Reauthorization of Permits, Maintenance, and Vegetation Management on Western Area Power Administration Transmission Lines on National Forest System Lands, Colorado, Nebraska, and Utah (DOE/EIS-0442), 83074-83077 [2020-28016]

Download as PDF 83074 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 245 / Monday, December 21, 2020 / Notices (3) You can file a paper copy of your comments by mailing them to the Commission. Be sure to reference the project docket number (CP20–503–000) on your letter. Submissions sent via the U.S. Postal Service must be addressed to: Kimberly D. Bose, Secretary, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, 888 First Street NE, Room 1A, Washington, DC 20426. Submissions sent via any other carrier must be addressed to: Kimberly D. Bose, Secretary, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, 12225 Wilkins Avenue, Rockville, Maryland 20852. Filing environmental comments will not give you intervenor status, but you do not need intervenor status to have your comments considered. Only intervenors have the right to seek rehearing or judicial review of the Commission’s decision. At this point in this proceeding, the timeframe for filing timely intervention requests has expired. Any person seeking to become a party to the proceeding must file a motion to intervene out-of-time pursuant to Rule 214(b)(3) and (d) of the Commission’s Rules of Practice and Procedures (18 CFR 385.214(b)(3) and (d)) and show good cause why the time limitation should be waived. Motions to intervene are more fully described at https://www.ferc.gov/ferc-online/ferconline/how-guides. Additional information about the project is available from the Commission’s Office of External Affairs, at (866) 208–FERC, or on the FERC website (www.ferc.gov) using the eLibrary link. The eLibrary link also provides access to the texts of all formal documents issued by the Commission, such as orders, notices, and rulemakings. In addition, the Commission offers a free service called eSubscription which allows you to keep track of all formal issuances and submittals in specific dockets. This can reduce the amount of time you spend researching proceedings by automatically providing you with notification of these filings, document summaries, and direct links to the documents. Go to https://www.ferc.gov/ ferc-online/overview to register for eSubscription. Dated: December 15, 2020. Kimberly D. Bose, Secretary. [FR Doc. 2020–28095 Filed 12–18–20; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6717–01–P VerDate Sep<11>2014 22:33 Dec 18, 2020 Jkt 253001 DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY Western Area Power Administration Reauthorization of Permits, Maintenance, and Vegetation Management on Western Area Power Administration Transmission Lines on National Forest System Lands, Colorado, Nebraska, and Utah (DOE/ EIS–0442) Western Area Power Administration, DOE. ACTION: Record of decision. AGENCY: PO 00000 Frm 00048 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 WAPA is a Federal power marketing administration within DOE that markets and delivers Federal wholesale electric power (principally hydroelectric power) to municipalities, rural electric cooperatives, public utilities, irrigation districts, Federal and State agencies, Native American tribes, and other wholesale customers in 15 western and central States. WAPA’s Rocky Mountain Customer Service Region (RM) operates in Arizona, Colorado, most of Wyoming, and portions of Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, and Utah. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) has determined that it will implement the proposed action, or Project, as described in the Reauthorization of Maintenance and Vegetation Management on Western Area Power Administration Transmission Lines on Forest Service Lands, Colorado, Nebraska, and Utah final environmental impact statement (Final EIS) (DOE/EIS–0442). The proposed action includes changing WAPA’s vegetation management and facility maintenance practices in some rights-of-way (ROWs) along approximately 273 miles of electrical transmission lines on National Forest System (NFS) lands in Colorado, Nebraska, and Utah. The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) was a joint lead agency on the EIS and proposes to authorize the changes through new Special Use Permits (SUPs) and Operations and Maintenance (O&M) Plans. This Record of Decision (ROD) was prepared in accordance with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) regulations for implementing NEPA, and U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) NEPA regulations. DATES: The ROD was effective when it was signed by WAPA’s Administrator on December 8, 2020. All known interested parties, agencies, tribes, and the public will be notified of this ROD directly via the Project mailing list and via paid advertising, news releases, or other appropriate means. ADDRESSES: The Final EIS, this ROD, and other Project documents are available on the Project website at https://www.wapa.gov/transmission/ EnvironmentalReviewNEPA/Pages/ vegetation-management.aspx. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For additional information on the Project, the EIS process or this ROD, please contact Ms. E. Lynn Burkett at Headquarters A9400, Western Area Power Administration, P.O. Box 281213, Lakewood, CO 80228–8213, email SUMMARY: burkett@wapa.gov, telephone (720) 962– 7000. For general information on the DOE NEPA review process, please contact Brian Costner, Office of NEPA Policy and Compliance, GC–54, U.S. Department of Energy, 1000 Independence Avenue SW, Washington, DC 20585–0119, email AskNEPA@ hq.doe.gov, telephone (202) 586–4600 or (800) 472–2756, facsimile (202) 586– 7031. Background On August 10, 1996, during a period of high temperatures and high electricity demand, a transmission line sagged into filbert trees near Portland, Oregon, leading to a cascade of power outages as far away as southern California. Executive Order 13212, Actions To Expedite Energy-Related Projects (May 18, 2001), declared the increased production and transmission of energy in a safe and environmentally sound manner to be essential to the well-being of the American people and called for the improvement and streamlining of cooperation among Federal agencies to expedite projects that would increase the production, transmission, or conservation of energy. In August 2003, the cascading results of another equipment failure led to an enormous power outage in the Northeast and Midwest, affecting approximately 45 million people in the United States and 10 million people in Ontario, Canada. The U.S.