Preservation Activities

Save the Trail

aerial view of Wyoming landscape with natural gas wells

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pinedale Anticline

OCTA welcomes volunteers, professionals, educators, students and anyone interested in preserving historic emigrant trails to join our preservation activities.

On this Page:

OCTA Preservation Committee

Under a preservation policy adopted by the OCTA Board in 2013, the focus on preservation will be at the chapter level. Each chapter preservation officer(s) will be on the national committee and the chair of the committee is the National Preservation Officer.

The OCTA Preservation Committee (Fall 2020) membership:

OCTA National Preservation Officer – John Winner

Chapters:

  • California-Nevada – John Winner
  • Colorado-Cherokee Trail – Bruce Watson
  • Utah Crossroads – Vacant
  • Gateway – Vacant
  • Idaho – Don Wind (east); Virgel Clark and Dave Price (west)
  • Kanza – Arleta Martin
  • Nebraska – Linda Tacey
  • Northwest – Gail Carbiener
  • Southern Trails – Vacant
  • Wyoming – Randy Brown, Fern Linton and Julia Stuble
  • Trails Head – Pat Traffas

 

Preservation Issues – Fall 2020

OCTA’s Mission is to protect the historic emigrant trails legacy by promoting research, education, preservation activities and public awareness of the trails and to work with others to promote these causes.

Baltazor Geothermal Development: I included this project in this report to give you a sense of the process that OCTA follows when informed of a proposed project that may become a preservation issue.

In July, 2020, we received notification from The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Winnemucca, Nevada District Office of a proposed geothermal development including 11 geothermal wells, 1.7 miles of new access roads, 1.8 miles of geothermal fluid pipelines, electrical substation, aggregate pit, and ancillary facilities near the Baltazor Hot Springs in Northwest Humboldt County, Nevada approximately 7 miles southwest of Denio, Nevada on the Oregon-Nevada border. The entire project will be on Federal Land.

When a proposal such as this is received the BLM will begin preparing an Environmental Assessment pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act to assess the potential environmental effects. Typically, OCTA will be notified of such projects which begins the process of determining whether there are direct or indirect effects to the emigrant trail system. Maps are reviewed for location, trail locations are identified, site visits normally follow, and additional research material may be reviewed. The agency will then be notified of OCTA’s findings. If there are impacts to the trails, OCTA will request consulting party status and the game is on. If there appears to be no impacts to the trails, we notify the initiating party, BLM, and move on to the next one. In this instance this project proposed no threats.

Gateway South: As part of PacifiCorp’s energy gateway transmission expansion, the company is planning to build a 500 kV high voltage transmission line known as Gateway South extending approximately 400 miles from Medicine Bow, Wyoming in southeastern Wyoming into Clover substation near Mona, Utah.

BLM recently reported concurrence from the Wyoming State Historic Preservation Officer on their submittal of direct and indirect effects and the same for the land within the Ute Reservation in Utah. Additional inventory is being done this summer in Utah for a reroute and other lands that have granted access. At this time, Historic Properties Treatment Plans are being developed for the historic properties that will be adversely affected either by construction or from visual effects in Utah and Wyoming.

Fivemile Pass: The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Salt Lake Field Office is considering the designation of 17,927 acres of public lands in Fivemile Pass and the surrounding area located along Hwy 73 in Utah and Tooele Counties as a special area with a fee based daily use permit system. This is a popular off-highway vehicle and dispersed camping area that receives an estimated 65,000 visitors annually.

A portion of the area includes several Sections in Township 7 South, Range 3 West where the Central Overland Trail is located.

Jess Petersen, OCTA member of the Utah Crossroads Chapter has mapped and walked this area several times. Due to the heavy motorized vehicle usage and dispersed camping, very few identifiable trail traces remain.

Boardman to Hemingway (B2H): The saga of (B2H) continues….. The Project, a 300-mile, 500 kV transmission line in Eastern Oregon crossing the Oregon National Historic Trail seven times.

Lawsuit still pending. On November 12th., 2019, concerned citizens including the “Stop B2H Coalition” which OCTA is a member filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court opposing the construction of the transmission line. The suit charged the Bureau of Land Management and the United States Forest Service with failure to adequately review the impact of the route Idaho Power has proposed for the B2H transmission line across five Eastern Oregon counties.

In the meantime, a public notice was issued by the Oregon Department of Energy advising individuals or organizations that commented on the Draft Proposed Order (DPO) their right to participate in the contested case proceedings. As of this writing the filing deadline was set for August 28, 2020 for a petition for contested case at the Energy Facilities Siting Council (EFSC). A strict set of compliance rules were included in the petition to file. The EFSC hearing is scheduled for October 30, 2020.

Gail Carbiener, OCTA’s Northwest Chapter Preservation Officer and OCTA’s principal stop B2H guru has filed a 7-page petition for party status in the contested case proceedings. Notwithstanding the above, Gail also reports that, The Oregon Public Utility Commission continues to provide Idaho Power time to delay filing their Integrated Resource Plan (IRP). The key element has always been B2H and the three participants – Bonneville Power and PacifiCorp plus Idaho Power. Bonneville Power is now backing out and Idaho Power is taking over their 23%. This is making B2H much more difficult to include in the IRP as the “Least Cost, Lowest Risk” resource for the next 2-5 years. PUC now requires the IRP by October 2, 2020. In addition, the three partners have extended within their Permit Funding Agreement, the construction agreement negotiation window to October 13th. with another opportunity moved out to January 11, 2021. The B2H saga continues…….

