Notice of Updated Information Concerning the Atlantic Coast Pipeline Project and Supply Header Project and the Associated Forest Service Land and Resource Management Plan Amendments, 25756-25759 [2017-11484]

Download as PDF 25756 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 106 / Monday, June 5, 2017 / Notices Done at Washington, DC, May 30, 2017. Sonny Ramaswamy, Director, National Institute of Food and Agriculture. 202–502–8659. The eLibrary link also provides access to the texts of formal documents issued by the FERC such as orders, notices, and rulemakings. For information related specifically to the new information provided in this Notice, please contact Karen Overcash, Forest Planner, George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, at 540–265– 5175 or kovercash@fs.fed.us. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: [FR Doc. 2017–11554 Filed 6–2–17; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3410–22–P DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE Forest Service Notice of Updated Information Concerning the Atlantic Coast Pipeline Project and Supply Header Project and the Associated Forest Service Land and Resource Management Plan Amendments Forest Service, USDA. Notice; updating information. AGENCY: ACTION: The USDA Forest Service (Forest Service) is participating as a cooperating agency with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in the preparation of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) and Supply Header Project Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). On January 6, 2017, the Forest Service published in the Federal Register (82 FR 1685) a Notice of Availability of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Supply Header Project Draft Environmental Impact Statement and the Draft of Amendments to the George Washington and Monongahela National Forests’ Land and Resource Management Plans (LRMPs) to allow for the ACP to cross through these National Forests. Since that publication, the Forest Service determined there is a need to disclose the following: New information relating to the proposed LRMP amendments; a change in the Responsible Officials for the amendments; and the substantive provisions in the planning regulations that are likely to be directly related to the proposed amendments. In addition, a proposed change to one of the LRMP amendments will result in a change to the administrative review procedures as outlined in the January 6, 2017 Federal Register Notice. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Information about the ACP Project is available from the FERC’s Office of External Affairs at 866–208–FERC (3372), or on the FERC Web site (www.ferc.gov). On the FERC’s Web site, go to ‘‘Documents & Filings,’’ click on the ‘‘eLibrary’’ link, click on ‘‘General Search’’ and enter the docket number CP15–554. Be sure you have selected an appropriate date range. For assistance, please contact FERC Online Support at FercOnlineSupport@ferc.gov, or toll free at 866–208–3676, or for TTY, contact asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:31 Jun 02, 2017 Jkt 241001 Background This Notice is specific to the Forest Service. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline route would cross 5.1 miles of lands managed by the Monongahela National Forest (MNF), in Pocahontas County, West Virginia and 15.9 miles of lands managed by the George Washington National Forest (GWNF), in Highland, Bath, and Augusta Counties, Virginia. The Supply Header Project would not affect the Monongahela or George Washington National Forests. The FERC is the NEPA Lead Federal Agency for the environmental analysis of the construction and operation of the proposed ACP and Supply Header Project. The Forest Service is the Federal agency responsible for authorizing this use and issuing special use permits for natural gas pipelines across National Forest System (NFS) lands under its jurisdiction. As a condition of issuing a Special Use Permit (SUP) for ACP to construct, operate, maintain, and eventually decommission a natural gas transmission pipeline that crosses NFS lands, the Forest Service would include such terms and conditions deemed necessary to protect Federal property and otherwise protect the public interest. The Forest Service intends to adopt FERC’s EIS for its decision to authorize the construction and operation of ACP, along with the necessary project-specific amendments to the LRMPs, if the analysis provides sufficient evidence to support those decisions and the Forest Service is satisfied that its comments and suggestions have been addressed. Planning Rule Requirements for LRMP Amendments On December 15, 2016 the Department of Agriculture Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment issued a final rule that amended the 36 CFR 219 regulations pertaining to National Forest System Land Management Planning (the planning rule) (81 FR 90723, 90737). The amendment to the 219 planning rule clarified the Department’s direction for amending LRMPs. The Department also added a requirement for amending PO 00000 Frm 00002 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 a plan for the responsible official to provide notice ‘‘about which substantive requirements of §§ 219.8 through 219.11 are likely to be directly related to the amendment’’ (36 CFR 219.13(b)(2), 81 FR at 90738). Whether a rule provision is directly related to an amendment is determined by any one of the following: The purpose for the amendment, a beneficial effect of the amendment, a substantial adverse effect of the amendment, or a lessening of plan protections by the amendment. The following descriptions of the proposed or potential LRMP amendments that are anticipated to be addressed in the Final EIS include a description of the ‘‘substantive requirements of §§ 219.8 through 219.11’’ likely to be directly related to each amendment. New Information for LRMP Amendments and Relationship to Substantive Requirements in the Planning Rule The FERC’s Draft EIS for the ACP and the Notice of Availability published in the Federal Register on January 6, 2017 included the consideration of a Forest Service authorization for construction and operation of the ACP across NFS lands and the associated Forest Service LRMP amendments that would be needed to make the project consistent with the respective LRMPs if the Forest Service were to approve the authorization (36 CFR 219.15). The Draft EIS identified ‘‘projectspecific plan amendments’’ that would be needed for the construction and operation of the ACP that otherwise could not, or potentially could not, meet certain standards in the MNF or GWNF LRMPs. These amendments are considered project-specific amendments because they would apply only to ACP and would not change LRMP requirements for other projects. Since the Draft EIS, the Forest Service has reconsidered whether a projectspecific amendment would still be necessary to ensure the ACP was consistent with some of the LRMP standards, has identified the need for a project-specific amendment with respect to several other LRMP standards, and has determined that a management prescription reallocation would not be necessary to approve the project. Monongahela National Forest The following potential amendment to the MNF LRMP would be a projectspecific amendment, applicable only to the ACP Project. This amendment would not change the applicability of E:\FR\FM\05JNN1.SGM 05JNN1 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 106 / Monday, June 5, 2017 / Notices LRMP requirements for other, future projects. Potential Amendment to the MNF LRMP: The MNF LRMP may need