[Federal Register Volume 70, Number 182 (Wednesday, September 21, 2005)]
[Pages 55358-55365]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 05-18815]



Record of Decision for the Remediation of the Moab Uranium Mill 
Tailings, Grand and San Juan Counties, UT

AGENCY: Office of Environmental Management, U.S. Department of Energy.

ACTION: Record of decision.


SUMMARY: The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announces its decision to 
implement the preferred alternatives identified in the Remediation of 
the Moab Uranium Mill Tailings, Grand and San Juan Counties, Utah, 
Final Environmental Impact Statement (DOE/EIS-0355) (Final EIS). By 
implementing the preferred alternatives, DOE will remove the uranium 
mill tailings and other contaminated material from the Moab milling 
site and nearby off-site properties (vicinity properties) and relocate 
them at the Crescent Junction site, using predominantly rail 
transportation. DOE will also implement active ground water remediation 
at the Moab milling site. In reaching this decision, DOE considered the 
potential environmental impacts, costs, and other implications of both 
on-site and off-site disposal. For off-site disposal, DOE considered 
three alternative sites in Utah (Crescent Junction, Klondike Flats, and 
the White Mesa Mill) and three transportation modes (truck, rail, and 
slurry pipeline).
    DOE identified off-site disposal as its preferred alternative for 
the disposal of mill tailings, primarily because of the uncertainties 
related to long-term performance of a capped pile at the Moab site. 
Issues, such as the potential for river migration and severe flooding 
contribute to this uncertainty. The

[[Page 55359]]

Crescent Junction site was identified as the preferred off-site 
disposal location, rather than Klondike Flats or White Mesa Mill, 
because Crescent Junction has the longest isolation period (time it 
would take for contaminants to reach the ground water); the lowest 
land-use conflict potential; access to existing rail lines without 
crossing U.S. Highway 191; the shortest haul distance from the rail 
rotary dump into the disposal cell, reducing the size of the 
radiological control area; and flat terrain, making operations easier 
and safer. DOE identified rail as the preferred mode of transportation, 
because compared to truck transportation, rail has a lower accident 
rate, lower potential impacts to wildlife, and lower fuel consumption. 
In addition, compared to a slurry pipeline, rail transportation would 
have a much lower water demand and would avoid landscape scars caused 
by pipeline construction, which could create moderate contrasts in 
form, line, color, and texture with the surrounding landscape.
    This Record of Decision (ROD) has been prepared in accordance with 
the regulations of the Council on Environmental Quality (Title 40 Code 
of Federal Regulations (CFR) Parts 1500-1508) for implementing the 
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and DOE's NEPA Implementing 
Procedures (10 CFR Part 1021). The Final EIS also includes a Floodplain 
and Wetlands Assessment and a Floodplain Statement of Findings in 
compliance with DOE's Floodplain and Wetland Environmental Review 
requirements (10 CFR Part 1022).

ADDRESSES: Copies of the Final EIS and this ROD may be requested by 
calling 1-800-637-4575, a toll-free number, or by contacting Mr. Donald 
Metzler, Moab Federal Project Director, U.S. Department of Energy, by 
mail: 2597 B \3/4\ Road, Grand Junction, Colorado, 81503; by fax: 1-
970-248-7636; by phone: 1-800-637-4575 or 1-970-248-7612; or e-mail: 
[email protected]. The Final EIS is also available, and this ROD 
will be available, on the DOE NEPA Web site, at http://www.eh.doe.gov/nepa/documents.html and on the project Web site at http://gj.em.doe.gov/moab/.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For further information on the 
Remediation of the Moab Uranium Mill Tailings, Grand and San Juan 
Counties, Utah, Final Environmental Impact Statement, contact Donald 
Metzler, as indicated in the ADDRESSES section above. For general 
information on the DOE NEPA process, contact Carol Borgstrom, Director, 
Office of NEPA Policy and Compliance, EH-42, U.S. Department of Energy, 
1000 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20585; telephone 1-202-
586-4600, or leave a message at 1-800-472-2756.