The R-Project: The R Project, is a 225 mile transmission line proposed by Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) that crosses the Oregon-California and Mormon National Historic Trail. When the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued an Incidental Take Permit (ITP) authorizing this project to move forward, a Petition for Review of Agency Action was filed in the United States District Court by the law firm of Eubanks and Associates. The Oregon-California Trails Association (OCTA) was one of the plaintiffs. The case argues that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s choice to issue the ITP violates portions of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA).

On Wednesday June 17th, 2020, US District Court Judge William J Martinez vacated the ITP issued to NPPD and remanded the matter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for further review.

Although a substantial portion of the lawsuit centered on the ESA and the NEPA, namely the American Burying Beetle and the Whooping Crane, the Judge specifically cited the National Historic Preservation Act and its impact on National Historic Trails. In the decision the Judge cited three reasons, the first that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service inadequately considered the effects of the R-Project on the O”Fallon’s Bluff segment of the Oregon and California Trail. The Judge also indicated the agency failed to analyze “potential wind-turbine development” and found fault with the language of an April 2019 “programmatic agreement” covering that matter and other issues.

Preparing for the next phase of the remand to the Fish and Wildlife Service, OCTA is preparing a detailed analysis of the adverse impacts, including visual, auditory, and atmospheric that will inevitably result to ruts, swales, and other historic resources along the Oregon-California and Mormon National Historic Trails should the R-Project be constructed along in NPPD’s preferred route.

Status as of August 25, 2020:

1. Appeal deadline has passed, and neither DOJ nor NPPD filed a notice of appeal of the Judge’s decision. Good News.

2. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is presumably preparing its new analyses required by the Court. Plaintiff Attorney seeking information on the timing of the FWS remand process.

3.Plaintiff Attorney preparing case for FWS public comment period on the new analyses.

Long Canyon Mine Project: An open pit mine project in Northeast Nevada mostly on public land administered by BLM. The project impacts the Hastings Cutoff of the California National Historic Trail. Mitigation discussions began in 2013 with Newmont Mining Corporation, BLM and the consulting parties, including: OCTA, The NPS and The California Trail Heritage Alliance (CTHA). Part of what was thought to be agreed upon mitigation included, mapping of the Hastings Cutoff, protection Of the Settlers Cabin at Big Springs and the establishment of the Gravelly Ford Conservation Area to include protection of the California National Historic Trail leading to and including the Gravelly Ford Site. The protection would be through a conservation easement or similar legal instrument. What changed!! In July 2019 Newmont Mining Corporation, 38.5% and Barrick Gold Corporation, 61.5% entered into a Joint Venture forming a new company, Nevada Gold Mine (NGM). On October 28th, 2019 in a meeting with BLM we were informed that BLM no longer intends to seek any mitigation for indirect effects resulting from the Long Canyon Project. BLM said they would have to wait and see if NGM would voluntarily agree to the proposed mitigation along with other issues including BLM now reviewing their Instruction Memorandum policy on Compensatory Mitigation.

OCTA along with the CTHA have been in direct discussions with NGM. At this point NGM seems favorable to most of the previously discussed mitigation. Again, these are only a few of the issues that are being monitored as a result of potential threats to our emigrant trails. While it may be impossible to preserve and protect all known trail segments, we need to be proactive. Your keen awareness of activities in your region is greatly appreciated. More to come…

by John Winner

 

R-Project UPDATE! June 17, 2020

Judge vacates permit for R-Project:

The R-Project, is a 225 mile transmission line proposed by Nebraska Public Power District  (NPPD) that crosses the Oregon-California and Mormon National Historic trail . When the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued an Incidental Take Permit (ITP) authorizing this project to move forward, a Petition for Review of Agency Action was filed in the United States District Court by the law firm of Eubanks and Associates. OCTA is one of the plaintiffs.

On August 14th, 2019 the court approved the stipulated litigation schedule proposed by the parties that bypassed the need for preliminary injunction relief and to instead move directly to the merits of the case. Merit briefings were scheduled and timely filed by all parties.

On Wednesday June 17th, 2020, US District Court Judge William J Martinez vacated the ITP issued to NPPD and remanded the matter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for further review.

The Judge cited three reasons, the first that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service inadequately considered the effects of the R-Project on the O”Fallon’s Bluff segment of the Oregon and California Trail. The Judge also indicated the agency failed to analyze “potential wind-turbine development” and found fault with the language of an April 2019 “programmatic agreement” covering that matter and other issues.

During a series of scoping meetings, several parties including OCTA encouraged an alternate route that would not compromise or destroy the historic emigrant trails, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s final Environmental Impact Statement said it was too late for major route changes, although agreed that the R-Project would have “a long-term high-intensity indirect visual auditory and atmospheric effect” on O’Fallon’s Bluff.

by John Winner

 

Preservation Issues – Summer 2020

OCTA’s Mission is to protect the historic emigrant trail’s legacy by promoting research, education, preservation activities and public awareness of the trails and to work with others to promote these causes.

The R-Project: In Nebraska, a 225 mile transmission line proposed by Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) that crosses the Oregon California and Mormon National Historic Trails.

