Notice of Updated Information Concerning the Mountain Valley Pipeline Project and Equitrans Expansion Project and the Associated Forest Service Land and Resource Management Plan Amendments, 25761-25764 [2017-11488]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 106 / Monday, June 5, 2017 / Notices required in order to approve the final Plan. 3. Decide whether and/or how to mitigate the effects of the proposed mining operation to existing public motorized access. asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES Final EIS and Record of Decision The Forest Service would release a draft ROD in conjunction with the final EIS. The draft ROD would address approval of the Plan, and any related project-specific Forest Plan or Travel Plan amendments that may be required. The draft decision would be subject to 36 CFR 218, ‘‘Project-Level Predecisional Administrative Review Process.’’ Depending on the nature of the forest plan amendments required, the draft decisions may also be subject to 36 CFR 219 Subpart B, ‘‘Predecisional Administrative Review Process.’’ Following resolution of objections to the draft ROD, a final ROD would be issued. As the operator, Midas Gold would have an opportunity to appeal the decision as set forth at 36 CFR 214, ‘‘Postdecisional Administrative Review Process for Occupancy and Use of National Forest System Lands and Resources.’’ Prior to approval of the Plan, Midas Gold may be required to modify the September 2016 Plan to comply with the description of the selected alternative in the final ROD. In addition, the PNF Forest Supervisor would require Midas Gold to submit a reclamation bond or provide proof of other acceptable financial assurance to ensure that NFS lands and resources involved with the mining operation are reclaimed in accordance with the approved Plan and Forest Service requirements for environmental protection (36 CFR 228.8 and 228.13). After the Forest Service has determined that the Plan conforms to the ROD as well as other regulatory requirements, including acceptance of financial assurance for reclamation, it would approve the Plan. Implementation of mining operations that affect NFS lands and resources may not commence until the reclamation bond or other financial assurance is in place and a plan of operations is approved. Preliminary Issues Issues to be analyzed in the EIS will be developed during this scoping process. Preliminary issues expected to be analyzed include potential impacts to: Access and transportation; aesthetics and visual resources; botanical resources, including wetlands and threatened, endangered, proposed, and sensitive species; climate and air VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:31 Jun 02, 2017 Jkt 241001 quality; cultural and heritage resources; environmental justice; federal land management and environmental protection; fire and fuels management; fisheries and wildlife, including threatened, endangered, proposed, and sensitive species; geochemistry; geology; hazardous materials; land use; longterm, post-closure site management; noise; public health and safety; recreation; roadless and wilderness resources; socioeconomics; soils and reclamation cover materials; timber resources; water resources (groundwater and surface water); and water rights. Permits or Licenses Required Aspects of the Plan will also require other permitting, including by the Idaho Departments of Lands, Environmental Quality, and Water Resources. those individuals will not have standing for objection. Dated: May 12, 2017. Robert M. Harper, Acting Associate Deputy Chief, National Forest System. [FR Doc. 2017–11483 Filed 6–2–17; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3411–15–P DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE Forest Service Notice of Updated Information Concerning the Mountain Valley Pipeline Project and Equitrans Expansion Project and the Associated Forest Service Land and Resource Management Plan Amendments Forest Service, USDA. Notice; updating information. AGENCY: Scoping Process ACTION: This notice of intent initiates the scoping (public involvement) process, which guides the development of the EIS. Public comments may be submitted to the PNF in a variety of ways, including: via email, via the project Web site, by mail, and via FAX. In addition, the PNF will conduct scoping meetings, during which members of the public can learn about the Forest Service proposed action and the NEPA process and submit written comments. Comments sought by the PNF include comments specific to the proposed action, information that could be pertinent to analysis of environmental effects, identification of significant issues, and identification of potential alternatives. Written comments may be sent to: Payette National Forest, ATTN: Forest Supervisor Keith Lannom—Stibnite Gold EIS, 500 N. Mission St., McCall, ID 83638. Comments may also be sent via email with a Subject Line reading ‘‘Stibnite Gold EIS Scoping Comment’’ to comments-intermtnpayette@fs.fed.us, submitted via Web site at http://www.fs.usda.gov/goto/ payette/StibniteGold, or sent via FAX to 1–208–634–0744. It is important that reviewers provide their comments at such times and in such manner that they are useful to preparation of the EIS. Therefore, to be most useful, comments should be provided prior to the close of the scoping comment period and should clearly articulate the reviewer’s concerns and contentions. Comments submitted anonymously will be accepted and considered; however, without an associated name and address, receiving further correspondences concerning the proposed action will not be possible and SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00007 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 25761 The USDA Forest Service (Forest Service) is participating as a cooperating agency