ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT
STEIGERWALD LAKE GATEWAY CENTER
STEIGERWALD LAKE NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE





WASHOUGAL, WASHINGTON







June 1999



Prepared by:



United States Department of Interior

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge Complex

P.O. Box 457

301 N. Third Street

Ridgefield, WA 98642

(360)887-4106













TABLE OF CONTENTS





EXECUTIVE SUMMARY



I. PURPOSE AND NEED FOR ACTION ........................................................................... 1



The National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 .............................................. 1

Mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System .......................................................... 1

Priority Public Uses ..................................................................................................... 1

Establishing Authority and Operational Goals Statements .........................................................2

Project History ........................................................................................................................ 2

Gateway Center Criteria .......................................................................................................... 4

Purpose and Need for Action.................................................................................................... 5



II. THE PROPOSED ACTION AND ALTERNATIVES ................................................... 6



Interpretive Trail ...................................................................................................................... 6

Alternative 1 - Unstaffed Visitor Contact Station and Interpretive Trail .................................... 6

Alternative 2 - Unstaffed Visitor Contact Station with Displays and Interpretive Trail .............. 6

Alternative 3 - Proposed Action - Staffed Gateway Center and Interpretive Trail .....................7

Alternative 4 - No Action Alternative ....................................................................................... 8



III. DESCRIPTION OF THE AFFECTED ENVIRONMENT ........................................... 9



Project Area ............................................................................................................................. 10



IV. ENVIRONMENTAL CONSEQUENCES ..................................................................... 12

Summary of Alternatives and Impacts ....................................................................................... 12

Alternatives/Impact Matrix and Needs Assessment .................................................................... 22



V. COMPLIANCE, CONSULTATION AND COORDINATION WITH OTHERS....... 23



VI. LIST OF PREPARERS/CONTRIBUTORS................................................................ 26



VII. DISTRIBUTION LIST.................................................................................................... 27





VIII. FIGURES ................................................................................................................... 30



Figure 1 Refuge Map/Vicinity Map ................................................................. 31

Figure 2 Project Location ............................................................................... 32

Figure 3 Interpretive Trail Route .................................................................... 33Figure 4 Alternative 1 Conceptual Diagram .................................................... 34

Figure 5 Alternative 2 Conceptual Diagram .................................................... 35

Figure 6 Alternative 3 Conceptual Diagram .................................................... 36

Figure 7 Habitat Mitigation Areas..................................................................... 37



APPENDICES



APPENDIX A. JUNE 29, 1998 OPEN HOUSE



SUMMARY OF COMMENTS RECEIVED



SUMMARY OF COMMENTS AGAINST DEVELOPMENT OF VISITOR FACILITIES AND RESPONSE



LETTERS OF SUPPORT



APPENDIX B. WETLAND DELINEATION



APPENDIX C. COMPATIBILITY DETERMINATION



APPENDIX D. U.S. FOREST SERVICE BIOLOGICAL EVALUATION (FLORA)



APPENDIX E. SECTION 7 CONSULTATION UNDER THE ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT OF 1973



APPENDIX F. CULTURAL RESOURCE SURVEY



APPENDIX G. NATIONAL WILDLIFE SYSTEM IMPROVEMENT ACT OF 1997





EXECUTIVE SUMMARY



The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes to develop a Gateway Center at the Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge. The proposed development is intended to provide an opportunity for the visiting public to experience compatible wildlife-dependent recreational use (wildlife observation and photography, environmental education and interpretation) on the refuge. In addition, the proposed development would serve as the Western Gateway to the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, providing the visiting public with a general introduction and orientation to the Scenic Area and information on resources in the vicinity of the facility.



Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge is located near the city of Washougal in Clark County, Washington, at the western entrance of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.



The following is a summary of the development alternatives evaluated in this Environmental Assessment. The Environmental Assessment includes a more detailed analysis of each alternative including environmental impacts, mitigation and enhancement plans, and needs assessment.



Interpretive Trail



Alternatives 1 through 3 include construction and operation of an Interpretive Trail. The Interpretive Trail would include two forks that would connect the Steigerwald Gateway to the 2.5 mile Columbia River Dike Trail. The west fork (.2 mile) would be open year-round. The east fork (.5 mile) would be closed seasonally. With both forks open, the trail would offer a 2 mile interpretive walk. The Interpretive Trail and that portion of the Columbia River Dike Trail east of the west fork intersection (.6 mile) would be open to walking only, with the primary purpose of providing a wildlife dependent recreational experience. Dogs and other domestic animals would not be permitted on this portion of the trail system. The Columbia River Dike Trail west of the west fork intersection (1.9 miles) would retain current use restrictions.



Development and operation of an Interpretive Trail under Alternative 1, 2, or 3 would result in limited disturbance to habitat and limited but moderately increasing levels of disturbance to wildlife. A mitigation plan is included in the assessment. Development and operation of an Interpretive Trail would result in increased educational and recreational opportunities on the refuge and in the local community, have a positive impact on the local economy, support Refuge Operational Goal 4 and the provisions of the National Wildlife Refuge Improvement Act. Development and operation of an Interpretive Trail under Alternative 1, 2, or 3 would require an expanded law enforcement program, and partially address the elements of the purpose and need for the action.



Alternative 1. Unstaffed Visitor Contact Station and Interpretive Trail



Development Alternative 1 consists of a parking area for 9 cars and one bus/RV, a small interpretive kiosk, vault toilets, and an interpretive trail connecting to the Columbia River Dike Trail.



Implementation of Alternative 1 would result in limited disturbance to wildlife and habitat. A mitigation plan is included in this assessment. Implementation of this alternative would result in increased educational and recreational opportunities on the refuge and in the local community, have a positive impact on the local economy, support Refuge Operational Goal 4 and the provisions of the National Wildlife Refuge Improvement Act. Implementation of this alternative would require an expanded law enforcement program, and partially address the elements of the purpose and need for the action.



Alternative 2. Unstaffed Visitor Contact Station with Displays and Interpretive Trail



Development Alternative 2 consists of a parking area for 25 cars and 3 buses/RVs, an open-air kiosk with interpretive displays, flush toilets, electricity, pay phones, and an interpretive trail connecting to the Columbia River Dike Trail.



Implementation of Alternative 2 would result in limited disturbance to wildlife and habitat at slightly higher levels than Alternative 1. A mitigation plan is included in this assessment. Implementation of this alternative would result in increased educational and recreational opportunities on the refuge and in the local community, have a positive impact on the local economy, support Refuge Operational Goal 4 and the provisions of the National Wildlife Refuge Improvement Act. Implementation of this alternative would require an expanded law enforcement program, and partially address the elements of the purpose and need for the action.