Still waiting for the Federal Judge (Martinez) to issue his opinion on the stipulated case merits. One of the stipulations was that NPPD would not commence any construction activities before April 30, 2020. As that date neared the attorney for the plaintiffs requested NPPD to extend the date since the judge had not issued his decision. NPPD refused. The parties did agree to file a joint motion for a status conference. The judge did not take this lightly, refusing a status conference and admonishing the parties for a frivolous motion. The judge did, however, agree to have a decision on the merits by June 12, 2020.

Oregon/Washington: Following comments are from Gail Carbiener, Northwest Chapter Preservation Officer:

“The virus has slowed down some of the activities in Oregon. Meetings are being held via webinar, which is awkward for most and does not convey emotion. Meetings that were to have been held near the site of project have been canceled. All this tends to diminish the public portion of comments.”

The Boardman to Hemingway: No new developments since last newsletter. The (B2H) project, a 300-mile kV transmission line in Eastern Oregon crossing the Oregon National Historic trail seven times causing both direct and indirect effects to the Oregon National Historic Trail is now in litigation. The lawsuit with BLM/FS that is requesting a Supplemental EIS has December 2020 for a hearing and probably February or March 2021 for a decision. Expect “Project Order” in May or June from Energy Facilities Siting Council (EFSC).

OPUC: Oregon Public Utilities Commission, PacifiCorp Integrated Resource Plan does not ask for construction acknowledgement, only continued funding for permitting. No word from Bonneville Power. Idaho Power’s IRP has just begun to be heard, with lots of questions. Public comments are due and the next meeting will be June 15.

EFSC: At least four Wind/Solar projects have construction start deadlines being affected by Covid-19. Accordingly, the staff has proposed to the council several possible rules change to extend the deadline. One would provide a permanent new rule to apply for any special event, maybe even without public input. EFSC and staff is a developer friendly group!

Long Canyon Mine Project: An open pit mine project in Northeast Nevada. Please refer to the Spring issue of News from the Plains, for the evolution of this project from 2013 with Newmont Mining Corporation, BLM and the consulting parties, including OCTA and the California Trail Heritage Alliance (CTHA) as it relates to what was thought to be agreed upon mitigation in response to indirect effects.

What changed!

In 2019 Newmont Mining Corporation, 38.5% and Barrick Gold Corporation, 61.5% entered into a Joint Venture forming a new company Nevada Gold Mine (NGM). We requested a meeting with BLM to determine the impact on our mitigation efforts. On October 28th, 2019 in a meeting with BLM we were informed that BLM no longer intends to seek any mitigation for indirect effects resulting from the LongCanyon Project. BLM said they would have to wait and see if NGM would voluntarily agree to the proposed mitigation along with other issues including BLM now reviewing their Instruction Memorandum policy on Compensatory Mitigation.

Along with CTHA we requested a meeting directly with NGM to discuss two of our primary mitigation items that we had agreement with Newmont Mine Corporation, (1) a Conservation Easement on the California Trail leading to Gravelly Ford and the Gravelly Ford site at the Humboldt River. (2) MET mapping the Hastings Cutoff on mine property. On May 18, 2020 we met with NGM representatives, via Zoom. Our discussion was mostly on MET mapping The Hastings Cutoff on NGM owned property. With some restriction’s permission was granted.

Idaho, City of Rocks: Sometime between the evening of Friday April 24, 2020 and Saturday April 25, 2020 vandals defaced Camp Rock the emigrant’s signatures and prehistoric pictographs in the City of Rocks National Reserve. A $5000 Go Fund Me goal was set to obtain the funds necessary to purchase cleaning chemicals and supplies and labor. The Idaho Chapter was a major contributor to the fund. City of Rocks archeologists are coordinating the restoration effort with the assistance of the National Park Service. Money from donations above the $5000 and not used for the current restoration project will be used at the City of Rocks for other emigrant’s signature preservation efforts and increased security.

Nevada: Lyon County Wastewater Treatment Facility Expansion: Lyon County, Nevada is proposing to expand their wastewater pipeline to provide additional capacity due to the increase in population in the Dayton Valley region east of Carson City. Historic Maps depict the presence of historic roads within the project area. In particular, the pipeline would be adjacent to the old Fort Churchill Road a County maintained dirt/gravel road which closely follows an alternate route of the Carson River Route of the California National Historic trail. Since there is little surface evidence of existing trail, a request has been made to Lyon County, upon completion of the project to return the surface area to its natural condition. A Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) was signed late May 2020.

Epilogue: As previously stated, it seems as though the coronavirus pandemic has slowed a lot of activities that may cause threats to our trails. That said, we still need to be proactive. Your keen awareness in your region is greatly appreciated. More to come…

by John Winner

 

Preservation Issues – Spring 2020

OCTA’s Mission is to protect the Historic Emigrant Trail’s Legacy by promoting research, education, preservation activities and public awareness of the trails and to work with others to support these causes. As we continue to monitor the numerous activities that pose threats to the historic emigrant trails, the two major transmission line projects are still center stage. The B2H Project and the R-Project.

The Boardman to Hemingway (B2H) project, a 300 mile 500 kV transmission line in Eastern Oregon crossing the Oregon National Historic Trail seven times and causing both direct and indirect effects to the Oregon National Historic Trail is now in litigation.

On November 12th. 2019, concerned citizens including the “Stop B2H Coalition”, of which OCTA is a member, filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Oregon, Pendleton Division opposing the construction of the transmission line. The suit charged the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service with failure to adequately review the impact of the route Idaho Power has proposed for the B2H transmission line across five Eastern Oregon counties.

