Examples of FONSIs
FINDING OF NO SIGNIFICANT IMPACT
Right-of-Way for Ma Bell Telephone Company Line to Triple-X Ranch
FONSI: Based on the analysis of potential environmental impacts contained in the attached environmental assessment (EA), and considering the significance criteria in 40 CFR 1508.27, I have determined that the action will not have a significant effect on the human environment. An environmental impact statement is therefore not required.
/s/ J.C. Manager 4/11/09
Authorized Officer Date
Finding of No Significant Impact
Santa Clara Pipeline and City of St. George Wells
The Bureau of Land Management, St. George Field Office, and its partners listed below have conducted an environmental analysis for a proposed action related to implementation of the Shivwits Band of the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah Water Rights Settlement Act (Settlement Act). The Settlement Act was signed into law (Public Law 106-263 114 Stat. 737) on August 18, 2000, thereby ratifying and confirming the water right of the Shivwits Band vis-à-vis several non-Indian settling parties in the Santa Clara River Basin of Washington County, Utah. The terms of the water settlement are set forth in detail in three agreements, one of them being the Santa Clara Project Agreement, executed by the settling parties in January, 2001. Among other things, these agreements provide for the settlement of competing claims to water in the Santa Clara River system. Prior to this settlement, water rights claims for this system were being adjudicated through the state administrative and judicial systems, to eventually be approved by a final decree of the Utah courts.
The Washington County Water Conservancy District (Conservancy District) has applied for a right-of-way under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) across public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) St. George Field Office along the Santa Clara River. The right-of-way would be used to construct and operate the Santa Clara Project pressurized pipeline (Pipeline Project) from Gunlock Reservoir to the boundary of the Shivwits Indian Reservation (Shivwits Reservation). The Conservancy District has also applied for a right-of-way from the Bureau of Indian Affair’s Phoenix Area Office, acting at the request of the Shivwits Band of the Paiute Indian Tribe (Shivwits Band), to construct and operate the Pipeline Project across the Reservation to Ivins Reservoir.
The City of St. George has applied for rights-of-way to develop new water wells and associated delivery pipelines and facilities in the Gunlock well field (Well Project), pursuant to the Settlement Act. Two of the wells would be developed on public lands administered by BLM; a third on lands administered by the State of Utah, Division of Parks and Recreation. Since the proposed Well Project is integrally related to the Pipeline Project, it was analyzed as a connected action in Environmental Assessment (EA), UT-045-98-02, jointly prepared by BLM, BIA, the Shivwits Band, and the Conservancy District to consider the effects to the human environment of the two projects, consistent with the mandates of the federal National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
The Pipeline Project will be constructed and operated by the Conservancy District and funded through the multi-jurisdictional Virgin River Resource Management and Recovery Program (Virgin River Program). Approximately 8.5 miles of pressurized pipeline will be installed within existing, previously disturbed rights-of-way along the Gunlock Highway, between Gunlock Reservoir and Winsor Dam (Winsor (Shem) Diversion), on the Reservation. From that point, the pipeline will be buried in the existing roadway used for maintenance of the Winsor irrigation canal, following an easterly route (away from the River) to Ivins Reservoir.
Three take-out valves will be installed on the pipeline to allow the release of 3 cfs to the Santa Clara River channel: the first would be at the base of Gunlock Reservoir; the second at a location 2.35 miles downstream, and the third on the Reservation, below Winsor Dam.
The Pipeline Project will be operated to provide water to the parties as outlined in the Santa Clara Project Agreement. Irrigation releases formerly made from Gunlock Reservoir into the Santa Clara River channel will now be carried in the pressurized pipeline to Ivins Reservoir. The release of 3 cfs of year-long flows to the stream channel will be made from the take-out valve at the base of Gunlock Reservoir, unless monitoring data indicated the need to use either or all of the downstream release points. The Settlement Act provides for the Shivwits Band to identify a total of four release points along the pipeline to receive the Band’s water right. To date, the Band has only identified a release point below Winsor Dam. An Operation, Maintenance, Repair and Replacement Plan will be developed by the Conservancy District, the Shivwits Band and others for long-term operation of the Pipeline Project. Adaptive management strategies related to the 3 cfs conservation flow releases may be recommended by the Virgin River Program and the Virgin Spinedace Conservation Team.
