Infrastructure projects have an impact on the natural world around them— the habitats, species, and non-living natural systems. The way a project is located within these systems and what new elements they may introduce into a system can create unwanted impacts. This section addresses how to understand and minimize negative impacts while considering ways in which the infrastructure can interact with natural systems in a synergistic, positive way. These types of interactions and impacts have been divided into the three sub-categories of Siting, Land and Water, and Biodiversity.
Infrastructure should be sited to avoid direct and indirect impacts on important ecological areas. Projects should avoid areas of high ecosystem value or that serve as a diverse habitat, such as water bodies, wetlands, or temporary waters (vernal pools, etc.). Projects should also seek to preserve areas of geologic or hydrologic value, and avoid interrupting natural cycles, such as the hydrologic cycle. When the nature or significance of the infrastructure project makes it impossible to avoid sensitive sites mitigation measures should be taken to minimize disruption of systems. Previously developed or disturbed land is ideal for preventing further damage to that environment, improving land value, and remediating contaminated brownfields.
LAND AND WATER
Infrastructure projects should have minimal impact on existing hydrologic and nutrient cycles. Special care should be taken to avoid the introduction of contaminants whether through stormwater runoff or pesticides and fertilizers. With proper forethought infrastructure can avoid these harmful disruptions. It is important to remember that the impact of contamination is often cumulative, especially in waterbodies such as rivers and streams, and each project and site shares in the responsibility for protecting the quality of the larger system.
Infrastructure projects should also minimize negative impacts on natural species and their habitats; on and near the site. Care should be taken to avoid introducing invasive species or inadvertently facilitating their spread. Infrastructure projects should minimize habitat fragmentation and promote habitat connectivity and animal movement. Species of new vegetation should be carefully selected and appropriate for the location. Infrastructure should not adversely impact wetland surface water quality, as these tend to provide ecosystems that support a high degree of natural biodiversity.