-Canada Power System Outage Task Force found that, again, transmission line sag into overgrown trees in rural Ohio sparked the outage. In response to these outages, Congress added, as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (Pub. L. 109–58), a new section 215 to the Federal Power Act. Among other things, the new section 215 authorized the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to certify an ‘‘Electric Reliability Organization’’ to create mandatory and enforceable reliability standards, subject to FERC review and approval. FERC certified the North American Electric E:\FR\FM\21DEN1.SGM 21DEN1 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 245 / Monday, December 21, 2020 / Notices Reliability Corporation (NERC) as the Electric Reliability Organization. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 also requires Federal agencies to expedite approvals to allow owners or operators of transmission facilities access to the facilities to comply with applicable standards, including vegetation management standards. FERC approved NERC’s original Reliability Standard, FAC–003–1, ‘‘Transmission Vegetation Management Program’’ (NERC Standard) on March 16, 2007,1 and the standard became mandatory and enforceable on June 18, 2007. The most recent version of the NERC Standard is FAC–003–4, ‘‘Transmission Vegetation Management.’’ The revised standard was approved on April 26, 2016,2 and became mandatory and enforceable on October 1, 2016. To enhance WAPA’s compliance with NERC’s Transmission Vegetation Management Reliability Standard, industry standards, and WAPA’s policy and guidance, WAPA proposes to improve the way it manages vegetation along its ROWs on NFS lands in Colorado, Nebraska, and Utah. WAPA owns, operates, and maintains approximately 273 miles of transmission line ROWs on NFS lands in Colorado, Nebraska, and Utah. Specifically, the Project includes WAPA RM transmission facilities and access routes located on NFS lands managed by seven National Forests in the Rocky Mountain Region (Region 2) and one National Forest in the Intermountain Region (Region 4). These National Forests and Grasslands include the Arapahoe—Roosevelt; Ashley; Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison; Medicine Bow—Routt; Pike—San Isabel; Samuel R. McKelvie; San Juan; and White River. 1 Mandatory Reliability Standards for the BulkPower System, Order No. 693, 118 FERC ¶ 61,218, order on reh’g, Order No. 693–A, 120 FERC ¶ 61,053 (2007). 2 Letter Order Approving Reliability Standard FAC–003–4, FERC Docket No. RD16–4–000 (Apr. 26, 2016). VerDate Sep<11>2014 22:33 Dec 18, 2020 Jkt 253001 Purpose and Need for Agency Action WAPA needs to improve the way it manages vegetation along its 273 miles of transmission line ROWs on NFS lands with the following purposes and objectives: 1. To ensure that WAPA can safely and reliably operate and maintain its existing electrical transmission facilities to deliver electrical power. 2. To further WAPA’s compliance with NERC’s Transmission Vegetation Management Reliability Standards, industry standards, and WAPA’s policy and guidance. 3. To ensure that WAPA’s transmission facilities remain operational for the useful life of the facilities. 4. To protect public and worker safety. 5. To reduce the risk of wildfires caused by transmission lines and the risk to the facilities from fire. 6. To control the spread of noxious weeds. 7. To maintain sound relationships with landowners and land managers. 8. To ensure that WAPA has access to its transmission facilities for maintenance and emergency response. 9. To ensure that the costs associated with maintaining the transmission system can be controlled following sound business principles, including achieving technical and economic efficiencies to minimize impacts on transmission line tariff costs and electrical power rates. 10. To allow flexibility to accommodate changes in transmission system operation and maintenance requirements. 11. To minimize impacts to environmental resources. WAPA’s Proposed Action—Proposed Project WAPA proposes to change the way it manages vegetation in the ROWs for the transmission lines it owns, operates, or maintains. The proposed action would require the USFS to re-authorize and PO 00000 Frm 00049 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 83075 issue SUPs for each transmission line and authorize WAPA to manage vegetation along WAPA ROWs on NFS lands using an integrated vegetation management (IVM) approach, for which WAPA would develop new O&M Plans. This approach is based on the American National Standard Institute Tree, Shrub and Other Woody Plant Maintenance— Standard Practices (Integrated Vegetation Management, a. Electric Utility ROW (ANSI A300 (Part 7)–2006 IVM)). WAPA would control vegetation growth and fuel conditions that threaten transmission lines. The proposed action would balance the purpose of and need for agency action with the need to comply with environmental regulations and USFS requirements, address potential impacts to environmental resources, and incorporate public and agency comments. It incorporates the design features developed to protect environmental resources. It is important to note that vegetation management and maintenance of WAPA’s transmission facilities has been ongoing for many years, so the proposed action merely makes these routine activities more proactive under the IVM approach. The vegetation management proposal includes an initial treatment plan for areas that have been identified for treatment. The initial treatment would affect approximately 1,610 acres of the approximately 4,055 acres of transmission line ROWs on NFS lands. In the EIS, WAPA identified six broad categories of existing conditions in the ROWs. The condition of the vegetation in the ROW determines whether the ROW would need to be treated soon, needs treatment over the longer term, or is unlikely