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 – Spring 2021

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.

B2H A 300-mile 500kV transmission line in Eastern Oregon crossing the Oregon National Historic Trail seven times. Gail Carbiener continues his tireless (?) effort to shepherd OCTA interest in this project that at times seems to be in perpetuity. At this date the timeline is as follows: Discovery goes until 3/26/2021, then responses are due 4/16/2021. Then direct testimony material on 9/17/2021 with rebuttal due on 10/29/2021 followed by In-Person hearing 1/10/2022, with arguments and responses. The Judge is scheduled to issue her Case Order on 5/22/2022. Will it ever end???

The R-Project The R Project, is a 225-mile, 345kV transmission line proposed by Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD), in Nebraska 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.

Linda Tacey, OCTA’s Nebraska Chapter Preservation Officer prepared a declaration of impact to the trail system. A copy of the declaration has been sent to the Nebraska State Historic Preservation Officer and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. To date we have not received any action from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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. Furthermore, BLM is now precluded from negotiating any mitigation for offsite improvements. Therefore, BLM has indicated the proposed conservation easement for the protection of the California National Historic Trail at Gravelly Ford is off the table.

Since then, OCTA and the CTHA have been working with NGM and Nevada Land Trust to continue negotiations to create a conservation easement for Gravelly Ford. What Newmont Mining Corporation originally agreed to was a CE to protect the CNHT, 50 meters on each side and 100 meters around the Gravelly Ford site. NGM seems to conceptually favor this proposal.

On October 16 & 17, 2020 a group of OCTA members spent two days mapping to OCTA MET (Mapping Emigrant Trails) standards 5 Sections of land owned by NGM. There were twelve participants for the two day outing. A report along with the MET maps were sent to NGM for review. Further discussions are now underway.

Fernley Swales In 2001 a “Historic Preservation and Access Easement” for the Fernley Swales was created with the intent to preserve and protect a segment of the California National Historic Trail and a segment of the original roadbed of the 1868-1903 Central Pacific Railroad. The property owner entered into the easement with the Department of Interior (BLM). The easement is located just North of Fernley, Nevada. The Fernley Swales are pristine “Class 1” trail swales at the west end of the infamous 40 Mile Desert. The Central Pacific Railroad roadbed runs parallel to the trail swales.

Each year since the creation of the easement OCTA has been active in trying to maintain the integrity of the Fernley Swales. Over the years different OCTA members have taken on a leadership role in working with the property owner, BLM, the City of Fernley, Nevada and many volunteer organizations to “clean up” dumped trash. Additionally, OCTA conducts an annual photo monitoring program.

The frustration is that neither the Grantor nor Grantee wants any responsibility. Jon Nowlin, long time OCTA and CA-NV Chapter member, who oversees OCTA’s interest in the Fernley Swales questioned what options were available to require responsibly and enforcement of the easement.

In January 2021, we held a virtual meeting to discuss what options OCTA could pursue to require compliance of the 2001 Preservation Easement. Here, Jon briefly outlines some of the challenges.

“What is the future of the Fernley Swales? The Fernley Swales is a relic corridor of American transportation history within currently undeveloped private property a mile north of the growing city of Fernley. From 1844 into the 1860s, this was the dreaded deep sands that the emigrant wagons on the California Emigrant Trail fought to reach the Truckee River at the end of their trek through the dreaded Forty Mile Desert. The thousands of wagons left deep grooves (swales) though the sand that still can be seen today, both on the ground and in satellite images. In 1868 the Central Pacific transcontinental railroad (CPRR) was built next to the Trail, marking a new era of western migration. After the tracks were moved closer to Fernley in 1903, wagons on the Trail moved to the easier abandoned railroad grade, within 15 years it became the route of early automobile traffic and was Nevada’s first highway, Nevada Route 1, and in the early 1920s, the transcontinental Victory Highway. In 2000 the public lands containing the emigrant trial and CPRR grade were transferred from BLM to private ownership in the Wade-Fernley Land Exchange, which established a 133 acre BLM “Historic Preservation Easement” to protect a section of the Emigrant Trail and the historic CPRR grade from development. However, uncontrolled OHV access into the easement and trash dumping have increased and threaten the preservation of the historic corridor. There are still areas of undisturbed deep swales carved by the emigrant wagons but also areas of repeated trash dumping on top of the Trail. Unrestrained OHV access continues to damage the historic CPRR grade. The BLM easement encloses about a mile of this three-mile historic corridor. The surrounding land is slated for future development of the 4,000 acre Victory Logistics Industrial Park. BLM has not had the resources to protect the Emigrant Trail and CPRR grade within the easement. The City of Fernley sees the potential for a future historic reserve or park should the city expand to the north. So a concern is how to protect the historic resources for future public use. A potential option would be to integrate the historic corridor into the plans for the future industrial park. Another might be for a concerned public entity to acquire and preserve the historic corridor with Land and Water Conservation Funds. Currently the fate of the Fernley Swales continues to be threatened.”