Alternative 3. Proposed Action - Staffed Gateway Center and Interpretive Trail



Development Alternative 3 (Proposed Action) consists of two phases. Phase I consists of the same facilities developed under Alternative 2; a parking area for 25 cars and 3 buses/RVs, an open-air kiosk with interpretive displays, flush toilets, electricity, pay phones, and an interpretive trail connecting to the Columbia River Dike Trail. Phase II consists of expansion of the Phase I parking lot to accommodate 70 cars and 5 buses/RVs and construction of a staffed gateway center with interior exhibits, sales area, conference room, refuge offices and an outside viewing deck.



Implementation Alternative 3 would result in moderate disturbance to wildlife and habitat. A mitigation plan is included in this assessment. Implementation of this alternative would result in increased educational and recreational opportunities on the refuge and in the local community, have a positive impact on the local economy, support Refuge Operational Goal 4 and the provisions of the National Wildlife Refuge Improvement Act. Implementation of this alternative would require an expanded law enforcement program, and fully address the elements of the purpose and need for the action.





Alternative 4. No Action



Alternative 4 would continue the current management programs of Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge.



Implementation Alternative 4 would result in no disturbance to wildlife and habitat, result in no change in educational and recreational opportunities on the refuge and in the local community, have no impact on the local economy. Implementation of this alternative would result in no change in the management program of the refuge, and would not address the elements of the purpose and need for the action.





I. PURPOSE AND NEED FOR ACTION



The National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997



On October 9, 1997, President Clinton signed in to law the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 (P.L. 105-57). Among the key provisions of the Act are:



Appendix H contains the complete text of the National Wildlife System Improvement Act of 1997.



Mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System



"The Mission of the System is to administer a national network of lands and waters for the conservation, management, and where appropriate, restoration of the fish, wildlife, and plant resources and their habitats within the United States for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.".



Priority Public Uses



"Compatible wildlife-dependent recreational uses are the priority general public uses of the system and shall receive priority consideration in refuge planning and management....The terms 'wildlife dependent recreation' and 'wildlife dependent recreational use' mean a use of a refuge involving hunting, fishing, wildlife observation and photography, or environmental education and interpretation.".



Establishing Authority and Operational Goal Statements



Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) was established on August 22, 1984, under Title III, Section 303a of P.L. 98-396. The primary purpose for establishing the refuge was to provide partial mitigation for wildlife losses attributed to the construction and operation of the second powerhouse of Bonneville Dam. The Operational Goals of Steigerwald Lake NWR are:



1) To restore natural, dynamic stream/river systems, including associated in-water and riparian habitats for anadromous fish, neotropical birds, and other native fish and wildlife.



2) To provide wetland and cropland/grassland habitats for feeding and resting by migrating and wintering ducks, geese, cranes, and other migratory birds, and to reduce crop depredations on private lands.



3) To preserve, enhance and protect habitats that support endangered species, threatened species and species of special concern.



4) To provide opportunities for quality, wildlife dependent recreation, education, and research to enhance public appreciation, understanding, and enjoyment of refuge fish, wildlife, and habitats.





Project History



On November 17, 1986, President Reagan signed in to law the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Act (P. L. 99-663), designating 292,000 acres of the Columbia River Gorge as a National Scenic Area (NSA). The Columbia River Gorge NSA was established for two purposes:



"1.) to protect and provide for the enhancement of the scenic, cultural, recreational, and natural resources of the Columbia River Gorge; and



2.) to protect and support the economy of the Columbia River Gorge Area by encouraging growth to occur in existing Urban Areas and by allowing future economic development in a manner consistent with the first purpose."



The Act established partnerships among the U. S. Forest Service, the states of Washington and Oregon, and six counties (Clark, Skamania, Klickitat, Wasco, Hood River and Multnomah). The Act also created a bi-state Commission to coordinate land use and development of plans. The area comprising the Columbia River Gorge NSA was divided into three specific area classifications: Urban Areas (28,000 acres) which are exempt from land use control; General Management Areas (144,700 acres); and Special Management Areas (112,300 acres). The bi-state Commission is responsible for land use planning and management activities in the General Management Areas (GMA), while the U.S. Forest Service holds primary responsibility for planning and management activities in Special Management Areas (SMA) and projects on federal lands.



The Management Plan for the Columbia River Gorge NSA was adopted by the Columbia River Gorge Commission on October 15, 1991, with concurrence by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture following on February 13, 1992. The plan calls for the development of "gateway facilities" located in major entryways to the NSA to welcome and orient visitors to the NSA, provide tourist information, and offer exhibits on the features and resources in the vicinity of the facility. During the development of the plan, the U.S. Forest Service (Forest Service) and the Columbia River Gorge Commission approached the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) with the idea of locating the Northwest Gateway Center on the Steigerwald Lake NWR. The Service agreed to the concept and the Steigerwald Northwest Gateway proposal was included in the original Recreation Development Plan, Section III, page 5 of the Columbia River Gorge NSA Management Plan (GMA Proposal No. 1). At the time of plan development, a 10 acre parcel on the east end of the North Stevenson Unit was classified (zoned) Public Recreation in anticipation of the development of the Steigerwald Northwest Gateway. Some initial conceptual planning was accomplished during the mid-90s and the Steigerwald Northwest Gateway was included in annual budget submittals. In fiscal year 1998, Congress appropriated $840,000 to the Service for initial planning and development of the Steigerwald Northwest Gateway. In the same budget package the Forest Service received $150,000 for development of a trail from the Steigerwald area to Pioneer Point, near Cape Horn.



The project started as a joint planning effort between the Service and the Forest Service. The original concept was to link the Steigerwald Gateway and Interpretive Trail with the Steigerwald/Pioneer Point Trail. This was the logical course of action in light of the joint appropriation, the potential for a physical link between the two projects, and U.S. Forest Service jurisdictional responsibility for projects on federal lands.. A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was drafted in which each agency agreed to work cooperatively on planning and design of the two projects and to share resources when practicable. The MOU was signed by representatives from each agency in May, 1998. A Public Open House was held in Washougal on June 29, 1998. The Open House was designed to give both agencies an opportunity to present conceptual plans for their respective projects to the public and to solicit feedback on the projects and potential alternatives. As a result of feedback received during the Open House and follow up meetings with landowners and the Planning Team, it was determined that it was not feasible to physically link the two projects. The Service and Forest Service are still operating as partners under the terms of the MOU. A summary of public comments received as a result of the Open House presentation is presented in Appendix A. A Draft Environmental Assessment for the Steigerwald Lake Gateway Center was released on December 30, 1998. The Comment Period closed on February 1, 1999.







The area designated in 1990 as the location for Steigerwald Gateway and subsequently zoned for Public Recreation under the Management Plan for the Columbia River Gorge NSA, was determined by the Service to be unacceptable due to the potential for wildlife and habitat disturbance from the development and use of the gateway center and interpretive trail. On August 21, 1998 the Service submitted an application to the Columbia River Gorge Commission to amend the Management Plan. The amendment requested a change in land use zoning to move the location of the Steigerwald Lake Gateway to the west end of the North Stevenson Unit, east of Gibbons Creek ( Figure 2). This area was selected by Service staff as the most suitable location for development of visitor facilities due to the limited impacts such development would have on refuge resources. After review by the Commission, the amendment application was accepted as complete and adequate on September 4, 1998. The amendment to the Management Plan was approved by the Columbia River Gorge Commission on April 13, 1999. Following approval the plan amendment was submitted to the Secretary of Agriculture for concurrence. The plan amendment takes effect upon concurrence.