to be amended to allow for the construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to exceed two LRMP standards that were developed for the protection of soils, specifically Forestwide Standards SW06 and SW07 which are: Standard SW06: Severe rutting resulting from management activities shall be confined to less than 5 percent of an activity area. Standard SW07: Use of wheeled and/or tracked motorized equipment may be limited on soil types that include the following soil/ site area conditions: (a) Steep Slopes (40 to 50 percent), (b) Very Steep Slopes (more than 50 percent), (c) Susceptible to Landslides, (d) Soils Commonly Wet at or near the Surface during a Considerable Part of the Year, or Soils Highly Susceptible to Compaction. The amendment would provide an exception from these standards for the ACP Project and include specific mitigation measures and project design requirements for the project. The 36 CFR 219 planning rule requirements likely to be directly related to this proposed amendment are: § 219.8(a)(2)(ii)—‘‘[The plan must include plan components to maintain or restore] Soils and soil productivity, including guidance to reduce soil erosion and sedimentation,’’ and § 219.10(a)(3)—‘‘[The responsible official shall consider] Appropriate placement and sustainable management of infrastructure, such as recreational facilities and transportation and utility corridors.’’ If this potential amendment is determined to be ‘‘directly related’’ to the substantive rule requirements, the Responsible Official must apply those requirements within the scope and scale of the amendment and, if necessary, make adjustments to the amendment to meet these rule requirements (36 CFR 219.13 (b)(5) and (6)). asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES George Washington National Forest The following proposed amendment to the GWNF LRMP would be a projectspecific amendment, applicable only to the ACP Project. This amendment would not change the applicability of LRMP requirements for other, future projects. Proposed Amendment, Part 1: In the Draft EIS for the ACP and the January 6, 2017 Federal Register Notice of Availability, the original proposed amendment, part 1 was to amend the LRMP to reallocate 102.3 acres to Management Prescription 5C-Designated Utility Corridors from Management Prescriptions 7E1–Dispersed Recreation Areas (7 acres) and 13–Mosaics of Habitat (95 acres). Management Prescription 11-Riparian Corridors VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:31 Jun 02, 2017 Jkt 241001 would have remained embedded within the new Management Prescription 5C area. The basis for this proposed amendment was from Forestwide Standards FW–243 and FW–244: Standard FW–243: Develop and use existing corridors and sites to their greatest potential in order to reduce the need for additional commitment of lands for these uses. When feasible, expansion of existing corridors and sites is preferable to designating new sites. Standard FW–244: Following evaluation of the above criteria, decisions for new authorizations outside of existing corridors and designated communication sites will include an amendment to the Forest Plan designating them as Management Prescription Area 5B or 5C. This Management Prescription (Rx) allocation change would change management direction for any future activities within the designated Rx 5C corridor, and would not have been considered a project-specific amendment. However, upon further examination, the Forest Service has determined it would be preferable to not reallocate the ACP operational corridor to a Management Prescription that would encourage future co-location opportunities. Instead the proposal is to now amend the LRMP with a projectspecific amendment that would exempt the ACP Project from the requirements in Forestwide Standards FW–243 and FW–244. With this change, the 53.5 foot wide right-of-way needed for the ACP would remain within the existing management prescription areas (of Rx 4A—Appalachian National Scenic Trail Corridor, Rx 7E1—Dispersed Recreation Areas; Rx 11—Riparian Corridors; and Rx 13—Mosaics of Wildlife Habitat). This change from a plan amendment affecting future management to a project-specific amendment would also change the administrative review process for this proposed amendment from the 36 CFR 219, Subpart B procedures as described in the January 6, 2017 Federal Register Notice of Availability, to the 36 CFR 218 administrative review process that applies to the other proposed projectspecific amendments for this project. The 36 CFR 219 planning rule requirement likely to be directly related to this part of the amendment is: § 219.10(a)(3)—‘‘[The responsible official shall consider] ‘‘Appropriate placement and sustainable management of infrastructure, such as recreational facilities and transportation and utility corridors.’’ Proposed Amendment, Part 2: The Forest Service proposes to amend Forestwide Standards FW–5, FW–8, FW–16, FW–17 and Management Area PO 00000 Frm 00003 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 25757 Prescription Standard 11–003 to allow for the construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to exceed these soil and riparian corridor protection measures. Standards FW–8 and 11–003 were not originally identified in the Draft EIS for the ACP as standards that may need to be amended. These standards are: Standard FW–5: On all soils dedicated to growing vegetation, the organic layers, topsoil and root mat will be left in place over at least 85% of the activity area and revegetation is accomplished within 5 years. Standard FW–8: Water saturated soils in areas expected to produce biomass should not receive vehicle traffic or livestock trampling to prevent excessive soil compaction. Standard FW–16: Management activities expose no more than 10% mineral soil in the channeled ephemeral zone. Standard FW–17: In channeled ephemeral zones, up to 50% of the basal area may be removed down to a minimum basal area of 50 square feet per acre. Removal of additional basal area is allowed on a case-by-case basis when needed to benefit riparian dependent resources. Standard 11–003: Management activities expose no more than 10 percent mineral soil within the project riparian corridor. The amendment would provide an exception from these standards for the ACP Project and include specific mitigation measures and project design requirements for the project. The 36 CFR 219 planning rule requirements likely to be directly related to amending the above standards are: § 219.8(a)(2)(ii)—‘‘[The plan must include plan components to maintain or restore] Soils and soil productivity, including guidance to reduce soil erosion and sedimentation;’’ § 219.8(a)(2)(iv)—‘‘[The plan must include plan components to maintain or restore] Water resources in the plan area, including lakes, streams, and wetlands; . . . and other sources of drinking water (including guidance to prevent or mitigate detrimental changes in quantity, quality, and availability);’’ and § 219.8(a)(3)(i)—The plan must include plan components ‘‘to maintain or restore the ecological integrity of riparian areas in the plan area, including plan components to maintain or restore structure, function, composition, and connectivity.’’ The Draft EIS for the ACP and the January 6, 2017 Federal Register Notice of Availability had also identified that Forestwide Standard FW–15 and Management Prescription Area Standard 11–019 may need to be amended. However, a further review of these standards has determined that the proposed pipeline project can be made consistent with these standards and an amendment to these two standards will not be needed. These standards are: E:\FR\FM\05JNN1.SGM 05JNN1 25758 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 106 / Monday, June 5, 2017 / Notices Standard FW–15: Motorized vehicles are restricted in the channeled ephemeral zone to designated crossings. Motorized vehicles may only be allowed on a case by case basis, after site specific analysis, in the channeled ephemeral zone outside of designated crossings. Standard 11–019: Tree removals from the core of the riparian corridor may only take place if needed to: Enhance the recovery of the diversity and complexity of vegetation native to the site; rehabilitate both natural and human-caused disturbances; provide habitat improvements for aquatic or riparian species, or threatened, endangered, sensitive, and locally rare species; reduce fuel buildup; provide for public safety; for approved facility construction/renovation; or as allowed in standards 11–015 or 11–024. Proposed Amendment, Part 3: The GWNF LRMP would be amended to allow the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to be exempt from Management Prescription Area Standard 4A–025 and cross the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (ANST) in Augusta County, Virginia. This standard is: Standard 4A–025: Locate new public utilities and rights-of-way in areas of this management prescription area where major impacts already exist. Limit linear utilities and rights-of-way to a single crossing of the prescription area, per project. The 36 CFR 219 planning rule requirement likely to be directly related to this part of the amendment is: asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES § 219.10(b)(1)(vi)—‘‘[The plan must include plan components to provide for] Appropriate management of other designated areas or recommended designated areas in the plan area.’’ Potential Amendment, Part 4: The GWNF LRMP may need to be amended to allow removal of old growth trees within the construction zone of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The forestwide standard in the LRMP that may need to be amended is FW–85, which states that any stands identified as meeting the criteria for Dry Mesic Oak or Dry & DryMesic Oak-Pine old growth forest communities may be suitable for timber harvest and any decision to harvest such stands would be made after consideration of their contribution to the distribution and abundance of these old growth forest community types. Stands identified as meeting the age criteria for any of the other old growth community types found on the forest would be unsuitable for timber production. A determination on the need for this amendment will be made following completion of an old growth inventory of the stands within the ACP Project’s construction zone. The 36 CFR 219 planning rule requirement likely to be directly related VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:31 Jun 02, 2017 Jkt 241001 to this part of the amendment, if needed, is: § 219.11(c)—‘‘The plan may include plan components to allow for timber harvest for purposes other than timber production . . . or portions of the plan area, as a tool to assist in achieving or maintaining one or more applicable desired conditions or objectives of the plan . . .’’ Potential Amendment, Part 5: The GWNF may need to amend Management Area Prescription Standard 2C3–015 to allow for a major reconstruction of a National Forest System Road within Management Prescription Area 2C3 for the purposes of providing access for pipeline construction. This standard is: Standard 2C3–015: Allow road construction or reconstruction to improve recreational access, improve soil and water, to salvage timber, or to protect property or public safety. This potential amendment is contingent on the final location of access roads needed for the pipeline. The 36 CFR 219 planning rule requirement likely to be directly related to this part of the amendment, if needed, is: § 219.10(b)(v)—‘‘Protection of designated wild and scenic rivers as well as management of rivers found eligible or determined suitable for the National Wild and Scenic River system to protect the values that provide the basis for their suitability for inclusion in the system.’’ Potential Amendment, Part 6: The GWNF may need to amend Forestwide Standard FW–182 to allow for the construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to deviate from the Scenic Integrity Objectives (SIOs) established in the LRMP. This standard is: Standard FW–182: The Forest SIOs are met for all new projects (including special uses). Existing conditions may not currently meet the assigned SIO. The 36 CFR 219 planning rule requirement likely to be directly related to this part of the amendment is: § 219.10(b)(i)—‘‘[The plan must include plan components to provide for] ‘‘Sustainable recreation; . . . and scenic character.’’ If any of the six parts of the proposed amendment to the GWNF LRMP described above are determined to be ‘‘directly related’’ to a substantive rule requirement, the Responsible Official must apply that requirement within the scope and scale of the proposed amendment and, if necessary, make adjustments to the proposed amendment to meet the rule requirement (36 CFR 219.13(b)(5) and (6)). PO 00000 Frm 00004 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Administrative Review of Plan Amendment Decisions The Forest Service’s January 6, 2017 Notice of Availability in the Federal Register indicated that following the issuance of FERC’s Final EIS, the Forest Service would prepare separate records of decision for the authorization to construct and operate the ACP and for the plan amendment decisions. However, the Regional Foresters now intend to sign one record of decision for both the authorizations to construct and operate the pipeline on the MNF and GWNF and for the project-specific plan amendment decisions to the MNF LRMP and the GWNF LRMP. Two Regional Foresters are involved with the ACP Project since the pipeline will cross both the MNF, which is in the Eastern Region of the Forest Service, and the GWNF, which is in the Southern Region of the Forest Service. Doing so will simplify the decisionmaking process for internal Forest Service administrative purposes as well as for the public’s right to participate in the predecisional review process. A Forest Service decision to authorize the construction and operation of the ACP will be subject to the Forest Service predecisional administrative review procedures established in 36 CFR 218. At the same time, project-specific amendments to the MNF and GWNF LRMPs will also be subject to the administrative review procedures under the 36 CFR 218 regulations (per 36 CFR 219.59(b)). Since the Regional Foresters will be the Responsible Officials for both the decisions to authorize the construction and operation of the ACP as well as the LRMP amendments, the Reviewing Official for all of the decisions will be the National Forest System Associate Deputy Chief (36 CFR 218.3(a)). Responsible Officials for Forest Service Authorizations To Construct and Operate the Atlantic Coast Pipeline: The Regional Forester Eastern Region for NFS lands on the MNF and the Regional Forester Southern Region for NFS lands on the GWNF are the Responsible Officials. (Note that Forest Service Manual 2704.32 provides that the Regional Forester has authority to issue special use authorizations for pipelines 24 inches or more in diameter, and may not delegate that authority to a lower-level official.) Responsible Officials for Forest Service LRMP Amendments: The January 6, 2017 Federal Register Notice of Availability had identified the Forest Supervisor for