environmental impacts associated with the disposal of uranium mill 
tailings currently on the Moab milling site and on vicinity properties 
at the Moab milling site or at one of three alternative sites in Utah: 
Crescent Junction, Klondike Flats, or the White Mesa Mill. The Final 
EIS also considers three transportation modes--truck, rail, and slurry 
pipeline--for moving the tailings from the Moab site to the off-site 
alternatives. In addition, the EIS considers active ground water 
remediation at the Moab milling site to address ground water 
contamination that resulted from past mill operations.
    Because the activities assessed in the Final EIS could affect 
Federal, state, and private lands and pass through several local and 
county jurisdictions, 12 agencies and municipalities worked with DOE as 
cooperating agencies in the preparation of the EIS. These cooperating 
agencies are the Bureau of Land Management (BLM); National Park 
Service; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; U.S. Environmental Protection 
Agency (EPA); U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USF&WS); U.S. Nuclear 
Regulatory Commission (NRC); the State of Utah; the Ute Mountain Ute 
Tribe; Grand County; San Juan County; the City of Blanding; and the 
Community of Bluff. Because the Crescent Junction site is currently on 
land managed by BLM, the Department of the Interior will complete a 
Public Land Order, based upon DOE's application for land withdrawal, 
this ROD, and the Final EIS, that will transfer jurisdiction of the 
Crescent Junction site to DOE. BLM will, as necessary, also grant 
permits for removal of borrow materials (such as soil, sand, gravel, 
and rock) from BLM lands.
    Background: In 1978, Congress passed the Uranium Mill Tailings 
Radiation Control Act (UMTRCA), 42 United States Code, (U.S.C.) 7901 et 
seq., in response to public concern regarding potential health hazards 
of long-term exposure to radiation from uranium mill tailings. Title I 
of UMTRCA required DOE to establish a remedial action program and 
authorized DOE to stabilize, dispose of, and control uranium mill 
tailings and other contaminated material (called residual radioactive 
material [RRM]), at 22 uranium-ore processing sites and associated 
vicinity properties. Vicinity properties are those off-site areas near 
the Moab milling site that can be confirmed to be contaminated with 
RRM. UMTRCA also directed EPA to promulgate cleanup standards, which 
are now codified at 40 CFR Part 192, ``Health and Environmental 
Protection Standards for Uranium and Thorium Mill Tailings,'' and 
directed NRC to oversee the cleanup and license the completed disposal 
cells. In October 2000, Congress enacted the Floyd D. Spence National 
Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2001 (Public Law 106-398), 
amending UMTRCA Title I, to give DOE responsibility for remediation of 
the Moab milling site, in accordance with UMTRCA Title I (DOE's 
authority to perform surface remedial action at eligible uranium 
milling sites and vicinity properties expired in 1998 for all other 
    The Moab milling site lies approximately 30 miles south of 
Interstate 70 (I-70) on U.S. Highway 191 (US-191) in Grand County, 
Utah. The 439-acre milling site is located about 3 miles northwest of 
the city of Moab on the west bank of the Colorado River at the 
confluence with the Moab Wash. The milling site is bordered on the 
north and southwest by steep sandstone cliffs. The Colorado River forms 
the eastern boundary of the milling site. US-191 parallels the northern 
site boundary, and the State Road 279 (SR-279) transects the west and 
southwest portion of the property. Arches National Park has a common 
property boundary with the Moab milling site on the north side of US-
191, and the park entrance is located less than 1 mile northwest of the 
milling site. Canyonlands National Park is located about 12 miles to 
the southwest.
    At the Moab milling site, a former uranium-ore processing facility 
was owned and operated by the Uranium Reduction Company and later by 
the Atlas Minerals Corporation (Atlas) under a license issued by NRC. 
The mill ceased operations in 1984 and has been dismantled except for 
one building that is currently used by DOE. During its years of 
operation, the facility accumulated uranium mill tailings, which are 
naturally radioactive residue from the processing of uranium ore. The 
uranium mill tailings are located in a 130-acre unlined pile that 
occupies much of the western portion of the milling site. The top of 
the tailings pile averages 94 feet above the Colorado River floodplain 
and is about 750 feet from the Colorado River. The pile was constructed 
with five terraces and consists of an outer compact embankment of 
coarse tailings, an inner impoundment of both coarse and fine

[[Page 55360]]

tailings, and an interim cover of soils taken from the milling site 
outside the pile area. Debris, from dismantling the mill buildings and 
associated structures, was placed in an area at the south end of the 
pile and covered with contaminated soils and fill. Radiation surveys 
indicate that some soils outside the pile also contain radioactive 
contaminants at concentrations in excess of those allowed in the EPA 
standards in 40 CFR Part 192.
    In addition to the contaminated materials currently at the Moab 
milling site, tailings may have been removed from the Moab milling site 
and used as construction or fill material at homes, businesses, public 
buildings, and vacant lots in and near Moab. As a result, these 
vicinity properties may have elevated concentrations of radium-226 that 
exceed the maximum concentration limits in 40 CFR Part 192. In 
accordance with the requirements of UMTRCA, DOE is obligated to 
remediate those properties where contaminant concentrations exceed the 
maximum concentration limits in 40 CFR Part 192, along with the Moab 
milling site. DOE estimates the total residual radioactive material at 
the Moab milling site and vicinity properties has a total mass of 
approximately 11.9 million tons and a volume of approximately 8.9 
million cubic yards.
    Ground water in the shallow alluvium at the site was contaminated 
by ore-processing operations. The Colorado River, adjacent to the site, 
has been affected by site-related contamination, mostly due to ground 
water discharge. The primary contaminant of concern in the ground water 
and surface water is ammonia. Other contaminants of potential concern 
are manganese, copper, sulfate, and uranium. DOE is currently 
conducting interim ground water remedial actions.