Gateway Center Criteria



The Management Plan for the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area designates Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge as the location for the Northwest Gateway to the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. The Management Plan also provides general criteria for gateway facilities, concluding that they should: 1) be located in major entryways to the NSA to welcome and orient visitors to the NSA , 2) provide tourist information and, 3) offer exhibits on the features and resources in the vicinity of the facility. Site specific details for the development of the Steigerwald Lake Gateway Center are outlined in the document, "Interpretive Strategy for the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area" developed by the U.S. Forest Service in 1991. The Interpretive Strategy includes plans for a major environmental education program with identified study sites and site-specific curriculum, wildlife observation trails and facilities, information desk, interactive video, phones, computer, USFWS displays and National Scenic Area displays.



U.S. Forest Service Interpretive Specialists estimate the expected visitation at the Steigerwald Gateway Center at between 100,000 and 150,000 visitors each year. On peak days (weekends during the summer) the facility would accommodate 600 visitors per day with an average daily use of 115. In comparison, the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center in The Dalles, Oregon (the southeast Gateway Center) receives 140,000 visits per year and has a 210-space parking lot (including 20 bus stalls) with a 48,000 ft² building.





Purpose and Need for Action



The location of Steigerwald Lake NWR offers a unique opportunity to provide a link between the Portland/Vancouver urban area and the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area receives in excess of 2 million visitors each year. Development of a gateway center at Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge would provide the visiting public with an overview and orientation to the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, provide tourist information, and offer exhibits on the features and resources in the vicinity of the facility. In addition, development of visitor facilities at Steigerwald Lake would provide the public with a compatible, high quality resource-based experience, including environmental education, wildlife viewing, hiking, photography, and would provide the Service with an opportunity to interpret the National Wildlife Refuge System and the resources and management of Steigerwald Lake NWR. Currently, the refuge is closed to public use with the exception of requested staff-led tours. Development of a gateway center at Steigerwald Lake NWR is consistent with and in support of the Operational Goals of the refuge, Executive Order 12996, The National Wildlife Refuge Improvement Act of 1997, The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Act and the Management Plan for the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.



Establishment of a National Scenic Area Gateway at Steigerwald Lake NWR is supported by the Columbia River Gorge Commission, the U.S. Forest Service, Clark County, the City of Washougal, The Port of Camas/Washougal, Vancouver Audubon, Vancouver Wildlife, Friends of Clark County, and the Friends of the Columbia Gorge.



II. THE PROPOSED ACTION AND ALTERNATIVES



Interpretive Trail



Alternatives 1 through 3 include construction and operation of an Interpretive Trail that would connect the proposed visitor facilities to the 2.5 mile Columbia River Dike Trail (Figure 3). From the visitor facilities the trail would follow the east base of the elevated Gibbons Creek channel to the end of the elevated segment. From this point the trail would divide into 2 forks, forming a seasonal loop. The west fork (.2 mile) would be open year-round. The east fork (.5 mile) would be closed seasonally to prevent disturbance to wintering waterfowl. With both forks open, the trail would offer a 2 mile interpretive walk. The Interpretive Trail and that portion of the Columbia River Dike Trail east of the west fork intersection (.6 mile) would be open to walking only, with the primary purpose of providing a wildlife-dependant recreational experience including environmental education and interpretation. Dogs and other domestic animals would not be permitted on this portion of the trail system. The Columbia River Dike Trail west of the west fork intersection (1.9 miles) would retain current use restrictions.



The needs assessment for the Interpretive Trail is contained within the descriptions of Alternatives 1 - 3.



Alternative 1. Unstaffed Visitor Contact Station and Interpretive Trail



Development Alternative 1 consists of a parking area for 10 cars and one bus/RV, a small interpretive kiosk, vault toilets, and an interpretive trail connecting to the Columbia River Dike Trail (Figure 4). The total area within the development zone would be approximately 4.8 acres, including the entry road (3 acres), parking lot (1 acre), 800 ft² kiosk (<.1 acre) and vault toilets (< .1 acre). This alternative includes establishment of approximately 8.6 acres of native riparian vegetation (cottonwood, ash, willow, snowberry, rose, dogwood, elderberry) for habitat diversity, riparian protection, visual screening, and mitigation.



Alternative 1 would provide opportunities for resource-based public use, including wildlife viewing, hiking, photography, and limited opportunities for environmental education and interpretation of the National Wildlife Refuge System and the resources and management of Steigerwald Lake NWR. It would not be of adequate size to function as a gateway facility for the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area (See Gateway Criteria, Page 4) nor would it provide opportunities for expanded environmental education programs.





Alternative 2. Unstaffed Visitor Contact Station with Displays and Interpretive Trail



Development Alternative 2 consists of a parking area for 25 cars and 3 buses/RVs, an open-air kiosk with interpretive displays, flush toilets, electricity, and pay phones, and an interpretive trail connecting to the Columbia River Dike Trail (Figure 5). The total area within the development zone would be approximately 4.8 acres, including the entry road (3 acres), parking lot (1.3 acres), and 2625 ft² kiosk with restrooms (<.1 acre). This alternative includes establishment of approximately 8.6 acres of native riparian vegetation (cottonwood, ash, willow, snowberry, rose, dogwood, elderberry) for habitat diversity, riparian protection, visual screening, and mitigation.



Alternative 2 would provide opportunities for resource-based public use, including wildlife viewing, hiking, photography, interpretation of the National Wildlife Refuge System and the resources and management of Steigerwald Lake NWR . This alternative would provide more interpretive opportunities than Alternative 1 with increased area for displays and increased area for wildlife/wildlands viewing. In addition, the larger kiosk would serve as a staging area for students and other groups, increasing opportunities for environmental education. It would not be of adequate size to function as a gateway facility for the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area (See Gateway Criteria, Page 4) nor would it provide opportunities for classroom-based for environmental education programs.





Alternative 3. Proposed Action - Staffed Gateway Center and Interpretive Trail



Development Alternative 3 (Proposed Action) consists of two phases. Phase I consists of the same facilities developed under Alternative 2; a parking area for 25 cars and 3 buses/RVs, an open-air kiosk with interpretive displays, flush toilets, electricity, and pay phones, and an interpretive trail connecting to the Columbia River Dike Trail. Phase II consists of expansion of the Phase I parking lot to accommodate 70 cars and 5 buses/RVs and construction of a staffed gateway center with interior exhibits, sales area, conference room, refuge offices and an outside viewing deck (Figure 6). The total area within the development zone would be approximately 6 acres, including the entry road (3 acres), parking lot (1.7 acres), a 2,625 ft² kiosk with restrooms (<.1 acre) and a 5,000 ft² gateway center (.12 acres). This alternative includes establishment of approximately 9.2 acres of native riparian vegetation (cottonwood, ash, willow, snowberry, rose, dogwood, elderberry) for habitat diversity, riparian protection, visual screening, and mitigation.