Johnson Ranch For several years OCTA member Bill Holmes has taken on the preservation of the Johnson Ranch Project. Recently OCTA has included this project for Land and Water Conservation Funds. The following is a summary that Bill prepared that provides a brief background of the project and funding request.

“The Johnson Ranch project includes nationally significant historic sites such as the last two miles of the Truckee Route of the California Emigrant Trail with river crossing swale, the Burtis Hotel, Camp Far West military site and the Camp Far West cemetery.

All the sites are on one landowner’s (Angelo Tsakopoulos), a major developer in the Sacramento region. The property is in the city of Wheatland CA. The land will someday be subdivided into residential housing. The property owner has expressed interest in preserving the trail and historic sites. To that end, we have located the trail and historic sites and continue to do research work on them. Mr. Tsakopoulos has asked our OCTA representative, and his working group from the Wheatland Historical Society, to design and estimate the cost of a public access road and parking lot. The estimate is $711,000. In addition, we have a plan, with no cost estimate, for a hiking trail between the sites.

We are at the point now to start working on interpretive panels (signs) for each site and trail. We estimate we will need six interpretive panels. The estimated cost, based on costs of other OCTA panels, is roughly $21,000. We are working with California State University Sacramento (CSUS) and have a Masters Degree student assigned to us for the project.

Why are these sites so significant? The Johnson Ranch was the first sign of civilization that emigrants moving west in 1844 would have found since they left Fort Hall. Indeed, the Donner Party survivors were given rest and nourishment here as they waited for the rest of their families to come out from Donner Lake. To this day, descendants of the Donner Party survivors honor this site. All the relief parties prepared for their journey while at the Johnson Ranch. John C. Fremont and Kit Caron passed through Johnson’s Ranch several times as they explored California. General Stephen Watts Kearny and the Army of the West passed through Johnson’s Ranch, staying several days in 1846, on their way east to Fort Leavenworth Kansas. Fremont was with Kearny, under arrest for insubordination. In 1849 Lt. Derby, who was at Camp Far West, estimated that 100 wagons a day passed by Camp Far West in 1849. Camp Far West was one of the first federal military sites on the west coast and was located near the Johnson Ranch and emigrant trail to keep the peace between the indigenous people and the gold seekers. The Camp Far West cemetery was first used to bury early pioneers starting in 1844, was used by the military between 1849 and 1852. Four soldiers of the 2nd Infantry, companies E and F are buried in the cemetery along with twelve other souls. The Native Sons and Daughters of the Golden West erected obelisk in 1911 to honor the dead. And in 1950 built a rock wall around the cemetery and erected a flagpole.”

Recently Johnson Ranch was in the national spotlight when four veteran ultra-distance trail runners reenacted the Forlorn Hope Expedition.

On December 16, 1846, 17 members of the ill-fated Donner Party set out on snowshoes from Donner Lake in an attempt to cross the Sierras to reach Johnson Ranch, 90 miles away, to get a rescue party for the remaining survivors camped a Donner Lake. Only seven of the 17 survived. The group became known as Forlorn Hope.