with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in the preparation of the Mountain Valley Pipeline Project (MVP) and Equitrans Expansion Project (EEP) Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). On October 14, 2016, the Forest Service published in the Federal Register (81 FR 71041) a Notice of Availability of the Mountain Valley Pipeline Project and Equitrans Expansion Project Draft Environmental Impact Statement and the Draft of Amendments to the Jefferson National Forest’s Land and Resource Management Plan (LRMP) to allow for the MVP to cross through the Jefferson National Forest. Since that publication, the Forest Service determined there is a need to disclose the following: New information relating to the proposed LRMP amendments and the substantive provisions in the 2012 Planning Rule 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 October 14, 2016 Federal Register Notice. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Information about the MVP 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 CP16–10. Be sure you have selected an appropriate date range. For assistance, please contact FERC Online Support at E:\FR\FM\05JNN1.SGM 05JNN1 25762 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 106 / Monday, June 5, 2017 / Notices asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES 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 Mountain Valley Pipeline route would cross about 3.4 miles of lands managed by the Jefferson National Forest (JNF), in Monroe County, West Virginia and Giles and Montgomery Counties, Virginia. The Equitrans Expansion Project would not cross the Jefferson National Forest. The FERC is the NEPA Lead Federal Agency for the environmental analysis of the construction and operation of the proposed MVP and Equitrans Expansion Project. Under the Mineral Leasing Act (30 U.S.C. 185 et seq.), the BLM is the Federal agency responsible for issuing right-of-way grants for natural gas pipelines across Federal lands under the jurisdiction of two or more Federal agencies. The BLM is therefore, considering the issuance of a right-ofway grant to Mountain Valley for pipeline construction and operation across the lands under the jurisdiction of the Forest Service and the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). Before issuing the right-of-way grant, the BLM would need to acquire the written concurrences of the Forest Service and the USACE. Through this concurrence process, the Forest Service would submit to the BLM any stipulations for inclusion in the right-of-way grant that are deemed necessary to protect Federal property and otherwise protect the public interest. The FERC’s Draft EIS for the MVP Project included the consideration of a BLM right-of-way grant across Federal lands, along with the associated proposed Forest Service LRMP amendments. The BLM and Forest Service can adopt FERC’s EIS for agency decisions, including the necessary amendments to the LRMP, 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 VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:31 Jun 02, 2017 Jkt 241001 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 §§ 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 amendments to the JNF’s LRMP 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 MVP and the Notice of Availability published in the Federal Register on October 14, 2016 included the consideration of Forest Service LRMP amendments that would be needed to make the proposed pipeline construction and operation consistent with the JNF LRMP (36 CFR 219.15). These amendments would need to be approved before the Forest Service could issue a letter of concurrence to the BLM. The Draft EIS identified projectspecific plan amendments that would be needed for the construction and operation of the MVP that otherwise could not, or potentially could not, meet certain standards in the JNF LRMP. These amendments are considered project-specific amendments because they would apply only to MVP 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 MVP 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 PO 00000 Frm 00008 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 would not be necessary to approve the project. Jefferson National Forest The following proposed amendment to the JNF LRMP would be a projectspecific amendment, applicable only to the MVP 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 MVP and the October 14, 2016 Federal Register Notice of Availability, the original proposed amendment, part 1 was to amend the LRMP to reallocate 186 acres to Management Prescription 5C— Designated Utility Corridors from Management Prescriptions 4J—Urban/ Suburban Interface (56 acres), 6C—Old Growth Forest Communities Associated with Disturbance (19 acres) and 8A1— Mix of Successional Habitats in Forested Landscapes (111 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–247 and FW– 248: Standard FW–247: 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–248: 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 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 MVP corridor to a Management Prescription 5C Utility Corridor that would be 500 feet wide and would encourage future co-location opportunities. Instead the proposal is to now amend the LRMP with a projectspecific amendment that would exempt the MVP Project from the requirements in Forestwide Standards FW–247 and FW–248. With this change, the 50 foot wide right-of-way needed for the MVP would remain within the existing management prescription areas (of Rx E:\FR\FM\05JNN1.SGM 05JNN1 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 106 / Monday, June 5, 2017 / Notices 4A—Appalachian National Scenic Trail Corridor, Rx 4J—Urban/Suburban Interface, Rx 6C—Old Growth Forest Communities Associated with Disturbance; Rx 8A1—Mix of Successional Habitats in Forested Landscapes; and Rx 11—Riparian Corridors). 