the Monongahela National Forest and the Forest Supervisor for the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests as the E:\FR\FM\05JNN1.SGM 05JNN1 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 106 / Monday, June 5, 2017 / Notices Responsible Officials for the MNF LRMP Amendment and the GWNF LRMP Amendment, respectively. However, since the Regional Foresters for the Eastern and Southern Region will be the Responsible Officials for the decision to authorize the construction and operation of ACP, in the interest of administrative efficiencies as well as to simplify the administrative review process for the public, the Responsible Officials for the LRMP Amendments will now be the Regional Forester Eastern Region for the MNF LRMP Amendment and the Regional Forester Southern Region for the GWNF LRMP Amendment. Dated: May 10, 2017. Robert M. Harper, Acting Associate Deputy Chief, National Forest System. [FR Doc. 2017–11484 Filed 6–2–17; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3411–15–P DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE Forest Service Payette and Boise National Forests; Valley County, Idaho; Stibnite Gold Project Environmental Impact Statement Forest Service, USDA. Notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement. AGENCY: ACTION: The Payette National Forest (PNF) is preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to evaluate and disclose the potential environmental effects from: (1) Approval of the ‘‘Stibnite Gold Project Plan of Restoration and Operations’’ (Plan) submitted by Midas Gold Idaho, Inc. (Midas Gold) in September 2016, to occupy and use National Forest System (NFS) lands for operations associated with open-pit mining and ore processing; and (2) related amendments to the Payette National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan (Payette Forest Plan, 2003) and/or the Boise National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan (Boise Forest Plan, as amended in 2010). The United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) will cooperate on the preparation of the EIS and evaluate its content to ensure that the EIS can be adopted by the USACE to support an eventual decision to either issue, issue with conditions, or deny a Department of the Army Permit under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (CWA) for the Plan. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will cooperate on the preparation of the EIS and asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:31 Jun 02, 2017 Jkt 241001 evaluate its content to ensure that the EIS can be adopted in support of the decision-making process for issuance of a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permit under Section 402 of the CWA. DATES: Comments concerning the scope of the analysis must be received by July 20, 2017. ADDRESSES: Webform submission of comments is encouraged. Comments can be submitted via the project Web page at https://www.fs.usda.gov/goto/payette/ StibniteGold by selecting the ‘‘Comment on Project’’ link on the right side of the page. Written comments may also be sent to Payette National Forest, ATTN: Forest Supervisor Keith Lannom— Stibnite Gold EIS, 500 N. Mission St., McCall, Idaho 83638. Comments may also be sent via email with a subject line reading ‘‘Stibnite Gold EIS Scoping Comment’’ to comments-intermtnpayette@fs.fed.us or via facsimile (FAX) to 1–208–634–0744. Additional information regarding submittal of comments is provided below in the Scoping Process section. Written comments may also be submitted during public scoping meetings that will be held by the U.S. Forest Service (Forest Service), as follows: 1. June 27, 2017, 5:00–7:00 p.m., Ashley Inn, Cascade, Idaho 2. June 28, 2017, 5:00–7:00 p.m., Payette Forest Supervisor’s Office, McCall, Idaho 3. June 29, 2017, 1:00–3:00 and 5:00– 7:00 p.m., Holiday Inn Express and Suites (Airport), Boise, Idaho FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Brian Harris, Public Affairs Officer, at 1–208–634–0784 or bdharris@fs.fed.us. Individuals who use telecommunication devices for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 1–800–877–8339 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., Eastern Time, Monday through Friday. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Stibnite Gold Project (Project) is located in both the PNF and BNF. The PNF will be the lead unit for processing and administering the Plan on NFS lands. Purpose and Need for Action The purpose of the Forest Service’s action is to provide for approval of the Plan, which would govern occupancy and use of NFS lands for operations that are reasonably incident to mining. To provide for such approval, the Responsible Official needs to determine whether reasonable changes or additions to the Plan are necessary in order to meet the requirements of regulations set forth in 36 CFR 228 Subpart A and other applicable laws, PO 00000 Frm 00005 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 25759 regulations, or policies, prior to approval. Midas Gold submitted a plan of operations for mining on NFS lands, titled ‘‘Stibnite Gold Plan of Restoration and Operations’’ (Plan) to the Forest Service in September 2016, in accordance with Forest Service regulations for locatable minerals set forth at 36 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 228 Subpart A. In order to comply with its statutory and regulatory obligations to respond to the Plan submitted by Midas Gold Idaho, Inc. (Midas Gold), the Forest Service must: (1) Evaluate the Plan; (2) consider requirements set forth at 36 CFR 228.8, including those to minimize adverse effects to the extent feasible, comply with applicable laws, regulations, and standards for environmental protection, and provide for reclamation; and (3) respond to the Plan as set forth at 36 CFR 228.5(a). The Responsible Official determined the Plan to be administratively complete in December 2016. Approval of the Plan and issuance of permits under the CWA would be major federal actions subject to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Accordingly, the federal land management and regulatory agencies must also prepare an EIS to consider and publicly disclose the potential environmental effects of the proposed action. Proposed Action The Responsible Official proposes to approve the Plan submitted by Midas Gold, with any modifications determined necessary through the analysis to comply with applicable laws and regulations. USACE would review the Plan and EIS for purposes of evaluating Midas Gold’s application for a Department of the Army Permit under Section 404 of the CWA. EPA would review the Plan and EIS for purposes of evaluating Midas Gold’s application for a related NPDES Permit under Section 402 of the CWA. As described in the Plan, the Project would affect federal, state, and private lands. The proposed action by the Forest Service would only authorize approval of mining-related operations on NFS lands, because the Forest Service does not have jurisdiction to regulate mining operations that occur on private or state land. However, the EIS will consider and disclose environmental effects of mining-related operations that would occur on private and state lands. Connected actions related to the Plan, including but not necessarily limited to CWA permitting by USACE and EPA and related amendments of the Payette and Boise Forest Plans, will be E:\FR\FM\05JNN1.SGM 05JNN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 82, Number 106 (Monday, June 5, 2017)]
[Notices]
[Pages 25756-25759]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2017-11484]