On December 16, 2020, exactly 174 years later, the four veteran ultra-distance runners retraced the route. five days later they were met by Bill at the Johnson Ranch site. Bill continues to spend countless hours to work with others to see that the legacy of this historic site is preserved.

Reservoir Forest Health Project 16,649 acres of Eldorado National Forest land located between Placerville and South Lake Tahoe is scheduled to undergo a variety of methods to improve forest health and fire resiliency. The project will include forest thinning, prescribed burning, mastication, pruning, herbicide application, and conifer reforestation. The project area includes the Johnson Cutoff and Georgetown Pack Trail. The Johnson Cutoff has been MET mapped. Trail maps have been sent to Forest Service with the assurance by the archaeologist that the trails will be flagged to avoid damage.

Gerlach Geothermal Development Project Impact to the Nobles Trail. This project proposed by Ormat Technologies Inc. includes leased and unleased BLM lands and privately leased land. The project includes building two new power plants that would each produce 2.4 megawatts of electricity, an electrical substation, up to 23 total geothermal production and injection wells, approximately 4.6 miles of aboveground pipelines, access roads, an approximately 26-mile long 120 kilovolt overhead power line.

OCTA has requested Consulting Party Status to review the environmental effect, including direct and indirect effects to the Nobles Trail.

Nolin Hills Wind Energy Project This Capital Power Project is a 350MW wind project currently under development in Umatilla County Oregon. The project is sited on approximately 45,000 acres located west of Pendleton, Oregon and under a long-term lease from a single landowner. OCTA raised concerns about the potential visual impacts from the project infrastructure. Through the efforts of Sallie Riehl, Northwest Chapter President and Gail Carbiener, Northwest Chapter Preservation Officer and Past President Dave Welch an agreement was reached between OCTA and Capital Power to mitigate any direct and/or indirect effects by providing a financial sum for environmental protection, conservation, and general maintenance efforts.

Other Preservation Projects

Utah: The BLM is analyzing the development of trails to facilitate outdoor recreation opportunities on BLM-managed lands.

The projects would increase or improve recreational opportunities near growing communities and access to BLM managed lands. The environmental assessment analyses the designation of trails, trail heads, staging areas, restrooms, road improvements, and increased signage.

Lake Mountains, Utah County. Approximately 17,250 acres.

North Oquirrh Management Area, Tooele County. Approximately 5,285 acres.

Rose and Yellow Fork Canyons, Salt Lake County. Approximately 1,520 acres

Utah: Lake Point Development A subdivision that has remnants of a historic trail running through, which the Crossroads Chapter has memorialized with a T-Rail marker. The subdivision landowner has set aside three acres around a grove of cottonwood trees on the trail for a park within subdivision.

Wyoming: Converse County Oil and Gas Project This project affects 1.5 million acres in Converse County, Wyoming. The impact would be to the Bozeman Trail and possibly the Childes Cutoff. Randy Brown, Wyoming Chapter Preservation Officer provided the following update:

“We’ve been aware of this planned development for some time, but it’s impact to the Bozeman Trail is the main concern. Not much can be done up there since it is mostly private property. Already a big installation was put up near the trail crossing of Dry Fork of the Cheyenne over land where there are supposed to be graves of victims of Indian attacks.

As far as the Oregon Trail, between old and current tank farms and the railroad, a lot of that trail was obliterated long ago. Now wind farms are the main threat, one already having been built right on top of the trail.

Idaho: Lanes Creek Forest Management Project This is a 758 acre project in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest 25 miles northeast of Soda Springs, Idaho. The purpose of the project is to improve the overall health, resilience, and long-term sustainability of the forested land. A short segment of the Lander Road is within the project area. Don Wind, Idaho Chapter Preservation Officer has submitted comments outlining OCTA’s concerns and recommended protections of the historical significance of the project area.

Epilogue These are only a few of the issues that are being monitored because of potential threats to our emigrant trails. Although it seems as though the coronavirus pandemic has slowed a lot of activities that may cause threats to our trails, we still need to be proactive. Your keen awareness in your region is greatly appreciated. More to come…

by John Winner

 

Preservation Issues – Winter 2021

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.

