Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Tell the Federal Highway Administration the SRC is more "de Maximus" than de Minimis

If you weren't scanning the obituaries in the paper or electronic facsimile today, you might not know about a new "comment opportunity" on the Salem River Crossing.
Based on an evaluation of Project impacts, the Federal Highway Administration is proposing Section 4(f) de minimis findings for the impacts described in this notice at Wallace Marine Park, Wallace Natural Area, and the Willamette River Water Trail. ODOT, on behalf of FHWA, is seeking comment on these proposed Section 4(f) de minimis findings.

This notice is seeking comments explicitly related to the proposed Section 4(f) de minimis findings described herein, not to issues related to any other aspects of the Salem River Crossing Project. Comments on the Project itself can be provided following the publication of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS). FHWA expects to publish the FEIS for the Salem River Crossing Project near the end of 2017. The Record of Decision will address all comments received within 30 days of the publication of the FEIS. Comments received before July 12, 2017 in response to this notice that are not relevant to the Section 4(f) de minimis findings presented in this notice will not be considered as part of FHWA's Section 4(f) decision-making process.

FHWA will consider all Section 4(f) related comments on the proposed Section 4(f) de minimis findings prior to making a Section 4(f) decision for each of these three resources. Please provide written comments regarding the proposed Section 4(f) de minimis findings for Wallace Marine Park, Wallace Natural Area, and the Willamette River Water Trail no later than July 12, 2017 by contacting Anna Henson, ODOT Region Environmental Project Manager, via US post mail or email at: 100 Antelope Road, White City, Oregon 97503 OR Please contact Anna Henson at 541.774.6376 if you have any questions.
So "de Maximus" is de joke, not a real category of assessment. Here's a discussion at the FWHA site of the real category:
A de minimis impact involves the use of Section 4(f) property that is generally minor in nature. A de minimis impact is one that, after taking into account avoidance, minimization, mitigation and enhancement measures, results in no adverse effect to the activities, features, or attributes qualifying a park, recreation area, or refuge for protection under Section 4(f). For historic properties, a de minimis impact is one that results in a Section 106 determination of "no adverse effect" or "no historic properties affected."
So establishing an "adverse effect" is important in public comment to contest a de minimis finding.

Comments submitted by the Glenn-Gibson Creek Watershed Council back in October get at some of the issues. It might be a good starting point for considering the more narrow de minimis findings. Willamette Riverkeeper's comments are shorter, but also relevant. Our Parks and Recreation Board mainly punted on it.

The 4(f) Findings Memo
On the pro-SRC side, here is the relevant Findings memo, "Salem River Crossing Project Final Section 4(f) Evaluation: Draft Findings for Park/Recreation Resources."

Its claims are the ones to contest directly. As the notice says, "This notice is seeking comments explicitly related to the proposed Section 4(f) de minimis findings described herein, not to issues related to any other aspects of the Salem River Crossing Project."

These are not arguments we have pursued very closely here, so at the moment others will have better thoughts about how best to engage the particular topics and assessments.

Maybe there will be more to say in another post. (If you know of other particularly relevant documents in the record, please drop a comment or link!)

The comment period closes July 12th.

Update, the 29th

Though it's not linked on the City's home page, there is a City page and announcement about this, "Input Requested on Wallace Marine Park River Crossing Impacts."

Advocates with a special interest in parks and waterways have started circulating some points for analysis and comment:
  • The old growth riparian corridor along the Willamette River back channel and slough that provides habitat for multiple species of birds, fish, amphibians reptiles and mammals.
  • The water quality of a tributary stream to the above named backwater channel and slough of the Willamette River.
  • The heron rookery on McLane Island will be placed at risk. (Some on that here.)
  • The Willamette River water trail from the Marion and Center Street bridges past McLane Island. According to the public notice, the SRC will place 4 piers each 8’ x 16’ in the water beside the island. This area of the river is already tricky to navigate in a kayak or canoe.
  • McLane Island is a state park. That fact is not mentioned in this public notice. Although the notice cautions against mentioning any other aspects of the Salem River Crossing, it seems worth mentioning that they have completely left out any mention of impacts to McLane Island State Park even though the SRC will pass directly over the island and there are plans to place piers on the island. 
The incomplete archaeological assessment of McLane Island might also be relevant.

We have no idea what's on McLane Island!
(SRC Archaeological Resources Technical Report
Addendum Summary)
Advocates suggest that the City of Salem Parks and Recreation Advisory Board will return to the question formally. So look out for that meeting. They also suggest copying the comments sent to ODOT to our Parks Advisory Board, c/o Toni Whitler


Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Updated with additional comment from parks and waterways advocates.

Susann Kaltwasser said...

This area and the island are part of the Willamette Greenway. Is there some language in that law that can help?