Alternative 3 would meet the needs outlined in Section I, including meeting the requirements for a functional gateway facility for the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area by providing an estimated 125,000 yearly visitors with an overview and orientation to the National Scenic Area, providing tourist information, and offering exhibits on the features and resources in the vicinity of the facility. In addition, this alternative would allow the Service to provide the public with a compatible, high quality resource-based experience, including classroom and outdoor environmental education programs, wildlife viewing, hiking, photography, and it would provide the Service with an opportunity to interpret the National Wildlife Refuge System and the resources and management of Steigerwald Lake NWR.







Alternative 4. No Action



The No Action Alternative would continue the current public use program of the refuge (closed to general entry and use, group tours by arrangement with staff). The needs outlined in Section I, Purpose and Need For Action, would not be met.





III. DESCRIPTION OF THE AFFECTED ENVIRONMENT



Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge is located at the west end of the Columbia River Gorge near Washougal, Washington (Figure 1). Current acreage under Service ownership is 974 of the 1,288 acres within the approved refuge boundary.



Historically a Columbia River floodplain, the area was diked in the 1960's by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) for flood control. Prior to isolation from Columbia River, the area was a complex mosaic of permanent and seasonal wetlands, wet meadows, upland native and tamegrass meadows, riparian corridors (Gibbons Creek), and agricultural fields. Eliminating the threat of periodic inundation by the Columbia River allowed landowners to more completely convert the area into upland pasture and farmland through channelization and removal of standing water in the 1970's. The refuge is comprised of managed impoundments, seasonal and permanent wetlands, improved pastures and small remnant blocks of riparian habitat.



Steigerwald Lake NWR provides habitat for a wide variety of wildlife, including over 180 species of birds. The refuge is located at the intersection of two natural migratory pathways, the Columbia River and the west slope of the Cascades. As a result, the refuge is the site for numerous sightings of rare birds including a number of first sightings for Washington State and Clark County. Species observed include bald eagle, peregrine falcon, white-face ibis, sandhill crane, tundra swan, cackling Canada goose, northern harrier, purple martin, red-necked phalarope, pied-billed grebe, black-headed grosbeak, lazuli bunting, green heron, American pipit, Virginia rail, great egret and band-tailed pigeon. Mammals recorded in the area include bobcat, coyote, red fox, mink, nutria, beaver, river otter, opossum, raccoon, striped skunk, long-tailed weasel, black-tailed deer, vagrant shrew, Townsend vole, deer mouse and eastern cottontail rabbit. The refuge is also used by a variety of reptiles and amphibians as well as aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates.



Prior to 1966, Gibbons Creek flowed directly into the Steigerwald Lake basin and exited to the Columbia River. As a part of the flood control project, Gibbons Creek was channelized and rerouted through the Port of Camas/Washougal (Port) and exited to the Columbia River, via gravity flow and pumps, through a tidegate. In 1985 the Corps was directed to realign Gibbons Creek to facilitate fish passage into upstream spawning areas, reduce pumping costs incurred by the Port, and provide management flexibility for the impounded wetlands. The project, completed in 1992, diverted Gibbons Creek into a .5 mile long elevated channel that passes over the lakebed. At the end of the channel the creek empties into an historic oxbow of the Columbia, flows through a culvert under the Columbia River Dike, and into the Columbia River through a fish ladder. Gibbons Creek provides spawning and rearing habitat for coho salmon, sea-run cutthroat trout, steelhead trout, Pacific lamprey, river lamprey, and other anadromous and resident fish species.





Project Area



The site selected for development of the proposed Gateway Center and the north terminus of the Interpretive Trail is located in the northwest corner of the North Stevenson Unit of Steigerwald Lake NWR (Figure 2, Project Location), directly east of the Gibbons Creek Diversion Structure. The project location was chosen based on minimal impacts to wildlife and habitats of the refuge. The Gateway Center site is 15 acres of open pasture, consisting primarily of non-native grasses and noxious weeds. The area has a history of grazing by domestic livestock dating back to the 1880's. Existing wetlands were delineated in March of 1998 (Appendix B). Current Land Use Classification under the Management Plan for the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area is Open Space, Recreation Intensity Class 1. Upon concurrence by the Secretary of Agriculture, the approved amendment to the Management Plan for the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area (Section I., Project History) would change the Land Use Classification of the project area to Public Recreation, Recreation Intensity Class 3. Allowable uses under Recreation Intensity Class 3 include visitor information and environmental education facilities, interpretive facilities, trails and pathways for hiking and pedestrian use, scenic viewpoints and overlooks, wildlife/botanical viewing and nature study areas, restrooms and comfort facilities, and parking areas for a maximum of 75 vehicles. The Interpretive Trail (Figure 3) generally follows established service roads and structures, with the exception of the west fork which passes along the west margin of Redtail Lake, through upland tamegrass pasture and connects to the Columbia River Dike.



Wildlife/Habitat



The project site provides winter foraging habitat for Canada geese and is occasionally used by great blue herons, red-tailed hawks and northern harriers. Overall use of the proposed Gateway site by wildlife is limited due to its proximity to State Highway 14 and the main entrance road to central and western units of the refuge, and by a lack of habitat diversity. The Interpretive Trail would pass through the corner of a delineated wetland in the northwest corner of the Stevenson Unit of Steigerwald Lake and adjacent to the west shore Steigerwald Lake in the same unit. The east fork would cross Gibbons Creek by means of a small footbridge on the elevated channel and would pass between Scaup Lake and Gibbons Creek and along the eastern edge of the riparian corridor near the terminus of Gibbons Creek before connecting to the Columbia River Dike. The west fork would pass through a narrow strip of riparian habitat near the south terminus of the elevated Gibbons Creek, through wetlands along the west margin of Redtail Lake and across an open pasture prior to connecting to the Columbia River Dike.









Educational/Recreational Opportunities



The project area currently provides limited educational/recreational opportunities in the form of staff-led tours and interpretive programs.



Socioeconomic



The project area currently has minimal effect on local socioeconomic conditions.



Current Management



The project area is managed primarily for winter forage for Canada geese and is the primary point of access to the Gibbons Creek channel, diversion structure, and the west units of the refuge. The Interpretive Trail area is managed primarily for anadromous and resident fish species, riparian and upland habitat diversity, and as primary access to the west units of the refuge.





IV. ENVIRONMENTAL CONSEQUENCES





SUMMARY OF ALTERNATIVES AND IMPACTS





Interpretive Trail





Projected Use Levels (1)



Alternative 1: Total visitation estimated at 17,500 per year. Number of visitors using the trail is estimated at 13,125, with an average of 36 per day (peak = 63).