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 October 14, 2016 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.’’ asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES Proposed Amendment, Part 2: The Forest Service proposes to amend Forestwide Standards FW–5, FW–8, FW–9, FW–13, FW–14 and Management Prescription Area Standard 11–003 to allow for the construction of the Mountain Valley 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 MVP 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: To limit soil compaction, no heavy equipment is used on plastic soils when the water table is within 12 inches of the surface, or when soil moisture exceeds the plastic limit. Soil moisture exceeds the plastic limit when soil can be rolled to pencil size without breaking or crumbling. Standard FW–9: Heavy equipment is operated so that soil indentations, ruts, or furrows are aligned on the contour and the slope of such indentations is 5 percent or less. Standard FW–13: Management activities expose no more than 10% mineral soil in the channeled ephemeral zone. Standard FW–14: 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 area riparian corridor. VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:31 Jun 02, 2017 Jkt 241001 The amendment would provide an exception from these standards for the MVP 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 MVP and the October 14, 2016 Federal Register Notice of Availability had also identified that Management Prescription Area Standard 11–017 may need to be amended. However, a further review of this standard has determined that the proposed pipeline project can be made consistent with this standard and an amendment to this standard will not be needed. This standard is: Standard 11–017: 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 11–012 or 11–022. Potential Amendment, Part 3: The Draft EIS for the MVP and the October 14, 2016 Federal Register Notice of Availability had identified that Forestwide Standard FW–77 may need to be amended. However, a further review of this standard has determined that the proposed pipeline project can be made consistent with this standard and an amendment to this standard will not be needed. This standard is: Standard FW–77: Inventory stands for existing old growth conditions during project planning using the criteria in Appendix D. Consider the contribution of identified patches to the distribution and abundance of the old growth community type and to the desired condition of the appropriate prescription during project analysis. PO 00000 Frm 00009 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 25763 However, while an amendment to Standard FW–77 will not be needed, since proposed amendment—part 1 has been changed and the lands will not be reallocated to Management Prescription 5C, the pipeline will be located on lands in Management Prescription 6C. As such, the following standards in Management Prescription 6C will need to be amended to allow for a new utility right-of-way within this prescription area: Standard 6C–007: Allow vegetation management activities to: Maintain and restore dry-mesic oak forest, dry and xeric oak forest, dry and dry-mesic oak-pine old growth forest communities; restore, enhance, or mimic historic fire regimes; reduce fuel buildups; maintain rare communities and species dependent on disturbance; provide for public health and safety; improve threatened, endangered, sensitive, and locally rare species habitat; control nonnative invasive vegetation. Standard 6C–026: These areas are unsuitable for designation of new utility corridors, utility rights-of-way, or communication sites. Existing uses are allowed to continue. The 36 CFR 219 planning rule requirements likely to be directly related to this part of the amendment are: § 219.8(a)(1)—‘‘The plan must include plan components, including standards and guidelines, to maintain or restore the ecological integrity of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and watersheds in the plan area, including plan components to maintain or restore structure, function, composition, and connectivity.’’ § 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 . . .’’ Proposed Amendment, Part 4: The JNF LRMP would be amended to allow the Mountain Valley Pipeline to be exempt from Management Prescription Area Standard 4A–028 and cross beneath the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (ANST) in Giles County, Virginia. This standard is: Standard 4A–028: 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: § 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.’’ E:\FR\FM\05JNN1.SGM 05JNN1 25764 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 106 / Monday, June 5, 2017 / Notices The Draft EIS for the MVP and the October 14, 2016 Federal Register Notice of Availability had also identified that Management Prescription Area Standard 4A–020 may need to be amended. However, a further review of this standard has determined that the proposed pipeline project can be made consistent with this standard and an amendment to this standard will not be needed. This standard is: Standard 4A–020: All management activities will meet or exceed a Scenic Integrity Objective of High. Potential Amendment, Part 5: After the Draft EIS was released, it has been identified that the JNF may also need to amend Forestwide Standard FW–184 to allow for the construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline to deviate from the Scenic Integrity Objectives (SIOs) established in the LRMP. This standard is: Standard FW–184: The Forest Scenic Integrity Objectives (SIOs) Maps govern all new projects (including special uses). Assigned SIOS are consistent with Recreation Opportunity Spectrum management direction. 