to need treatment for some time. WAPA routinely monitors ROWs to determine vegetation conditions. The proposed action includes vegetation management options based on the conditions in the ROWs. Table ES–1 summarizes the six categories of ROW conditions and vegetation management. E:\FR\FM\21DEN1.SGM 21DEN1 83076 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 245 / Monday, December 21, 2020 / Notices TABLE ES–1—CATEGORIES OF RIGHT-OF-WAY CONDITIONS AND VEGETATION TREATMENT METHODS Category Vegetation 1 ................... Compatible with the transmission line. 2 ................... Fast-growing incompatible species that are presently not acceptable, and over the long term, the vegetation is likely to include incompatible vegetation types that would require monitoring and treatment. Fast-growing incompatible species of trees that are in an acceptable condition, but over the long term, incompatible vegetation treatments would be needed. Slow-growing incompatible species of mature vegetation that is not acceptable, and over the long term, treatments for incompatible vegetation would be needed to control re-growth. 3 ................... 4 ................... Examples Frequency of treatment The lines span canyons and there will likely always be adequate clearance between vegetation and the transmission line conductors—even with larger mature trees; a vegetation community that is already a stable, low-growth one (e.g., grasses, forbs, bushes, and shrubs) so that vegetation at mature height is not a threat to the transmission line. Mature lodgepole pine, mature aspen, and other species on high-quality growth sites. None expected for the duration of the authorization, but ROW monitoring will be needed to ensure conditions have not changed. None expected. • Initial treatment expected within 1 to 5 years. • Maintenance treatments are expected to be relatively frequent (expected 2- to 6year return intervals). • Accessible sites would favor use of mechanized equipment and removal of salvageable material. • Inaccessible sites would favor use of hand felling. Immature lodgepole pine and aspen. Other species on high-quality growth sites. • Maintenance treatments are expected to be relatively frequent (expected 2- to 6year return intervals, but this will vary depending on site conditions). • Initial treatment is expected within 2 to 5 years, depending on site conditions and vegetation growth. • Maintenance treatments are expected to be relatively infrequent on sites with incompatible species with slow growth rates, perhaps 5 or more years, depending on site conditions. • Maintenance treatments are expected to be relatively infrequent, perhaps 5 years or longer, depending on site conditions. • Accessible sites would favor mechanized equipment, with removal of salvageable material. • Inaccessible sites would favor use of hand felling. • On sites with good access, mechanized equipment would be favored, and salvageable material would be removed. • On sites with poor access, hand felling and other manual methods would typically be used. Mature spruce and fir. Other species on harsh sites. 5 ................... These sites have slow-growing incompatible species, and the ROW is in an acceptable condition; but over the long term, the incompatible species would need to be monitored and treated. Immature spruce and fir. Other incompatible species on harsh sites. 6 ................... Treatments in these areas of ROW are driven largely by the conditions of the fuel load. Typically, they include areas with low-growing vegetation types characterized by having high fuel loads. Sites are characterized by dense, woody vegetation capable of high-intensity fire, with transmission lines having relatively low conductor-to-ground clearances. Sagebrush, Gambel oak, dense lodgepole regeneration, and pinyon and juniper pine. These areas are proposed for mechanical treatment to remove incompatible tall-growth species, while addressing a buildup of fuels from several decades of previous vegetation management activities. Treatments VerDate Sep<11>2014 22:33 Dec 18, 2020 Jkt 253001 • Initial treatments are expected. This could include mechanical removal of vegetation near structures and from areas of the ROW. • Maintenance treatments as needed. Need is determined from ROW monitoring. could include logging, chipping, and grinding of trees and existing debris using mechanized equipment and other activities developed in coordination with the USFS. Following completion of the initial treatment in an area, the ROW PO 00000 Frm 00050 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Treatment methods • On sites with good access, mechanized equipment would be favored, and salvageable material would be removed. • On sites with poor access, hand felling and other manual methods would typically be used. • In areas with good access, mechanized treatment such as mowing would be favored. • In areas with poor access, manual treatments would typically be used. • Gambel oak could be treated with herbicides. would be maintained in a desired condition that is generally defined by a lack of incompatible vegetation species. The desired condition depends on the ROW conditions and incorporates design features that protect sensitive E:\FR\FM\21DEN1.SGM 21DEN1 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 245 / Monday, December 21, 2020 / Notices resources. As a joint-lead agency, and in support of WAPA’s proposed action, the USFS would re-authorize and issue SUPs for each transmission line and authorize WAPA to manage vegetation and conduct maintenance activities along WAPA ROWs on NFS lands. The USFS would permit these activities through new SUPs and O&M Plans. Each specific WAPA vegetation management or maintenance activity would be assessed by the USFS prior to initiation using a process defined in O&M Plans developed in conjunction with the SUPs. Alternatives WAPA and the USFS evaluated a no action alternative that would leave the existing WAPA vegetation management and maintenance activities in place under the existing USFS permits and O&M Plans. This alternative would not meet WAPA’s purpose and need or the objectives given above. The environmentally-preferred and agencypreferred alternative is the proposed action. While initial treatment