The suit addresses the federal agencies failure to adequately evaluate the need for and environmental effects of the line which would cause irreparable harm to the Oregon National Historic Trail, its historic ruts and viewshed. Additionally, the suit claims the agencies failed to adequately evaluate the environmental effect, which would cause harm to family farms, residential areas, and wildlife habitat.

The Complaint requests that the court declare and adjudge the BLM’s November 17th, 2017 Record of Decision, Resource Management Plan Amendments and accompanying Final Environmental Impact Statements are unlawful. Also, request that the court declare and adjudge that the Forest Service’s November 9, 2018 Record of Decision and Forest Plan Amendment and accompanying Final Environmental Impact Statement are unlawful. The Plaintiffs are also requesting the preparation of a Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement to address deficiencies in the Final Environmental Impact Statement and to disclose and evaluate significant new information that was omitted.

Gail Carbiener, longtime OCTA Northwest chapter member continues his tireless effort to monitor and participate in all phases of this project in an effort to stop, alter, delay, or if approved press for significant mitigation.

The R-Project, A 225-mile transmission line proposed by Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) that crosses the Oregon-California and Mormon National Historic Trails.

When the US Fish and Wildlife service issued an Incidental Take Permit (ITP) authorizing this project to move forward, a “Petition for Review of Agency Action” was filed in the United States District Court by the law firm of Eubanks & Associates. OCTA is one of the Plaintiffs.

On August 14th, 2019 the court approved the stipulated litigation schedule proposed by the parties that allows us to bypass the need for preliminary injunctive relief and to instead moved directly to the merits of the case. Merits briefings were scheduled and
filed on time.

• November 8, 2019 – Petitioners filed their opening merit brief.
• December 13, 2019 – Federal Respondents filed their answering brief.
• December 20, 2019 – NPPD filed its answering brief.
• January 24, 2020 – Petitioners filed their reply brief.

Subsequent to filing the briefs, the government respondents filed a request for oral arguments. The case was assigned to Federal Judge Martinez said to be a good judge on the court for environmental matters.

The Court granted the Federal Respondents leave to file a surreply of no more than three pages and the Petitioners an opportunity to file a surrebuttal of no more than two pages.

We are now waiting for Judge Martinez to render a decision.

In the meantime, our attorney recently notified usthat the Tenth Circuit (where our court sits) issued a strong National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) ruling on alternatives that bears directly on the claims of our case. As a result, our attorney filed a notice of supplemental authority to notify Judge Martinez of this new ruling.

Again, it’s a waiting game for a decision.

Long Canyon Mine Project: An open pit mine project in Northeast Nevada.

In the last issue of NFP I shared with you a turn of events regarding the mitigation for this project. Our ongoing discussions had been with Newmont Mining Company and BLM where we thought there was a mitigation agreement; however when Newmont
(38.5%) and Barrick (61.5%, Nevada’s two largest gold mining companies formed a Joint Venture, Nevada Gold Mine, (NGM), BLM said they would have to wait and see if NGM would voluntarily agree to the proposed mitigation along with other issues including BLM nowreviewing their Instruction Memorandum Policy on Compensatory Mitigation.

Here again is a brief history, this project came to my attention in 2013 as an open pit mine in Northeast Nevada proposed by Newmont Mining Company impacting The California National Historic Trail, Hastings Cutoff. The Area of Potential Effect (APE) included Big Springs a frequent emigrant stopping place on the Hastings Cutoff.

The project is mostly on public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Over the years we have been engaged in a series of mitigation discussions. Early on BLM determined there would be no Direct Effects since they were unable to see any visible trail remnants. Although the Hasting Cutoff trail corridor is presumed, the trail has not been mapped to OCTA’s MET standards. OCTA was denied the opportunity to try to validate the actual trail location within the APE with the use of ground truthing. BLM concluded that only Indirect Effects (visual) would be subject to mitigation. Several meetings were held to discuss possible mitigation. In 2016, I submitted on behalf of OCTA several mitigation items for consideration, including, mapping to MET standards the Hastings Cutoff emigrant trail, create Conservation Easements or similar protective provisions for emigrant trails on Newmont properties, including but not limited to Gravelly Ford, access for maintenance of trail markers and allow controlled access for guided tours to emigrant trails and historic emigrant sites. The National Park Service also submitted items of mitigation including, funding a trail corridor management plan, tours at Big Springs, an interpretive panel at Silverzone Pass.

On December 12, 2016 BLM Provided Newmont’s initial response.

1. Support for OCTA’s ground survey of the trail in the Goshute Valley and provide funding for OCTA’s efforts.

2. Support for Google Trails Imagery for Goshute Valley trail segments.

3. Gravelly Ford site protection and marking. The trail leading to Gravelly Ford and the site was part of the Horseshoe Ranch acquired by Newmont and is now the Elko Land and Livestock Company (ELLCo). Over the course of the next year and a half, additional meetings occurred. On April 30, 2018 Newmont provided BLM their response to the proposed Indirect Effects Mitigation for the California National Historic Trail. Briefly stated, Newmont (ELLCo) would establish the Gravelly Ford Conservation Area, (GFCA) and prepare a land encumbrance, conservation easement, or similar legal instrument to protect the GFCA. The easement would protect the trail segments for 50 meters on each side and 100 meters around the Gravelly Ford Site. The proposed mitigation would also develop imagery for a “virtual tour” from Interstate 80 to Gravelly Ford, provide access for
tours and maintenance of trail markers. At Big Springs, Newmont would maintain the Settler’s Cabin in a suspended state of decay.

