The Draft was “Unsatisfactory,” But U.S. EPA Now Rates the Final EIS “Adequate”

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Guam -The U.S. EPA has concluded that the Final Environmental Impact Statement on the Guam military buildup is “Adequate” and may even be “Satisfactory” if the mitigation efforts proposed are successfully implemented. That finding is a reversal of “Unsatisfactory” rating given to the Draft EIS.

A letter from Regional U.S. EPA Regional Administrator Jared Blumenfeld to Assistant Secretary of the Navy Jackalyne Pfannenstiel states that “based on our review of the final EIS, the document identifies processes to address the major concerns EPA raised in our review of the draft EIS.”

Blumenfeld concludes that DoD’s Final “EIS is adequate for purposes of NEPA because it includes an adequate discussion of environmental impacts and proposes a mitigation plan.” And he goes on to conclude that “if the mitigation proposed in the EIS is successfully implemented, the project will avoid unsatisfactory public health and environmental impacts, making the project environmentally satisfactory.”

U.S. EPA had given the draft EIS an “Environmentally Unsatisfactory – Inadequate Information”  rating.

As the letter points out, the poor rating was given because because the draft EIS:

1) did not adequately address the wastewater system capacity limitations and potential water supply shortfall resulting from construction workers and induced population growth.

2) did not provide sufficient analysis of impacts to coral reefs from the Carrier Nuclear Vessel (CVN) project in Apra Harbor or address an adequate plan to mitigate these impacts. EPA, DoD, and many other agencies worked closely over the last several months to address significant concerns.

Read the Letter from U.S. EPA to Pfannenstiel

 

As a result, EPA does not intend to refer the EIS to the Council on Environmental Quality.

However, U.S. EPA cautions that for the project to rise to the the levele of “Environmentally Satisfactory,”  DoD must ensure that the mitigation plan is implemented successfully.

Blumenfeld’s letter emphasises 3 major mitigation efforts that DoD must accomplsih:

1) to seek funding for drinking water and wastewater system infrastructure;

2) to manage construction and the arrival of military personnel to not cause significant environmental impacts or exceed existing infrastructure limitations through Adaptive Program Management (APM);

3) to undertake an additional assessment of coral in Apra Harbor so that a site­ specific determination on the location of the CVN berth can be properly informed through a supplemental NEPA process.

To accomplish those goals, Blumenfeld’s says DoD must commit to:

First, as the EIS stated, $1.3 billion needs to be secured for the drinking water and  wastewater system improvements that are necessary to accommodate the impact of the military build-up over the next five years.

DoD is pursuing $600M in Government of Japan (GOJ) funding to cover a portion of the required $1.3 billion funding.

But to date, no funding has been secured for these upgrades, and failure to secure funding will require DoD to decrease the construction tempo of the military relocation.

We expect the ROD to include DoD’s commitment to seek funds through all available mechanisms and a reasonable plan for pursuing the remaining $700 million.

Second, the APM needs to be developed from the concept described in the EIS to an implementable mitigation tool. Monitoring and adaptation are the essential elements of any adaptive management program.

DoD’s identified APM as the primary approach for mitigating significant environmental impacts during the construction phase, but APM has never before been implemented at this scale. Therefore, successful implementation of the steps DoD laid out in the EIS is key.

EPA seeks DoD’s commitment to fund additional monitoring, including equipment and installation, identified by the Council as necessary to successfully implement DoD’s APM process.

Third, implementation of the June 25,2010 Final Scope of Work Elements for Marine Surveys of the CVN Transient Berth Project Area, Potential Mitigation Sites, and Habitat Equivalency Analysis (SOW) should start this fiscal year.

This work will be used to further analyze coral reef impacts and to identify potential mitigation of sufficient scale to result in measurable and maximum benefits to coral reefs. Results from the SOW will be used for supplemental NEPA requirements to support site-specific Clean Water Act permitting.

The ROD will need to commit to implement the SOW and to defer selection of a specific location for the CVN berth until adequate supplemental NEPA review is completed. As such, the identification of Polaris Point in the PElS as the Least Environmentally Damaging Practicable Alternative is premature.