activities would cause higher impacts than no action, over the long term, after the desired conditions are achieved, the wildfire hazard would be much reduced and vegetation management activities would be less intensive and less frequent. Overall, resource impacts would be substantially lower compared with no action. All practicable means of avoiding or minimizing environmental impacts have been incorporated into the proposed action and its related standard maintenance practices, and specific additional resource protections may be included in the new SUPs, WAPA’s O&M Plans, and individual action reviews. WAPA and the USFS considered an option to remove all tall-growing trees from the ROWs to maximize transmission line reliability and minimize wildfire hazard. However, vegetation conditions and terrain vary, and not all areas require the same treatment efforts. Where conductor clearances allow, such as spanning a drainage, taller vegetation can be allowed to remain in the ROW. This approach is included in the proposed action, and reduces resource impacts, visual effects, wildlife habitat impacts, and vegetation management costs. Similarly, an option to prohibit the use of herbicides was considered. This option would reduce WAPA’s ability to control incompatible vegetation and noxious weeds efficiently and effectively. Herbicide use can be done in an environmentally responsible way with minimal impact. Selective proper use of herbicides would reduce the VerDate Sep<11>2014 22:33 Dec 18, 2020 Jkt 253001 number of vegetation management cycles and associated environmental impacts and allow the ROWs to reach the desired conditions more quickly. Public Involvement The Notice of Intent (NOI) was published in the Federal Register on April 8, 2010, launching the scoping process that extended through May 26, 2010. The NOI invited public participation in the EIS scoping process and solicited public comments on the scope and content of the EIS. WAPA and the USFS solicited comments from Federal, State, and local agencies; tribal governments; other organizations; and the public, and announced opportunities to comment in various local news media. Chapter Four of the Final EIS lists agencies, organizations, and people who received copies. In April 2010, WAPA and the USFS hosted three public scoping meetings in Denver and Grand Junction, Colorado, and Vernal, Utah, which provided the public an opportunity to comment and ask questions about the Project and EIS development. Before each public meeting, WAPA and the USFS held interagency scoping meetings. The Notice of Availability (NOA) for the Draft EIS was published in the Federal Register on September 27, 2013. One public meeting was held in Denver, Colorado, on October 23, 2013; there were no attendees. WAPA and the Forest Service received four comment letters; two of the letters expressed support for the Project. The U.S. Department of the Interior letter indicated no comments on the Project, and the Environmental Protection Agency letter indicated a rating of Lack of Objections (LO) for the Project. No comments were received from the general public or tribes. The USFS has a pre-decisional objection process that follows the release of certain environmental documents, in this case the Final EIS. The objection filing period was 45 days, and no objections were filed during that time. Decision Informed by the analyses and environmental impacts documented in the Final EIS and related consultations, WAPA has selected the proposed action identified in the Final EIS as its decision for the Project. The proposed action will be the basis for the preparation of revised SUPs and associated O&M Plans. This ROD was prepared in accordance with the requirements of the CEQ regulations for implementing NEPA (40 PO 00000 Frm 00051 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 83077 CFR parts 1500–1508) and the DOE NEPA regulations (10 CFR part 1021). Signing Authority This document of the Department of Energy was signed on December 8, 2020, by Mark A. Gabriel, Administrator, Western Area Power Administration, pursuant to delegated authority from the Secretary of Energy. That document with the original signature and date is maintained by DOE. For administrative purposes only, and in compliance with requirements of the Office of the Federal Register, the undersigned DOE Federal Register Liaison Officer has been authorized to sign and submit the document in electronic format for publication, as an official document of the Department of Energy. This administrative process in no way alters the legal effect of this document upon publication in the Federal Register. Signed in Washington, DC, on December 15, 2020. Treena V. Garrett, Federal Register Liaison Officer, U.S. Department of Energy. [FR Doc. 2020–28016 Filed 12–18–20; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6450–01–P ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY [Region 4 Library; FRL–10017–91–Region 4] Notice of Library Changes Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). ACTION: Informational notice. AGENCY: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is issuing this notice to advise the public of upcoming changes to the Region 4 Library. Region 4 will be reducing the size of its library space, decreasing the amount of print materials maintained in its collection, and ceasing all on-site library support services. The library will retain a small, targeted collection of reference material on-site which will be accessible by appointment only to EPA staff and the public (For appointments, see contact information below). In addition, EPA staff and the public will continue to have remote access to the full suite of library services available at EPA through the Andrew W. Breidenbach Environmental Research Center (AWBERC) Library, located in Cincinnati, Ohio. The AWBERC Library can be reached by email (CI_AWBERC_ Library@epa.gov) or by phone (513– 569–7703). For more information about the EPA National Library Network and SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\21DEN1.SGM 21DEN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 85, Number 245 (Monday, December 21, 2020)]
[Notices]
[Pages 83074-83077]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2020-28016]