The Well Project will develop three new culinary wells (two on BLM-administered public lands, one on lands administered by the State of Utah), associated delivery pipe lines, pump houses, and a short power distribution line. Well and pipeline planning maximized the use of previously disturbed rights-of-way. The delivery pipeline will parallel the south side of Gunlock Highway, connecting with an existing line approximately 3.5 miles south of Gunlock Reservoir. The City will decommission its existing hydroelectric power plant, located south of the Reservoir. The new wells would be pumped during 8 months of the year, generally the spring, summer, and fall months, to provide supplemental water to satisfy the City’s legal obligations under the Settlement Act and meet projected water user demands. The EA considered two alternatives: the No Action Alternative and the Proposed Action, which is the alternative recommended by the cooperating parties.
The action is in conformance with multiple management objectives and decisions of the St. George Field Office Record of Decision and Resource Management Plan, approved in March 1999. Specific decisions include those from Riparian Resource Management, RP-01, pp 2-12, etc.
FINDING OF NO SIGNIFICANT IMPACT
Based upon a review of the EA and the supporting documents, I have determined that the project is not a major federal action and will not have a significant effect on the quality of the human environment, individually or cumulatively with other actions in the general area. No environmental effects meet the definition of significance in context or intensity, as defined at 40 CFR 1508.27 and do not exceed those effects as described in the St. George Field Office Proposed RMP/FEIS (1998). Therefore, an environmental impact statement is not required. This finding is based on the context and intensity of the project as described below.
The project is a site-specific action directly involving 15 acres of BLM administered public land that does not in and of itself have international, national, regional, or state-wide importance. The Washington County Water Conservancy District (Conservancy District) has applied for a right-of-way under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) across public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) St. George Field Office along the Santa Clara River. The right-of-way would be used to construct and operate the Santa Clara Project pressurized pipeline (Pipeline Project) from Gunlock Reservoir to the boundary of the Shivwits Indian Reservation (Shivwits Reservation). The Conservancy District has also applied for a right-of-way from the Bureau of Indian Affair’s Phoenix Area Office, acting at the request of the Shivwits Band of the Paiute Indian Tribe (Shivwits Band), to construct and operate the Pipeline Project across the Reservation to Ivins Reservoir.
The following discussion is organized around the 10 Significance Criteria described at 40 CFR 1508.27. The following have been considered in evaluating intensity for this proposal:
1. Impacts that may be both beneficial and adverse:
The beneficial effects of the Pipeline Project include the conservation of water in the Santa Clara River system to 1) settle water rights claims pursuant to the Settlement Act; and 2) release sufficient water from Gunlock Reservoir to provide 3 cfs in the Santa Clara River immediately downstream of Gunlock Reservoir to further conservation strategies for the benefit of Virgin Spinedace. The beneficial effects of the Well Project include providing the City with supplemental water to meet projected user demand and its legal obligations to the Shivwits Band, pursuant to the Settlement Act.
Adverse effects include minor impacts to soils, vegetation, wildlife, and visual resources that will occur temporarily during construction of the Proposed Action. Long term effects would be limited in scope.
2. Degree of effect on public health and safety:
The BLM, BIA, and the Shivwits Band have selected the Proposed Action, comprised of the Pipeline Project and the Well Project, as the environmentally preferred alternative. The Proposed Action achieves the balance of resource protection and beneficial uses of the human environment envisioned by the national environmental policy.
Without the Pipeline Project and Well Project (the No Action Alternative), water would not be conserved to satisfy the Settlement Agreement or provide a minimum of 3 cfs of year-round, in-stream flows to enhance Virgin Spinedace habitat and populations. Seasonal dewatering of the Santa Clara River between Gunlock Reservoir and the Shivwits Reservation would continue to impact riparian and aquatic habitat, precluding the re-establishment of native fish populations in that portion of the river. The No Action Alternative would not satisfy many of the criteria of Section 101 of NEPA.
The Pipeline Project will conserve and deliver a portion of the water right negotiated for the Shivwits Band through the Settlement Act. With an assured water right, the Band can better provide for the health and safety needs like fire protection and community infrastructure expansion, as well as pursue economic development projects that will likely improve the low-income status of Band members. Environmental commitments as part of Pipeline Project will minimize any public safety effects during project construction and operation.
The Well Project will assist the City to remedy potential municipal water shortages that could impact public health and safety. Municipal reserves for fire protection are critically low, due to current long-term drought conditions; supplemental water obtained through the Proposed Action could help remedy this public safety issue for the City. Environmental commitments as part of Well Project will minimize any public safety effects during construction activities.
