Environmental Assessment Omits Water Infrastructure, Violates NEPA

Arizona Grazing Lands

On October 9, Administrative Law Judge Harvey C. Sweitzer found the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to be in violation of NEPA.  The Byner Cattle Corporation was proposing grazing permits in the state of Arizona, and the BLM drew up an environment assessment  (EA) that the judge found to be seriously lacking a “reasonably thorough discussion of the significant aspects of the probable environmental consequences.”

In September of 2008, the BLM issued a proposed action that vaguely mentions that it would include the construction of “certain springs”, but fails to even mention their existence in the EA.  Obviously, this means an analysis of the potential environmental effects of these new waterways is lacking.  The Western Watersheds Project (WWP) appealed to the Department of the Interior because they claimed that these new water facilities could “dewater” the Big Sandy River, and the EA did not analyze these effects.

The proposed action for the grazing permits calls for 5 new wells, 11 new troughs, and 12 miles of pipeline.  But the EA did not include the locations for any of these new waterways, or whether they would be connected to the Big Sandy River, which could cause serious environmental degradation.

The judge upheld the claims, saying that these water facilities need to be reported and analyzed also to allow for “informed decision-making” and sufficient public discussion. If this is left out of the EA, reviewers of the document “would not be aware of the springs developments, their environmental effects, or the significance of those effects.”

NEPA Lesson Learned: All potential infrastructure associated with the proposed action alternative should be analyzed in the environmental assessment.

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