[Federal Register: November 24, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 227)]
[Notices]               
[Page 70956-70957]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr24no08-60]                         

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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Forest Service

 
Proposed Forest Plan Amendment for the Palomar Gasline 
Transmission Project; Mt. Hood National Forest; OR

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

ACTION: Notice of intent to prepare a forest plan amendment.

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SUMMARY: The USDA Forest Service, Mt. Hood National Forest is proposing 
to prepare a forest plan amendment for the proposed Palomar Gasline 
Transmission Project (PGT). The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission 
(FERC) is the lead agency for this proposed natural gas pipeline 
(Docket No. PFO7-13-000). The FERC is preparing an environmental impact 
statement (EIS) that will discuss the environmental impacts that could 
result from the construction and operation of a new underground natural 
gas pipeline proposed by the Palomar Gas Transmission, LLC. An initial 
Notice of Intent (NOT) to prepare an ETS for this Project was issued by 
the FERC on October 29, 2007.
    The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, is a 
Cooperating Agency with the FERC in the preparation of the ETS for this 
project. The initial Notice of Intent issued by the FERC identified the 
possible need to amend the Mt. Hood National Forest Land and Resource 
Management Plan (Mt. Hood Forest Plan) if the Palomar Project is 
approved and constructed. Through the pre-filing process the Forest 
Service has determined amendments to the Mt. Hood Forest Plan are 
needed for this project and will include the analysis in the FERC EIS.

DATES: Comments concerning the scope of the analysis for the forest 
plan amendment must be received by January 5, 2009. The draft 
environmental impact statement is expected April 2009 and the final 
environmental impact statement is expected October 2009.

ADDRESSES: Submit written comments to: Mike Redmond, Mt. Hood National 
Forest, 16400 Champion Way, Sandy, OR 97055. Electronic comments can be 
submitted to: comments-pacificnorthwestmthood@fs.fed.us.
    Comments received in response to this solicitation, including names 
and addresses of those who comment, will be part of the public record 
for this proposed action. Comments submitted anonymously will be 
accepted and considered; however, anonymous comments will not provide 
the respondent with standing to appeal the subsequent decision.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mike Redmond, Environmental 
Coordinator, Mt. Hood National Forest, 16400 Champion Way, Sandy, OR 
97055 or by e-mailing mredmond@fs.fed.us or by calling (503) 668-1776.
    Individuals who use telecommunication devices for the deaf (TDD) 
may call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 1-800-877-8339 
between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., Eastern Time, Monday through Friday.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Purpose and Need for Action

    The staff of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is 
preparing an environmental impact statement (EIS) that will discuss the 
environmental impacts of the Palomar Gas Transmission Project (PGT) 
that could result from the construction and operation of a new 
underground natural gas pipeline. An initial Notice of Intent (NOl) for 
this Project was issued by the FERC on October 29, 2007.
    The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, is a 
Cooperating Agency with the FERC in the preparation of the EIS for this 
project. The initial Notice of Intent issued by the FERC identified the 
possible need to amend the Mt. Hood National Forest Land and Resource 
Management Plan (Mt. Hood Forest Plan) if the Palomar Project is 
approved and constructed. Through the pre-filing process the Forest 
Service has determined amendments to the Mt. Hood Forest Plan are 
needed for this project. Section 372 of the 2005 Energy Policy Act 
directed the Secretary of Energy in consultation with the Secretaries 
of Agriculture, Interior and Defense to coordinate all applicable 
Federal authorizations and environmental reviews relating to a proposed 
or existing utility facility, including an agreement to prepare a 
single environmental review document to be used as the basis for all 
Federal authorization decisions. Therefore the Forest Service will be 
including an analysis of a Forest Plan amendment in the FERC EIS for 
this project.
    The FERC is the lead federal agency in the preparation of the EIS, 
and is preparing the EIS to satisfy the requirements of the National 
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). NEPA requires the FERC to take into 
account the environmental impacts that could result from an action when 
it considers whether or not a natural gas pipeline should be approved. 
FERC will use the ElS to consider the environmental impacts that could 
result if it issues project authorizations to PGT under Sections 3 and 
7 of the Natural Gas Act. The Commission will use the EIS in its 
decision-making processes to determine whether or not to authorize the 
Project. The Forest Service will use the EIS to evaluate the proposed 
amendments to the Mt. Hood Forest Plan and for any forest plan 
amendment decisions made subsequently if FERC authorizes this project.

