BNSF Railway Bridge Across the Missouri River at Bismarck, North Dakota; Preparation of Environmental Impact Statement

 
CONTENT
Federal Register, Volume 85 Issue 5 (Wednesday, January 8, 2020)
[Federal Register Volume 85, Number 5 (Wednesday, January 8, 2020)]
[Notices]
[Pages 930-932]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2020-00053]
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DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY
Coast Guard
[Docket Number USCG-2019-0882]
BNSF Railway Bridge Across the Missouri River at Bismarck, North
Dakota; Preparation of Environmental Impact Statement
AGENCY: Coast Guard, DHS.
ACTION: Notice of intent to prepare an EIS; and request for comments.
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SUMMARY: In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of
1969 (NEPA) and the regulations implemented by the Council on
Environmental Quality (CEQ), and the National Historic Preservation Act
(NHPA), the Coast Guard announces its intent to prepare an
Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to evaluate the potential
environmental consequences of replacing the existing BNSF bridge across
the Missouri River at Bismarck, ND, or constructing a bridge adjacent
to the existing bridge. CEQ regulations require an early and open
process for determining the scope of issues that the Coast Guard needs
to address in an EIS (``scoping''). Scoping determines which issues to
analyze in depth in the EIS and eliminates from detailed study the
issues that are not significant or were covered in prior environmental
reviews. This document invites the participation of affected federal,
state, and local agencies, any affected Indian tribes and other
interested persons in determining the appropriate issues for EIS
analysis for this project.
DATES: Comments must be submitted to the online docket via https://www.regulations.gov/, on or before February 24, 2020.
ADDRESSES: You may submit comments identified by docket number USCG-
2019-0882 using the Federal eRulemaking Portal at https://www.regulations.gov/. See the ``Public Participation and Request for
Comments'' portion of the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section for further
instructions on submitting comments.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Rob McCaskey, Coast Guard District
Eight Project Officer, 314-269-2381.
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:
I. Background and Purpose
    BNSF Railway Company owns and operates the existing bridge that
crosses the Missouri River between the cities of Mandan, and Bismarck,
North Dakota. With components over 130 years old, the in-place
structure is approaching the end of its useful service life. The
structure has a history of exposure to ice jams and its substructure
configuration renders it potentially susceptible to scour events.
Although currently stable, the structure has experienced structural
issues at both approaches in the past, resulting in unanticipated
substructure movements. Since constructing the original bridge in 1882,
the east hill slope began to move and resulted in the slope moving the
pier west towards the river inches per year. Multiple remediation
efforts to correct the pier damage/location and slope movement took
place from the early 1800s to the mid 1950s. The intent of the project
is to construct a new, independent bridge across the Missouri River
upstream of the in-place structure. Operationally, the new structure
will carry the mainline track and the current structure will be taken
down. The new structure will provide a significant improvement in
operational reliability and safety, and will provide enhanced
structural redundancy thereby making it less susceptible to damage. As
the current structure is 130 years old, it requires substantial
inspection and maintenance, which are disruptive to rail service. The
new structure will be a single-track bridge but have the capability to
carry a second track in the future when and if volumes necessitate that
addition.
    The BNSF Bismarck Bridge was constructed with similar methods in
the same era as the Brooklyn Bridge. It is an iconic landmark that
predates official North Dakota statehood by six years. The bridge is
eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places for
its association with broad patterns of railroad, commercial and
military history of the United States. Because of these attributes,
certain interest groups have expressed a desire to preserve the
existing bridge.
    The federal bridge statutes, including the River and Harbors Act of
1899, as amended, the Act of March 23, 1906, as amended, and the
General Bridge Act of 1946 (33 U.S.C. 525 et seq.), require that the
location and plans of bridges in or over navigable waters of the United
States be approved by the Secretary of Homeland Security, who has
delegated that responsibility to the Coast Guard. The Missouri River is
a navigable water of the United States as defined in 33
[[Page 931]]
CFR 2.36(a). In exercising these bridge authorities, the Coast Guard
considers navigational and environmental impacts, which include
historic and tribal effects. The Coast Guard's primary responsibility
regarding BNSF's proposed railroad bridge is to ensure the structure
does not unreasonably obstruct navigation.