Previous NEPA Review

    In September 1998, the former Moab milling site owner, Atlas, filed 
for bankruptcy. The bankruptcy court appointed NRC and the Utah 
Department of Environmental Quality as beneficiaries of a bankruptcy 
trust created in March 1999, to fund future reclamation and site 
closure. Later, the beneficiaries selected PricewaterhouseCoopers to 
serve as trustee. To support its remediation decision-making, NRC 
issued the Final Environmental Impact Statement Related to Reclamation 
of the Uranium Mill Tailings at the Atlas Site, Moab, Utah (NUREG-1531, 
March 1999), which proposed stabilizing the tailings impoundment (pile) 
in place.
    NRC received numerous comments both in favor of and opposed to the 
proposed action. However, NRC's EIS did not address ground water 
compliance or remediation of vicinity properties. NRC documented USF&WS 
concerns regarding the effects of contaminants reaching the Colorado 
River; specifically, the effects on four endangered fish species and 
critical habitat. (In 1998, USF&WS had concluded in a Biological 
Opinion that continued leaching of existing concentrations of ammonia 
and other constituents into the Colorado River would jeopardize the 
razorback sucker and Colorado pikeminnow.)
    In accordance with Public Law 106-398, DOE acquired the Moab 
milling site in 2001 to facilitate remedial action. DOE's EIS built 
upon the analyses and the alternatives evaluated in NRC's EIS, and 
expanded the scope of the EIS to include remediation of ground water 
and vicinity properties. During this decision-making process, to 
minimize potential adverse effects to human health and the environment 
in the short term, former site operators, custodians, and DOE have 
instituted environmental controls and interim actions at the Moab 
milling site. Controls have included: Storm water management; dust 
suppression; pile dewatering activities; and placement of an interim 
cover on the tailings, to prevent movement of contaminated windblown 
materials from the pile. Interim actions have included: Restricting 
site access; monitoring ground water and surface water; and managing 
and disposing of chemicals, to minimize the potential for releases to 
the Colorado River.

DOE's EIS Process

    DOE began the preparation of an EIS to support its decision-making 
process for the Moab milling site with a Notice of Intent (NOI) 
published on December 20, 2002, in the Federal Register (67 FR 77970). 
Public scoping meetings were held in four Utah cities in January 2003, 
during the scoping comment period, which ended February 14, 2003. After 
considering public comments and input from the 12 cooperating agencies, 
DOE issued the Draft EIS in November 2004. During a 90-day public 
comment period that ended on February 18, 2005, DOE conducted four 
public hearings on the Draft EIS in Moab, Green River, Blanding, and 
White Mesa, Utah. In preparing the Final EIS, DOE considered over 1,600 
comments that it received, including late comments. In April 2005, DOE 
announced its preferred alternatives of off-site disposal, using 
predominantly rail transport to the Crescent Junction, Utah site and 
active ground water remediation. The Final EIS was issued in July 2005.

The Proposed Action

    DOE is proposing to clean up surface contamination and implement a 
ground water compliance strategy to address contamination that resulted 
from historical uranium-ore processing at the Moab milling site 
pursuant to NEPA, 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq. and UMTRCA, 42 U.S.C. 7901 et 


    DOE analyzed the following alternatives in the EIS:
    No Action: Under the No Action alternative, DOE would not remediate 
contaminated material, either on the site or at vicinity properties. 
The existing tailings pile would not be covered and managed in 
accordance with standards in 40 CFR Part 192. No short-term or long-
term site controls or activities to protect human health and the 
environment would be continued or implemented. Public access to the 
site is assumed to be unrestricted. All site activities, including 
operation and maintenance, and ongoing interim ground water remediation 
activities, would cease. A compliance strategy for contaminated ground 
water beneath the site would not be developed, in accordance with 
standards in 40 CFR Part 192. No institutional controls would be 
implemented to restrict use of ground water, and no long-term 
stewardship and maintenance would take place. Because no activities 
would be budgeted or scheduled at the site, no further initial, 
interim, or final remedial action costs would be incurred. DOE 
recognizes that this scenario would be highly unlikely; however, it was 
included as a part of the EIS analyses, to provide a basis for 
comparison to the action alternatives assessed in the EIS, as required 
by NEPA.

Disposal alternatives

    On-site Disposal: The on-site disposal alternative would involve 
placing contaminated site materials and materials from vicinity 
properties on the existing tailings pile and stabilizing and capping 
the tailings pile in place. The cap would be designed to meet EPA 
standards for radon releases. Final design and construction of the cap 
would meet the requirements for disposal cells under applicable EPA 
standards (40 CFR Part 192). Flood protection would be constructed 
along the base of the pile, and cover materials for radon attenuation 
and erosion protection would be brought to the site from suitable 
borrow areas.

[[Page 55361]]