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 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 Protection Act (NEPA) and the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA).

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

The appeal deadline has passed and neither the Department of Justice (DOJ) nor NPPD filed a notice of appeal of the Judge’s decision. Good News. Although we have not received a status update, it is presumed that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is preparing a new analysis required by the Court.

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.

52 people, including Northwest OCTA Chapter member Gail Carbiener, plus the Stop B2H Coalition, an Eastern Oregon grassroots organization with 800 members, and eight organizational members, including OCTA, filed over 130 separate issues of noncompliance with the government laws and regulations, The Oregon Department of Energy (ODOE), who is responsible for the project analysis is unaccustomed to this level of participation in a contested case process, which is eventuallydecided by the Oregon Governor’s appointed Energy Facility Siting Council (EFSC). The EFSC will meet on November 19 and 20 to hear arguments. Gail Carbiener will be allowed 3 minutes to make his virtual presentation.

Nolin Hills Wind Energy Project This Capital Power Project is a 350 MW wind project currentlyunder development in Umatilla County Oregon. The project is sited on approximately 45,000 acres located west of Pendleton, Oregon and under a longterm lease from a single landowner. OCTA raised concerns about the potential visual impacts from the project infrastructure. Through the efforts of Sallie Riehl, Northwest Chapter President and Gail Carbiener, Northwest Chapter Preservation Officer, an agreement was reached between OCTA and Capital Power to mitigate any direct and/or indirect effects by providing a financial sum for environmental protection, conservation and general maintenance efforts.

Gerlach Geothermal Development Project This project proposed by Ormat Technologies Inc. is located one mile north of Gerlach, Nevada in Washoe County, is in close proximity to the Nobles Trail a branch of the California National Historic Trail. OCTA has requested Consulting Party Status. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is analyzing the environmental effects of building two new power plants that would each produce 24 megawatts of electricity, an electrical substation, up to 23 total geothermal production and injection wells, approximately 4.6 miles of above-ground pipelines, access roads and an approximately 26 mile long 120 kilovolt overhead power line originating at one of the proposed power plants and terminating at the North Valley substation in the San Emidio Desert. OCTA has provided BLM maps showing the alignment of the Nobles Trail and the potential effects to the trail.

Long Canyon Mine Project This open pit mine project in northeast Nevada is 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 on the Hasting Cutoff, 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. 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. The Instruction Memorandum also stated that BLM was precluded in mitigating any offsite improvements which meant that the proposed Conservation Easement on the California NHT at Gravelly Ford could not be part of the discussion for Long Canyon.

Gravelly Ford Conservation Easement Given that Gravelly Ford would no longer be part of the mitigation discussion for Long Canyon, OCTA along with the CTHA began direct discussions with NGM. At this point NGM seems favorable to most of the previously discussed mitigation. As part of the ongoing discussion, on October 16 and 17, 2020, OCTA conducted a mapping project to validate the trail segments owned by NGM leading to Gravelly Ford. NGM was presented with the findings. We will continue our effort to work with NGM to establish protection for some of the most pristine segments of the California Trail.

Pershing County Water Conservation District The PCWCD plans to decommission the hydro project at Rye Patch Dam in Pershing County, Nevada east of Lovelock, Nevada. Work would be exclusive to the dam site and not any surrounding area. The District sought input to determine if any cultural resources would be impacted as a result of the project. Segments of the California National Historic Trail are located one mile north and ¾ mile south of the dam. The District was provided maps showing the trail location.

Good of the Order Often in our discussions with individuals, companies, agencies, and others regarding threats to historic emigrant trails we look to the various enacted laws for protection. One such statute is the National Trails System Act of 1968. The Act discusses the importance of preserving High Potential Route Segments as “Those segments of trail which afford high quality recreation experience in a portion of the route having greater than average scenic values or affording an opportunity to vicariously share the experience of the original user of the historic route.” More to come…

by John Winner

 

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

 

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.