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.’’ asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES If any of the five parts of the proposed amendment to the JNF 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 decision for a right-of-way grant across Federal lands will be documented in a record of decision issued by the BLM. The BLM’s decision to issue, condition, or deny a right-ofway will be subject to BLM administrative review procedures established in 43 CFR 2881.10 and the procedures established in section 313(b) of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The Forest Service concurrence to BLM to issue the right-of-way grant would not be a decision subject to the NEPA and therefore, would not be subject to the Forest Service administrative review procedures. The Forest Service would, however, issue its own draft record of VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:31 Jun 02, 2017 Jkt 241001 decision for the project-specific amendment to the JNF LRMP that would be subject to the administrative review procedures under the 36 CFR 218 regulations (per 36 CFR 219.59(b)). The Reviewing Official for any objection filed on amending the JNF LRMP to allow for the MVP Project will be the Regional Forester for the Southern Region, or if delegated, the Deputy Regional Forester (36 CFR 218.3(a)). Responsible Official for Forest Service LRMP Amendments The Forest Supervisor for the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, Joby P. Timm, is the Responsible Official for amending the Jefferson National Forest LRMP. Dated: May 10, 2017. Robert M. Harper, Acting Associate Deputy Chief, National Forest System. [FR Doc. 2017–11488 Filed 6–2–17; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3411–15–P DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE Forest Service Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests; Delta, Garfield, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Mesa, Montrose, Ouray, Saguache and San Miguel Counties; Colorado; Assessment Report of Ecological, Social and Economic Conditions, Trends and Sustainability for the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests Forest Service, USDA. Notice of initiating the assessment phase of the land management plan revision for the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests. AGENCY: ACTION: The Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests (GMUG), located on the western slope of the Colorado Rockies, are initiating the forest planning process pursuant to the 2012 National Forest System Land Management Planning rule. This process will result in a revised and updated Natural Resource Land Management Plan, often referred to as the Forest Plan, which will guide all management activities on the GMUG for the next fifteen years. The current GMUG Forest Plan was completed in 1983, and was subsequently amended in 1991, 1993, 2005, 2007, and 2009. Previous efforts to revise the Forest Plan, including an eight-year effort involving extensive public participation SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00010 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 and the development of comprehensive assessments, a need for change report, and a proposed plan were shelved due to the overturning of the 2008 planning rule. Now that the national 2012 Planning Rule has been established, the GMUG will reinitiate the plan revision process. The plan revision process encompasses three stages: Assessment, plan revision, and monitoring. This notice announces the initiation of the assessment phase, the first stage of the plan revision process, which involves assessing ecological, social and economic conditions and trends in the planning area and documenting the findings in an Assessment report. For the first phase, the GMUG has posted helpful resources, including the current Forest Plan and subsequent amendments, information from the 2006 and 2007 revision efforts, and the Citizen’s Guide to National Forest Planning, on the GMUG Forest Plan Web site listed below. During this assessment phase, the GMUG invites other government agencies, non-governmental parties, and the public to share material about existing and changed conditions, trends, and perceptions of social, economic and ecological systems. The GMUG will host a variety of public outreach forums in summer and fall of 2017 to facilitate this effort, and the public is encouraged to participate and provide meaningful contributions. The GMUG is seeking local knowledge of social values, available data resources, areas of use and activities, goods and services produced by lands within the GMUG, and relevant material that will help inform desired conditions, standards and guidelines, land suitability determinations, and other plan components. This information will help identify gaps in the current management plan and inform the need for change, highlighting priority issues that should be addressed in this revision. Public participation and collaboration are essential steps to understanding current conditions, available data, and feedback needed to support a strategic, efficient and effective revision process. Several guiding principles, developed to overcome stakeholder-identified challenges, will drive public engagement throughout the plan revision process. These guiding principles include providing direct and transparent communication through a variety of methods, maintaining focused public involvement, building relationships, and promoting sharing, learning and understanding between the agency and the public. These guiding principles will help the GMUG ensure E:\FR\FM\05JNN1.SGM 05JNN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 82, Number 106 (Monday, June 5, 2017)]
[Notices]
[Pages 25761-25764]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2017-11488]