    Off-site Alternatives: DOE evaluated three sites in Utah for off-
site disposal: Crescent Junction; Klondike Flats; and the White Mesa 
    Crescent Junction. The Crescent Junction site is approximately 30 
miles northwest of the Moab milling site and 20 miles east of the city 
of Green River, just northeast of the Crescent Junction interchange on 
Interstate 70 and U.S. Highway 191. The site consists of undeveloped 
land administered by BLM.
    Klondike Flats. Klondike Flats is a low-lying plateau about 18 
miles northwest of the Moab milling site, just northwest of the 
Canyonlands Field Airport and south-southeast of the Grand County 
landfill. The Klondike Flats site consists of undeveloped lands 
administered by BLM and the State of Utah School and Institutional 
Trust Lands Administration.
    White Mesa Mill. The White Mesa Mill site is approximately 85 miles 
south of the Moab site, 4 miles from the Ute Mountain Indian 
Reservation and the community of White Mesa, and 6 miles from Blanding 
in San Juan County, Utah. This commercial, state-licensed, uranium mill 
is owned by the International Uranium (USA) Corporation and disposes of 
processed tailings materials on-site in lined ponds. It has been in 
operation since 1980. The facility would need a license amendment from 
the State of Utah, before it could accept material from the Moab 
milling site.
    Off-site Disposal Transportation Alternatives: For each of the off-
site disposal alternatives, DOE evaluated three modes of transporting 
RRM from the Moab milling site: truck, rail, and slurry pipeline.
    Truck Transport. Trucks would use US-191, as the primary 
transportation route, for hauling contaminated materials and oversized 
debris to the selected disposal site. Trucks would be used exclusively 
for hauling borrow materials to the selected disposal site. 
Construction of highway entrance and exit facilities would be necessary 
to safely accommodate the high volume of traffic currently using this 
    Rail Transport. An existing rail line runs from the Moab milling 
site north along US-191, and connects with the main east-west line near 
I-70. The Crescent Junction and Klondike Flats sites could be served 
from this rail line with upgrades and additional rail sidings. There is 
no rail access from the Moab milling site to the White Mesa Mill site. 
Construction of a rail line from the Moab milling site to the White 
Mesa Mill site was not analyzed in detail, because of the technical 
difficulty, potential impacts, and high cost.
    Slurry Pipeline. This transportation mode would require 
construction of a new buried pipeline from the Moab site to the 
selected disposal site and a buried water line to recycle the slurry 
water back to the Moab milling site for reuse in the pipeline.

Ground Water Remediation Alternative

    Active ground water remediation would be implemented under both the 
on-site and off-site disposal alternatives. DOE's proposed action for 
ground water at the Moab milling site is to apply ground water 
supplemental standards, in accordance with 40 CFR Part 192, Subpart C, 
and implement an active remediation system to intercept and control 
discharge of contaminated ground water to the Colorado River. Because 
of its naturally high salt content, the uppermost aquifer at the Moab 
site is not a potential source of drinking water. The active 
remediation system would extract and treat ground water, while natural 
processes act on ground water to decrease contaminant concentrations to 
meet long-term protective ground water cleanup goals. Active 
remediation would cease after long-term goals were achieved. 
Conceptually, the same system would be installed and operated at the 
Moab milling site regardless of whether the on-site or off-site 
disposal alternative was implemented.

Analysis of Environmental Impacts

    The Final EIS assessed environmental impacts in detail, including 
impacts to physical, biological, socioeconomic, cultural, and 
infrastructure resources that could occur under: the on-site disposal 
alternative; the off-site disposal alternative; three transportation 
modes; and the No Action alternative. The impact analyses in the Final 
EIS determined that there were many resource areas such as air quality, 
terrestrial ecology, land use, noise and vibration, visual, human 
health, infrastructure, waste management, and socioeconomics, in which 
the impacts would neither be significant nor violate any standards, or 
for which there would be little difference among alternatives and, 
therefore, these impact areas were not discriminators among the 
alternatives. This ROD focuses on the potential impacts (both adverse 
and beneficial) that discriminate among the alternatives and made the 
most significant contribution to DOE's decision-making. These impact 
areas include: ground water, surface water, aquatic ecology, 
floodplains, threatened or endangered species, cultural resources, 
traffic, and environmental justice. For the detailed impact analyses, 
the reader is referred to the Final EIS on the Web pages listed above 
    Ground Water. Ground water remediation would be implemented under 
both the on-site and off-site disposal alternatives. Under the on-site 
and off-site disposal alternatives, supplemental standards would be 
applied to protect human health. Supplemental standards would include 
institutional controls to prohibit the use of ground water for drinking 
water. Under the on-site disposal alternative, the tailings pile would 
be a continuing source of contamination that could maintain contaminant 
concentrations at levels above background concentrations in the ground 
water and, therefore, potentially require the application of 
supplemental standards and institutional controls in perpetuity to 
protect human health. Under the off-site disposal alternatives, 
contaminant concentrations in the ground water, under the Moab milling 
site, would return to background levels after an estimated 150 years, 
by which time active ground water remediation would have been 
completed, and institutional controls would no longer be needed. The 
tailings pile would not be a continuing source of contamination to 
ground water at the Moab milling site under the off-site disposal 
    However, under the on-site disposal and No Action alternatives, 
natural basin subsidence could result in permanent tailings contact 
with the ground water in an estimated 7,000 to 10,000 years, at which 
time surface water concentrations could temporarily revert to levels 
that are not protective of aquatic species in the Colorado River.
    In addition, under the No Action alternative, ground water beneath 
the Moab milling site would remain contaminated, would pose an 
increased risk to human health, and would continue in perpetuity to 
discharge contaminants to the surface water at concentrations that 
would not be protective of aquatic species.
    Surface Water and Aquatic Ecology. Under the No Action alternative, 
surface water contamination and nonprotective river water quality would 
continue in perpetuity. DOE estimates that under all action 
alternatives, contamination of the Colorado River from ground water 
discharge would be reduced to levels that would be protective of 
aquatic species within 5 to 10 years, after implementation of ground 
water remediation because of the interception and containment of the 
contaminated ground water plume. DOE also

