moderate to large impacts may occur, then additional analysis of this impact will be required in Part 3. You should note what the impacts are, and the reasoning that lead to your decision before moving on to Question 5.


Scenario 1: A community college proposes an expansion project that includes an addition to one of its buildings, and additional parking lot space.

  • The buildings already exist
  • The town has designated its municipal water source as a CEA.
  • The CEA boundary is the watershed of the municipal water source.
  • Portions of the community college property extend into the watershed
  • However, the proposed project is entirely outside of the CEA boundaries.

Then: The reviewing agency determines that there will be no impact on the CEA.

Scenario 2: A community college proposes an expansion project that includes an addition to one of its existing buildings, and additional parking lot space.

  • The town has designated its municipal water source as a CEA.
  • The CEA boundary is the watershed of the municipal water source.
  • Portions of the proposed project are within the CEA boundaries.
  • However, the proposed project is in a remote portion of the CEA, far away from the water supply withdrawal point.
  • And, there is a significant forested buffer area between the proposed project and any streams within the CEA.

Then: The reviewing agency determines that there will only be a small impact to the CEA.

Scenario 3: A developer proposes an eight unit large lot residential development on a hillside in order to take advantage of the views.

  • The town has designated the ridge lines and surrounding steep slope areas in the town as a CEA, specifically due to concerns over erosion.
  • The proposed development will require re-grading of the terrain to accommodate a new access road.
  • Due to the thin soils on the site, the proposed lots will require clearing of large areas to accommodate engineered on-site septic systems.
  • The developer proposes clearing trees from the site down slope from each house to take advantage of the views.

Then: The reviewing agency determines that there is likely to be a moderate to large impact on the CEA

Back to Part 2 Impact Assessment || Continue to Question 5 - (Part 2)

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