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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Forest Service


Notice of Updated Information Concerning the Mountain Valley 
Pipeline Project and Equitrans Expansion Project and the Associated 
Forest Service Land and Resource Management Plan Amendments

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

ACTION: Notice; updating information.

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

SUMMARY: The USDA Forest Service (Forest Service) is participating as a 
cooperating agency with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) 
and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in the preparation of the 
Mountain Valley Pipeline Project (MVP) and Equitrans Expansion Project 
(EEP) Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). On October 14, 2016, the 
Forest Service published in the Federal Register (81 FR 71041) a Notice 
of Availability of the Mountain Valley Pipeline Project and Equitrans 
Expansion Project Draft Environmental Impact Statement and the Draft of 
Amendments to the Jefferson National Forest's Land and Resource 
Management Plan (LRMP) to allow for the MVP to cross through the 
Jefferson National Forest. Since that publication, the Forest Service 
determined there is a need to disclose the following: New information 
relating to the proposed LRMP amendments and the substantive provisions 
in the 2012 Planning Rule 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 October 14, 2016 Federal Register Notice.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Information about the MVP 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 CP16-10. Be sure you 
have selected an appropriate date range. For assistance, please contact 
FERC Online Support at

[[Page 25762]]

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 Mountain Valley 
Pipeline route would cross about 3.4 miles of lands managed by the 
Jefferson National Forest (JNF), in Monroe County, West Virginia and 
Giles and Montgomery Counties, Virginia. The Equitrans Expansion 
Project would not cross the Jefferson National Forest.
    The FERC is the NEPA Lead Federal Agency for the environmental 
analysis of the construction and operation of the proposed MVP and 
Equitrans Expansion Project. Under the Mineral Leasing Act (30 U.S.C. 
185 et seq.), the BLM is the Federal agency responsible for issuing 
right-of-way grants for natural gas pipelines across Federal lands 
under the jurisdiction of two or more Federal agencies. The BLM is 
therefore, considering the issuance of a right-of-way grant to Mountain 
Valley for pipeline construction and operation across the lands under 
the jurisdiction of the Forest Service and the US Army Corps of 
Engineers (USACE). Before issuing the right-of-way grant, the BLM would 
need to acquire the written concurrences of the Forest Service and the 
USACE. Through this concurrence process, the Forest Service would 
submit to the BLM any stipulations for inclusion in the right-of-way 
grant that are deemed necessary to protect Federal property and 
otherwise protect the public interest.
    The FERC's Draft EIS for the MVP Project included the consideration 
of a BLM right-of-way grant across Federal lands, along with the 
associated proposed Forest Service LRMP amendments. The BLM and Forest 
Service can adopt FERC's EIS for agency decisions, including the 
necessary amendments to the LRMP, 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 amendments to the JNF's 
LRMP 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 MVP and the Notice of Availability 
published in the Federal Register on October 14, 2016 included the 
consideration of Forest Service LRMP amendments that would be needed to 
make the proposed pipeline construction and operation consistent with 
the JNF LRMP (36 CFR 219.15). These amendments would need to be 
approved before the Forest Service could issue a letter of concurrence 
to the BLM.
    The Draft EIS identified project-specific plan amendments that 
would be needed for the construction and operation of the MVP that 
otherwise could not, or potentially could not, meet certain standards 
in the JNF LRMP. These amendments are considered project-specific 
amendments because they would apply only to MVP 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 MVP 
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.