[[Page 55362]]

anticipates that contaminant concentrations in surface water that are 
protective of aquatic species in the Colorado River could be 
maintained, under all action alternatives, for the 200- to 1,000-year 
time frame specified in EPA's ground water standards (40 CFR Part 192). 
Under the off-site disposal alternative, removal of the pile coupled 
with the estimated 75 years of active ground water remediation would 
result in permanent protective surface water quality. Under the on-site 
disposal alternative, active ground water remediation would continue 
for up to an estimated 80 years.
    Floodplains. A Colorado River 100- or 500-year flood could release 
additional contamination to ground water and surface water under the 
on-site disposal or No Action alternatives. However, under the on-site 
disposal alternative, the increase in ground water and river water 
ammonia concentrations, due to floodwaters inundating the pile, would 
be minor, and the impact on river water quality would rapidly decline 
over an estimated 20-year period. Under the No Action alternative, 
lesser flood events could also result in the release of contaminated 
soils to the Colorado River, as sediment runoff. In contrast to the on-
site disposal and No Action alternatives, the off-site disposal 
alternative presents no risk of these recurrences of surface water 
contamination at the Moab site because the tailings pile would be 
removed to an area not located in a floodplain.
    In accordance with its regulations in 10 CFR Part 1022, DOE has 
prepared the Floodplain and Wetlands Assessment for Remedial Action at 
the Moab Site. This assessment and a Floodplain Statement of Findings 
are appended to the Final EIS.
    Threatened or Endangered Species. In compliance with the Endangered 
Species Act, DOE prepared a Biological Assessment that addressed all 
alternatives, and USF&WS prepared a Biological Opinion for the Crescent 
Junction off-site disposal and active ground water remediation 
alternatives. The Biological Assessment and Biological Opinion are 
appended to the Final EIS. In its Biological Opinion, USF&WS determined 
that disposal at the Crescent Junction site and active ground water 
remediation at the Moab site ``may affect,'' but is ``not likely to 
adversely affect,'' the threatened bald eagle, the endangered 
southwestern willow flycatcher, the threatened Mexican spotted owl, the 
endangered Black-footed ferret, the candidate yellow-billed cuckoo, and 
the candidate Gunnison sage grouse. In addition, USF&WS determined that 
there would be no effect for the threatened Jones' cycladenia, the 
threatened Navajo sedge, and the endangered clay phacelia, as these 
species are not known to occur in the project areas.
    After reviewing the current status of the Colorado River fish, the 
environmental baseline for the action area, the effects of the proposed 
action and the cumulative effects, the USF&WS's Biological Opinion 
concludes that the Crescent Junction and active ground water 
alternatives are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of 
the Colorado pikeminnow, humpback chub, bonytail, and razorback sucker 
and are not likely to result in destruction or adverse modification of 
critical habitat. The USF&WS concludes that the proposed action to 
dispose of tailings (i.e., surface contamination) off site would reduce 
negative effects associated with the ongoing contamination of the 
Colorado River near the Moab site and would eliminate the potential for 
future catastrophic events associated with river flooding and river 
migration. The proposed action for ground water remediation at the Moab 
site would address the effects of ground water contaminants impacting 
endangered fish in the Colorado River. There would be adverse effects 
associated with the current levels of ground water contamination until 
ground water remediation is fully implemented, assuming the effects are 
not minimized by existing interim actions. The USF&WS has determined 
that the amount of ``take'' that is occurring in the nearshore habitats 
will not jeopardize the Colorado River fish. ``Take'' is defined by the 
Endangered Species Act as ``to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, 
wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or attempt to engage in any 
such conduct.'' In its Incidental Take Statement, the USF&WS is 
allowing incidental take of Colorado River fish associated with 
exposure to nonprotective concentrations of contaminants in nearshore 
habitats along the north bank of the Colorado River at and downstream 
of the Moab site for 10 years from finalization of the Biological 
Opinion. ``Incidental take'' means that as a result of DOE's actions 
there will be an allowable ``take'' of protected fish.
    Cultural Resources. Only the Moab site and White Mesa Mill site 
have been field-surveyed; however, cultural resources would probably be 
adversely affected under all the action alternatives. The numbers of 
potentially affected cultural resources would vary significantly among 
the action alternatives. The on-site disposal alternative would have 
the least effect on cultural resources, potentially affecting 4 to 11 
sites eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic 
Places. The White Mesa Mill slurry pipeline alternative would have the 
greatest adverse effect on cultural resources, potentially affecting up 
to 121 eligible cultural sites. The Klondike Flats alternative could 
adversely affect a maximum of 35 (rail) to 53 (pipeline) eligible 
sites, and the Crescent Junction alternative could adversely affect a 
maximum of 11 (rail) to 36 (pipeline) eligible sites.
    A minimum of 10 to 11 traditional cultural properties would be 
potentially affected under the White Mesa Mill truck or slurry pipeline 
alternatives, whereas no such properties would be affected by the other 
alternatives. (The term ``traditional cultural properties'' can include 
properties associated with traditional cultural practices, ceremonies, 
and customs.) Mitigation of the potential impacts to cultural sites and 
traditional cultural properties under the White Mesa Mill alternative 
would be extremely difficult given the density and variety of these 
resources, the importance attached to them by tribal members, and the 
number of tribal entities that would be involved in consultations.
    Traffic. All the proposed action alternatives would result in 
increased traffic on local roads and US-191. Among the three off-site 
disposal locations, truck transportation to the White Mesa Mill site 
would represent the most severe impact to traffic in central Moab, an 
area that the Utah Department of Transportation currently considers to 
be highly congested. Transportation of contaminated materials from the 
Moab milling site to the White Mesa Mill site would result in a 127 
percent increase in average annual daily truck traffic through Moab. In 
contrast, if the tailings were trucked to the Klondike Flats or 
Crescent Junction sites, or if either the rail or slurry pipeline 
transportation modes were implemented for any of the off-site disposal 
locations, there would be only a 7 percent increase in truck traffic 
through central Moab from shipments of vicinity property materials 
under all action alternatives, and only a 2 to 3 percent increase from 
shipments of borrow materials for the on-site disposal alternative or 
for off-site disposal at the Klondike Flats or Crescent Junction 
locations. All alternatives would also result in an overall increase in 
the average annual daily truck traffic on US-191, both north and south 
of Moab, from shipments of contaminated material and borrow material. 
These impacts would be most severe with the

