Environmental Impact Statement for the California High-Speed Train Project from Merced to Fresno, CA, 50868-50871 [E9-23728]

Download as PDF PWALKER on DSK8KYBLC1PROD with NOTICES 50868 Federal Register / Vol. 74, No. 189 / Thursday, October 1, 2009 / Notices stations are downtown Fresno and downtown Bakersfield. Alternative station sites at or near the selected station locations may be identified and evaluated. A potential station in the Visalia/Hanford/Tulare area will also be evaluated in this Project EIR/EIS. Probable Effects: The purpose of the EIR/EIS process is to explore, in a public setting, the effects of the proposed project on the physical, human, and natural environment. The FRA and the Authority will continue the tiered evaluation of all significant environmental, social, and economic impacts of the construction and operation of the HST System. Impact areas to be addressed include transportation impacts; safety and security; land use and zoning; land acquisition, displacements, and relocations; agricultural land impacts; cumulative and secondary impacts; cultural resource impacts, including impacts on historical and archaeological resources and parklands/recreation areas; neighborhood compatibility and environmental justice; and natural resource impacts including air quality, wetlands, water resources, noise, vibration, energy, wildlife and ecosystems, including endangered species. Measures to avoid, minimize, and mitigate adverse impacts will be identified and evaluated. The Fresno to Bakersfield HST Project EIR/EIS will be prepared in accordance with FRA’s Procedures for Considering Environmental Impacts (64 FR 28545 May 26, 1999) and will address not only NEPA and CEQA but will also address as necessary other applicable statutes, regulations, and executive orders, including the Clean Air Act, section 404 of the Clean Water Act, section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act, the Endangered Species Act, and Executive Order 12898 on Environmental Justice. This EIR/EIS process will also continue the NEPA/ Clean Water Act section 404 integration process established through the Statewide Program EIR/EIS process. The EIR/EIS will evaluate project alignment alternatives, and station and maintenance facility locations to support a determination of the Least Environmentally Damaging Practicable Alternative (LEDPA) by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Comments: FRA encourages broad participation in the EIS process and review of the resulting environmental documents. Comments are invited from all interested agencies and the public to ensure the full range of issues related to the proposed action and reasonable alternatives are addressed and all VerDate Nov<24>2008 19:32 Sep 30, 2009 Jkt 217001 significant issues are identified. In particular, FRA is interested in learning whether there are areas of environmental concern where there might be a potential for significant sitespecific impacts from the FresnoBakersfield section of the HST system. Public agencies with jurisdiction are requested to advise FRA and the Authority of the applicable permit and environmental review requirements of each agency, and the scope and content of the environmental information that is germane to the agency’s statutory responsibilities in connection with the proposed project. Public agencies are requested to advise FRA if they anticipate taking a major action in connection with the proposed project and if they wish to cooperate in the preparation of the Project EIR/EIS. Public scoping meetings were held in March 2009 for the Merced to Bakersfield HST Project EIR/EIS and are an important component of the scoping process for the Fresno to Bakersfield HST Project EIR/EIS for both the State and Federal environmental review. FRA is seeking participation and input of all interested Federal, State, and local agencies, Native American groups, and other concerned private organizations or individuals on the scope of the EIR/EIS. Implementation of the Fresno to Bakersfield section of the HST System is a Federal undertaking with the potential to affect historic properties. As such, it is subject to the requirements of section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (16 U.S.C. 470f). In accordance with regulations issued by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, 36 CFR part 800, FRA intends to coordinate compliance with section 106 of this Act with the preparation of the EIR/EIS, beginning with the identification of consulting parties in a manner consistent with the standards set out in 36 CFR 800.8. Issued in Washington, DC, on September 25, 2009. Mark E. Yachmetz, Associate Administrator for Railroad Development, Federal Railroad Administration. [FR Doc. E9–23749 Filed 9–30–09; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4910–06–P PO 00000 Frm 00107 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION Federal Railroad Administration Environmental Impact Statement for the California High-Speed Train Project from Merced to Fresno, CA AGENCY: Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), Department of Transportation (DOT). ACTION: Notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement. SUMMARY: The FRA issued a Notice of Intent on March 13, 2009 for the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Environmental Impact Report (EIR) with the California High-Speed Rail Authority (Authority) for the Merced to Bakersfield section of the Authority’s proposed California High-Speed Train (HST) System in compliance with relevant state and federal laws, in particular the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). In that Notice, alternatives involving the alignments and stations located between Merced and Bakersfield were identified. This notice amends the project environmental process for the Merced to Bakersfield section and announces the preparation of two separate EIR/EISs. FRA and the