Alternative 2: Total visitation estimated at 45,000 per year. Number of visitors using the trail is estimated at 22,500 with an average of 62 per day (peak = 108).



Alternative 3: Total visitation estimated at 125,000 per year. Number of visitors using the trail is estimated at 41,700 with an average of 115 per day (peak = 200).





Wildlife/Habitat



Development and operation of an Interpretive Trail under Alternative 1, 2, or 3 would result in limited disturbance to habitat and limited but moderately increasing levels of disturbance to wildlife. The trail route is designed to physically separate the visiting public from areas that receive high use by wildlife while providing visitors with opportunities to view these areas. The east fork of the trail would follow the outside margin of the Gibbons Creek riparian area after leaving the elevated channel. This would keep visitors out of the riparian area and over 300 feet from Scaup Lake while still providing views of both areas. Disturbance of existing habitat would be limited as the trail generally follows established service roads and structures. The connecting trail between the visitor facilities and the east dike of the elevated Gibbon Creek channel would pass through the northwest corner of the delineated wetland, affecting approximately 1 acre. The west fork would pass through wetlands along the west margin of Redtail Lake, affecting approximately 1 acre. The west fork footbridge is expected to have no effect on existing habitat.



Mitigation/Protection Plan: Impacts to wetlands will be minimized through best practices design and construction (e.g. elevated boardwalk) and mitigated by off-site restoration of historic wetlands (approximately 40 acres) in the South Stevenson Unit (Figure 7). Impacts to wildlife will be minimized by routing the trail below the elevated Gibbons Creek channel to avoid disturbance to anadromous fish and other species using Gibbons Creek, the seasonal closure of the east fork, screening (both structural and vegetation) along the pathway in areas of potential disturbance, restricting use to walking only, prohibiting dogs and other domestic animals from the trail, restricting all traffic to the trail and interpretive sites, and through interpretation and education. Site development plans and associated mitigation plans will be reviewed by the U.S. Forest Service for Consistency with the Management Plan for the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. The Consistency Review will include consultation with appropriate federal, state and local regulatory agencies.





Educational/Recreational Opportunities



Development and operation of an Interpretive Trail under Alternative 1, 2, or 3 would provide new recreational and educational opportunities on the refuge, resulting in an overall increase in such opportunities in the area.



Socioeconomic



According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report Banking on Nature, in 1995 refuge visitors spent $400 million in local communities. As that spending flowed through the economy, it supported 10,000 jobs and provided nearly $170 million on payrolls. It is expected that development of an Interpretive Trail under Alternatives 1, 2 or 3 would have a positive effect on the local economy.



Management Implications



Development and operation of an Interpretive Trail under Alternative 1, 2, or 3 would directly support Refuge Operational Goal Statement 4, "To provide opportunities for quality, wildlife dependent recreation, education, and research to enhance public appreciation, understanding, and enjoyment of refuge fish, wildlife, and habitats", and the provisions of The National Wildlife Refuge Improvement Act of 1997 as outlined in Section I.



Increased public use following the development and operation of the Interpretive Trail would result in an increase in the incidence of vandalism, trespass and illegal entry, littering and other violations, and would require expansion of the existing refuge law enforcement program, including officer presence, additional signage and visitor education. This may include the placement of a full-time Refuge Officer and/or cooperative agreements with local law enforcement agencies. In addition, the development and operation of the Interpretive Trail would result in an increased operations and maintenance workload (trail and facility maintenance, sign replacement, development and stocking of brochures, litter cleanup, repair and/or replacement of vandalized property, etc.) and associated costs.



Additional impacts to refuge management programs are not expected.







Alternative 1. Unstaffed Visitor Contact Station and Interpretive Trail



Projected Use Levels



Estimated 17,500 visitors each year



Wildlife/Habitat



Implementation of this alternative would result in the direct loss of approximately 5 acres of upland pasture habitat, with an extended impact to an additional 5 acres (estimated) due to increased human activity at the site. Under this alternative habitat diversity in and adjacent to the project area would increase with the establishment of 8.6 acres of native riparian vegetation.





Mitigation/Protection Plan: Impacts to wildlife will be minimized through screening (both structural and vegetation), restricting visitors to the project site and trail, and through interpretation and education. Impacts to wildlife and habitat will be mitigated by off-site enhancement of approximately 35 acres of upland tamegrass fields (former pasture) in the South Stevenson Unit (Figure 7). Enhancement will consist of weed control, haying or mowing and other pasture improvements as necessary (fertilization, interseeding, planting, aeration, harrowing, etc.). Landscaping plans include the establishment of approximately 8.6 acres of native riparian vegetation which would result in an increase in habitat diversity on the site. Development proposals and associated mitigation plans will be reviewed by the U.S. Forest Service for Consistency with the Management Plan for the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. The Consistency Review will include consultation with appropriate federal, state and local regulatory agencies.





Educational/Recreational Opportunities



Implementation of this alternative would provide new recreational and educational opportunities on the refuge, resulting in an overall increase in such opportunities in the area.



Socioeconomic



According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report Banking on Nature, in 1995 refuge visitors spent $400 million in local communities. As that spending flowed through the economy, it supported 10,000 jobs and provided nearly $170 million on payrolls. It is expected that implementation of this alternative would have a positive effect on the local economy.





Management Implications



Implementation of this alternative would directly support Refuge Operational Goal Statement 4, "To provide opportunities for quality, wildlife dependent recreation, education, and research to enhance public appreciation, understanding, and enjoyment of refuge fish, wildlife, and habitats", and the provisions of The National Wildlife Refuge Improvement Act of 1997 as outlined in Section I.



Increased public use following the implementation of this alternative would result in an increase in the incidence of vandalism, trespass and illegal entry, littering and other violations. As the level of visitation increases under each alternative, the level of anticipated impacts will also increase. These impacts would require expansion of the existing refuge law enforcement program, including officer presence, additional signage and visitor education. This may include the placement of a full-time Refuge Officer and/or cooperative agreements with local law enforcement agencies.



In addition, implementation of this alternative would result in an increased operations and maintenance workload (trail and facility maintenance, sign replacement, development and stocking of brochures, litter cleanup, repair and/or replacement of vandalized property, etc.) and associated costs. Again, as the level of visitation increases under each alternative, the level of anticipated impacts will also increase.



Additional impacts to refuge management programs are not expected.





Alternative 2. Unstaffed Visitor Contact Station and Interpretive Trail



Projected Use Levels



Estimated 45,000 visitors each year.



Wildlife/Habitat



Implementation of this alternative would result in the direct loss of approximately 6 acres of pasture, with an extended impact to an additional 6 acres (estimated) due to increased human activity at the site. Under this alternative habitat diversity in and adjacent to the project area would increase with the establishment of 8.6 acres of native riparian vegetation.