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DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY

Western Area Power Administration


Reauthorization of Permits, Maintenance, and Vegetation 
Management on Western Area Power Administration Transmission Lines on 
National Forest System Lands, Colorado, Nebraska, and Utah (DOE/EIS-
0442)

AGENCY: Western Area Power Administration, DOE.

ACTION: Record of decision.

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

SUMMARY: The Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) has determined 
that it will implement the proposed action, or Project, as described in 
the Reauthorization of Maintenance and Vegetation Management on Western 
Area Power Administration Transmission Lines on Forest Service Lands, 
Colorado, Nebraska, and Utah final environmental impact statement 
(Final EIS) (DOE/EIS-0442). The proposed action includes changing 
WAPA's vegetation management and facility maintenance practices in some 
rights-of-way (ROWs) along approximately 273 miles of electrical 
transmission lines on National Forest System (NFS) lands in Colorado, 
Nebraska, and Utah. The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) was a joint lead 
agency on the EIS and proposes to authorize the changes through new 
Special Use Permits (SUPs) and Operations and Maintenance (O&M) Plans. 
This Record of Decision (ROD) was prepared in accordance with the 
requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Council 
on Environmental Quality (CEQ) regulations for implementing NEPA, and 
U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) NEPA regulations.

DATES: The ROD was effective when it was signed by WAPA's Administrator 
on December 8, 2020. All known interested parties, agencies, tribes, 
and the public will be notified of this ROD directly via the Project 
mailing list and via paid advertising, news releases, or other 
appropriate means.

ADDRESSES: The Final EIS, this ROD, and other Project documents are 
available on the Project website at https://www.wapa.gov/transmission/EnvironmentalReviewNEPA/Pages/vegetation-management.aspx.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For additional information on the 
Project, the EIS process or this ROD, please contact Ms. E. Lynn 
Burkett at Headquarters A9400, Western Area Power Administration, P.O. 
Box 281213, Lakewood, CO 80228-8213, email [email protected], telephone 
(720) 962-7000. For general information on the DOE NEPA review process, 
please contact Brian Costner, Office of NEPA Policy and Compliance, GC-
54, U.S. Department of Energy, 1000 Independence Avenue SW, Washington, 
DC 20585-0119, email [email protected], telephone (202) 586-4600 or 
(800) 472-2756, facsimile (202) 586-7031.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: WAPA is a Federal power marketing 
administration within DOE that markets and delivers Federal wholesale 
electric power (principally hydroelectric power) to municipalities, 
rural electric cooperatives, public utilities, irrigation districts, 
Federal and State agencies, Native American tribes, and other wholesale 
customers in 15 western and central States. WAPA's Rocky Mountain 
Customer Service Region (RM) operates in Arizona, Colorado, most of 
Wyoming, and portions of Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, and Utah.

Background

    On August 10, 1996, during a period of high temperatures and high 
electricity demand, a transmission line sagged into filbert trees near 
Portland, Oregon, leading to a cascade of power outages as far away as 
southern California. Executive Order 13212, Actions To Expedite Energy-
Related Projects (May 18, 2001), declared the increased production and 
transmission of energy in a safe and environmentally sound manner to be 
essential to the well-being of the American people and called for the 
improvement and streamlining of cooperation among Federal agencies to 
expedite projects that would increase the production, transmission, or 
conservation of energy. In August 2003, the cascading results of 
another equipment failure led to an enormous power outage in the 
Northeast and Midwest, affecting approximately 45 million people in the 
United States and 10 million people in Ontario, Canada. The U.S.-Canada 
Power System Outage Task Force found that, again, transmission line sag 
into overgrown trees in rural Ohio sparked the outage.
    In response to these outages, Congress added, as part of the Energy 
Policy Act of 2005 (Pub. L. 109-58), a new section 215 to the Federal 
Power Act. Among other things, the new section 215 authorized the 
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to certify an ``Electric 
Reliability Organization'' to create mandatory and enforceable 
reliability standards, subject to FERC review and approval. FERC 
certified the North American Electric

[[Page 83075]]