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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Forest Service


Notice of Updated Information Concerning the Atlantic Coast 
Pipeline Project and Supply Header Project and the Associated Forest 
Service Land and Resource Management Plan Amendments

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

ACTION: Notice; updating information.

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SUMMARY: The USDA Forest Service (Forest Service) is participating as a 
cooperating agency with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) 
in the preparation of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) and Supply 
Header Project Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). On January 6, 
2017, the Forest Service published in the Federal Register (82 FR 1685) 
a Notice of Availability of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Supply 
Header Project Draft Environmental Impact Statement and the Draft of 
Amendments to the George Washington and Monongahela National Forests' 
Land and Resource Management Plans (LRMPs) to allow for the ACP to 
cross through these National Forests. Since that publication, the 
Forest Service determined there is a need to disclose the following: 
New information relating to the proposed LRMP amendments; a change in 
the Responsible Officials for the amendments; and the substantive 
provisions in the planning regulations that are likely to be directly 
related to the proposed amendments. In addition, a proposed change to 
one of the LRMP amendments will result in a change to the 
administrative review procedures as outlined in the January 6, 2017 
Federal Register Notice.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Information about the ACP Project is 
available from the FERC's Office of External Affairs at 866-208-FERC 
(3372), or on the FERC Web site (www.ferc.gov). On the FERC's Web site, 
go to ``Documents & Filings,'' click on the ``eLibrary'' link, click on 
``General Search'' and enter the docket number CP15-554. Be sure you 
have selected an appropriate date range. For assistance, please contact 
FERC Online Support at FercOnlineSupport@ferc.gov, or toll free at 866-
208-3676, or for TTY, contact 202-502-8659. The eLibrary link also 
provides access to the texts of formal documents issued by the FERC 
such as orders, notices, and rulemakings.
    For information related specifically to the new information 
provided in this Notice, please contact Karen Overcash, Forest Planner, 
George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, at 540-265-5175 or 
kovercash@fs.fed.us.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background

    This Notice is specific to the Forest Service. The Atlantic Coast 
Pipeline route would cross 5.1 miles of lands managed by the 
Monongahela National Forest (MNF), in Pocahontas County, West Virginia 
and 15.9 miles of lands managed by the George Washington National 
Forest (GWNF), in Highland, Bath, and Augusta Counties, Virginia. The 
Supply Header Project would not affect the Monongahela or George 
Washington National Forests.
    The FERC is the NEPA Lead Federal Agency for the environmental 
analysis of the construction and operation of the proposed ACP and 
Supply Header Project. The Forest Service is the Federal agency 
responsible for authorizing this use and issuing special use permits 
for natural gas pipelines across National Forest System (NFS) lands 
under its jurisdiction. As a condition of issuing a Special Use Permit 
(SUP) for ACP to construct, operate, maintain, and eventually 
decommission a natural gas transmission pipeline that crosses NFS 
lands, the Forest Service would include such terms and conditions 
deemed necessary to protect Federal property and otherwise protect the 
public interest.
    The Forest Service intends to adopt FERC's EIS for its decision to 
authorize the construction and operation of ACP, along with the 
necessary project-specific amendments to the LRMPs, if the analysis 
provides sufficient evidence to support those decisions and the Forest 
Service is satisfied that its comments and suggestions have been 
addressed.