    The Coast Guard is the lead federal agency (LFA) for this project
and, as such, responsible for the review of its potential effects on
the human environment, including historic properties and tribal
impacts, pursuant to NEPA and NHPA. The Coast Guard is, therefore,
required by law to ensure potential environmental effects are carefully
evaluated in each bridge permitting decision.
    On December 14, 2017, the Coast Guard held a public meeting and
open house in Bismarck, ND, to identify impacts of the bridge
alteration or replacement and to provide an opportunity for the public
to offer comments relating to the bridge project. The meeting was held
in compliance with Section 106 of the NHPA, 36 CFR 800.2(d). In
addition, the meeting was also used to explain the NEPA process for
this project. At the meeting, the Coast Guard accepted input from the
public on the potential impacts associated with the project that should
be addressed while developing the Environmental Assessment. Since that
time, it has been determined that there might be a significant impact
associated with the potential removal of the existing historic bridge.
Therefore, the Coast Guard has decided to proceed with the development
of an EIS. During this process, the Coast Guard will be addressing the
significant impact on the historic bridge through a Programmatic
Agreement in accordance with Section 106 of the NHPA. Both the draft
EIS and draft Programmatic Agreement will be available for public
comment when the documents are developed.
    The transcript for the meeting is available on the Federal Docket
associated with this notice and provides a summary of the impacts
associated with the alternatives considered to date. The four
alternatives considered include different span lengths, with the piers
at different distances from the current bridge. Specifically, the
options included:
     Building a new bridge with 200 foot spans and piers 92.5
\1\ feet upstream of the existing bridge (alternative considered
keeping the existing bridge and removing the existing bridge)
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    \1\ In prior communications with stakeholders at the 2017 public
meeting, the preferred alternative (bridge) was described as having
a track 80ft and a space for a future second track at 105ft from the
center line of the current bridge. Note the distance between the
tracks (e.g. new and future) is 25ft, and the centerline of the
proposed bridge is located half way in between these tracks, which
is 92.5ft from the center of the existing bridge. For the purpose of
simplifying the description of the preferred alternative, the
dimension from the existing bridge was referenced as the distance
between the centerline of the existing and proposed bridge, instead
of distance to tracks. In short, the 92.5ft referenced in the BNSF
November 2019 presentation, ``BNSF Br. 196.6 Replacement Design
Concepts Considered'' is exactly the same placement as previously
communicated.
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     Building a new bridge with 400 foot spans and piers 92.5
\1\ feet upstream of the existing bridge (alternative considered
keeping the existing bridge and removing the existing bridge)
     Building a new bridge with 200 foot spans and piers 42.5
feet upstream of the existing bridge (alternative considered keeping
the existing bridge and removing the existing bridge)
     Building a new bridge with 200 foot spans and piers 20
feet upstream of the existing bridge and removing the existing bridge
(BNSF Preferred Design).
    The alternatives were developed to meet the purpose and need of the
project, which is to provide BNSF Railway with a new bridge that can
accommodate two tracks at a future date should a second track become
needed. There are specific constraints in the area that must be taken
into consideration as designs are evaluated. For example, the bridge is
close to the Missouri River Natural Area, which is a federally funded
park managed by the North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department in
cooperation with the North Dakota Department of Transportation, Morton
County Parks, and the City of Mandan. The Missouri River Natural Area
is the home to many species, including bald eagles, fox, deer and owls.
Likewise, the bridge is in close proximity to the Bismarck Reservoir,
which is a major source of drinking water for residents of the area and
is located in an area with a history of significant slope stability
issues.
    The Federal Docket also contains a slide show and Fact Sheet
providing additional information on the alternatives being considered.
    As part of this evaluation process, the Coast Guard solicits
comments from State and Federal agencies with expertise in, and
authority over, particular resources that may be impacted by a project.
Additionally, the Coast Guard seeks input from any tribes that may be
affected or otherwise have expertise or equities in the project.