[[Page 55363]]

off-site truck transportation mode, which would increase average annual 
daily truck traffic on US-191 by 95 percent for the Klondike Flats or 
the Crescent Junction alternative and by 65 to 186 percent for the 
White Mesa Mill alternative, depending on the segment of US-191.
    In comparison, the on-site disposal alternative and the rail or 
pipeline off-site alternatives would increase average annual daily 
truck traffic on US-191 only by 7 percent. DOE estimates that less than 
one traffic fatality would occur for all alternatives and 
transportation modes, with the exception of truck transportation to 
White Mesa Mill, for which modeling predicts that 1.3 traffic 
fatalities would occur.
    Environmental Justice. Disproportionately high and adverse impacts 
to minority and low-income populations would occur under the White Mesa 
Mill off-site disposal alternative (truck or slurry pipeline 
transportation) as a result of unavoidable adverse impacts to at least 
10 to 11 potential traditional cultural properties located on and near 
the White Mesa Mill site, the proposed White Mesa Mill pipeline route, 
the White Mesa Mill borrow area, and the Blanding borrow area. 
Moreover, if the White Mesa Mill alternative were implemented, it is 
likely that additional traditional cultural properties would be located 
and identified during cultural studies.
    The sacred, religious, and ceremonial sites already identified as 
traditional cultural properties are associated with the Ute, Navajo, 
and Hopi cultures and people. Currently, there are no known traditional 
cultural properties at any other site, although the potential for their 
being identified during cultural studies and consultations ranges from 
low to high, depending on the site and mode of transportation. The 
impacts to all other resource areas analyzed in the EIS (for example, 
transportation or human health) would not represent a disproportionate 
adverse impact to minority and low-income populations under any 
    Cumulative Impacts. The on-site and off-site disposal locations 
under consideration are located in rural areas with no other major 
industrial or commercial centers nearby. No past, present, or 
reasonably foreseeable future actions are anticipated to result in 
cumulative impacts when considered with the alternatives assessed in 
this EIS. However, seasonal tourism in and around Moab, and to a lesser 
extent at the off-site disposal locations, could have a cumulative 
impact on traffic congestion in central Moab, especially under the 
truck transportation mode, in which truck traffic would increase by 
over 100 percent.

Environmentally Preferred Alternative

    DOE has identified off-site disposal at the Crescent Junction site 
using rail transportation and active ground water remediation as the 
environmentally preferred alternatives. The Crescent Junction site has 
the longest (over 170,000 years) isolation period (time it would take 
for contaminants to reach the first aquifer); the lowest land-use 
conflict potential; and the greatest distance from the public. Rail 
transportation is environmentally preferred over truck because of fewer 
conflicts with existing highway uses, lower emissions and fuel demands, 
and reduced likelihood of wildlife impacts; and more favorable than 
slurry pipeline because of the significantly reduced water demand and 
reduced impact area; a rail line is already available, and a slurry 
pipeline would need to be constructed.
    In comparison, although the Klondike Flats site provides 
significant isolation (over 25,000 years) from ground water, use of the 
site would require construction of a new public access road parallel to 
Blue Hills Road and a 1- to 4-mile truck haul road that would traverse 
the steep bluffs (20 to 30 percent grade) north of Blue Hills Road. The 
truck haul road would require radiological controls from a rail spur to 
the disposal cell site. These actions would be adjacent and visible to 
public access, could temporarily adversely affect recreational use of 
the local area, and could cause visual impacts to users of the northern 
areas of Arches National Park.
    Of the three alternative off-site locations, the White Mesa Mill 
alternative would require the greatest distance for transportation; 
would have the greatest potential for adversely affecting cultural 
resources and traditional cultural properties at the site and along a 
slurry pipeline corridor; and would have the shortest isolation period 
(3,600 to 7,700 years to reach springs and seeps). Implementation of 
that alternative using truck transportation would cause extensive 
adverse traffic impacts in the cities of Moab, Monticello, and 
    Active ground water remediation is environmentally preferred over 
the No Action alternative because the No Action alternative would not 
mitigate or eliminate the ongoing impacts to surface water quality and, 
subsequently, to aquatic species, and in the opinion of the USF&WS 
would violate the Endangered Species Act by jeopardizing the continued 
existence of protected fish species in the Colorado River. Whereas, as 
discussed in the section on threatened or endangered species, active 
ground water remediation would mitigate ongoing impacts from past mill 
operations and, combined with off-site disposal, would ultimately 
eliminate future risks to the Colorado River and aquatic species.