Authority have determined that the environmental effects of the HST System from Merced to Bakersfield are more appropriately assessed in two separate documents; one for Merced to Fresno and another for Fresno to Bakersfield. This Notice amends the environmental process started on March 13, 2009 to instead a Project EIR/EIS for the Merced to Fresno section of the HST System. The decision to complete two separate EIR/EISs was made because the project sections are of sufficient length, with logical termini allowing for an analysis of environmental matters on a broad scope to ensure that the project will function properly without requiring additional improvements elsewhere; and the assessment of HST alternatives in the Merced to Fresno section will not restrict consideration of alternatives for other transportation improvements. In 2001, the Authority and FRA started a tiered environmental review process for the HST System and in 2005, completed the first tier California High Speed Train Program EIR/EIS (Statewide Program EIR/EIS) and approved the statewide HST System for intercity travel in California between the major metropolitan centers of Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area in the north, through the Central E:\FR\FM\01OCN1.SGM 01OCN1 PWALKER on DSK8KYBLC1PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 74, No. 189 / Thursday, October 1, 2009 / Notices Valley, to Los Angeles and San Diego in the south. The approved HST System would be about 800-miles long, with electric propulsion and steel-wheel-onsteel-rail trains capable of operating speeds of 220 miles per hour (mph) on a dedicated system of fully gradeseparated, access-controlled steel tracks with state-of-the-art safety, signaling, communication, and automated train control systems. In approving the HST System, the Authority and FRA also selected corridors/general alignments and station location options throughout most of the system. The Statewide Program EIR/EIS generally selected the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad (BNSF) corridor for the high-speed train route from Merced to Fresno with stations at Merced and in Fresno. In 2008, the Authority and FRA completed a second program EIR/EIS to evaluate and select general alignments and station locations within the broad corridor between, and including, the Altamont Pass and the Pacheco Pass to connect the Bay Area and Central Valley portions of the HST System. The Authority and FRA selected the Pacheco Pass with San Francisco and San Jose termini network alternative, as well as preferred corridor alignments and station location options. The Union Pacific Railroad Company (UPRR) corridor was selected as the preferred alignment through the portion of the Central Valley from south of Stockton to north of Madera and the BNSF railroad corridor from Madera to Fresno was selected by the Statewide Program EIR/ EIS. The preparation of the Merced to Fresno HST Project EIR/EIS will involve the development of preliminary engineering designs and the assessment of potential environmental effects associated with the construction, operation, and maintenance of the HST System, including track, ancillary facilities and stations, along the preferred alternative corridors from Merced to Fresno. The Merced to Fresno HST Project also includes the connection from the San Jose to Merced HST Project. DATES: FRA and the Authority invite the general public, other government agencies, and all other interested parties to comment on the amended scope and content of the Merced to Fresno HST Project EIR/EIS. FRA and the Authority are soliciting additional oral and written comments, suggestions, requests for information, and requests for public meetings no later than October 30, 2009. These comments will receive equal consideration as comments presented during the March 2009 scoping period VerDate Nov<24>2008 19:32 Sep 30, 2009 Jkt 217001 for the former Merced to Bakersfield HST Project EIR/EIS. ADDRESSES: Written comments on the scope should be sent to Ms. Carrie Bowen, Regional Director, ATTN. Merced to Fresno, California HighSpeed Rail Authority, 925 L Street, Suite 1425, Sacramento, CA 95814, or via e-mail with subject line ‘‘Merced to Fresno HST’’ to: comments@hsr.ca.gov. Comments may also be provided orally at the same address. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. David Valenstein, Environmental Program Manager, Office of Railroad Development, Federal Railroad Administration, 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE (Mail Stop 20), Washington, DC 20590 (telephone: 202–493–6368); or Ms. Carrie Bowen, Regional Director, ATTN. Merced to Fresno, California High-Speed Rail Authority, 925 L Street, Suite 1425, Sacramento, CA 95814 (telephone: 559–221–2636). SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Authority was established in 1996 and is authorized and directed by statute to undertake the planning and development of a proposed statewide HST network that is fully coordinated with other public transportation services. The Authority adopted a Final Business Plan in June 2000, which reviewed the economic feasibility of an 800-mile-long HST System capable of operating speeds in excess of 200 miles per hour on a dedicated, fully gradeseparated state-of-the-art track. The Authority released an updated Business Plan in November 2008. The FRA has responsibility for overseeing the safety of railroad operations, including the safety of any proposed high-speed ground transportation system. FRA is also authorized to provide Federal funding for intercity passenger rail capital investments including high-speed rail. For the proposed HST, it is anticipated that FRA would need to take certain regulatory actions prior to operation and may provide financial assistance for the project including grant funds. In 2005, the Authority and FRA completed a Statewide Program EIR/EIS for the Proposed California High Speed