Agencies that have already participated in the environmental review of
this Project include the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the U.S. Federal Emergency
Management Agency (FEMA), the North Dakota State Historic Preservation
Office (SHPO) and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP).
    This project meets the definition of a Major Infrastructure Project
under Executive Order 13807: Establishing Discipline and Accountability
in the Environmental Review and Permitting Process for Infrastructure
Projects, also known as ``One Federal Decision.'' Pursuant to the
requirements in One Federal Decision, the Coast Guard intends to issue
a single Final EIS and Record of Decision (ROD) document, unless the
Coast Guard determines statutory criteria or practicability
considerations preclude issuance of a combined document. One Federal
Decision prescribes an average of two years from the date of
publication of a notice of intent to a single Final EIS and ROD.
II. Scoping Process
    CEQ NEPA regulations at 40 CFR part 1501.7 require an early and
open process for determining the scope of issues that the LFA needs to
address in an EIS. This is known as scoping. LFAs are required to
invite the participation of affected federal, state, and local
agencies, any affected Indian tribes and other interested persons in
determining the appropriate issues for EIS analysis. Scoping determines
which issues to analyze in depth in the EIS and eliminates from
detailed study the issues that are not significant or were covered in
prior environmental reviews.
    When evaluating potential alternatives to this project, the Coast
Guard will consider impacts on historic properties including the
current bridge, impacts to endangered or threatened species and impacts
to the Bismarck Reservoir and the Missouri River Natural Area.
Additionally, FEMA has identified the area of the project as a
floodplain under the National Flood Insurance Program. As such, the
design must meet FEMA's ``no net rise'' requirement, which is intended
to prevent increasing flood hazard risks to existing structures and
property.
[[Page 932]]
III. Information Requested
    The Coast Guard is developing a draft EIS that addresses impacts
associated with the alternatives mentioned in Section I above. These
impacts include those environmental control laws listed in the Coast
Guard's Bridge Permit Application Guide (available at https://www.dco.uscg.mil/Portals/9/DCO%20Documents/5pw/Office%20of%20Bridge%20Programs/BPAG%20COMDTPUB%20P16591%203D_Sequential%20Clearance%20Final(July2016).p
df), as well as those impacts associated with floodplain rise, the
Bismarck Water Reservoirs and the Missouri River Natural Area. Impacts
associated with the historic bridge will be addressed in a Section 106
Programmatic Agreement, which will be made available for comment when
the draft EIS is made available for comment. If there are other items
that should be addressed in the draft EIS, please send those comments
to the Coast Guard as indicated in Section IV below.
IV. Public Participation and Request for Comments
    In accordance with the CEQ regulations, the Coast Guard invites
public participation in the NEPA and NHPA process. This notice requests
public participation in the scoping process, establishes a public
comment period, and provides information on how to participate. If you
submit a comment, please include the docket number for this notice and
provide a reason for each suggestion or recommendation.
    We encourage you to submit comments through the Federal portal at
http://www.regulations.gov. If your material cannot be submitted using
http://www.regulations.gov, contact the person in the FOR FURTHER
INFORMATION CONTACT section of this document for alternate
instructions. Documents mentioned in this notice, and all public
comments, are in our online docket at http://www.regulations.gov and
can be viewed by following that website's instructions. Additionally,
if you go to the online docket and sign up for email alerts, you will
be notified when comments are posted or a final rule is published.
    We accept anonymous comments. All comments received will be posted
without change to http://www.regulations.gov and will include any
personal information you have provided. For more about privacy and
submissions in response to this document, see DHS's Correspondence
System of Records notice (84 FR 48645, September 26, 2018).
V. Public Meeting
    We do not plan to hold public meetings during this scoping period.
Our scoping meeting for NEPA and the NHPA was held on December 14,
2017, at the commencement of the Coast Guard bridge permitting process.
    Dated: January 2, 2020.
Brian L. Dunn,
Chief, Office of Bridge Programs.
[FR Doc. 2020-00053 Filed 1-7-20; 8:45 am]
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