Comments on the Final EIS

    DOE received comments on the Moab Final EIS from the State of Utah 
Representative Jim Matheson, EPA, Jean Binyon on behalf of the Utah 
Chapter Sierra Club, Jerry McNeely on behalf of the citizens of Grand 
County, Utah, and the Grand County Council, and Susan Breisch of San 
Diego, California. All commentors expressed support for DOE's preferred 
alternative identified in the Final EIS.
    EPA stated that the Crescent Junction disposal alternative ``has 
the least environmental and cultural impact of any of the alternatives 
considered. The stable geologic and surface conditions at the Crescent 
Junction alternative will provide isolation of these tailings without 
public health risks for the long-term.'' And, ``* * * we appreciate 
that DOE has fully considered the benefits of the Crescent Junction 
site, using rail transport, which should provide a secure geologic 
setting that offers the best opportunity for long-term public health 
and environmental protection.''
    Jean Binyon commented, ``You are to be congratulated on the careful 
consideration and thoughtful responses you gave to the large volume of 
comments received.'' Jerry McNeely commented, ``The Department of 
Energy's position in the final EIS is evidence that the DOE has 
listened to our concerns and concurs with us.''
    Susan Breisch commented, ``With few exceptions, the document * * * 
was clear for a general reader.'' Ms. Breisch, however, questioned a 
reference in the EIS to a one time $3,800 payment by DOE as a water 
depletion fee. As explained in more detail in Section of the 
Final EIS, in accordance with the Recovery Implementation Program for 
Endangered Fish Species in the Upper Colorado River Basin, activities 
that withdraw water from the Colorado River make a one time 
contribution of $10 per acre-foot of water used based on the average 
annual depletion during a project. This fee helps support the 
activities necessary to recover endangered fish in the Colorado River. 
The $3,800 contribution is an estimate based on the projected water use 
associated with the conceptual design of the preferred alternatives

[[Page 55364]]

assessed in the Final EIS. DOE will work closely with the USF&WS during 
the finalization of the project design and the determination of project 
water needs. Subsequently, DOE's actual contribution amount will be 
determined and the appropriate funding transferred to the Recovery 


    DOE will remove RRM from the Moab mill tailings site and vicinity 
properties located within the vicinity property inclusion area 
identified in the Final EIS and use the existing rail lines and 
extensions to existing sidings to ship the materials to a newly 
constructed disposal cell at Crescent Junction. Truck shipments will be 
necessary for some oversized material. Borrow materials needed to 
construct the disposal cell will be extracted from one or more of the 
borrow area sites assessed in the Final EIS. Disposal cell design 
features will be developed after issuance of this ROD, published in a 
Remedial Action Plan, and approved by the NRC.
    DOE will also continue and expand as necessary its ongoing active 
remediation of contaminated ground water at the Moab site. As an 
interim action, DOE began limited ground water remediation that 
involves extraction of contaminated ground water from on-site 
remediation wells and evaporation of the extracted contaminated water 
in a lined pond. An expanded ground water remediation program may use 
evaporation or one or more of the other treatment technologies assessed 
in the Final EIS to treat or dispose of contaminated ground water. 
Final selection of a treatment technology will be documented in the 
Ground Water Compliance Action Plan that will be developed after the 
Remedial Action Plan.

Basis for the Decision

    DOE considered the analyses provided in the Final EIS, including 
the Floodplain and Wetlands Assessment, and Biological Assessment and 
Biological Opinion appended to the EIS; the costs associated with the 
alternatives; significant input from the 12 cooperating agencies; and 
comments provided by other agencies, governors, state and Federal 
senators and representatives, and the public. DOE selected off-site 
disposal over on-site disposal because off-site disposal offers greater 
long-term isolation of the mill tailings, greater protection of the 
environment, and greater reduction in the long-term risk to the health 
and safety of the public. In addition, there are fewer uncertainties 
and differing opinions regarding the ability of an off-site disposal 
cell to meet regulatory performance requirements for the requisite 200-
to 1,000-year performance period. The principal areas of uncertainty or 
controversy concerning on-site disposal that were discussed in detail 
in the Final EIS include tailings pile characteristics, ground water 
modeling, compliance standards, river migration, and future flooding. 
Off-site disposal eliminates or reduces these on-site disposal 
    As discussed in the above section on the Environmentally Preferred 
Alternative, the Crescent Junction site was selected because it will 
provide: The greatest isolation for the uranium mill tailings; the 
lowest land-use conflict potential; and the greatest distance from the 
public; and therefore, the safest site with the lowest long-term human 
health risks. Although the costs for the Crescent Junction site are 
expected to be slightly more than those for the Klondike Flats site, 
because of the increased transportation distance, DOE considered the 
decreased long-term risks provided by the Crescent Junction site to 
justify the selection of Crescent Junction. The higher cost of the 
White Mesa Mill alternative and the increased impacts associated with 
its implementation led DOE not to choose it.
    Rail transportation was selected as the principal transportation 
mode because it will eliminate the significant traffic conflicts of 
truck transport, provide lower worker and public exposures to 
contaminated material than truck transport, and avoid the consumptive 
water needs of a slurry pipeline, and the increased costs and 
complexities of additional tailings drying that would be required 
before final placement in the disposal cell. In addition, the use of a 
virtually dedicated rail corridor that is less subject to traffic or 
weather delays will provide DOE better overall schedule control.
    Active ground water remediation was selected because it is the 
preferred method by which ongoing impacts (resulting from the past 
operations of the uranium mill) to the Colorado River and aquatic 
organisms, including four species of endangered fish, can be mitigated 
in the near term and ultimately eliminated. The No Action alternative 
for ground water would not provide near-term or long-term protection of 
the environment and, according to the USF&WS, would jeopardize the 
continued existence of protected species in the Colorado River.