Mitigation/Protection Plan: Impacts to wildlife will be minimized through screening (both structural and vegetation), restricting visitors to the project site and trail, and through interpretation and education. Impacts to wildlife and habitat will be mitigated by off-site enhancement of approximately 35 acres of upland tamegrass fields (former pasture) in the South Stevenson Unit (Figure 7). Enhancement will consist of weed control, haying or mowing and other pasture improvements as necessary (fertilization, interseeding, planting, aeration, harrowing, etc.). Landscaping plans include the establishment of approximately 8.6 acres of native riparian vegetation which will result in an increase in habitat diversity on the site. Development proposals and associated mitigation plans will be reviewed by the U.S. Forest Service for Consistency with the Management Plan for the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. The Consistency Review will include consultation with appropriate federal, state and local regulatory agencies.





Educational/Recreational Opportunities



Implementation of this alternative would provide new recreational and educational opportunities on the refuge, resulting in an overall increase in such opportunities in the area. In addition, implementation of this alternative would provide new recreational and educational opportunities to a larger number of visitors than Alternative 1.





Socioeconomic



According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report Banking on Nature, in 1995 refuge visitors spent $400 million in local communities. As that spending flowed through the economy, it supported 10,000 jobs and provided nearly $170 million on payrolls. The impact to the local economy would be greater than that expected under Alternative 1.





Management Implications



Implementation of this alternative would directly support Refuge Operational Goal Statement 4, "To provide opportunities for quality, wildlife dependent recreation, education, and research to enhance public appreciation, understanding, and enjoyment of refuge fish, wildlife, and habitats", and the provisions of The National Wildlife Refuge Improvement Act of 1997 as outlined in Section I.



Increased public use following the implementation of this alternative would result in an increase in the incidence of vandalism, trespass and illegal entry, littering and other violations. It is anticipated that the level of impact would be greater than that expected under Alternative 1 and would require expansion of the existing refuge law enforcement program, including officer presence, additional signage and visitor education. This may include the placement of a full-time Refuge Officer and/or cooperative agreements with local law enforcement agencies.



In addition, implementation of this alternative would result in an increased operations and maintenance workload (trail and facility maintenance, sign replacement, development and stocking of brochures, litter cleanup, repair and/or replacement of vandalized property, etc.) and associated costs. It is anticipated that the level of impact would be greater than that expected under Alternative 1.



Additional impacts to refuge management programs are not expected.







































Alternative 3. Staffed Gateway Center and Interpretive Trail





Projected Use Levels



Estimated 125,000 visitors each year.



Wildlife/Habitat



Implementation of this alternative would result in the direct loss of approximately 7 acres of pasture, with an extended impact to an additional 7 acres (estimated) due to increased human activity at the site. Under this alternative habitat diversity in and adjacent to the project area would increase with the establishment of 9.2 acres of native riparian vegetation.





Mitigation/Protection Plan: Impacts to wildlife will be minimized through screening (both structural and vegetation), restricting visitors to the project site and trail, and through interpretation and education. Impacts to wildlife and habitat will be mitigated by off-site enhancement of approximately 35 acres of upland tamegrass fields (former pasture) in the South Stevenson Unit (Figure 7). Enhancement will consist of weed control, haying or mowing and other pasture improvements as necessary (fertilization, interseeding, planting, aeration, harrowing, etc.). Landscaping plans include the establishment of approximately 9.2 acres of native riparian vegetation which will result in an increase in habitat diversity on the site. Development proposals and associated mitigation plans will be reviewed by the U.S. Forest Service for Consistency with the Management Plan for the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. The Consistency Review will include consultation with appropriate federal, state and local regulatory agencies.





Educational/Recreational Opportunities



Implementation of this alternative would provide new recreational and educational opportunities on the refuge, resulting in an overall increase in such opportunities in the area. In addition, implementation of this alternative would provide new recreational and educational opportunities to a larger number of visitors than Alternatives1 or 2.





Socioeconomic



According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report Banking on Nature, in 1995

refuge visitors spent $400 million in local communities. As that spending flowed through the economy, it supported 10,000 jobs and provided nearly $170 million on payrolls. It is expected that implementation of this alternative would have a positive effect on the local economy through construction job opportunities, and by attracting up to 150,000 visitors to the area each year. The impact to the local economy would be greater than that expected under Alternatives 1 and 2.





Management Implications



Implementation of this alternative would directly support Refuge Operational Goal Statement 4, "To provide opportunities for quality, wildlife dependent recreation, education, and research to enhance public appreciation, understanding, and enjoyment of refuge fish, wildlife, and habitats", and the provisions of The National Wildlife Refuge Improvement Act of 1997 as outlined in Section I. It is anticipated that Gateway Center staffing needs would be met through implementation of an outreach program involving volunteers, Friends Groups, cooperative associations, community groups, interagency agreements, and hiring of an interpretive specialist to coordinate operations.



Increased public use following the implementation of this alternative would result in an increase in the incidence of vandalism, trespass and illegal entry, littering and other violations. It is anticipated that the level of impact would be greater than that expected under Alternatives 1 and 2 and would require expansion of the existing refuge law enforcement program, including officer presence, additional signage and visitor education. This may include the placement of a full-time Refuge Officer and/or cooperative agreements with local law enforcement agencies.



In addition, implementation of this alternative would result in an increased operations and maintenance workload (trail and facility maintenance, sign replacement, development and stocking of brochures, litter cleanup, repair and/or replacement of vandalized property, etc.) and associated costs. It is anticipated that the level of impact would be greater than that expected under Alternatives 1 and 2.



Additional impacts to refuge management programs are not expected .









Alternative 4. No Action





Wildlife/Habitat



Implementation of this alternative would result in no changes to existing habitat on the refuge.





Educational/Recreational Opportunities



Implementation of this alternative would result in no new recreational and educational opportunities on the refuge, resulting in no change in the availability of such opportunities in the area.





Socioeconomic



Implementation of this alternative would have no effect on the local economy.





Management Implications



Implementation of this alternative would result in no change in refuge management practices.





Steigerwald Lake NWR

Gateway Center

Alternatives/Impacts Matrix and

Needs Assessment



Impact Topics Interpretive Trail (Alternatives 1 - 3) Alternative 1

Unstaffed Visitor Contact Station

Alternative 2 Unstaffed Visitor Contact Station with Displays Alternative 3 Proposed Action - Staffed Gateway Center Alternative 4

No Action

Wildlife/Habitat Limited disturbance to habitat. Limited but moderately increasing levels of disturbance to wildlife. Limited disturbance to wildlife and habitat. Project area = 10 acres. Limited disturbance to wildlife and habitat. Project area = 12 acres. Moderate disturbance to wildlife and habitat. Project area = 14 acres. No disturbance to wildlife or habitat
Educational/

Recreational Opportunities



Increased opportunities on refuge and in local area.


Increased opportunities on refuge and in local area.


Increased opportunities on refuge and in local area.