Planning Rule Requirements for LRMP Amendments

    On December 15, 2016 the Department of Agriculture Under Secretary 
for Natural Resources and Environment issued a final rule that amended 
the 36 CFR 219 regulations pertaining to National Forest System Land 
Management Planning (the planning rule) (81 FR 90723, 90737). The 
amendment to the 219 planning rule clarified the Department's direction 
for amending LRMPs. The Department also added a requirement for 
amending a plan for the responsible official to provide notice ``about 
which substantive requirements of Sec. Sec.  219.8 through 219.11 are 
likely to be directly related to the amendment'' (36 CFR 219.13(b)(2), 
81 FR at 90738). Whether a rule provision is directly related to an 
amendment is determined by any one of the following: The purpose for 
the amendment, a beneficial effect of the amendment, a substantial 
adverse effect of the amendment, or a lessening of plan protections by 
the amendment.
    The following descriptions of the proposed or potential LRMP 
amendments that are anticipated to be addressed in the Final EIS 
include a description of the ``substantive requirements of Sec. Sec.  
219.8 through 219.11'' likely to be directly related to each amendment.

New Information for LRMP Amendments and Relationship to Substantive 
Requirements in the Planning Rule

    The FERC's Draft EIS for the ACP and the Notice of Availability 
published in the Federal Register on January 6, 2017 included the 
consideration of a Forest Service authorization for construction and 
operation of the ACP across NFS lands and the associated Forest Service 
LRMP amendments that would be needed to make the project consistent 
with the respective LRMPs if the Forest Service were to approve the 
authorization (36 CFR 219.15).
    The Draft EIS identified ``project-specific plan amendments'' that 
would be needed for the construction and operation of the ACP that 
otherwise could not, or potentially could not, meet certain standards 
in the MNF or GWNF LRMPs. These amendments are considered project-
specific amendments because they would apply only to ACP and would not 
change LRMP requirements for other projects.
    Since the Draft EIS, the Forest Service has reconsidered whether a 
project-specific amendment would still be necessary to ensure the ACP 
was consistent with some of the LRMP standards, has identified the need 
for a project-specific amendment with respect to several other LRMP 
standards, and has determined that a management prescription 
reallocation would not be necessary to approve the project.

Monongahela National Forest

    The following potential amendment to the MNF LRMP would be a 
project-specific amendment, applicable only to the ACP Project. This 
amendment would not change the applicability of

[[Page 25757]]

LRMP requirements for other, future projects.
    Potential Amendment to the MNF LRMP: The MNF LRMP may need to be 
amended to allow for the construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to 
exceed two LRMP standards that were developed for the protection of 
soils, specifically Forestwide Standards SW06 and SW07 which are:

    Standard SW06: Severe rutting resulting from management 
activities shall be confined to less than 5 percent of an activity 
area.
    Standard SW07: Use of wheeled and/or tracked motorized equipment 
may be limited on soil types that include the following soil/site 
area conditions: (a) Steep Slopes (40 to 50 percent), (b) Very Steep 
Slopes (more than 50 percent), (c) Susceptible to Landslides, (d) 
Soils Commonly Wet at or near the Surface during a Considerable Part 
of the Year, or Soils Highly Susceptible to Compaction.

    The amendment would provide an exception from these standards for 
the ACP Project and include specific mitigation measures and project 
design requirements for the project.
    The 36 CFR 219 planning rule requirements likely to be directly 
related to this proposed amendment are:

    Sec.  219.8(a)(2)(ii)--``[The plan must include plan components 
to maintain or restore] Soils and soil productivity, including 
guidance to reduce soil erosion and sedimentation,'' and
    Sec.  219.10(a)(3)--``[The responsible official shall consider] 
Appropriate placement and sustainable management of infrastructure, 
such as recreational facilities and transportation and utility 
corridors.''

    If this potential amendment is determined to be ``directly 
related'' to the substantive rule requirements, the Responsible 
Official must apply those requirements within the scope and scale of 
the amendment and, if necessary, make adjustments to the amendment to 
meet these rule requirements (36 CFR 219.13 (b)(5) and (6)).

George Washington National Forest

    The following proposed amendment to the GWNF LRMP would be a 
project-specific amendment, applicable only to the ACP Project. This 
amendment would not change the applicability of LRMP requirements for 
other, future projects.
    Proposed Amendment, Part 1: In the Draft EIS for the ACP and the 
January 6, 2017 Federal Register Notice of Availability, the original 
proposed amendment, part 1 was to amend the LRMP to reallocate 102.3 
acres to Management Prescription 5C-Designated Utility Corridors from 
Management Prescriptions 7E1-Dispersed Recreation Areas (7 acres) and 
13-Mosaics of Habitat (95 acres). Management Prescription 11-Riparian 
Corridors would have remained embedded within the new Management 
Prescription 5C area. The basis for this proposed amendment was from 
Forestwide Standards FW-243 and FW-244:

    Standard FW-243: Develop and use existing corridors and sites to 
their greatest potential in order to reduce the need for additional 
commitment of lands for these uses. When feasible, expansion of 
existing corridors and sites is preferable to designating new sites.
    Standard FW-244: Following evaluation of the above criteria, 
decisions for new authorizations outside of existing corridors and 
designated communication sites will include an amendment to the 
Forest Plan designating them as Management Prescription Area 5B or 
5C.

