Forest Service issues plan for Yellowstone Pipe project

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The Forest Service has prepared a draft decision notice on the Yellowstone Pipe Out-of-Service Abandonment project, which is located on the Plains/Thompson Falls and Missoula Ranger Districts in Missoula and Sanders Counties.

The release of the draft decision notice initiates the 45-day objection period which will be held prior to a decision being finalized.

Objections will only be accepted from those who have previously submitted specific written comments regarding the proposed project during scoping or other designated opportunity for public comment.

The selected action in the draft decision is a blend of alternatives 2 and 3 as evaluated in the Environmental Assessment (EA).

The selected action will include the removal of approximately 2,958 feet of buried pipeline along with two over-river crossings along the Clark Fork River on National Forest System lands and includes the stabilization and abandonment of approximately 5,865 feet of the buried pipe at 4 separate locations.

Annual monitoring of these sections of buried pipe would continue.

The Yellowstone Pipeline from Missoula to Thompson Falls was decommissioned in 1995 after a leak was discovered in the line on the Flathead Indian Reservation.

In 2000, it was decided that the line would not be re-activated or re-located, and the company would instead continue to transport the petroleum by railway from Missoula to the holding facility located in Thompson Falls.

Years of planning and collaboration with pipeline officials and the public has resulted in this draft decision.

The project was undertaken originally in order to comply with the terms and conditions of the existing special use authorization for the out-of-service pipeline.

This authorization requires that the pipeline either be removed, or with proper reclamation and stabilization be left in place to decompose over time.

“Finalizing the long-term plan for the management of the out-of-service petroleum pipeline across the Lolo National Forest has been years in the making. With input from the public, our partners and representatives from the pipeline, we feel the selected action best meets the interests of all parties, while addressing resource concerns” said Lolo Forest Supervisor, Carolyn Upton.

To learn more about the project, visit the Lolo National Forest website at https://www.fs.usda.gov/projects/lolo/landmanagement/projects, or call the Plains/Thompson Falls Ranger District at (406) 826-3821.

Objections Process

Objections, including attachments, must be filed via mail, express delivery, or messenger service to:

• Objection Reviewing Officer, USDA Forest Service, Northern Region, 26 Fort Missoula Road, Missoula, MT 59804;

• FAX to (406) 329-3411;

• Email to appeals-northern-regional-office@usda.gov;

• Hand-delivery (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., excluding holidays) to the same above address.

Objections must be submitted within 45 calendar days following the publication of a legal notice in the Missoulian. The legal ad was expected to be published Sept. 18, 2019.

The publication date in the newspaper of record is the exclusive means for calculating the time to file an objection. Those wishing to object should not rely upon dates or timeframe information provided by any other source. The regulations prohibit extending the time to file an objection.

If objections are filed, the responsible official may not issue a decision document approving the project until the reviewing officer has responded in writing to all objections. The project may be implemented immediately after the decision is signed.

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