Train System, as the first phase of a tiered environmental review process. The Authority certified the Program EIR under CEQA and approved the proposed HST System, and FRA issued a Record of Decision under NEPA for the Program EIS. This Statewide Program EIR/EIS established the purpose and need for the HST System, analyzed an HST System, and compared it with a No Project/No Action Alternative and a Modal Alternative. In PO 00000 Frm 00108 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 50869 approving the Statewide Program EIR/ EIS, the Authority and FRA selected the HST Alternative, selected certain corridors/general alignments and general station locations for further study, incorporated mitigation strategies and design practices, and specified further measures to guide the development of the HST System during the site-specific project level environmental review to avoid and minimize potential adverse environmental impacts. In the subsequent Bay Area to Central Valley HST Final Program EIR/EIS, the Authority and FRA selected the Pacheco Pass alternative, via Henry Miller Road, to connect the Bay Area to the Central Valley. The Merced to Fresno HST Project EIR/EIS will tier from the Statewide Program EIR/EIS and the Bay Area to Central Valley HST Program EIR/EIS in accordance with Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) regulations, (40 CFR 1508.28) and State CEQA Guidelines (14 California Code of Regulations 15168(b)). Tiering will ensure that the Merced to Fresno HST Project EIR/EIS builds upon all previous work prepared for and incorporated in the Statewide Program EIR/EIS and the Bay Area to Central Valley HST Program EIR/EIS. The Merced to Fresno HST Project EIR/EIS will describe site-specific environmental impacts, identify specific mitigation measures to address those impacts and incorporate design features to avoid and minimize potential adverse environmental impacts. The FRA and the Authority will assess the site characteristics, size, nature, and timing of the proposed project to determine whether the impacts are potentially significant and whether impacts can be avoided or mitigated. This Project EIR/ EIS will identify and evaluate reasonable and feasible site specific alignment alternatives, and evaluate the impacts of construction, operation, and maintenance of the HST System. Information and documents regarding this HST environmental review process will be made available through the Authority’s Internet site: https:// www.cahighspeedrail.gov/. Purpose and Need: The purpose of the proposed HST System is to provide a new mode of high-speed intercity travel that would link major metropolitan areas of the state; interface with airports, mass transit, and highways; and provide added capacity to meet increases in intercity travel demand in California in a manner sensitive to and protective of California’s unique natural resources. The need for a HST System is directly related to the expected growth in E:\FR\FM\01OCN1.SGM 01OCN1 PWALKER on DSK8KYBLC1PROD with NOTICES 50870 Federal Register / Vol. 74, No. 189 / Thursday, October 1, 2009 / Notices population, and increases in intercity travel demand in California over the next twenty years and beyond. With the growth in travel demand, there will be an increase in travel delays arising from the growing congestion on California’s highways and at airports. In addition, there will be negative effects on the economy, quality of life, and air quality in and around California’s metropolitan areas from an increasingly congested transportation system that will become less reliable as travel demand increases. The intercity highway system, commercial airports, and conventional passenger rail serving the intercity travel market are currently operating at or near capacity, and will require large public investments for maintenance and expansion to meet existing demand and future growth. The proposed HST system is designed to address some of the social, economic and environmental problems associated with transportation congestion in California. Alternatives: The Merced to Fresno HST Project EIR/EIS will consider a No Action or No Project Alternative and an HST Alternative for the Merced to Fresno section. No Action Alternative: The No Action Alternative (No Project or No Build) represents the conditions in the corridor as it existed in 2009, and as it would exist based on programmed and funded improvements to the intercity transportation system and other reasonably foreseeable projects through 2035, taking into account the following sources of information: the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP), Regional Transportation Plans (RTPs) for all modes of travel, airport plans, intercity passenger rail plans, and city and county plans. HST Alternative: The Authority proposes to construct, operate and maintain an electric-powered steelwheel-on-steel-rail HST System, about 800 miles long, capable of operating speeds of 220 mph on dedicated, fully grade-separated tracks, with state-of-theart safety, signaling, and automated train control systems. As part of the Bay Area to Central Valley HST Program EIR/EIS, the Authority and FRA selected the UPRR railroad alignment through the portion of the Central Valley from north of Madera to south of Stockton as the preferred alternative. This Project EIR/EIS will also evaluate the BNSF railroad alignment in this part of the Central Valley because of the uncertainty of negotiating with the UPRR for some of their right-of-way and will continue investigation of alignments/linkages to a potential maintenance facility at Castle AFB. VerDate Nov<24>2008 19:32 Sep 30, 2009 Jkt 217001 The BNSF alignment from Madera to Fresno was selected with the Statewide Program EIR/EIS. As defined in the Statewide Program EIR/EIS, this alignment would utilize the UPRR corridor through the urban area of Fresno. The HST would operate in this area at speeds up to 220 