Reliability Corporation (NERC) as the Electric Reliability 
Organization. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 also requires Federal 
agencies to expedite approvals to allow owners or operators of 
transmission facilities access to the facilities to comply with 
applicable standards, including vegetation management standards.
    FERC approved NERC's original Reliability Standard, FAC-003-1, 
``Transmission Vegetation Management Program'' (NERC Standard) on March 
16, 2007,\1\ and the standard became mandatory and enforceable on June 
18, 2007. The most recent version of the NERC Standard is FAC-003-4, 
``Transmission Vegetation Management.'' The revised standard was 
approved on April 26, 2016,\2\ and became mandatory and enforceable on 
October 1, 2016.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \1\ Mandatory Reliability Standards for the Bulk-Power System, 
Order No. 693, 118 FERC ] 61,218, order on reh'g, Order No. 693-A, 
120 FERC ] 61,053 (2007).
    \2\ Letter Order Approving Reliability Standard FAC-003-4, FERC 
Docket No. RD16-4-000 (Apr. 26, 2016).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    To enhance WAPA's compliance with NERC's Transmission Vegetation 
Management Reliability Standard, industry standards, and WAPA's policy 
and guidance, WAPA proposes to improve the way it manages vegetation 
along its ROWs on NFS lands in Colorado, Nebraska, and Utah. WAPA owns, 
operates, and maintains approximately 273 miles of transmission line 
ROWs on NFS lands in Colorado, Nebraska, and Utah. Specifically, the 
Project includes WAPA RM transmission facilities and access routes 
located on NFS lands managed by seven National Forests in the Rocky 
Mountain Region (Region 2) and one National Forest in the Intermountain 
Region (Region 4). These National Forests and Grasslands include the 
Arapahoe--Roosevelt; Ashley; Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison; 
Medicine Bow--Routt; Pike--San Isabel; Samuel R. McKelvie; San Juan; 
and White River.

Purpose and Need for Agency Action

    WAPA needs to improve the way it manages vegetation along its 273 
miles of transmission line ROWs on NFS lands with the following 
purposes and objectives:
    1. To ensure that WAPA can safely and reliably operate and maintain 
its existing electrical transmission facilities to deliver electrical 
power.
    2. To further WAPA's compliance with NERC's Transmission Vegetation 
Management Reliability Standards, industry standards, and WAPA's policy 
and guidance.
    3. To ensure that WAPA's transmission facilities remain operational 
for the useful life of the facilities.
    4. To protect public and worker safety.
    5. To reduce the risk of wildfires caused by transmission lines and 
the risk to the facilities from fire.
    6. To control the spread of noxious weeds.
    7. To maintain sound relationships with landowners and land 
managers.
    8. To ensure that WAPA has access to its transmission facilities 
for maintenance and emergency response.
    9. To ensure that the costs associated with maintaining the 
transmission system can be controlled following sound business 
principles, including achieving technical and economic efficiencies to 
minimize impacts on transmission line tariff costs and electrical power 
rates.
    10. To allow flexibility to accommodate changes in transmission 
system operation and maintenance requirements.
    11. To minimize impacts to environmental resources.

WAPA's Proposed Action--Proposed Project

    WAPA proposes to change the way it manages vegetation in the ROWs 
for the transmission lines it owns, operates, or maintains. The 
proposed action would require the USFS to re-authorize and issue SUPs 
for each transmission line and authorize WAPA to manage vegetation 
along WAPA ROWs on NFS lands using an integrated vegetation management 
(IVM) approach, for which WAPA would develop new O&M Plans. This 
approach is based on the American National Standard Institute Tree, 
Shrub and Other Woody Plant Maintenance--Standard Practices (Integrated 
Vegetation Management, a. Electric Utility ROW (ANSI A300 (Part 7)-2006 
IVM)). WAPA would control vegetation growth and fuel conditions that 
threaten transmission lines. The proposed action would balance the 
purpose of and need for agency action with the need to comply with 
environmental regulations and USFS requirements, address potential 
impacts to environmental resources, and incorporate public and agency 
comments. It incorporates the design features developed to protect 
environmental resources. It is important to note that vegetation 
management and maintenance of WAPA's transmission facilities has been 
ongoing for many years, so the proposed action merely makes these 
routine activities more proactive under the IVM approach.
    The vegetation management proposal includes an initial treatment 
plan for areas that have been identified for treatment. The initial 
treatment would affect approximately 1,610 acres of the approximately 
4,055 acres of transmission line ROWs on NFS lands.
    In the EIS, WAPA identified six broad categories of existing 
conditions in the ROWs. The condition of the vegetation in the ROW 
determines whether the ROW would need to be treated soon, needs 
treatment over the longer term, or is unlikely to need treatment for 
some time. WAPA routinely monitors ROWs to determine vegetation 
conditions. The proposed action includes vegetation management options 
based on the conditions in the ROWs. Table ES-1 summarizes the six 
categories of ROW conditions and vegetation management.