3. Unique characteristics of the geographic area such as proximity to historic or cultural resources, park lands, prime farmlands, wetlands, wild and scenic rivers, or ecologically critical areas:
There are no prime farmlands or wild and scenic rivers in the project area. As described in the EA, indirect impacts to cultural resources on the Reservation were identified for the preferred alternative. Monitoring and environmental commitments included in the Proposed Action will be implemented during project construction to minimize the potential for adverse impacts to heritage resources. Environmental commitments integral to the preferred alternative will also lessen adverse effects to Gunlock State Park lands, managed by the State of Utah, Division of Parks and Recreation and to the Santa Clara/Gunlock Area of Critical Environmental Concern, designated by BLM.
4. Degree to which the possible effects on the quality of the human environment are likely to be highly controversial:
Public input regarding the Proposed Action has been solicited during an extensive project planning process, initiated more than 8 years ago. Representatives of BLM, BIA, the Shivwits Band, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Utah Division of Water Resources, the Utah State Engineer, the City of St. George, academic institutions, water users along the Santa Clara River, and the Conservancy District met on a regular basis to evaluate options to settle water rights for the Santa Clara River system and assist the recovery of the Virgin Spinedace.
The EA was released for a 30-day public review and comment period, which ended on December 2, 2002, during which five written comments were received, one from a member of the general public, the remainder from state and federal governmental entities. The comments generally recognized that the Proposed Action offered important benefits to natural resources and social benefits to the Shivwits Band and the other water users of the Santa Clara River.
Concerns were raised about the monitoring of project-specific effects on riparian habitats and groundwater levels. Several comments concerned about the effects of livestock grazing and Off-Highway Motorized Vehicle uses along the Santa Clara River, issues that are unrelated to, and therefore, outside the scope of the current project. Based on the number and content of the comments received from the public, the effects on the quality of the human environment are not considered highly controversial.
5. Degree to which the possible effects on the quality of the human environment are highly uncertain or involve unique or unknown risk.
No highly uncertain or unknown risks to the human environment were identified during analysis of the preferred alternative.
6. Degree to which the action may establish a precedent for future actions with significant effects or represents a decision in principle about a future consideration:
The preferred alternative neither establishes a precedent for future BLM actions with significant effects nor represents a decision in principle about a future consideration.
7. Whether the action is related to other actions with individually insignificant but cumulatively significant impacts:
No individually or cumulatively significant impacts were identified for the preferred alternative. Any adverse impacts identified for the preferred alternative, in conjunction with any adverse impacts of other past, present, or reasonably foreseeable future actions will result in negligible to moderate impacts to natural and cultural resources.
8. Degree to which the action may adversely affect district, sites, highways, structures, or objects listed on the National Register of Historic Places or may cause loss or destruction of significant scientific, cultural, or historical resources:
An intensive archeological inventory to identify districts, sites, or other properties eligible for listing to or included on the National Register of Historic Places was completed for this preferred alternative. The investigations satisfied the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards and Guidelines for the identification of historic properties. No historic properties were identified within the area of potential direct effects; three properties on the Reservation were located where indirect effects are possible. On-site monitoring of construction activities by qualified archeologists provided by BLM or BIA and monitoring of construction by tribal representatives from the Shivwits Band will minimize the potential for adverse effects to heritage resources.
The Utah State Historic Preservation Officer has concurred with a determination of “No Effect” to historic properties, when conducted with monitoring commitments, for the preferred alternative (Letter dated Nov. 14, 2002).
9. Degree to which the action may adversely affect an endangered or threatened species or its critical habitat:
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concurred with a determination that the preferred alternative is “not likely to adversely affect” endangered or threatened species and critical habitat (Letter dated Dec. 23, 2002). In order to minimize the potential for adverse effect on the federally listed endangered Southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus), project construction activities will not take place between May 1-September 1 between Gunlock Reservoir and Winsor Diversion. Alternatively, qualified biologists will conduct field surveys for Southwestern willow flycatcher prior to the start of project construction. Based on the findings of the field surveys and an assessment of potential impacts on this species, BLM will then reinitiate consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act.
10. Whether the action threatens a violation of federal, state, or local environmental protection law:
The preferred alternative violates no federal, state, or local environmental protection laws.
/s/ J.C. Manager 4/11/09
Authorized Officer Date