mph on tracks separate from the existing BNSF and UPRR tracks. Engineering studies to be undertaken as part of this EIR/EIS process will examine and refine alignments in the BNSF and UPRR corridors. The entire alignment would be grade separated from existing roadways. In addition, alternative sites for right-of-way maintenance, train storage facilities, and a light or heavy maintenance and repair facility will be evaluated in the Merced to Fresno HST project area. The preferred station locations selected by the Authority and FRA through the Statewide Program EIR/EIS and the Bay Area to Central Valley HST Program EIR/EIS in Merced will be evaluated in the Merced to Fresno HST Project EIR/EIS. The station in Fresno will be analyzed in the EIR/ EIS for the Fresno-Bakersfield section of the HST System. Alternative station sites at or near the selected station locations may be identified and evaluated. Probable Effects: The purpose of the EIR/EIS process is to explore, in a public setting, the effects of the proposed project on the physical, human, and natural environment. The FRA and the Authority will continue the tiered evaluation of all significant environmental, social, and economic impacts of the construction and operation of the HST System. Impact areas to be addressed include transportation impacts; safety and security; land use and zoning; land acquisition, displacements, and relocations; agricultural land impacts; cumulative and secondary impacts; cultural resource impacts, including impacts on historical and archaeological resources and parklands/recreation areas; neighborhood compatibility and environmental justice; and natural resource impacts including air quality, wetlands, water resources, noise, vibration, energy, wildlife and ecosystems, including endangered species. Measures to avoid, minimize, and mitigate adverse impacts will be identified and evaluated. The Merced to Fresno HST Project EIR/EIS will be prepared in accordance with FRA’s Procedures for Considering Environmental Impacts (64 FR 28545, May 26, 1999) and will address not only NEPA and CEQA but will also address, as necessary, other applicable statutes, regulations, and executive orders, PO 00000 Frm 00109 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 including the Clean Air Act, Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act, the Endangered Species Act, and Executive Order 12898 on Environmental Justice. This EIR/EIS process will also continue the NEPA/ Clean Water Act Section 404 integration process established through the Statewide Program EIR/EIS process. The EIR/EIS will evaluate project alignment alternatives, and station and maintenance facility locations to support a determination of the Least Environmentally Damaging Practicable Alternative (LEDPA) by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Comments: FRA encourages broad participation in the EIS process and review of the resulting environmental documents. Comments are invited from all interested agencies and the public to ensure the full range of issues related to the proposed action and reasonable alternatives are addressed and all significant issues are identified. In particular, FRA is interested in learning whether there are areas of environmental concern where there might be a potential for significant sitespecific impacts from the MercedFresno section of the HST system. Public agencies with jurisdiction are requested to advise FRA and the Authority of the applicable permit and environmental review requirements of each agency, and the scope and content of the environmental information that is germane to the agency’s statutory responsibilities in connection with the proposed project. Public agencies are requested to advise FRA if they anticipate taking a major action in connection with the proposed project and if they wish to cooperate in the preparation of the Project EIR/EIS. Public scoping meetings were held in March 2009 for the Merced to Bakersfield HST Project EIR/EIS and are an important component of the scoping process for the Merced to Fresno HST Project EIR/EIS for both the State and Federal environmental review. FRA is seeking participation and input of all interested federal, state, and local agencies, Native American groups, and other concerned private organizations or individuals on the scope of the EIR/EIS. Implementation of the Merced to Fresno section of the HST System is a federal undertaking with the potential to affect historic properties. As such, it is subject to the requirements of section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (16 U.S.C. 470f). In accordance with regulations issued by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, 36 CFR part 800, FRA intends to coordinate E:\FR\FM\01OCN1.SGM 01OCN1 Federal Register / Vol. 74, No. 189 / Thursday, October 1, 2009 / Notices compliance with Section 106 of this Act with the preparation of the EIR/EIS, beginning with the identification of consulting parties in a manner consistent with the standards set out in 36 CFR 800.8. Issued in Washington, DC, on September 25, 2009. Mark E. Yachmetz, Associate Administrator for Railroad Development, Federal Railroad Administration. [FR Doc. E9–23728 Filed 9–30–09; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4910–06–P DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY Office of the Comptroller of the Currency FEDERAL RESERVE SYSTEM FEDERAL DEPOSIT INSURANCE CORPORATION Agency Information Collection Activities: Submission for OMB Review; Joint Comment Request PWALKER on DSK8KYBLC1PROD with NOTICES AGENCIES: Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), Treasury; Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (Board); and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). ACTION: Notice of information collection to be submitted to OMB for review and approval under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995. SUMMARY: In