Proposed Action

Proposed Amendment to the Mt. Hood Forest Plan

    The Forest Service has identified that there are aspects of the 
proposed pipeline that would not be consistent with the Mt. Hood Forest 
Plan as amended by the Northwest Forest Plan. Specifically, the 
proposed project would not be consistent with Standards and Guidelines 
for; Late-Successional Reserves (LSRs) crossed by the proposed 
pipeline; for the Clackamas Wild and Scenic River (which prohibit 
construction of utility lines within any river segment); for Key Site 
Riparian Areas (where rights-of-way and easements are prohibited); for 
restricting the use of ground equipment for vegetation clearing on 
earth flow areas; for cumulative impacts for soil disturbance; and with 
Standards and Guidelines limiting disturbance in riparian areas. In 
addition, the Project may not be consistent with visual quality 
objectives (VQOs) for the following:
     Eligible Wild, Scenic, and Recreational River Corridors 
Sensitivity Level I trails with a VQO of Retention, Partial Retention, 
and Modification in the near foreground, far foreground, and 
middleground, respectively
     Sensitivity Level II trails with a VQO of Partial 
Retention, Modification, and Modification in the near foreground, far 
foreground, and middleground, respectively.
     Portions of the Forest with Retention and Partial 
Retention VQOs.
     Designated Viewsheds (listed on Table Four-23 of the 
Forest Plan).
    The proposed amendment of the Mt. Hood Forest Plan would include 
land use designation adjustments to add acres to the LSRs in order to 
offset LSR

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acres that would be impacted by the project. The amendment would also 
include modifications to the text of the Standard and Guidelines 
mentioned above to account for the construction of the pipeline.

Summary of the Proposed Pipeline Being Reviewed by the FERC

    PGT has proposed constructing and operating a new natural gas 
pipeline and associated structures with a bi-directional flow capacity 
of 1.4 billion cubic feet per day. The project would be located in 
northwest Oregon and consist of a 211-mile-long, 36-inch diameter 
pipeline running from near Shaniko, Wasco County, Oregon to the 
Bradwood sendout pipeline in Clatsop County, Oregon. Approximately 47 
miles of the pipeline would be located on the Mt. Hood National Forest 
(Forest). The pipeline would enter the Forest near MP 42 and follow a 
westward route across the Forest just north of the Warm Springs Indian 
Reservation for approximately 13.2 miles. Between MP 48 and MP 49.9 the 
route would be adjacent to State Highway 216. The proposed route would 
continue in a southwest direction for approximately 3 miles and then 
continue west across the Forest until approximately MP 89.2. The 
proposed route would cross Late Successional Reserves (LSR) between MP 
77 and MP 78 and between MP 88 and MP 89, directly affecting 
approximately 27 acres of LSR. It would also cross through two un-
mapped LSRs, directly affecting approximately 5 acres. The proposed 
route would directly affect approximately 709 acres of National Forest 
System land, approximately 106 acres of which would be old-growth 
forest. The proposed route would also cross the Clackamas River, a 
federally designated Wild and Scenic River.
    Additional information on PGT's proposed facilities is contained in 
the initial Notice of Intent. Also information about the Project is 
available from the FERC Office of External Affairs at 1-866-208 FERC 
(3372) or on the FERC Internet Web site (http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/leaving.cgi?from=leavingFR.html&log=linklog&to=http://www.ferc.gov) using the 
``eLibrary'' link. Click on the eLibrary link, click on ``General 
Search,'' and enter the docket number (PFO7-13-000) excluding the last 
three digits in the Docket. Be sure you have selected an appropriate 
date range. For assistance, please contact FERC Online Support at 
FercOnlineSupport@ferc.gov or toll free at 1-866-208-3676, or for TTY, 
contact (202) 502-8659. The eLibrary link on the FERC Internet Web site 
also provides access to the texts of formal documents issued by the 
Commission, such as Orders, notices, and rule makings.
    Finally, PGT has established a Web site for this project at http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/leaving.cgi?from=leavingFR.html&log=linklog&to=http://www.palomargas.com/project.html. The Web site includes a project 
overview, timeline, safety and environmental information, and answers 
to frequently asked questions. You can also request additional 
information by e-mailing PGT directly at info@palomargas.com or writing 
to: Palomar Gas Transmission, 1400 SW Fifth Avenue, Suite 900, 
Portland, Oregon 97225.

Responsible Official

    The Responsible Official for the proposed forest plan amendment is 
the Forest Supervisor of the Mt. Hood National Forest.

Nature of Decision To Be Made

    The nature of the decision to be made is how the forest plan should 
be amended if the FERC approves the PGT project.

Scoping Process

    With this NOI, the Forest Service is requesting public comments on 
the scope of the analysis concerning proposed amendments to the Mt. 
Hood Forest Plan that should be addressed in the ETS. Comments must be 
received by January 5, 2009. All comments received will be considered 
by the Forest Service in the preparation of a forest plan amendment.
    It is important that reviewers provide their comments at such times 
and in such manner that they are useful to the agency's preparation of 
the environmental impact statement. Therefore, comments should be 
provided prior to the close of the comment period and should clearly 
articulate the reviewer's concerns and contentions. Your comments 
should focus on the potential changes in the goods and services that 
the Mt. Hood National Forest produces, reasonable alternatives, and 
measures to avoid or lessen any adverse changes in the goods and 
services produced by the Forest. The more specific your comments, the 
more useful they will be. The submission of timely and specific 
comments can affect a reviewer's ability to participate in subsequent 
administrative appeal or judicial review.

    Dated November 14, 2008.
Gary L. Larsen,
Forest Supervisor, Mt. Hood National Forest.
 [FR Doc. E8-27704 Filed 11-21-08; 8:45 am]

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