    This Management Prescription (Rx) allocation change would change 
management direction for any future activities within the designated Rx 
5C corridor, and would not have been considered a project-specific 
amendment.
    However, upon further examination, the Forest Service has 
determined it would be preferable to not reallocate the ACP operational 
corridor to a Management Prescription that would encourage future co-
location opportunities. Instead the proposal is to now amend the LRMP 
with a project-specific amendment that would exempt the ACP Project 
from the requirements in Forestwide Standards FW-243 and FW-244. With 
this change, the 53.5 foot wide right-of-way needed for the ACP would 
remain within the existing management prescription areas (of Rx 4A--
Appalachian National Scenic Trail Corridor, Rx 7E1--Dispersed 
Recreation Areas; Rx 11--Riparian Corridors; and Rx 13--Mosaics of 
Wildlife Habitat).
    This change from a plan amendment affecting future management to a 
project-specific amendment would also change the administrative review 
process for this proposed amendment from the 36 CFR 219, Subpart B 
procedures as described in the January 6, 2017 Federal Register Notice 
of Availability, to the 36 CFR 218 administrative review process that 
applies to the other proposed project-specific amendments for this 
project.
    The 36 CFR 219 planning rule requirement likely to be directly 
related to this part of the amendment is:

    Sec.  219.10(a)(3)--``[The responsible official shall consider] 
``Appropriate placement and sustainable management of 
infrastructure, such as recreational facilities and transportation 
and utility corridors.''

    Proposed Amendment, Part 2: The Forest Service proposes to amend 
Forestwide Standards FW-5, FW-8, FW-16, FW-17 and Management Area 
Prescription Standard 11-003 to allow for the construction of the 
Atlantic Coast Pipeline to exceed these soil and riparian corridor 
protection measures. Standards FW-8 and 11-003 were not originally 
identified in the Draft EIS for the ACP as standards that may need to 
be amended. These standards are:

    Standard FW-5: On all soils dedicated to growing vegetation, the 
organic layers, topsoil and root mat will be left in place over at 
least 85% of the activity area and revegetation is accomplished 
within 5 years.
    Standard FW-8: Water saturated soils in areas expected to 
produce biomass should not receive vehicle traffic or livestock 
trampling to prevent excessive soil compaction.
    Standard FW-16: Management activities expose no more than 10% 
mineral soil in the channeled ephemeral zone.
    Standard FW-17: In channeled ephemeral zones, up to 50% of the 
basal area may be removed down to a minimum basal area of 50 square 
feet per acre. Removal of additional basal area is allowed on a 
case-by-case basis when needed to benefit riparian dependent 
resources.
    Standard 11-003: Management activities expose no more than 10 
percent mineral soil within the project riparian corridor.

    The amendment would provide an exception from these standards for 
the ACP Project and include specific mitigation measures and project 
design requirements for the project.
    The 36 CFR 219 planning rule requirements likely to be directly 
related to amending the above standards are:

    Sec.  219.8(a)(2)(ii)--``[The plan must include plan components 
to maintain or restore] Soils and soil productivity, including 
guidance to reduce soil erosion and sedimentation;''
    Sec.  219.8(a)(2)(iv)--``[The plan must include plan components 
to maintain or restore] Water resources in the plan area, including 
lakes, streams, and wetlands; . . . and other sources of drinking 
water (including guidance to prevent or mitigate detrimental changes 
in quantity, quality, and availability);'' and
    Sec.  219.8(a)(3)(i)--The plan must include plan components ``to 
maintain or restore the ecological integrity of riparian areas in 
the plan area, including plan components to maintain or restore 
structure, function, composition, and connectivity.''

    The Draft EIS for the ACP and the January 6, 2017 Federal Register 
Notice of Availability had also identified that Forestwide Standard FW-
15 and Management Prescription Area Standard 11-019 may need to be 
amended. However, a further review of these standards has determined 
that the proposed pipeline project can be made consistent with these 
standards and an amendment to these two standards will not be needed. 
These standards are:


[[Page 25758]]


    Standard FW-15: Motorized vehicles are restricted in the 
channeled ephemeral zone to designated crossings. Motorized vehicles 
may only be allowed on a case by case basis, after site specific 
analysis, in the channeled ephemeral zone outside of designated 
crossings.
    Standard 11-019: Tree removals from the core of the riparian 
corridor may only take place if needed to: Enhance the recovery of 
the diversity and complexity of vegetation native to the site; 
rehabilitate both natural and human-caused disturbances; provide 
habitat improvements for aquatic or riparian species, or threatened, 
endangered, sensitive, and locally rare species; reduce fuel 
buildup; provide for public safety; for approved facility 
construction/renovation; or as allowed in standards 11-015 or 11-
024.

    Proposed Amendment, Part 3: The GWNF LRMP would be amended to allow 
the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to be exempt from Management Prescription 
Area Standard 4A-025 and cross the Appalachian National Scenic Trail 
(ANST) in Augusta County, Virginia. This standard is:

    Standard 4A-025: Locate new public utilities and rights-of-way 
in areas of this management prescription area where major impacts 
already exist. Limit linear utilities and rights-of-way to a single 
crossing of the prescription area, per project.

    The 36 CFR 219 planning rule requirement likely to be directly 
related to this part of the amendment is:

    Sec.  219.10(b)(1)(vi)--``[The plan must include plan components 
to provide for] Appropriate management of other designated areas or 
recommended designated areas in the plan area.''