In the meantime, BLM was preparing a Historic Properties Treatment Plan (HPTP), a plan to implement the agreed upon mitigation. A draft copy was issued on April 5, 2019 requesting comments. Comments were provided. On June 26th, 2019 BLM transmitted a copy of the final HPTP.

Subsequent to all of this we requested a meeting with the new joint venture company, Nevada Gold Mine. In response, NGM indicated they are aware of the proposed mitigation and due to the infancy of the
new joint venture they needed some additional time to review the material.

We can only hope that we are beyond square one.

Wyoming: In Wyoming the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has issued a notice of intent to prepare Resource Management Plan Amendments for nine BLM-Wyoming Resource Management Plans and an Associated Environmental Impact Statement.
The proposed amendments would designate pipeline corridors as part of the Wyoming pipeline corridor initiative proposed by the state of Wyoming. These amendments could have direct impacts on emigrant trails. The proposed amendments are currently
being monitored by Wyoming’s Chapter Preservation Officers. The BLM issued annual reports for the following ongoing projects:

1. Monell Memorandum of Agreement – Well pads and access roads

2. Blue Forest Memorandum of Agreement – two new pipelines

3. Hiawatha Programmatic Agreement – elevenproject additions, including pipelines, roads andwell pads.

4. Point of Rocks Memorandum of Agreement –Transmission Line and pipeline repair.

Nevada: Lyon County Wastewater Treatment Facility Expansion: Lyon County, Nevada is proposing to expand their wastewater pipeline to provide additional capacity due to the increase in population in the Dayton Valley region east of Carson City.

Historic Maps depict the presence of historic roads within the project area. In particular, the pipeline would be adjacent to the old Fort Churchill Rd a County maintained dirt/gravel road which closely follows an alternate route of the Carson River Route of the
California National Historic trail. Since there is little surface evidence of existing trail, a request has been made to Lyon County, upon completion of the project to return the surface area to its natural condition.

Good of the Order It seems that most of the time when we talk about preservation it’s threats to the trail, however preservation also takes on sharing the trail legacy with wayside exhibits, kiosks, and posts that mark the trail.

Recently members of the Trails Head Chapter noticed that several of the markers needed attention. Armed with repair tools and cleaning equipment, several members of the chapter spent three full days finding, inspecting, repairing and cleaning all the markers in their area. Way to go!

Again, these are only a few of the issues that are being monitored as a result of potential threats to our emigrant trails. While it may be impossible to preserve and protect all known trail segments, we need to be proactive. Your keen awareness of activities in your region is greatly appreciated. More to come…

by John Winner

 

Preservation Issues – Winter 2020

OCTA’s Mission is to protect the Historic Emigrant Trail’s Legacy by promoting research, education, preservation activities and public awareness of the trails and to work with others to provide these causes.

As we continue to monitor the numerous activities that pose threats to the historic emigrant trails, the 2 major transmission line projects are center stage.

The Boardman to Hemingway (B2H) project, a 300 mile 500 kv transmission line in Eastern Oregon crossing the Oregon National Historic Trail 7 times and causing both direct and indirect effects to the Oregon National Historic Trail is now in litigation.

On November 12th. 2019, concerned citizens including the “Stop B2H Coalition” which OCTA is a member filed the lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Oregon, Pendleton Division opposing the construction of the transmission line. The suit charged the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service with failure to adequately review the impact of the route Idaho Power has proposed for the B2H transmission line across 5 Eastern Oregon counties.

The suit addresses the federal agencies failure to adequately evaluate the need for and environmental effects of the line which would cause irreparable harm to the Oregon National Historic Trail, its historic ruts and viewshed. Additionally, the suit claims the agencies failed to adequately evaluate the environmental effect, which would cause harm to family farms, residential areas, and wildlife habitat.

The Complaint requests that the court declare and adjudge the BLM’s November 17th. 2017 Record of Decision, Resource Management Plan Amendments and accompanying Final Environmental Impact Statements are unlawful. Also, request that the court declare and adjudge that the Forest Service’s November 9, 2018 Record of Decision and Forest Plan Amendment and accompanying Final Environmental Impact Statement are unlawful. The Plaintiffs are also requesting the preparation of a Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement to address deficiencies in the Final Environmental Impact Statement and to disclose and evaluate significant new information that was omitted.

The R-Project, A 225-mile transmission line proposed by Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) that crosses the Oregon-California and Mormon National Historic Trails continues to proceed with the stipulated expedited merits briefing schedule.

When the US Fish and Wildlife service issued an Incidental Take Permit (ITP) authorizing this project to move forward, a “Petition for Review of Agency Action” was filed in the United States District Court by the law firm of Eubanks & Associates. OCTA is one of the Plaintiffs.

On August 14th., 2019 the court approved the stipulated litigation schedule proposed by the parties that allows us to bypass the need for preliminary injunctive relief and to instead moved directly to the merits of the case.  Merits briefing schedule was as follows:

November 8, 2019 – Petitioners file their opening merit brief.

December 13, 2019 – Federal Respondents file their answering brief.

December 20, 2019 – NPPD files its answering brief.

January 24, 2020 – Petitioners file their reply brief.

So far, the case is on schedule.