accordance with the requirements of the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. chapter 35), the OCC, the Board, and the FDIC (collectively, the ‘‘agencies’’) may not conduct or sponsor, and the respondent is not required to respond to, an information collection unless it displays a currently valid Office of Management and Budget (OMB) control number. On June 25, 2009, the agencies, under the auspices of the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC), published a notice in the Federal Register (74 FR 30358) requesting public comment for 60 days on the extension, without revision, of the Foreign Branch Report of Condition (FFIEC 030 and FFIEC 030S), which is a currently approved information collection for each agency. The comment period for this notice expired on August 24, 2009. No comments were received. The agencies are now submitting requests to OMB for approval of the extension, without revision, of the FFIEC 030 and FFIEC 030S. VerDate Nov<24>2008 19:32 Sep 30, 2009 Jkt 217001 DATES: Comments must be submitted on or before November 2, 2009. ADDRESSES: Interested parties are invited to submit written comments to any or all of the agencies. All comments, which should refer to the OMB control number, will be shared among the agencies. OCC: Communications Division, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, Public Information Room, Mailstop 2–3, Attention: 1557–0099, 250 E Street, SW., Washington, DC 20219. In addition, comments may be sent by fax to 202–874–5274, or by electronic mail to regs.comments@occ.treas.gov. You may personally inspect and photocopy the comments at the OCC, 250 E Street, SW., Washington, DC 20219. For security reasons, the OCC requires that visitors make an appointment to inspect comments. You may do so by calling (202) 874–4700. Upon arrival, visitors will be required to present valid government-issued photo identification and submit to security screening in order to inspect and photocopy comments. Board: You may submit comments, identified by FFIEC 030 or FFIEC 030S, by any of the following methods: • Agency Web Site: https:// www.federalreserve.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments on the https://www.federalreserve.gov/ generalinfo/foia/ProposedRegs.cfm. • Federal eRulemaking Portal: https:// www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments. • E-mail: regs.comments@federalreserve.gov. Include the OMB control number in the subject line of the message. • Fax: 202–452–3819 or 202–452– 3102. • Mail: Jennifer J. Johnson, Secretary, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, 20th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20551. All public comments are available from the Board’s Web site at https:// www.federalreserve.gov/generalinfo/ foia/ProposedRegs.cfm as submitted, unless modified for technical reasons. Accordingly, your comments will not be edited to remove any identifying or contact information. Public comments may also be viewed electronically or in paper in Room MP–500 of the Board’s Martin Building (20th and C Streets, NW.) between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays. FDIC: You may submit comments, which should refer to ‘‘Foreign Branch Report of Condition, 3064–0011,’’ by any of the following methods: PO 00000 Frm 00110 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 50871 • Agency Web Site: https:// www.FDIC.gov/regulations/laws/ federal/notices.html. • E-mail: comments@FDIC.gov. Include ‘‘Foreign Branch Report of Condition, 3064–0011’’ in the subject line of the message. • Mail: Gary Kuiper (202–898–3877), Counsel, Attn: Comments, Room F– 1072, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, 550 17th Street, NW., Washington, DC 20429. • Hand Delivery: Comments may be hand delivered to the guard station at the rear of the 550 17th Street Building (located on F Street) on business days between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. Public Inspection: All comments received will be posted without change to https://www.fdic.gov/regulations/laws/ federal/notices/html including any personal information provided. Comments may be inspected at the FDIC Public Information Center, Room E– 1002, 3502 North Fairfax Drive, Arlington, VA 22226, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on business days. Additionally, commenters may send a copy of their comments to the OMB desk officer for the agencies by mail to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, U.S. Office of Management and Budget, New Executive Office Building, Room 10235, 725 17th Street, NW., Washington, DC 20503 or by fax to 202– 395–6974. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For further information or a copy of the collection, please contact any of the agency clearance officers whose names appear below. OCC: Mary H. Gottlieb, OCC Clearance Officer, 202–874–5090, Legislative and Regulatory Activities Division, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, 250 E Street, SW., Washington, DC 20219. Board: Michelle Shore, Federal Reserve Board Clearance Officer, 202– 452–3829, Division of Research and Statistics, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, 20th and C Streets, NW., Washington, DC 20551. Telecommunications Device for the Deaf (TDD) users may call 202–263–4869. FDIC: Gary Kuiper, Counsel, 202– 898–3877, Legal Division, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, 550 17th Street, NW., Washington, DC 20429. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Proposal To Request Approval From OMB of the Extension for Three Years, Without Revision, of the Following Currently Approved Collection of Information Report Title: Foreign Branch Report of Condition. E:\FR\FM\01OCN1.SGM 01OCN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 74, Number 189 (Thursday, October 1, 2009)]
[Notices]
[Pages 50868-50871]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E9-23728]


