U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIORBUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
[Federal Register: October 22, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 205)]
SUMMARY: In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA, 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA, 43 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), together with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), has prepared a Final Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (FEIR/EIS) and Proposed Land Use Plan Amendment for the Sunrise Powerlink Project proposed by San Diego Gas & Electric Company (SDG&E).
Electronic (on CD-ROM) or paper copies of the FEIR/EIS may be obtained by contacting the BLM, 1661 South 4th Street, El Centro, CA, (760) 337-4421; or the CPUC's consultants: Aspen Environmental Group, 235 Montgomery Street
The proposed transmission lines would utilize structures ranging in height from 120 to 170 feet, spaced approximately 700 to 1,600 feet apart, and would occupy rights-of-way of approximately 60 to 300 feet in width (subject to local conditions and restrictions). Two public scoping periods followed the CPUC's publication of the Notice of Preparation of an EIR/EIS on September 15, 2006, and the BLM's publication of the Notice of Intent in the Federal Register on August 31, 2006. Consultation with agencies and tribal governments also continued after the formal scoping ended. In addition, notices regarding alternatives to be evaluated in the EIR/EIS were mailed to interested parties in March and May of 2007.
In January 2008, a Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (DEIR/EIS) was issued jointly by the CPUC and BLM. The DEIR/EIS provided information about the environmental setting and impacts of the Proposed Project and 27 alternatives, as well as connected actions and future foreseeable projects. The Environmental Protection Agency published a Notice of Availability for the DEIR/EIS/Plan Amendment on January 11, 2008, initiating a 90-day comment period. Copies of the document were sent to affected Tribes as well as Federal, State and local government agencies. The document was posted on the CPUC Web site and a link was provided on the BLM Web site. News releases were published in local newspapers announcing the availability of the document, and approximately 14,000 notices were mailed to known interested parties. In late January 2008, nine informational workshops were held throughout San Diego and Imperial counties. In February and May 2008, CPUC conducted seven public participation hearings to receive comments on the DEIR/EIS and any other issues of concern related to the SDG&E application.
In July 2008, a Recirculated DEIR/Supplemental DEIS was issued by the CPUC and BLM that included three components: (1) New and revised analysis of the La Rumorosa Wind Project in Mexico and associated transmission/substation upgrades in the U.S.; (2) description and analysis of several transmission line route revisions; (3) revision of components of the Environmentally Superior Alternatives for northern and southern transmission line routes. A 45-day public comment period on the Recirculated/Supplemental Draft ended on August 25, 2008.
The proposed project, as well as other transmission alternatives, would require an amendment to one of the following BLM land use plans: the California Desert Conservation Area Plan (as amended) and the Eastern San Diego County Planning Unit Management Framework Plan because the route alignments would deviate from BLM designated utility corridors in several areas.
Based on a careful review of the resource data in the FEIR/EIS, full consideration of all public comments received, and a determination of which alternative best meets the agency project objectives, the BLM's Agency Preferred Alternative is the Final Environmentally Superior Southern Route (SWPL) Alternative. This alternative is described in the FEIR/EIS at Section ES.2.4 and depicted on Figure ES-4, including the BCD/BCD South Option Reroute, except and unless easements can be secured by SDG&E for the Interstate 8 Alternative between McCain Valley Road and the eastern end of the Modified Route D alternative in place of the BCD/BCD South Option Reroute. In either configuration (the Interstate 8/Modified Route D or the Interstate 8/BCD/BCD South), the BLM's Agency Preferred alternative would achieve all three CPUC and BLM project objectives and most SDG&E project objectives.
The Interstate 8 Alternative west of McCain Valley Road is shorter in length, located in a less remote area, and would result in fewer significant, unmitigable impacts to biological resources, recreation, and visual resources than would the BCD/BCD South Option Reroute. Because SDG&E may not be able to secure easements for the Interstate 8 Alternative between McCain Valley Road and the eastern end of the Modified Route D Alternative, BLM proposes to amend the existing land use plan for Eastern San Diego County to provide a one-time exception to the plan requirement that new gas, electric, and water transmission facilities and cables for interstate communication be allowed only within designated corridors. The proposed plan amendment would apply to the public lands along the BCD/BCD South Option Reroute portion of the Final Environmentally Superior Southern Route (SWPL) Alternative. As described in DEIR/EIS Section A.6.2, the BLM's decision regarding the approval of any route and plan amendment would be made in a Record of Decision to be issued in late 2008 or early 2009.
As noted above, instructions for filing a protest with the Director of the BLM regarding the proposed land use plan amendment may be found at 43 CFR 1610.5. Protests are specific to the proposed land use plan amendment. E-mail and faxed protests will not be accepted as valid protests unless the protesting party also provides the original letter by either regular mail or overnight delivery service postmarked by the close of the protest period. Under these conditions, the BLM will consider the e-mail or faxed protest as an advance copy and it will receive full consideration. If you wish to provide the BLM with such advance notification, please direct faxed protests to the attention of the BLM protest coordinator at 202-208-5010, and e-mails to Brenda_Hudgens-Williams@blm.gov. All protests, including the follow-up letter (if e-mailing or faxing) must be in writing and mailed to the following address: Regular Mail: Director (210), Attention: Brenda Williams, P.O. Box 66538, Washington, DC 20035. Overnight Delivery Service: Director(210), Attention: Brenda Williams, 1620 L Street, NW., Suite 1075, Washington, DC 20036.
Before including your phone number, e-mail address, or other personal identifying information in your protest, you should be aware that your entire protest--including your personal identifying information--may be made publicly available at any time. While you can ask us in your protest to withhold your personal identifying information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.
A copy of the FEIR/EIS has been sent to affected Tribes as well as Federal, State and local government agencies and interested parties.
[FR Doc. E8-25154 Filed 10-21-08; 8:45 am]