[[Page 83076]]



               Table ES-1--Categories of Right-of-Way Conditions and Vegetation Treatment Methods
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                          Frequency of
       Category               Vegetation             Examples              treatment          Treatment methods
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1.....................  Compatible with the    The lines span        None expected for the  None expected.
                         transmission line.     canyons and there     duration of the
                                                will likely always    authorization, but
                                                be adequate           ROW monitoring will
                                                clearance between     be needed to ensure
                                                vegetation and the    conditions have not
                                                transmission line     changed.
                                                conductors--even
                                                with larger mature
                                                trees; a vegetation
                                                community that is
                                                already a stable,
                                                low-growth one
                                                (e.g., grasses,
                                                forbs, bushes, and
                                                shrubs) so that
                                                vegetation at
                                                mature height is
                                                not a threat to the
                                                transmission line.
2.....................  Fast-growing           Mature lodgepole       Initial        Accessible
                         incompatible species   pine, mature aspen,   treatment expected     sites would favor
                         that are presently     and other species     within 1 to 5 years.   use of mechanized
                         not acceptable, and    on high-quality       Maintenance    equipment and
                         over the long term,    growth sites.         treatments are         removal of
                         the vegetation is                            expected to be         salvageable
                         likely to include                            relatively frequent    material.
                         incompatible                                 (expected 2- to 6-    
                         vegetation types                             year return            Inaccessible sites
                         that would require                           intervals).            would favor use of
                         monitoring and                                                      hand felling.
                         treatment.
3.....................  Fast-growing           Immature lodgepole     Maintenance    Accessible
                         incompatible species   pine and aspen.       treatments are         sites would favor
                         of trees that are in   Other species on      expected to be         mechanized
                         an acceptable          high-quality growth   relatively frequent    equipment, with
                         condition, but over    sites.                (expected 2- to 6-     removal of
                         the long term,                               year return            salvageable
                         incompatible                                 intervals, but this    material.
                         vegetation                                   will vary depending   
                         treatments would be                          on site conditions).   Inaccessible sites
                         needed.                                                             would favor use of
                                                                                             hand felling.
4.....................  Slow-growing           Mature spruce and      Initial        On sites
                         incompatible species   fir. Other species    treatment is           with good access,
                         of mature vegetation   on harsh sites.       expected within 2 to   mechanized
                         that is not                                  5 years, depending     equipment would be
                         acceptable, and over                         on site conditions     favored, and
                         the long term,                               and vegetation         salvageable
                         treatments for                               growth.                material would be
                         incompatible                                 Maintenance    removed.
                         vegetation would be                          treatments are         On sites
                         needed to control re-                        expected to be         with poor access,
                         growth.                                      relatively             hand felling and
                                                                      infrequent on sites    other manual
                                                                      with incompatible      methods would
                                                                      species with slow      typically be used.
                                                                      growth rates,
                                                                      perhaps 5 or more
                                                                      years, depending on
                                                                      site conditions.
5.....................  These sites have slow- Immature spruce and    Maintenance    On sites
                         growing incompatible   fir. Other            treatments are         with good access,
                         species, and the ROW   incompatible          expected to be         mechanized
                         is in an acceptable    species on harsh      relatively             equipment would be
                         condition; but over    sites.                infrequent, perhaps    favored, and
                         the long term, the                           5 years or longer,     salvageable
                         incompatible species                         depending on site      material would be
                         would need to be                             conditions.            removed.
                         monitored and                                                       On sites
                         treated.                                                            with poor access,
                                                                                             hand felling and
                                                                                             other manual
                                                                                             methods would
                                                                                             typically be used.
6.....................  Treatments in these    Sagebrush, Gambel      Initial        In areas
                         areas of ROW are       oak, dense            treatments are         with good access,
                         driven largely by      lodgepole             expected. This could   mechanized
                         the conditions of      regeneration, and     include mechanical     treatment such as
                         the fuel load.         pinyon and juniper    removal of             mowing would be
                         Typically, they        pine.                 vegetation near        favored.
                         include areas with                           structures and from    In areas
                         low-growing                                  areas of the ROW.      with poor access,
                         vegetation types                             Maintenance    manual treatments
                         characterized by                             treatments as          would typically be
                         having high fuel                             needed. Need is        used.
                         loads. Sites are                             determined from ROW    Gambel oak
                         characterized by                             monitoring.            could be treated
                         dense, woody                                                        with herbicides.
                         vegetation capable
                         of high-intensity
                         fire, with
                         transmission lines
                         having relatively
                         low conductor-to-
                         ground clearances.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    These areas are proposed for mechanical treatment to remove 
incompatible tall-growth species, while addressing a buildup of fuels 
from several decades of previous vegetation management activities. 
Treatments could include logging, chipping, and grinding of trees and 
existing debris using mechanized equipment and other activities 
developed in coordination with the USFS. Following completion of the 
initial treatment in an area, the ROW would be maintained in a desired 
condition that is generally defined by a lack of incompatible 
vegetation species. The desired condition depends on the ROW conditions 
and incorporates design features that protect sensitive

[[Page 83077]]

resources. As a joint-lead agency, and in support of WAPA's proposed 
action, the USFS would re-authorize and issue SUPs for each 
transmission line and authorize WAPA to manage vegetation and conduct 
maintenance activities along WAPA ROWs on NFS lands. The USFS would 
permit these activities through new SUPs and O&M Plans. Each specific 
WAPA vegetation management or maintenance activity would be assessed by 
the USFS prior to initiation using a process defined in O&M Plans 
developed in conjunction with the SUPs.