-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

Federal Railroad Administration


Environmental Impact Statement for the California High-Speed 
Train Project from Merced to Fresno, CA

AGENCY: Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), Department of 
Transportation (DOT).

ACTION: Notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: The FRA issued a Notice of Intent on March 13, 2009 for the 
preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and 
Environmental Impact Report (EIR) with the California High-Speed Rail 
Authority (Authority) for the Merced to Bakersfield section of the 
Authority's proposed California High-Speed Train (HST) System in 
compliance with relevant state and federal laws, in particular the 
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the California 
Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). In that Notice, alternatives 
involving the alignments and stations located between Merced and 
Bakersfield were identified. This notice amends the project 
environmental process for the Merced to Bakersfield section and 
announces the preparation of two separate EIR/EISs.
    FRA and the Authority have determined that the environmental 
effects of the HST System from Merced to Bakersfield are more 
appropriately assessed in two separate documents; one for Merced to 
Fresno and another for Fresno to Bakersfield. This Notice amends the 
environmental process started on March 13, 2009 to instead a Project 
EIR/EIS for the Merced to Fresno section of the HST System. The 
decision to complete two separate EIR/EISs was made because the project 
sections are of sufficient length, with logical termini allowing for an 
analysis of environmental matters on a broad scope to ensure that the 
project will function properly without requiring additional 
improvements elsewhere; and the assessment of HST alternatives in the 
Merced to Fresno section will not restrict consideration of 
alternatives for other transportation improvements.
    In 2001, the Authority and FRA started a tiered environmental 
review process for the HST System and in 2005, completed the first tier 
California High Speed Train Program EIR/EIS (Statewide Program EIR/EIS) 
and approved the statewide HST System for intercity travel in 
California between the major metropolitan centers of Sacramento and the 
San Francisco Bay Area in the north, through the Central

[[Page 50869]]

Valley, to Los Angeles and San Diego in the south. The approved HST 
System would be about 800-miles long, with electric propulsion and 
steel-wheel-on-steel-rail trains capable of operating speeds of 220 
miles per hour (mph) on a dedicated system of fully grade-separated, 
access-controlled steel tracks with state-of-the-art safety, signaling, 
communication, and automated train control systems. In approving the 
HST System, the Authority and FRA also selected corridors/general 
alignments and station location options throughout most of the system. 
The Statewide Program EIR/EIS generally selected the Burlington 
Northern Santa Fe Railroad (BNSF) corridor for the high-speed train 
route from Merced to Fresno with stations at Merced and in Fresno.
    In 2008, the Authority and FRA completed a second program EIR/EIS 
to evaluate and select general alignments and station locations within 
the broad corridor between, and including, the Altamont Pass and the 
Pacheco Pass to connect the Bay Area and Central Valley portions of the 
HST System. The Authority and FRA selected the Pacheco Pass with San 
Francisco and San Jose termini network alternative, as well as 
preferred corridor alignments and station location options. The Union 
Pacific Railroad Company (UPRR) corridor was selected as the preferred 
alignment through the portion of the Central Valley from south of 
Stockton to north of Madera and the BNSF railroad corridor from Madera 
to Fresno was selected by the Statewide Program EIR/EIS.
    The preparation of the Merced to Fresno HST Project EIR/EIS will 
involve the development of preliminary engineering designs and the 
assessment of potential environmental effects associated with the 
construction, operation, and maintenance of the HST System, including 
track, ancillary facilities and stations, along the preferred 
alternative corridors from Merced to Fresno. The Merced to Fresno HST 
Project also includes the connection from the San Jose to Merced HST 
Project.

DATES: FRA and the Authority invite the general public, other 
government agencies, and all other interested parties to comment on the 
amended scope and content of the Merced to Fresno HST Project EIR/EIS. 
FRA and the Authority are soliciting additional oral and written 
comments, suggestions, requests for information, and requests for 
public meetings no later than October 30, 2009. These comments will 
receive equal consideration as comments presented during the March 2009 
scoping period for the former Merced to Bakersfield HST Project EIR/
EIS.

ADDRESSES: Written comments on the scope should be sent to Ms. Carrie 
Bowen, Regional Director, ATTN. Merced to Fresno, California High-Speed 
Rail Authority, 925 L Street, Suite 1425, Sacramento, CA 95814, or via 
e-mail with subject line ``Merced to Fresno HST'' to: 
comments@hsr.ca.gov. Comments may also be provided orally at the same 
address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. David Valenstein, Environmental 
Program Manager, Office of Railroad Development, Federal Railroad 
Administration, 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE (Mail Stop 20), Washington, 
DC 20590 (telephone: 202-493-6368); or Ms. Carrie Bowen, Regional 
Director, ATTN. Merced to Fresno, California High-Speed Rail Authority, 
925 L Street, Suite 1425, Sacramento, CA 95814 (telephone: 559-221-
2636).