Increased opportunities on refuge and in local area.
No change in educational/recreational opportunities on refuge and in local area.
Socioeconomic Positive effect on local economy Positive effect on local economy Positive effect on local economy Positive effect on local economy No effect on local economy
Management Implications Supports refuge operational goal 4 and provisions of the National Wildlife Refuge Improvement Act of 1997. Expanded law enforcement program required. Supports refuge operational goal 4 and provisions of the National Wildlife Refuge Improvement Act of 1997. Expanded law enforcement program required. Supports refuge operational goal 4 and provisions of the National Wildlife Refuge Improvement Act of 1997. Expanded law enforcement program required. Supports refuge operational goal 4 and provisions of the National Wildlife Refuge Improvement Act of 1997. Expanded law enforcement program required. Interpretive Specialist required. No change in management
Needs Assessment   Needs partially met Needs partially met Needs fully met Needs not met







V. COMPLIANCE, CONSULTATION AND COORDINATION WITH OTHERS



Statement of Compliance for Development of the Steigerwald Lake Gateway, Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge



The following executive orders and legislative acts have been reviewed as they apply to the proposed action.

















VI. LIST OF PREPARERS/CONTRIBUTORS



Jeff Holm, Refuge Manager, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Tom Melanson, Project Leader, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Mari Jilbert, Landscape Architect, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Matt Hasti, Visual Information Specialist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Kendal Morris, Visual Information Specialist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Joe Engler, Wildlife Biologist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Jim Clapp, Deputy Project Leader, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Alex Bordeau, Archaeologist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Bobbi Barrera, Wildlife Biologist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Dennis Peters, Regional Wetlands Coordinator, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Ron Weaver, Division of Habitat Conservation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Monte Knudsen, Species Protection and Recovery Manager, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Ben Harrison, NEPA Specialist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Robin Dobson, Botanist, U.S. Forest Service

Jane Banyard, Fish Biologist, National Marine Fisheries Service

Ben Meyer, Fish Biologist, National Marine Fisheries Service





VII. DISTRIBUTION LIST



Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians Tom and Valerie Alway

John and Kathia Arnold Dr. Albert Attwell

Back Country Horsemen of Oregon Back Country Horsemen of Washington

Representative Brian Baird Ken and Dee Bajema

Beacon Rock State Park Bob Bicknell

John L. Bierdhof Stanley Bishoprick

Jim Bliss Nancy Bottemiller

Bill and Stella Bourassa Mitchell Bower Jr.

Jan Branemar Chuck Bryan

John Buchholz Evan Burton

Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad Susan and Wilson Cady

Camas-Washougal Chamber of Commerce Camas-Washougal Post-Record

Clyde Camp Jim Carroll

Carson Community Council Stevenson Chamber of Commerce

Chinook Trail Association City Council - Washougal

City of Camas City of North Bonneville

City of Stevenson City of Washougal

Paul Clare Clark County Commissioners

Clark County Natural Resource Council Clark County Parks and Recreation

Clark County Planning Department Clark County PUD

Craig Clohessy Ken Cohen

Columbia River Gorge Commission Columbia Gorge Audubon

Columbia Gorge United Columbia Gorge Visitors Association

Columbia Trail Riders Conboy Lake National Wildlife Refuge

Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs

Shalli Craig Discover Bicycles, Inc.

Washington State Department of Community Development Tom France

Washington State Department of Natural Resources Mary Ann Duncan-Cole

Stan Egbert Fred Elliot

Federal Highway Administration Janice Ferguson

Don Fish Friends of Multnomah Falls

Friends of the Columbia Gorge Frank Funk

Joe and Sandra Gamble William Gibson

Janet Gilson Doug Greene

Pat Guard Lloyd Halverson

Norma Harrison June Hays

Steve Hogan Randy Hollord

Hood River News Hood River Velo

M.F. Hull Linda Hunter

Dan and Stephanie Huntington Ellie and Bob Hutton

IAC Sherri Irish

Sharleen and Ron James Diana and Chuck Jensen

Arlene Johnson Robert W. Johnson

Russ Jolley Sallie Jones

Joe Kelly Michael Kepcha

Alma Ladd Vaughn Lein

Peg Lelor Michael and Katherine Leon

Jack Loranger Valerie Luntz

Seth Mackie Matt S. Masco

Joan Mason Johnathan May

Mazamas E.M. McAninch, MD

Al McKee Raymond Moore

Jim Morris Dave Murray

National Marine Fisheries Service, Portland OR Nez Perce Cultural Resource Program

Kim Peery Washington State Office of Historic Preservation

Oregon Equestrian Trail Club Oregon Native Plant Society

Ron Mah, OTAK, INC. Norm Paulson

Dorothy Penn Vicki Pfeiffer

Ron Phillips Juli Pierce

Skamania County Pioneer Plant Conservation Biology Program

Betty Pope Port of Camas-Washougal

Port of Skamania Port of Vancouver

Portland Audubon Society Portland United Mountain Pedlars

John and Melissa Price Tom and Becky Price

Bud Quinn Mike Reinhart

John F. Riltz Nancy Russell

S.W. Washington Regional Transportation Council Lynda Sacamano

Skamania County Search and Rescue Ed Schmid

Jane Schmid Jim Schmid

Bob Scullin Senator Dean Sutherland

Senator Patty Murray Senator Slade Gorton

Cathy Treadwell Carolyn Simms

Pat Sims Skamania Community Council

Skamania County Commissioners Skamania County Economic Development Council

Skamania County Parks and Recreation Skamania County Planning Department

Skamania County Sheriffs Department Skamania Lodge

Rodney Sofich Les Sonneson

John Sowinski Gretchen Starke

Gene E. And Janice E. Stone Mark and Kimberly Stonick

Roy Stout Ernest Swigert

Gaynelle Tellman Chuck Williams

The Vancouver Columbian The Oregonian

Jo A. Tollefson Eric Trued

Trust For Public Land Monica Tubberville

Leamon Turner U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service U.S. Forest Service - CRGNSA

Don Voros Ed Wickersham

Nancy Gloman Russ Peterson

Underwood Community Council Union Carbide Corporation

Vancouver Wildlife Washington State Department of Ecology

Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife Washington State Department of Transportation

Washington State Natural Heritage Program Washington Native Plant Society

Washington State Historic Preservation Office Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission

Washington State Tourism Division Marsh Warren

Nanni Warren Fred Weakly

Dan Werner

Jo Woodruff Mary Legry

Yakama Tribal Council Wayne Young

Murase Associates Jeff Guard

Malcom and Sherian Wright Evan Burton

Rosalee MacRae Lois Jemtegaard

Lynette Zuercher Kevin Gorman

Kathy Armstrong Bonny and Jim McGunn

Cherie Kearney







VIII. FIGURES







APPENDIX A: JUNE 29, 1998 OPEN HOUSE









SUMMARY OF COMMENTS RECEIVED





The Open House held on June 29, 1998 in Washougal, Washington was attended by approximately 120 people. A total of 213 invitations were mailed out to interested parties. Announcements and spotlight stories were featured in the local papers (the Oregonian, the Columbian, the Camas-Washougal Post-Record and the Skamania Pioneer) and on local Clark County cable television. A total of 18 written comments were received by the Service during the 45-day comment period following the Open House. The U.S. Forest Service received 10 comments directly related to development of visitor facilities at Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge. Most respondents selected one or more of the 4 alternatives as follows:







Alternative Selected Comment Received by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Comments Received by the U.S. Forest Service
No choice - support some development

1

 
Alternative 1

2

1

Alternative 1 or 2

1

 
Alternative 2

7

 
Alternative 2 or 3

2

 
Alternative 3

2

4

Alternative 4

3

5

TOTAL

18

10





Of the 28 respondents, 20 supported development of some type of visitor facilities at Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge.





