Hearing Officer's Opening Statement
Operation of Flaming Gorge Dam EIS Public Scoping
Meetings - July 2000
Good evening and welcome. It is now time to open this evening's meeting for the purpose of obtaining public comment concerning the scope of the issues to be addressed in the draft environmental impact statement for the operation of Flaming Gorge Dam.
My name is Kerry Schwartz and I am an Environmental Protection Specialist for the Bureau of Reclamation. My function this evening is to serve as the hearing officer for this meeting. As such, I have the responsibility to explain the NEPA process that the Bureau of Reclamation will be following, and to conduct tonight's meeting.
On Tuesday, June 6, 2000, the Bureau of Reclamation published a Notice of Intent in the Federal Register to prepare a draft document under the terms and authority of the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, as it is commonly called. This document will be a draft environmental impact statement.
Before I discuss the process for offering statements, I would like to take a minute to discuss what this draft environmental impact statement will describe. This is important information for you, since your comments, if they apply specifically to the proposed action, will be very useful to the EIS Team in preparing the draft document. This information comes directly from the June 6, 2000, Federal Register Notice. Copies of that Notice are available this evening at the registration table.
The EIS will describe the effects of operating Flaming Gorge Dam to achieve the flows recommended by the Recovery Implementation Program for Endangered Fish Species in the Upper Colorado River Basin. The purpose of the proposed action is to protect and assist in the recovery of the populations and designated critical habitat of the four endangered fishes that are found in the Green and Colorado River Basin, so that along with other activities in the Recovery Implementation Program Recovery Action Plan, the fish no longer require protection under the Endangered Species Act, while continuing the other authorized purposes of the Flaming Gorge Unit of the Colorado River Storage Project.
The purpose of this EIS is not to identify and evaluate alternatives that maximize all natural resources upstream and downstream from Flaming Gorge Dam. The purpose of this EIS is to evaluate the impacts of implementing the Recovery Program's flow recommendations so as to protect and assist in the recovery of the populations and designated critical habitat of the four endangered fishes living in the Green River downstream from Flaming Gorge Dam.
The proposed scope of the analysis for this EIS will focus on responding to the following analysis question: If Reclamation operates Flaming Gorge Dam to achieve the flow recommendations needed to protect and assist in the recovery of the endangered fishes and their critical habitat in the Green River, then the effect(s) on other relevant resources/issues, both downstream and upstream from the dam, would be . . .
Many of you have looked at the displays tonight concerning the resources that might be affected by this study and have discussed the information provided with the Reclamation employees who are present. I hope that these displays were useful in helping you prepare your comments because we truly value what you have to say.
The information obtained from you at this scoping meeting will be used to identify issues associated with the proposed action and its purpose and need. Your input will also be used to help the EIS Team identify other significant resources that may be affected, identify the interested parties or parties affected by the proposed action, and assist Reclamation in developing reasonable alternatives that are consistent with the intent of the flow recommendations. The geographic scope of this EIS - how far upstream or downstream from the dam can impacts be meaningfully evaluated - has not yet been determined. Reclamation invites your comments suggesting a reasonable geographic scope of analysis for this EIS.
Seated at the head table and joining me this evening are officials of some of the federal agencies concerned with this action. They include: (list officials and agencies). Their purpose is to listen and receive your comments and information. They are not here to discuss or debate your views with you. They may ask questions for points of clarification. Their participation in this manner is both a statement of the importance of this evening's meeting and an opportunity for them to collect your information for use by the EIS team that will develop the draft NEPA document.
The NEPA process is a very public one and this is the first step. We are here tonight seeking both written and verbal comments or suggestions concerning the scope of the issues to be assessed in this draft environmental impact statement. This is your opportunity to assist Reclamation by sharing any information you may have that will be useful in the preparation of this document.
After the draft EIS is completed, Reclamation will publicly announce, through the news media and the Federal Register, that the document is available for your review and comment.
We have an official court reporter present this evening to make a verbatim transcript of tonight's proceedings. The transcripts will become part of the public record for this NEPA process. To ensure that a complete and accurate record of the meeting is made, it is necessary that only one person speak at a time.
This is an evening in which a number of contrasting viewpoints and values will be shared. Therefore, I would like to ask your consideration for each speaker and for the audience to refrain from any interruptions.
In the interest of time, speakers will be limited to five minutes each. I recognize that many of you have significantly more information to share than five minutes will allow. So, please consider your verbal comments as a summary of your principle points of view, and if you wish, you may supplement those statements with written comments. If you have written comments with you tonight, I will be happy to receive them when you speak, and I will include them in the official record. If you don't have them with you tonight, or if you wish to further supplement tonight's comments, please submit them to us by September 5, 2000. Written and verbal comments are given the same consideration under the NEPA process.
You may provide written comments by letter, faxogram, or e-mail to the Bureau of Reclamation's Provo Area Office in Provo, Utah. The mailing and e-mail addresses and the faxogram number are posted at the registration table. You may also take a pre-addressed comment card with you this evening for mailing back to Reclamation, which of course will save you time and paper. I would also like to call attention to the information on this project that is posted on Reclamation's Internet home page. That Web address is also posted at the registration table.
As I said, we will limit comments to five minutes. For your convenience, we have a time keeper to assist you. She is located at the front of the room and will give you a one-minute warning to allow you to summarize or conclude your statement. The time keeper will also advise you when your five-minute period has passed.
Our first speakers will be elected officials, or their designated representatives, from the states of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming, and any Tribal representatives. They will then be followed by speakers in the order in which they signed in at the door. When I announce each speaker, I will also announce the speaker to follow. The speaker sign-in book is located at the speaker table, so you may check our progress in relationship to when it will be your turn. If you have not signed up to speak, you can add your name to the list at any point in time. When you come to the microphone, please state your name, and if you are representing an organization, please indicate the group and your official capacity. You may be asked to spell your name for the benefit of our court reporter. The comments of individuals are equally as important as those from organizations and interest groups.
I would also like to inform you that it is our practice to make all comments, including names and home addresses of respondents, available for public review. If you wish us to withhold your name and/or address from public review, please let me know and I will make note of that for our records.
Reclamation has a mailing list for persons interested in periodic information that may be mailed out concerning this project. If you would like to be on that list, please be sure to see the people at the registration table.
We have indicated an ending time of 9:00 p.m. However, we will stay as long as it takes to allow those who wish to speak that opportunity.
It is now time to hear from our first speaker.