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Authority was established in 1996 and is 
authorized and directed by statute to undertake the planning and 
development of a proposed statewide HST network that is fully 
coordinated with other public transportation services. The Authority 
adopted a Final Business Plan in June 2000, which reviewed the economic 
feasibility of an 800-mile-long HST System capable of operating speeds 
in excess of 200 miles per hour on a dedicated, fully grade-separated 
state-of-the-art track. The Authority released an updated Business Plan 
in November 2008.
    The FRA has responsibility for overseeing the safety of railroad 
operations, including the safety of any proposed high-speed ground 
transportation system. FRA is also authorized to provide Federal 
funding for intercity passenger rail capital investments including 
high-speed rail. For the proposed HST, it is anticipated that FRA would 
need to take certain regulatory actions prior to operation and may 
provide financial assistance for the project including grant funds.
    In 2005, the Authority and FRA completed a Statewide Program EIR/
EIS for the Proposed California High Speed Train System, as the first 
phase of a tiered environmental review process. The Authority certified 
the Program EIR under CEQA and approved the proposed HST System, and 
FRA issued a Record of Decision under NEPA for the Program EIS. This 
Statewide Program EIR/EIS established the purpose and need for the HST 
System, analyzed an HST System, and compared it with a No Project/No 
Action Alternative and a Modal Alternative. In approving the Statewide 
Program EIR/EIS, the Authority and FRA selected the HST Alternative, 
selected certain corridors/general alignments and general station 
locations for further study, incorporated mitigation strategies and 
design practices, and specified further measures to guide the 
development of the HST System during the site-specific project level 
environmental review to avoid and minimize potential adverse 
environmental impacts. In the subsequent Bay Area to Central Valley HST 
Final Program EIR/EIS, the Authority and FRA selected the Pacheco Pass 
alternative, via Henry Miller Road, to connect the Bay Area to the 
Central Valley.
    The Merced to Fresno HST Project EIR/EIS will tier from the 
Statewide Program EIR/EIS and the Bay Area to Central Valley HST 
Program EIR/EIS in accordance with Council on Environmental Quality 
(CEQ) regulations, (40 CFR 1508.28) and State CEQA Guidelines (14 
California Code of Regulations 15168(b)). Tiering will ensure that the 
Merced to Fresno HST Project EIR/EIS builds upon all previous work 
prepared for and incorporated in the Statewide Program EIR/EIS and the 
Bay Area to Central Valley HST Program EIR/EIS.
    The Merced to Fresno HST Project EIR/EIS will describe site-
specific environmental impacts, identify specific mitigation measures 
to address those impacts and incorporate design features to avoid and 
minimize potential adverse environmental impacts. The FRA and the 
Authority will assess the site characteristics, size, nature, and 
timing of the proposed project to determine whether the impacts are 
potentially significant and whether impacts can be avoided or 
mitigated. This Project EIR/EIS will identify and evaluate reasonable 
and feasible site specific alignment alternatives, and evaluate the 
impacts of construction, operation, and maintenance of the HST System. 
Information and documents regarding this HST environmental review 
process will be made available through the Authority's Internet site: 
https://www.cahighspeedrail.gov/.
    Purpose and Need: The purpose of the proposed HST System is to 
provide a new mode of high-speed intercity travel that would link major 
metropolitan areas of the state; interface with airports, mass transit, 
and highways; and provide added capacity to meet increases in intercity 
travel demand in California in a manner sensitive to and protective of 
California's unique natural resources. The need for a HST System is 
directly related to the expected growth in

[[Page 50870]]