Long Canyon Mine Project: There seems to be a turn of events for the Long Canyon Mine Project. A brief history, this project came to my attention in 2013 as an open pit mine in Northeast Nevada proposed by Newmont Mining Company impacting The California National Historic Trail, Hastings Cutoff. The Area of Potential Effect (APE) included Big Springs a frequent emigrant stopping place on the Hastings Cutoff.

The project is mostly on public land managed by The Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Over the years we have been engaged in a series of mitigation discussions. Early on BLM determined there would be no Direct Effects since they were unable to see any visible trail remnants. Although the Hasting Cutoff trail corridor is presumed, the trail has not been mapped to OCTA’s MET standards. OCTA was denied the opportunity to try to validate the actual trail location within the APE with the use of ground truthing. BLM concluded that only Indirect Effects (visual) would be subject to mitigation. Several meetings were held to discuss possible mitigation. In 2016, I submitted on behalf of OCTA several mitigation items for consideration, including, mapping to MET standards the Hastings Cutoff emigrant trail, create Conservation Easements or similar protective provisions for emigrant trails on Newmont properties, including but not limited to Gravelly Ford, access for maintenance of trail markers and allow controlled access for guided tours to emigrant trails and historic emigrant sites. The National Park Service also submitted items of mitigation including, funding a trail corridor management plan, tours at Big Springs, an Interpretive panel at Silverzone Pass.

On December 12, 2016 BLM Provided Newmont’s initial response. (1) support for OCTA’s ground survey of the trail in the Goshute Valley and provide funding for OCTA’s efforts. (2) Support for Google Trails Imagery for Goshute Valley trail segments. (3) Gravelly Ford site protection and marking. The trail leading to Gravelly Ford and the site was part of the Horseshoe Ranch acquired by Newmont and is now the Elko Land and Livestock Company (ELLCo). Over the course of the next year and a half, additional meetings occurred. On April 30, 2018 Newmont provided BLM their response to the proposed Indirect Effects Mitigation for the California National Historic Trail. Briefly stated, Newmont (ELLCo) would establish the Gravelly Ford Conservation Area, (GFCA) and prepare a land encumbrance, conservation easement, or similar legal instrument to protect the GFCA, develop imagery for a “virtual tour” from Interstate 80 to Gravelly Ford, provide access for tours and maintenance of trail markers. At Big Springs, Newmont would maintain the Settler’s Cabin in a suspended state of decay.

In the meantime, BLM was preparing a Historic Properties Treatment Plan (HPTP), a plan to implement the agreed upon mitigation. A draft copy was issued on April 5, 2019 requesting comments. Comment were provided. On June 26th., 2019 BLM transmitted a copy of the final HPTP.

So what about the turn of events….In March, 2019 it was announced that Nevada’s two largest mining companies, Barrick, (61.5%) and Newmont (38.5%) would form a Joint Venture to be named Nevada Gold Mines. It became official July 1, 2019. We requested a meeting with BLM to determine the status of the mitigation. In an October 28, 2019 meeting with BLM staff we were surprised to be informed that BLM is now waiting to see if Nevada Gold Mines (Joint Venture) is willing to voluntarily agree to the proposed mitigation. Additionally, BLM is now reviewing their Instruction Memorandum Policy on Compensatory Mitigation.  A whole lot more “Spirited Dialog” to come with this turn of events.

 Wyoming: In Wyoming the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has issued a notice of intent to prepare Resource Management Plan Amendments for nine BLM-Wyoming Resource Management Plans and an Associated Environmental Impact Statement. The proposed amendments would designate pipeline corridors as part of the Wyoming pipeline corridor initiative proposed by the state of Wyoming. These amendments could have direct impacts on emigrant trails. The proposed amendments are currently being monitored by Wyoming’s Chapter Preservation Officers.

I-229: St. Joseph, Missouri: Consultation meetings with consulting parties are continuing as part of the Section 106 process of the National Historic Preservation Act. The Federal Highway Administration and Missouri Department of Transportation are conducting an environmental assessment for improvements to I-229 and the Double Decker bridge in St Joseph Mo. There are currently several historic properties and historic districts near the project. The latest scheduled meeting is December 3rd. 2019.

Again, these are only a few of the issues that are being monitored as a result of potential threats to our emigrant trails. While it may be impossible to preserve and protect all known trail segments, we need to be proactive. Your keen awareness of activities in your region is greatly appreciated.

by John Winner

 

Preservation Issues – Fall 2019

OCTA’s mission is to protect the Historic Emigrant Trails Legacy by promoting research, education, preservation activities and public awareness of the trails, and to work with others to promote these causes.

We continue to monitor numerous activities that pose threats to the historic emigrant trails. The two major transmission line projects are the B2H Project in Eastern Oregon on the Oregon National Historic Trail and the R Project in Nebraska on the Oregon-California and Mormon National Historic Trails. Both projects will have Direct and Indirect Effects on the trails.

B2H Project: A 300 mile transmission line in Eastern Oregon crossing the Oregon National Historic Trail seven times.

On May 23rd the State of Oregon Department of Energy issued their Draft Proposed Order (DPO) on the Boardman to Hemingway Transmission project and recommended approval, with conditions, to the state’s Energy Facilities Sitting Council (EFSC). This action started the mandatory public comment period. Initially, 60 days for comments was granted, however, later extended to August 22, 2019. Public hearings were scheduled to be held by the State of Oregon Department of Energy along with EFSC. The public hearings were held in Ontario, Baker City, La Grande, and Pendleton. The public hearings were well attended, nearly all opposing the project.

