Environmental Review Nears Completion
The Project Management Team (PMT) is completing the final phase of the environmental studies. Thank you to all who have stayed involved and have provided valuable comments. The Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) will incorporate and address over 150 letters, faxes and e-mails with comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). Since the draft was released, further studies and research have been conducted to investigate the significance of archeological sites in the project area. In cooperation with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the National Park Service, additional archeological investigations were completed this summer. Over the next several months, these survey results will be coordinated with the State Historic Preservation Officers (SHPOs) prior to finalizing the FEIS. Since the circulation of the DEIS, the Western Area Power Administration has been working collaboratively with the PMT to analyze the effects of a U.S. 93 bypass on the transmission facilities. Several transmission towers would be impacted by the Sugarloaf Mountain alignment.
PMT members continue to address all of the comments on the DEIS and have engaged in discussions and meetings with the National Park Service, the Sierra Club and various Native American tribes and tribal organizations. Several issues have been raised, since the Sugarloaf Mountain Alternative was designated as the preferred alternative.
Following is a list of some of these issues that will be addressed in the FEIS:
Hoover Dam Bypass Receives Biological Opinion
On June 3, 1999, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued the Biological Opinion for the Hoover Dam Bypass Project. This document represents their finding on the potential effects of the proposed bypass (Preferred Alternative — Sugarloaf Mountain Alternative) on federally listed species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973. The Biological Opinion concludes that the project would not likely affect the following species: bald eagle, American peregrine falcon, razorback sucker, southwestern willow flycatcher, bonytail chub, and Devil’s Hole pupfish. For the Mojave desert tortoise, a federally listed-threatened species, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found that the project is not likely to jeopardize its continued existence or adversely impact designated critical habitat; however, they stipulated the following measures to minimize project effects on the desert tortoise:
As required under the National Historic Preservation Act, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is consulting with both SHPOs and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation to address the environmental and cultural values affected by the Sugarloaf Mountain Alternative. The most notable historic property affected by the bypass is Hoover Dam. Hoover Dam attracts millions of visitors every year. The sheer grandeur and engineering importance have made the dam a monument of world-wide significance, thus its classification as a National Historical Landmark. The FHWA recently initiated formal consultations with the Nevada and Arizona SHPOs to document all the sites on or eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places that may be affected by the Sugarloaf Mountain Alternative. The identified sites are:
In Nevada: Hoover Dam, Old Government Railroad Grade, Transmission Towers, Stone Gates/Portal Road, U.S. 93 Switchback, Arizona-Nevada Switchyard.
In Arizona: Hoover Dam, Kingman Switchyard, Transmission Towers, Sugarloaf Mountain Survey Control Station.
Other possible cultural properties that may be affected by the Sugarloaf Mountain Alternative include the Colorado River and Black Canyon. These large “cultural landscapes” were identified during the ethnographic study and through ongoing consultations with the tribes. These features, as well as other landmarks identified in the study, will be addressed during the consultation process. Once the SHPOs determine which sites may be eligible for listing on the National Register and how they are affected by the project, the agencies will develop a Programmatic Agreement (PA). Signatories to the PA will include the Nevada and Arizona SHPOs, the FHWA, Arizona and Nevada Departments of Transportation (DOT), the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, and the Federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. Other interested parties may be involved. The PA will include a description of the project’s effect on historic features and the proposed mitigation measures to minimize the effects. The results of these consultations will be documented in the FEIS.
The PMT anticipates the release of the FEIS and the Record of Decision (ROD) in the summer of 2000. A Hoover Dam Bypass Update will be distributed to notify citizens and agencies of the FEIS release. The FEIS will be officially announced in the National Federal Register. This date reflects the additional time required for completion of comprehensive onsite investigations and thorough consultation with the SHPOs. This has also allowed a comprehensive analysis of public comments.The document will be available at libraries in Las Vegas, Henderson, Boulder City, Laughlin, Bullhead City and Kingman. For your added convenience, this document will be available on-line for your review through our project website.
Once the 30-day public comment period on the FEIS is concluded, a ROD will be issued. The ROD will announce which alternative was selected and will describe the basis for the decision. It will also summarize the proposed mitigation measures, which will be implemented to minimize the impacts of the selected alternative. Final design of the roadway and bridges can begin after the ROD is issued.
Project Funding Update
On May 27, 1999, U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater announced the recipients for the National Corridor Planning and Development Program. The Hoover Dam Bypass Project received a $2 million federal grant for fiscal year 1999. These funds will be used for roadway and bridge design after the ROD is issued. Ken Wykle, Administrator for the FHWA, called the grant a “vital boost to remove the bottleneck at Hoover Dam, while striving to preserve the historic integrity of the area.” Federal grants earmarked for the Hoover Dam Bypass Project now total $47 million. The application for additional federal funding in fiscal year 2000 has already been submitted to the FHWA. Although federal discretionary programs are an important source of funding for the Hoover Dam Bypass project, it is becoming apparent that other funding sources need to be pursued. The “Financial Feasibility Study,” sponsored by the Arizona and Nevada DOT’s, will be completed this fall. The study will evaluate the feasibility of alternative funding sources, including tolls, as well as the possibility of securing a special congressional appropriation.
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