River S Unit Access Project

In 2009 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) published the Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) for the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. The CCP included a Transportation Access Study completed by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA); that study was a preliminary review of alternatives providing access improvements to the River 'S' Unit. The USFWS selected a new access to the River S Unit in their final CCP, meaning a new access point for River S was desired. A specific location for this access was not selected in the CCP.

The USFWS has now requested FHWA's, Western Federal Lands Division office in Vancouver WA to lead the River 'S' Unit Access Project under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). By building upon past planning efforts, the FHWA will produce an in-depth transportation analysis to assess the current access location and identify specific alternative locations to the River S Unit. With this new effort, FHWA is planning on engaging in a public scoping process under NEPA to develop the purpose and need and a full range of alternatives to address access related problems to the River 'S' Unit. For more information about FHWA process and outreach efforts, please follow this link to FHWA's website for this project.

River S Unit Access Project

The USFWS and FHWA’s Western Federal Lands Division office in Vancouver, Washington, have been developing a comprehensive understanding of land used, ownerships, rights of way, and environmental issues by gathering agency input, interviewing area interest groups, and soliciting public comment. Since our last newsletter, FHWA produced an in-depth transportation analysis to assess the current access location, Traffic Impact Assessment of potential new River S access locations, Railroad Crossing Study, Existing Bridge Evaluation, Lake River Navigation Study. Additionally, we identified, developed, and performed initial screening on a range of alternatives locations. Since June 2012, FHWA considered 23 alternatives. At the January 31 open house, the community will have an opportunity to review the alternatives and criteria and weigh in on whether there are additional alternatives or criteria that should be considered. To learn more about the project, please visit the Project Update.

de minimis Section 4(f) Determination

The purpose of River S Access Project is to provide for long-term access that addresses visitor demand and meets the operational and management needs of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge Complex. When compared to the no-build alternative, the proposed action is intended to achieve the following objectives: a) improve the reliability and mobility of public access to and from the River ‘S’ Unit, b) improve the USFWS’s ability to efficiently carry out their operations consistent with their management goals within the Ridgefield Refuge Complex, and c) provide for a transportation solution that is sustainable for the resources on the refuge and the community of Ridgefield. This project is subjext to Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act of 1966 that states“the Secretary shall not approve any program or project which requires the use of any publicly owned land from a public park, recreation area, or wildlife and waterfowl refuge of national, state, or local significance as determined by the Federal, State, or local officials having jurisdiction thereof, or any land from an historic site of national, State, or local significance as so determined by such officials unless (1) there is no feasible and prudent alternative to the use of such land, and (2) such program includes all possible planning to minimize harm to such park, recreation areas, wildlife and waterfowl refuge, or historic sites resulting from such use.”

To comply with the Transportation Act, we are providing information to the public and affording an opportunity to review and comment on the effects of the project on the protected activities, features, and attributes of the Section 4 (f) resource.

The de minimis Section 4(f) determination