On July 26, 2019 as OCTA’s National Preservation Officer, I filed a Declaration with the EFSC.

OCTA members were encouraged to send comments to the ESFC prior to the August 22nd deadline.

R-Project: A 225 mile transmission line by Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) crossing the Oregon-California and Mormon National Historic Trails.

The US Fish and Wildlife service issued an “Inciden­tal Take Permit” (ITP) authorizing this project to move forward. Once issued, a “Petition For Review Of Agency Action” was filed in the United States District Court by the law firm of Eubanks & Associates, LLC from Fort Collins, CO. Petitioners were Oregon-California Trails Association, Western Nebraska Resource Council, Hanging H East, LLC, a limited liability Corporation and White Tail Farms East, LLC, a limited liability Corpora­tion. Respondents were the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the United States Department of Interior.

On July 12, 2019, I submitted on behalf of OCTA, a Petitioners Declaration to be filed with the claim with the U.S. District Court.

One of the stipulations of the claim, OCTA would not be responsible for any cost associated with this claim.

By the end of July, attorneys were moving towards working out an agreement whereby the Department of Justice, NPPD, and Plaintiffs would stipulate to an expedited merits briefing schedule in lieu of us having to file a preliminary injunction motion. In exchange NPPD would be willing to agree to hold off any major construction activities that could otherwise be conducted under the ITP.

On August 14th, 2019 the court approved a litigation schedule proposed by the parties that allows us to bypass the need for preliminary injunctive relief and to instead move directly to the merits of the case. Merits Briefing schedule as follows:

November 8, 2019 – Petitioners file their opening merit brief.

December 13, 2019 – Federal Respondents file their answering brief.

December 20, 2019 – NPPD files its answering brief.

January 24, 2020 – Petitioners file their reply brief.

Avangrid Aurora Solar: A 640-acre solar farm near Battle Mountain, Nevada on the California National Historic Trail. The Winnemucca, Nevada office of BLM requested assistance from OCTA and Trails West to conduct a land survey to determine if this project would have a Direct Effect or Indirect Effect on the California NHT. On June 21-23, 2019 a survey was conducted by BLM, OCTA and TW to determine the effects of this project on the California NHT. The conclusion was no Direct Effect since the California NHT did not cross the Section of land where the solar panels would be installed and the Indirect Effects would be minimal due to the visual setting of the area already impacted by the Interstate Highway, Transcontinental Railroad Line and Valmy Power Plant. 

The Long Canyon Mine: This project in Northeast Nevada is a large open pit mine operated by the New­mont Mining Corporation. Most of the land is public, under the control of BLM. The project impacts the Hast­ings Cutoff part of the California National Historic Trail. OCTA has been involved in this project for years resulting in several mitiga­tion discussions. BLM determined there were no Direct Effects, a decision disputed by OCTA. Although MET mapping the Hastings Cutoff in the Goshute Valley was separate from the Long Canyon mitigation, BLM agreed to assist OCTA with MET mapping of the Hastings Cutoff in the Goshute Valley.

In April 2019 BLM issued a draft copy of a Historic Properties Treatment Plan (HPTP) titled An Indirect Effects Treatment Plan for the Newmont Mining Corporation Long Canyon Mine in Elko County Nevada. The report detailed mitigation of historic properties indirectly affected by the Long Canyon Mine Project including Hastings Cut-off of the California National Historic trail.

Within the project boundary is Big Springs Ranch including the location of the Settler’s Cabin a mid 19th. Century structure. The proposal is to stabilize the cabin and maintain it in a suspended state of decay. Stabilizing the Settler’s Cabin will help the public visualize what ranching life was like in the 19th century.

Mitigation also includes a Conservation Easement to protect the Gravelly Ford site and the California Trail leading to the site on the California NHT from I-80 to Gravelly Ford. Proposed protection of the trail is 50 meters on either side of trail segments and 100 meters surrounding the Gravelly Ford site. A 3D virtual tour of the trail from I-80 to Gravelly Ford is also part of the mitigation.

I-229 St. Joseph Missouri: OCTA has requested Consulting Party status.

The Federal Highway administration (FHWA) and the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) are conducting an Environmental Assessment for improvements to I-229 and the Double Decker Bridge carrying I-229 through St Joseph, Mo. There are several National Registered Historic Properties listed and Historic Districts near the project.

On behalf of FHWA, MoDOT has requested partici­pation as a Consulting Party under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. Section 106 requires federal agencies to consider the effects of projects they carry out, approve, or fund on historic properties.

Programmatic EIS for Fuel Breaks in the Great Basin: The BLM has asked for comments on a draft programmatic environmental impact statement for fuel breaks in the Great Basin that will analyze the environmental effects of constructing a system of fuel breaks across portions of six states in the Great Basin: California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. These fuel breaks would be used to improve fire suppression opportunities in the project area and ultimately would contribute to the potential for reduction in wildfire intensity and severity throughout the Great Basin. Be that as it may, many of the emigrant trails could be impacted by this project.

Eldorado National Forest: Several fuel reduction projects are underway in the Eldorado National Forest. OCTA members have been assisting the archaeologists from the Forest Service in locating and flagging trail segments on the Johnson Cut-off and Carson Route in an attempt to minimize any trail damage.