population, and increases in intercity travel demand in California over 
the next twenty years and beyond. With the growth in travel demand, 
there will be an increase in travel delays arising from the growing 
congestion on California's highways and at airports. In addition, there 
will be negative effects on the economy, quality of life, and air 
quality in and around California's metropolitan areas from an 
increasingly congested transportation system that will become less 
reliable as travel demand increases. The intercity highway system, 
commercial airports, and conventional passenger rail serving the 
intercity travel market are currently operating at or near capacity, 
and will require large public investments for maintenance and expansion 
to meet existing demand and future growth. The proposed HST system is 
designed to address some of the social, economic and environmental 
problems associated with transportation congestion in California.
    Alternatives: The Merced to Fresno HST Project EIR/EIS will 
consider a No Action or No Project Alternative and an HST Alternative 
for the Merced to Fresno section.
    No Action Alternative: The No Action Alternative (No Project or No 
Build) represents the conditions in the corridor as it existed in 2009, 
and as it would exist based on programmed and funded improvements to 
the intercity transportation system and other reasonably foreseeable 
projects through 2035, taking into account the following sources of 
information: the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP), 
Regional Transportation Plans (RTPs) for all modes of travel, airport 
plans, intercity passenger rail plans, and city and county plans.
    HST Alternative: The Authority proposes to construct, operate and 
maintain an electric-powered steel-wheel-on-steel-rail HST System, 
about 800 miles long, capable of operating speeds of 220 mph on 
dedicated, fully grade-separated tracks, with state-of-the-art safety, 
signaling, and automated train control systems. As part of the Bay Area 
to Central Valley HST Program EIR/EIS, the Authority and FRA selected 
the UPRR railroad alignment through the portion of the Central Valley 
from north of Madera to south of Stockton as the preferred alternative. 
This Project EIR/EIS will also evaluate the BNSF railroad alignment in 
this part of the Central Valley because of the uncertainty of 
negotiating with the UPRR for some of their right-of-way and will 
continue investigation of alignments/linkages to a potential 
maintenance facility at Castle AFB.
    The BNSF alignment from Madera to Fresno was selected with the 
Statewide Program EIR/EIS. As defined in the Statewide Program EIR/EIS, 
this alignment would utilize the UPRR corridor through the urban area 
of Fresno. The HST would operate in this area at speeds up to 220 mph 
on tracks separate from the existing BNSF and UPRR tracks. Engineering 
studies to be undertaken as part of this EIR/EIS process will examine 
and refine alignments in the BNSF and UPRR corridors. The entire 
alignment would be grade separated from existing roadways. In addition, 
alternative sites for right-of-way maintenance, train storage 
facilities, and a light or heavy maintenance and repair facility will 
be evaluated in the Merced to Fresno HST project area. The preferred 
station locations selected by the Authority and FRA through the 
Statewide Program EIR/EIS and the Bay Area to Central Valley HST 
Program EIR/EIS in Merced will be evaluated in the Merced to Fresno HST 
Project EIR/EIS. The station in Fresno will be analyzed in the EIR/EIS 
for the Fresno-Bakersfield section of the HST System. Alternative 
station sites at or near the selected station locations may be 
identified and evaluated.
    Probable Effects: The purpose of the EIR/EIS process is to explore, 
in a public setting, the effects of the proposed project on the 
physical, human, and natural environment. The FRA and the Authority 
will continue the tiered evaluation of all significant environmental, 
social, and economic impacts of the construction and operation of the 
HST System. Impact areas to be addressed include transportation 
impacts; safety and security; land use and zoning; land acquisition, 
displacements, and relocations; agricultural land impacts; cumulative 
and secondary impacts; cultural resource impacts, including impacts on 
historical and archaeological resources and parklands/recreation areas; 
neighborhood compatibility and environmental justice; and natural 
resource impacts including air quality, wetlands, water resources, 
noise, vibration, energy, wildlife and ecosystems, including endangered 
species. Measures to avoid, minimize, and mitigate adverse impacts will 
be identified and evaluated.
    The Merced to Fresno HST Project EIR/EIS will be prepared in 
accordance with FRA's Procedures for Considering Environmental Impacts 
(64 FR 28545, May 26, 1999) and will address not only NEPA and CEQA but 
will also address, as necessary, other applicable statutes, 
regulations, and executive orders, including the Clean Air Act, Section 
404 of the Clean Water Act, Section 106 of the National Historic 
Preservation Act of 1966, Section 4(f) of the Department of 
Transportation Act, the Endangered Species Act, and Executive Order 
12898 on Environmental Justice. This EIR/EIS process will also continue 
the NEPA/Clean Water Act Section 404 integration process established 
through the Statewide Program EIR/EIS process. The EIR/EIS will 
evaluate project alignment alternatives, and station and maintenance 
facility locations to support a determination of the Least 
Environmentally Damaging Practicable Alternative (LEDPA) by the U.S. 
Army Corps of Engineers.
    Comments: FRA encourages broad participation in the EIS process and 
review of the resulting environmental documents. Comments are invited 
from all interested agencies and the public to ensure the full range of 
issues related to the proposed action and reasonable alternatives are 
addressed and all significant issues are identified. In particular, FRA 
is interested in learning whether there are areas of environmental 
concern where there might be a potential for significant site-specific 
impacts from the Merced-Fresno section of the HST system. Public 
agencies with jurisdiction are requested to advise FRA and the 
Authority of the applicable permit and environmental review 
requirements of each agency, and the scope and content of the 
environmental information that is germane to the agency's statutory 
responsibilities in connection with the proposed project. Public 
agencies are requested to advise FRA if they anticipate taking a major 
action in connection with the proposed project and if they wish to 
cooperate in the preparation of the Project EIR/EIS.
    Public scoping meetings were held in March 2009 for the Merced to 
Bakersfield HST Project EIR/EIS and are an important component of the 
scoping process for the Merced to Fresno HST Project EIR/EIS for both 
the State and Federal environmental review. FRA is seeking 
participation and input of all interested federal, state, and local 
agencies, Native American groups, and other concerned private 
organizations or individuals on the scope of the EIR/EIS. 
Implementation of the Merced to Fresno section of the HST System is a 
federal undertaking with the potential to affect historic properties. 
As such, it is subject to the requirements of section 106 of the 
National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (16 U.S.C. 470f). In 
accordance with regulations issued by the Advisory Council on Historic 
Preservation, 36 CFR part 800, FRA intends to coordinate

[[Page 50871]]

compliance with Section 106 of this Act with the preparation of the 
EIR/EIS, beginning with the identification of consulting parties in a 
manner consistent with the standards set out in 36 CFR 800.8.

    Issued in Washington, DC, on September 25, 2009.
Mark E. Yachmetz,
Associate Administrator for Railroad Development, Federal Railroad 
Administration.
[FR Doc. E9-23728 Filed 9-30-09; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4910-06-P