Alternatives

    WAPA and the USFS evaluated a no action alternative that would 
leave the existing WAPA vegetation management and maintenance 
activities in place under the existing USFS permits and O&M Plans. This 
alternative would not meet WAPA's purpose and need or the objectives 
given above. The environmentally-preferred and agency-preferred 
alternative is the proposed action. While initial treatment activities 
would cause higher impacts than no action, over the long term, after 
the desired conditions are achieved, the wildfire hazard would be much 
reduced and vegetation management activities would be less intensive 
and less frequent. Overall, resource impacts would be substantially 
lower compared with no action. All practicable means of avoiding or 
minimizing environmental impacts have been incorporated into the 
proposed action and its related standard maintenance practices, and 
specific additional resource protections may be included in the new 
SUPs, WAPA's O&M Plans, and individual action reviews.
    WAPA and the USFS considered an option to remove all tall-growing 
trees from the ROWs to maximize transmission line reliability and 
minimize wildfire hazard. However, vegetation conditions and terrain 
vary, and not all areas require the same treatment efforts. Where 
conductor clearances allow, such as spanning a drainage, taller 
vegetation can be allowed to remain in the ROW. This approach is 
included in the proposed action, and reduces resource impacts, visual 
effects, wildlife habitat impacts, and vegetation management costs. 
Similarly, an option to prohibit the use of herbicides was considered. 
This option would reduce WAPA's ability to control incompatible 
vegetation and noxious weeds efficiently and effectively. Herbicide use 
can be done in an environmentally responsible way with minimal impact. 
Selective proper use of herbicides would reduce the number of 
vegetation management cycles and associated environmental impacts and 
allow the ROWs to reach the desired conditions more quickly.

Public Involvement

    The Notice of Intent (NOI) was published in the Federal Register on 
April 8, 2010, launching the scoping process that extended through May 
26, 2010. The NOI invited public participation in the EIS scoping 
process and solicited public comments on the scope and content of the 
EIS. WAPA and the USFS solicited comments from Federal, State, and 
local agencies; tribal governments; other organizations; and the 
public, and announced opportunities to comment in various local news 
media. Chapter Four of the Final EIS lists agencies, organizations, and 
people who received copies.
    In April 2010, WAPA and the USFS hosted three public scoping 
meetings in Denver and Grand Junction, Colorado, and Vernal, Utah, 
which provided the public an opportunity to comment and ask questions 
about the Project and EIS development. Before each public meeting, WAPA 
and the USFS held interagency scoping meetings.
    The Notice of Availability (NOA) for the Draft EIS was published in 
the Federal Register on September 27, 2013. One public meeting was held 
in Denver, Colorado, on October 23, 2013; there were no attendees. WAPA 
and the Forest Service received four comment letters; two of the 
letters expressed support for the Project. The U.S. Department of the 
Interior letter indicated no comments on the Project, and the 
Environmental Protection Agency letter indicated a rating of Lack of 
Objections (LO) for the Project. No comments were received from the 
general public or tribes.
    The USFS has a pre-decisional objection process that follows the 
release of certain environmental documents, in this case the Final EIS. 
The objection filing period was 45 days, and no objections were filed 
during that time.

Decision

    Informed by the analyses and environmental impacts documented in 
the Final EIS and related consultations, WAPA has selected the proposed 
action identified in the Final EIS as its decision for the Project. The 
proposed action will be the basis for the preparation of revised SUPs 
and associated O&M Plans.
    This ROD was prepared in accordance with the requirements of the 
CEQ regulations for implementing NEPA (40 CFR parts 1500-1508) and the 
DOE NEPA regulations (10 CFR part 1021).

Signing Authority

    This document of the Department of Energy was signed on December 8, 
2020, by Mark A. Gabriel, Administrator, Western Area Power 
Administration, pursuant to delegated authority from the Secretary of 
Energy. That document with the original signature and date is 
maintained by DOE. For administrative purposes only, and in compliance 
with requirements of the Office of the Federal Register, the 
undersigned DOE Federal Register Liaison Officer has been authorized to 
sign and submit the document in electronic format for publication, as 
an official document of the Department of Energy. This administrative 
process in no way alters the legal effect of this document upon 
publication in the Federal Register.

    Signed in Washington, DC, on December 15, 2020.
Treena V. Garrett,
Federal Register Liaison Officer, U.S. Department of Energy.
[FR Doc. 2020-28016 Filed 12-18-20; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 6450-01-P