Jefferson National Forest

    The following proposed amendment to the JNF LRMP would be a 
project-specific amendment, applicable only to the MVP 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 MVP and the 
October 14, 2016 Federal Register Notice of Availability, the original 
proposed amendment, part 1 was to amend the LRMP to reallocate 186 
acres to Management Prescription 5C--Designated Utility Corridors from 
Management Prescriptions 4J--Urban/Suburban Interface (56 acres), 6C--
Old Growth Forest Communities Associated with Disturbance (19 acres) 
and 8A1--Mix of Successional Habitats in Forested Landscapes (111 
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-247 
and FW-248:

    Standard FW-247: 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-248: 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 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 MVP corridor to 
a Management Prescription 5C Utility Corridor that would be 500 feet 
wide and would encourage future co-location opportunities. Instead the 
proposal is to now amend the LRMP with a project-specific amendment 
that would exempt the MVP Project from the requirements in Forestwide 
Standards FW-247 and FW-248. With this change, the 50 foot wide right-
of-way needed for the MVP would remain within the existing management 
prescription areas (of Rx

[[Page 25763]]

4A--Appalachian National Scenic Trail Corridor, Rx 4J--Urban/Suburban 
Interface, Rx 6C--Old Growth Forest Communities Associated with 
Disturbance; Rx 8A1--Mix of Successional Habitats in Forested 
Landscapes; and Rx 11--Riparian Corridors).
    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 October 14, 2016 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-9, FW-13, FW-14 and Management 
Prescription Area Standard 11-003 to allow for the construction of the 
Mountain Valley 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 MVP 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: To limit soil compaction, no heavy equipment is 
used on plastic soils when the water table is within 12 inches of 
the surface, or when soil moisture exceeds the plastic limit. Soil 
moisture exceeds the plastic limit when soil can be rolled to pencil 
size without breaking or crumbling.
    Standard FW-9: Heavy equipment is operated so that soil 
indentations, ruts, or furrows are aligned on the contour and the 
slope of such indentations is 5 percent or less.
    Standard FW-13: Management activities expose no more than 10% 
mineral soil in the channeled ephemeral zone.
    Standard FW-14: 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 area riparian corridor.

    The amendment would provide an exception from these standards for 
the MVP 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 MVP and the October 14, 2016 Federal Register 
Notice of Availability had also identified that Management Prescription 
Area Standard 11-017 may need to be amended. However, a further review 
of this standard has determined that the proposed pipeline project can 
be made consistent with this standard and an amendment to this standard 
will not be needed. This standard is:

    Standard 11-017: 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 11-012 or 11-
022.

    Potential Amendment, Part 3: The Draft EIS for the MVP and the 
October 14, 2016 Federal Register Notice of Availability had identified 
that Forestwide Standard FW-77 may need to be amended. However, a 
further review of this standard has determined that the proposed 
pipeline project can be made consistent with this standard and an 
amendment to this standard will not be needed. This standard is:

    Standard FW-77: Inventory stands for existing old growth 
conditions during project planning using the criteria in Appendix D. 
Consider the contribution of identified patches to the distribution 
and abundance of the old growth community type and to the desired 
condition of the appropriate prescription during project analysis.

