In the environmental impact assessment (EIA) lifecycle, scoping is regarded as the most important stage for the quality of the entire process. Even though many EIA methods exist, only a few of them are specifically suited for scoping. Despite the well-acknowledged potential of geographical information systems (CIS) for EIA and their seemingly widespread use, the applicability of GIS for scoping has not been analyzed sufficiently. This article advances a GIS-based scoping method and discusses the conditions necessary for its utilization. Two specific issues are addressed: the ability of a GIS-based system to identify the pertinent environmental effects on the basis of readily available information under stringent time and budget constraints, and the institutional infrastructure needed for such a system to operate effectively. These issues are analyzed in a case study conducted in Israel. In this case study, the proposed GIS-based scoping system identified all the main effects found independently in a comprehensive environmental impact statement (EIS), as well as issues not analyzed in the EIS. A centralized institutional scoping structure, whereby EIS guidelines are issued by a single entity, is found to be important for the operation of such a system, because it can enjoy the economies of scale and scope involved in setting up and operating a GIS system for scoping purposes.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This article is based on a study conducted as part of the first author’s MA thesis in the Department of Geography at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. This research was generously supported by the Israeli Ministry of Environment. The case study reported in the article made use of a DTM that was created by John Hall (Israel Geological Survey), and information from the Jewish National Fund, the MOE GIS unit, the Natural Reserve Authority, and the Hebrew University GIS center database. We would like to thank two anonymous referees for their informative comments. Special thanks to Sarah Sheppard and David O’Sullivan for their help.