Fernley Swales: The Fernley Swales are an approximately three and one half mile segment of the California National Historic Trail near the end of the infamous Forty Mile Desert just north of Fernley, Nevada. In 2000 the Fernley Swales Historic Preservation Easement was established for preservation.

Recently, Mark IV Capital, a privately held real estate firm acquired 4400 acres in Fernley, Nevada surround­ing and including the Fernley Swales Historic Preser­vation Easement. The easement includes the Fernley Sand Swales and the roadbed of the Central Pacific Rail­road (CPRR). After the rails were removed, the CPRR grade was part of the Victory Highway (1903-1932)

Although land within the easement prohibits devel­opment, the surrounding land is subject to development.

CA-NV chapter members, Jon and Janet Nowlin who have taken on the lead role for the preservation of the “Swales”, indicated that the Mark IV Capital group is sensitive to the transportation history at the Swales and CPRR and have changed the name of their proposed industrial park to “Victory Logistics” in recognition of the CPRR grade that later became the Victory Highway. Plans are underway for all parties to meet to determine how best to preserve the historic integrity of the easement and accommodate the growth of the region.

For many years the CA-NV Chapter has participated in an annual cleanup and photo monitoring of the easement. The area seems to be a favorite dumping area for the locals. In an attempt to curtail some of the dumping, BLM has obtained 10 each of new signs, post and hardware for the Swales.

Lander Cutoff, Salt River Section in Lincoln County, Wyoming: Between August 16th and September 1st, 2016, the Greys River Ranger District of the Bridger-Teton National Forest (FS) attempted to address soil compaction from user created routes and dispersed camping which had resulted in decreased vegetation and increased soil runoff into the Salt River. What occurred by the Forest Service ripping the ground, was damage and diminished integrity to four segments of the Lander Cut-off, part of the California National Historic Trail.

Following the FS action, the FS and The Wyoming State Historic Preservation Officer began mitigation discussions with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, which includes: OCTA, NPS, Wyoming State Senator, Star Valley Historical Society, Lincoln County Board of Commissioners, Lincoln County Historical Society and City of Kemmerer.

In late August 2019, at the time for me to submit this report for News from The Plains, a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) had been prepared and distributed for signatures. Briefly stated, the MOA stipulates FS begin remediation of the on-the-ground damage to the trail to be completed within one year following the execution of the MOA. Additionally, the FS shall provide and install trail markers for all portions of the Lander Cut-off NHT within five years, the FS shall collaboratively design, produce and install two Interpretive Signs on the Salt River Section of the Lander Cut-off within five years. The FS shall complete or update Trail Management Objectives for all segments of the Lander Cut-off that have existing detailed cultural resources. There are a few other administrative stipulations in the MOA.

Once signed and executed, the MOA and implementing Appendix A will become available.

These are some of the known threats or activities that are impacting the trail system. No doubt there are others, while it may be impossible to preserve and pro­tect all known trail segments, we need to be proactive.

Your keen awareness of activities in your region is greatly appreciated.

by John Winner

 

 

 

 

 

Projects & Activities

The Importance of Setting

Wilderness provides a unique experience and the essence of this experience is the lack of modern intrusions. Advocates and visitors have long recognized the importance of preserving landscape, and have fought for more than a hundred years to set aside areas where today’s visitor finds a setting basically unchanged over the centuries. I suspect something within us preserves the memory of our ancestor’s first intrusion into the natural landscape.

Preservation of the Trails and Settings in Wyoming

We have struggled for the past twenty years to protect key segments of the trails from oil and gas development with some success. We are better about mitigating adverse impacts, but the bottom line is always the same: loss of trail and setting. Fortunately, the oil and gas activities are limited to certain areas and as a result some other areas remain relatively pristine.

Renewable Energy and the Oregon Trail

Most of us agree that the pursuit of renewable energy sources is a necessity. We may not agree on the justification, but in the end the need is there. This recognized need has resulted in a rush to build renewable energy sources not unlike the oil field developments in the late 1800s and early 1900s. We are still living with the adverse impacts of those developments. Are we repeating the same mistake today?

Resolution on Wind Energy Development

Under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, the first priority when seeking to mitigate an adverse impact is avoidance. We therefore recommend that both wind farms and transmission lines be placed in areas not visible from the National Historic Trails and historic trails authorized for study under the Public Lands Act of 2009, except in areas already heavily impacted by other development.

Lander – Pinedale Anticline Case Study

aerial view of Wyoming landscape with natural gas wells

“The Pinedale Anticline Project Area (PAPA) is one of the newest and most productive gas fields in the continental United States with estimates of 20-25 Trillion Cubic Feet of Natural Gas that could be recovered.” (BLM project description)

Lander RMP Executive Summary

This Draft Resource Management Plan (RMP) and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) describes and analyzes alternatives for the planning and management of public lands and resources administered by the BLM, Lander Field Office.

Trail Inventory Project

Presentation at the PNTS Historic Trails Workshop, October 30, 2014

The Trail Inventory Project is summarized. Included is a description of the project’s content and work accomplished to date. The project’s objective is to record the condition of the Oregon Trail in Oregon in the summer of 2014. Both the condition of the trail and its setting are documented through survey forms and pictures. Data are organized by township, range and section.

Trail Inventory Project Survey Forms

Four survey forms were used to collected data for the Trail Inventory Project (TIP). The forms cover trail segments and sites as wells as the setting. A fourth form is designed to collect data on the kiosks built for the Oregon Trail Sesquicentennial in 1993. All data is entered into an Access database.