    However, while an amendment to Standard FW-77 will not be needed, 
since proposed amendment--part 1 has been changed and the lands will 
not be reallocated to Management Prescription 5C, the pipeline will be 
located on lands in Management Prescription 6C. As such, the following 
standards in Management Prescription 6C will need to be amended to 
allow for a new utility right-of-way within this prescription area:

    Standard 6C-007: Allow vegetation management activities to: 
Maintain and restore dry-mesic oak forest, dry and xeric oak forest, 
dry and dry-mesic oak-pine old growth forest communities; restore, 
enhance, or mimic historic fire regimes; reduce fuel buildups; 
maintain rare communities and species dependent on disturbance; 
provide for public health and safety; improve threatened, 
endangered, sensitive, and locally rare species habitat; control 
non-native invasive vegetation.
    Standard 6C-026: These areas are unsuitable for designation of 
new utility corridors, utility rights-of-way, or communication 
sites. Existing uses are allowed to continue.

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

    Sec.  219.8(a)(1)--``The plan must include plan components, 
including standards and guidelines, to maintain or restore the 
ecological integrity of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and 
watersheds in the plan area, including plan components to maintain 
or restore structure, function, composition, and connectivity.''
    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 . . .''

    Proposed Amendment, Part 4: The JNF LRMP would be amended to allow 
the Mountain Valley Pipeline to be exempt from Management Prescription 
Area Standard 4A-028 and cross beneath the Appalachian National Scenic 
Trail (ANST) in Giles County, Virginia. This standard is:

    Standard 4A-028: 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.''


[[Page 25764]]


    The Draft EIS for the MVP and the October 14, 2016 Federal Register 
Notice of Availability had also identified that Management Prescription 
Area Standard 4A-020 may need to be amended. However, a further review 
of this standard has determined that the proposed pipeline project can 
be made consistent with this standard and an amendment to this standard 
will not be needed. This standard is:

    Standard 4A-020: All management activities will meet or exceed a 
Scenic Integrity Objective of High.

    Potential Amendment, Part 5: After the Draft EIS was released, it 
has been identified that the JNF may also need to amend Forestwide 
Standard FW-184 to allow for the construction of the Mountain Valley 
Pipeline to deviate from the Scenic Integrity Objectives (SIOs) 
established in the LRMP. This standard is:

    Standard FW-184: The Forest Scenic Integrity Objectives (SIOs) 
Maps govern all new projects (including special uses). Assigned SIOS 
are consistent with Recreation Opportunity Spectrum management 
direction. 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 five parts of the proposed amendment to the JNF 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 decision for a right-of-way grant across Federal lands will be 
documented in a record of decision issued by the BLM. The BLM's 
decision to issue, condition, or deny a right-of-way will be subject to 
BLM administrative review procedures established in 43 CFR 2881.10 and 
the procedures established in section 313(b) of the Energy Policy Act 
of 2005. The Forest Service concurrence to BLM to issue the right-of-
way grant would not be a decision subject to the NEPA and therefore, 
would not be subject to the Forest Service administrative review 
procedures. The Forest Service would, however, issue its own draft 
record of decision for the project-specific amendment to the JNF LRMP 
that would be subject to the administrative review procedures under the 
36 CFR 218 regulations (per 36 CFR 219.59(b)).
    The Reviewing Official for any objection filed on amending the JNF 
LRMP to allow for the MVP Project will be the Regional Forester for the 
Southern Region, or if delegated, the Deputy Regional Forester (36 CFR 
218.3(a)).

Responsible Official for Forest Service LRMP Amendments

    The Forest Supervisor for the George Washington and Jefferson 
National Forests, Joby P. Timm, is the Responsible Official for 
amending the Jefferson National Forest LRMP.

    Dated: May 10, 2017.
Robert M. Harper,
Acting Associate Deputy Chief, National Forest System.
[FR Doc. 2017-11488 Filed 6-2-17; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3411-15-P