This report provides guidance for conducting an initial assessment of environmental effects of navigation and infrastructure projects. The initial assessment is largely a planning-based activity that establishes the project scope and objectives, gathers existing information needed to perform the assessment, develops the conceptual model and reaches a conclusion about the level of risk and whether more assessment is required. Projects related to navigation and infrastructure include but are not limited to maintenance and new work dredging, port and harbour development (e.g. terminals, berthing facilities, barge flotilla areas and turning basins) and construction of waterways, locks, canals, quays, breakwaters, jetties and groins. The process recommended is consistent with generic decision making models that have been used in this and other fields [Keeney and Raiffa, 1976; Clemen, 1995]. The approach focuses on the environmental concerns that may arise and is therefore also suitable as a first step in the assessment of potential effects on special protected areas (e.g. European Union Habitats Directive 92/43) and is consistent with European Union DIRECTIVE 2011/92/EU (dated December 13, 2011). The method is also consistent with the risk assessment framework for environmental concerns as developed at the national level in the United States [USEPA, 1998; NRC, 2009 ; ASTM, 2009] and in Germany [BfG, 2004].
The process identifies aspects of navigation and infrastructure projects requiring investigation; it also identifies the need to investigate possible alternatives early in the project definition phase. The methodology therefore sets the context for a more holistic approach by which the project needs may be harmonised with environmental or ecological concerns (e.g. Working with Nature, ecosystem-based management, etc.). The process serves the needs of risk assessors, decision makers and stakeholders alike. It provides an instrument to develop a detailed understanding of the strengths, weaknesses and limitations of infrastructure projects with respect to the environment, but also of opportunities to create win-win situations. The initial assessment process was specifically developed to evaluate the potential for environmental impacts in order that unacceptable impacts are avoided.