SUMMARY OF COMMENTS AGAINST DEVELOPMENT OF VISITOR FACILITIES AND RESPONSE







The following is a summary of comments against the proposed action received in response to the Open House held on June 29, 1998 in Washougal, Washington. Each comment is followed by a number or numbers which reference the appropriate response from the list which follows the comment summary.







Comment



"There are no appropriate recreational uses for this site. This is supposed to be a wildlife refuge, not a people recreation area. There should be no users of this area other than that of wildlife. Private land is just that .'Private land'. It should not be open to the public. Wildlife will be disrupted, disturbed, and permanently damage if people are allowed to encroach upon this area." (1, 2, 3, 6)



"I believe there is adequate space along Hwy 14 including the Historic site area for those people who want to stop and view the wildlife. It is very easy with the naked eye or a pair of binoculars to view all the spectaculars from the highway without disturbing the birds." (3)



"Please leave this refuge to the wildlife." (1, 2, 3, 6)



Please, please remember that what is crucial here is preserving the natural land and its creatures!"

(1, 3)



"These trails are invasive, i.e. too close to the USFW Steigerwald Refuge and as presently proposed, they cross the private property of an unwilling 'seller' who owns the land." (3, 6)



"It wasn't enough that the property owners unluckily located in the Gorge, have lost million of potential property value - now the government agencies are back once again and want not only to take their value away from them, but now their privacy!" (6)



"For you to make it (Dike trail) a huge tourist attraction our Hwy 14 is not adequate. We will need more stoplights." (8)



"Obstacles to this proposed trail are not cost effective to implement. A major highway, a railroad crossing and private property are major obstacles." (6, 7, 8, 9)



"I strongly object to the construction of a so called "Wildlife Center" and building of trails to further disrupt and drive away the bird population who so much depend upon the few remaining and dwindling areas as sanctuaries to rest, feed, and live away from the encroachment of human beings. Building trails for people to walk through or even nearby the refuge defeats the purpose of having a sanctuary." (1,3)



"..the attached newspaper article ....as noted in this article the agency budget for the Washington State Fish and Wildlife has been so drastically cut...the budget of the Forest Service has recently faced similar major cuts and personnel adjustments...how are the two agencies going to come up with $1 million to build a 'wildlife center'?" (7, 10)



"To much impact on wildlife and people." (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)



"You are not protecting wildlife by exposing them to tourism & pollution." (1, 2, 3)



"I do not feel that the well-being for wildlife is being protected when you plan a huge tourists attraction around it... Wildlife refuge should be just that - not an advertised attraction with facilities, parking, hiking, conference rooms, gift shops, etc.....Plus we hear you will be trespassing on private property..." (1, 2, 3, 6)



"I think a wildlife refuge should be for wildlife only" (1)





Response



1. PL 105-57 National Wildlife Refuge Improvement Act of 1997 Section 5 (b), "compatible wildlife-dependent recreation is a legitimate and appropriate use of the System, directly related to the mission of the System and the purposes of many refuges, and which generally fosters refuge management and through which the American public can develop an appreciation for fish and wildlife."



Section 5 (c), "compatible wildlife dependent recreational uses are the priority general public uses of the System and shall receive priority consideration in refuge planning and management; and"



Section 5 (d), "when the Secretary determines that a proposed wildlife-dependent recreational use is a compatible use within a refuge, that activity should be facilitated, subject to such restrictions or regulations as may be necessary, reasonable and appropriate"



Section 5 DEFINITIONS



"(1) The term 'compatible use' means a wildlife -dependent recreational use or any other use of a refuge that, in the sound professional judgement of the Director, will not materially interfere with or detract from the fulfillment of the mission of the System or the purposes of the refuge."



"(2) The terms 'wildlife dependent recreation' and 'wildlife dependent recreational use' mean a use of a refuge involving hunting, fishing, wildlife observation and photography, or environmental education and interpretation."



2. Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge Operational Goal Statements (4), "To provide opportunities for quality, wildlife-dependent recreation, education, and research to enhance public appreciation, understanding, and enjoyment of refuge fish, wildlife, and habitats."



3. Appendix C., Compatibility Determination



4. Management Plan for the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, Part I, Chapter 4, page I-151, GMA Objective (4), "Encourage the establishment of 'gateway' facilities located at major entryways to the Scenic Area. Such facilities should:



A. Welcome and orient the visitor and provide tourist information.



B. Offer exhibits on the features and resources in the vicinity of the facility.



5. Management Plan for the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, Part III, Chapter 1, page III-5, GMA and Urban Area Proposal No. 1, T1, Steigerwald Northwest Gateway/Cottonwood Beach Trail , Development Proposal, "It is recommended that a small to moderate-sized facility be established, combining the functions of a refuge office and wildlife/wetlands interpretive and education facility with those of a 'gateway' facility. The former should be emphasized, with the development of appropriate interpretive and environmental education programs highlighting the natural resources of the refuge, as well as wetland restoration and other ongoing refuge programs."



6. The proposed action does not include a physical connection to the U.S. Forest Service Pioneer Point Trail Project and will not directly impact private lands adjacent to the refuge.



7. The proposed action will not be taken without appropriation of project funds.



8. Washington State Department of Transportation has been involved during the entire planning process. Traffic safety considerations have been included in site planning.



9. The proposed action will not require development of a railroad crossing.



10. The proposed action is a project of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, not the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife.



LETTERS OF SUPPORT

APPENDIX B. WETLAND DELINEATION



APPENDIX C. COMPATIBILITY DETERMINATION



APPENDIX D. U.S. FOREST SERVICE BIOLOGICAL EVALUATION (FLORA)



APPENDIX E. SECTION 7 CONSULTATION UNDER THE ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT OF 1973



APPENDIX F. CULTURAL RESOURCES SURVEY



APPENDIX G. NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE IMPROVEMENT ACT OF 1997

1. Total visitation and trail use estimates for Alternative 3 are derived from consultations with U.S. Forest Service Recreation Planning Staff and are based on visitation at the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center, Multnomah Falls and various trail heads. Total visitation estimates for Alternatives 1 and 2 were calculated based on parking lot size as compared to the estimated use under Alternative 3. Trail use for Alternatives 1 and 2 were calculated based on the assumption that the percentage of visitors using the trail would increase as the level of development of on-site visitor facilities decreased.