    Potential Amendment, Part 4: The GWNF LRMP may need to be amended 
to allow removal of old growth trees within the construction zone of 
the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The forestwide standard in the LRMP that 
may need to be amended is FW-85, which states that any stands 
identified as meeting the criteria for Dry Mesic Oak or Dry & Dry-Mesic 
Oak-Pine old growth forest communities may be suitable for timber 
harvest and any decision to harvest such stands would be made after 
consideration of their contribution to the distribution and abundance 
of these old growth forest community types. Stands identified as 
meeting the age criteria for any of the other old growth community 
types found on the forest would be unsuitable for timber production.
    A determination on the need for this amendment will be made 
following completion of an old growth inventory of the stands within 
the ACP Project's construction zone.
    The 36 CFR 219 planning rule requirement likely to be directly 
related to this part of the amendment, if needed, is:

    Sec.  219.11(c)--``The plan may include plan components to allow 
for timber harvest for purposes other than timber production . . . 
or portions of the plan area, as a tool to assist in achieving or 
maintaining one or more applicable desired conditions or objectives 
of the plan . . .''

    Potential Amendment, Part 5: The GWNF may need to amend Management 
Area Prescription Standard 2C3-015 to allow for a major reconstruction 
of a National Forest System Road within Management Prescription Area 
2C3 for the purposes of providing access for pipeline construction. 
This standard is:

    Standard 2C3-015: Allow road construction or reconstruction to 
improve recreational access, improve soil and water, to salvage 
timber, or to protect property or public safety.

    This potential amendment is contingent on the final location of 
access roads needed for the pipeline.
    The 36 CFR 219 planning rule requirement likely to be directly 
related to this part of the amendment, if needed, is:

    Sec.  219.10(b)(v)--``Protection of designated wild and scenic 
rivers as well as management of rivers found eligible or determined 
suitable for the National Wild and Scenic River system to protect 
the values that provide the basis for their suitability for 
inclusion in the system.''

    Potential Amendment, Part 6: The GWNF may need to amend Forestwide 
Standard FW-182 to allow for the construction of the Atlantic Coast 
Pipeline to deviate from the Scenic Integrity Objectives (SIOs) 
established in the LRMP. This standard is:

Standard FW-182: The Forest SIOs are met for all new projects 
(including special uses). Existing conditions may not currently meet 
the assigned SIO.

    The 36 CFR 219 planning rule requirement likely to be directly 
related to this part of the amendment is:

Sec.  219.10(b)(i)--``[The plan must include plan components to 
provide for] ``Sustainable recreation; . . . and scenic character.''

    If any of the six parts of the proposed amendment to the GWNF LRMP 
described above are determined to be ``directly related'' to a 
substantive rule requirement, the Responsible Official must apply that 
requirement within the scope and scale of the proposed amendment and, 
if necessary, make adjustments to the proposed amendment to meet the 
rule requirement (36 CFR 219.13(b)(5) and (6)).

Administrative Review of Plan Amendment Decisions

    The Forest Service's January 6, 2017 Notice of Availability in the 
Federal Register indicated that following the issuance of FERC's Final 
EIS, the Forest Service would prepare separate records of decision for 
the authorization to construct and operate the ACP and for the plan 
amendment decisions. However, the Regional Foresters now intend to sign 
one record of decision for both the authorizations to construct and 
operate the pipeline on the MNF and GWNF and for the project-specific 
plan amendment decisions to the MNF LRMP and the GWNF LRMP. Two 
Regional Foresters are involved with the ACP Project since the pipeline 
will cross both the MNF, which is in the Eastern Region of the Forest 
Service, and the GWNF, which is in the Southern Region of the Forest 
Service. Doing so will simplify the decisionmaking process for internal 
Forest Service administrative purposes as well as for the public's 
right to participate in the predecisional review process. A Forest 
Service decision to authorize the construction and operation of the ACP 
will be subject to the Forest Service predecisional administrative 
review procedures established in 36 CFR 218. At the same time, project-
specific amendments to the MNF and GWNF LRMPs will also be subject to 
the administrative review procedures under the 36 CFR 218 regulations 
(per 36 CFR 219.59(b)).
    Since the Regional Foresters will be the Responsible Officials for 
both the decisions to authorize the construction and operation of the 
ACP as well as the LRMP amendments, the Reviewing Official for all of 
the decisions will be the National Forest System Associate Deputy Chief 
(36 CFR 218.3(a)).
    Responsible Officials for Forest Service Authorizations To 
Construct and Operate the Atlantic Coast Pipeline: The Regional 
Forester Eastern Region for NFS lands on the MNF and the Regional 
Forester Southern Region for NFS lands on the GWNF are the Responsible 
Officials. (Note that Forest Service Manual 2704.32 provides that the 
Regional Forester has authority to issue special use authorizations for 
pipelines 24 inches or more in diameter, and may not delegate that 
authority to a lower-level official.)
    Responsible Officials for Forest Service LRMP Amendments: The 
January 6, 2017 Federal Register Notice of Availability had identified 
the Forest Supervisor for the Monongahela National Forest and the 
Forest Supervisor for the George Washington and Jefferson National 
Forests as the

[[Page 25759]]

Responsible Officials for the MNF LRMP Amendment and the GWNF LRMP 
Amendment, respectively. However, since the Regional Foresters for the 
Eastern and Southern Region will be the Responsible Officials for the 
decision to authorize the construction and operation of ACP, in the 
interest of administrative efficiencies as well as to simplify the 
administrative review process for the public, the Responsible Officials 
for the LRMP Amendments will now be the Regional Forester Eastern 
Region for the MNF LRMP Amendment and the Regional Forester Southern 
Region for the GWNF LRMP Amendment.

    Dated: May 10, 2017.
Robert M. Harper,
Acting Associate Deputy Chief, National Forest System.
[FR Doc. 2017-11484 Filed 6-2-17; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3411-15-P