    On the basis of the analyses conducted for the Final EIS, DOE will 
adopt all practicable measures identified in the Final EIS to avoid or 
minimize adverse environmental impacts that may result from removing 
contaminated material from the Moab milling site and vicinity 
properties and transporting these materials to a new disposal cell 
constructed at Crescent Junction. Best Management Practices will be 
employed to control access to contaminated areas, minimize worker and 
public exposures to contaminated materials, minimize the extent of 
surface disturbance, and reclaim and revegetate disturbed lands in as 
timely a manner as is feasible. A storm water management program will 
be developed that complies with all Utah Pollutant Discharge 
Elimination System general permit requirements, and U.S. Army Corps of 
Engineers permit requirements, to mitigate runoff, using management 
measures such as berms, drainage ditches, sediment traps, contour 
furrowing, retention ponds, and check dams. A spill prevention and 
contingency plan will be developed to minimize the potential for spills 
of hazardous material, including provisions for storage of hazardous 
materials, refueling of construction equipment within the confines of 
protective berms, and notification and activation protocols. A dust 
control system will be implemented, following provisions in the 
Fugitive Dust Control Plan for the Moab, Utah, UMTRA Project Site, 
which complies with State of Utah requirements specified in the Utah 
Administrative Code, ``Emission Standards: Fugitive Emissions and 
Fugitive Dust,'' and may include application of liquid or solid 
surfactants (e.g., sodium or magnesium chloride or water) as necessary 
to control fugitive dust. Because of the proximity of the Moab site to 
Arches National Park, activities near the site periphery will be 
minimized, and lighting will be pointed downward and use light shields 
to limit the amount of light beyond the site boundary. To minimize 
potential adverse impacts to buried archaeological or cultural 
resources that could be discovered during site activities, site workers 
will receive training on the need to protect cultural resources and the 
legal consequences of disturbing cultural resources.
    DOE will develop a Remedial Action Plan, Ground Water Compliance 
Action Plan, and other planning and monitoring documents for 
remediation of contaminated materials. These planning and monitoring 
documents will provide the engineering reclamation design and 
incorporate a ground water compliance strategy and corrective actions. 
These documents

[[Page 55365]]

will also integrate mitigation measures into the remediation strategy 
to reduce or mitigate the impacts of the proposed actions and, where 
appropriate, identify the mechanisms by which the success of mitigative 
actions will be evaluated and reported.
    In addition, the ongoing impacts to the Colorado River and aquatic 
organisms that are the result of past milling operations will be 
mitigated by active ground water remediation until natural processes 
have reduced the levels of contaminants such as ammonia to 
concentrations that are below the relevant toxicity standards.
    In granting an incidental take for a period of 10 years, following 
the USF&WS Biological Opinion, during which time DOE will implement its 
ground water remediation program, the USF&WS requested, and DOE will 
implement, the following reasonable and prudent measures to minimize 
the impacts of incidental take of the endangered Colorado River fishes: 
(1) Monitor backwater habitats near the Moab site for any indication of 
fish being affected by surface water contamination; (2) evaluate the 
effectiveness of DOE's initial action (diluting non-protective 
contaminant concentrations in backwater habitats by pumping clean river 
water); (3) address uncertainties associated with the ground water 
remediation program; (4) reduce effects of surface water contamination 
in habitats along the south bank of the Colorado River, if necessary; 
and (5) reduce the effects of entrainment at all project pumping sites.
    Further, in accordance with the requirements of the Biological 
Opinion, and consistent with Council on Environmental Quality's 
regulations in 40 CFR 1505.2, to monitor the success of the active 
ground water remedial action and enforce the provisions of the 
Biological Opinion, DOE, in coordination with USF&WS, will develop a 
Water Quality Study Plan within 18 months of the finalization of this 
ROD that evaluates and determines: (1) The effectiveness of ground 
water remediation efforts; (2) the validity of the ground water to 
surface water dilution factor; (3) compliance with achieving the target 
goal of acute ammonia standards; (4) the validity of the assumption 
that by reducing concentrations of ammonia, the other constituents of 
concern (manganese, sulfate, uranium, copper, and selenium) will also 
be reduced to protective levels; (5) the requirements and schedule for 
DOE's reporting to the USF&WS; and (6) if refinement of the ground 
water conceptual model is necessary.

    Issued in Washington, DC, this 14th day of September 2005.
James A. Rispoli,
Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management.
[FR Doc. 05-18815 Filed 9-20-05; 8:45 am]