[Federal Register Volume 86, Number 73 (Monday, April 19, 2021)]
[Pages 20406-20408]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2021-07974]



Bureau of Reclamation

[RR03250000, 21XR0680G1, RX15232000WMENVIR]

Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement, 
White Mountain Apache Tribe Rural Water System Project, Apache County, 

AGENCY: Bureau of Reclamation, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of intent; request for comments.


SUMMARY: The Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation), as the lead Federal 
agency, intends to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to 
evaluate the effects of the construction and operation of the proposed 
White Mountain Apache Tribe (WMAT) Rural Water System Project. The 
WMAT, Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 
(USACE) have been identified as cooperating agencies. Reclamation 
requests comments concerning the scope of the analysis and 
identification of relevant information, studies, and analyses.

DATES: Submit comments on or before May 19, 2021. The draft EIS is 
scheduled for December 2021 and the final EIS is scheduled for November

[[Page 20407]]

2022 with a Record of Decision issued in January 2023.

ADDRESSES: Send written comments on the EIS to the Phoenix Area Office, 
Bureau of Reclamation (Attn: WMAT Rural Water System EIS), 6150 West 
Thunderbird Road, Glendale, AZ 85306. Comments may also be sent via 
email to [email protected], or via the Project website at: https://www.wmat-rws-eis.com/.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Dominic Graziani at (623) 773-6216 
or via email at [email protected]. Individuals who use 
telecommunication devices for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal 
Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 1-800-877-8339 between 8 a.m. and 8 
p.m., Eastern Time, Monday through Friday.

Quantification Act (Title III of the Claims Resolution Act of 2010) 
(Act), the U.S. Congress authorized the Secretary of the Interior 
(Secretary), through an Indian Self-Determination and Education 
Assistance Act agreement with the WMAT, to plan, design, and construct 
a project to divert, store, and distribute water from the North Fork of 
the White River for the use and benefit of the WMAT. The Proposed 
Action would fulfill Reclamation's statutory mandate under the Act and 
would provide a long-term, dependable, and sustainable water supply for 
residents and businesses on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation. This 
notice also opens public scoping to identify potential issues, 
concerns, and alternatives to be considered in the EIS. Pursuant to the 
National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), as amended, 42 U.S.C. 
4321-4347; the Council on Environmental Quality's Regulations for 
Implementing the Procedural Provisions of NEPA, 40 CFR parts 1500-1508; 
and the Department of the Interior's regulations, 43 CFR part 46, 
Reclamation, as the lead federal agency, intends to prepare an EIS. The 
proposed Project would construct and operate a dam, storage reservoir, 
pumping plant, treatment facilities, and a distribution system that 
would provide water to communities located on the Fort Apache Indian 
Reservation. Reclamation first issued a Notice of Intent to prepare an 
EIS for this project on September 6, 2013, but the EIS was put on hold 
in August 2015 due to project complications.

Purpose and Need for the Proposed Action

    The Proposed Action would provide a long-term, dependable, and 
sustainable water supply for residents and businesses on the Fort 
Apache Indian Reservation, Arizona.
    The Proposed Action would fulfill Reclamation's statutory mandate 
under the WMAT Water Rights Quantification Act (Title III of the Claims 
Resolution Act of 2010) (Act) to plan, design, and construct, as well 
as to operate, maintain, and replace the WMAT Rural Water System until 
the date the Project is transferred to the WMAT as provided in the Act.

Preliminary Proposed Action and Alternatives

    The Proposed Action consists of construction and operation of the 
Project as authorized by the Act. The Proposed Action would include 
construction and operation of a dam, storage reservoir, water pumping 
plant, water treatment facilities, and a distribution system that would 
provide water to the communities of Whiteriver, Fort Apache, Canyon 
Day, Cedar Creek, Carrizo, and Cibecue located on the Fort Apache 
Indian Reservation. After completion of construction and operation of 
the new facilities for a period of three years by Reclamation, the WMAT 
would become the titled owner and operator of the completed water 
system. The proposed Miner Flat Reservoir would hold approximately 
8,350 acre-feet of water and the dam would be 163 feet high and 407 
feet in length. Water from the Miner Flat Reservoir would be released 
to the North Fork of White River, diverted from the stream channel 
upstream of the community of Whiteriver, and subsequently treated and 
conveyed via pipeline to downstream Fort Apache Indian Reservation 
communities. Construction of the distribution system would include 50 
miles of new water transmission pipeline. As required by NEPA, the EIS 
will include and consider a Proposed Action and a reasonable range of 
alternatives, including a No Action Alternative. Implementation of one 
of the NEPA Action Alternatives would meet current and future water 
needs for the WMAT per the Act and would fulfill Reclamation's 
statutory requirements under the Act.
    Reasonable alternatives to the Proposed Action may include a 
combination of various reservoir operations and priorities, including: 
(a) Meeting projected Rural Water System demands; (b) accommodating 
continuing water diversions for agricultural irrigation; and, (c) 
maintaining instream flow.

Summary of Expected Impacts

    The EIS will identify and describe the effects that are reasonably 
foreseeable and have a reasonably close causal relationship to the 
proposed action or alternatives, including those effects that occur at 
the same time and place as the proposed action or alternatives and may 
include effects that are later in time or farther removed in distance 
from the proposed action or alternatives (40 CFR 1508.1(g)). All 
potentially relevant environmental resource areas were initially 
considered for analysis. Expected impacts include, but are not limited 
to, positive and/or negative impacts to water resources, soils and 
geology, biological resources, cultural resources, Indian Trust Assets, 
transportation, socioeconomics, air quality, climate change, noise, 
land use, visual resources, hazardous materials and waste, and 
utilities and infrastructure. The effects of these expected impacts 
will be considered in the EIS and the range of issues and alternatives 
addressed may be expanded or reduced based on comments received in 
response to this notice and at the virtual public scoping meeting.

Anticipated Permits and Authorizations

    The Proposed Action may require the following permits, 
certifications, and/or determinations:

 Biological Opinion from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act
 Concurrence from the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer 
pursuant to Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act
 Section 404 permit from the USACE pursuant to Section 404 of 
the Clean Water Act (CWA)
 Water quality certification pursuant to Section 401 of the CWA
 National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit for the 
water treatment plant pursuant to Section 402 of the CWA
 General permit for stormwater discharges from construction 
activity pursuant to Section 402 of the CWA, and preparation of a Storm 
Water Pollution Prevention Plan
 BIA Road Encroachment Permit for construction work along BIA 
Route 61 (Alchesay Fish Hatchery Road) and BIA Route 12
 BIA Federal easement granted to Reclamation for construction 
of the Rural Water System
 Arizona Department of Highway Encroachment Permit for 
construction work inside the right-of-way of State Highway 73

[[Page 20408]]

Schedule for the Decision-Making Process

    Reclamation will conduct an environmental review to analyze the 
effects of the Proposed Action, along with other alternatives 
considered and the associated impacts of each alternative for the 
development of a Draft EIS. Following completion of the environmental 
review, Reclamation will publish a notice of availability and request 
for public comments on the Draft EIS, which is expected to be made 
public in December 2021. In preparing the Final EIS, which is planned 
for issuance in 2022, Reclamation will respond to comments received on 
the Draft EIS. At least 30 days after the Final EIS is available, the 
Record of Decision will be issued in accordance with applicable 
timeframes established in 40 CFR 1506.11.

Public Scoping Process

    This notice of intent initiates the scoping process, which guides 
the development of the EIS. Reclamation invites interested parties to 
participate in the scoping process to help identify the range of 
reasonable alternatives and the environmental issues to be analyzed.
    A virtual public scoping meeting will be held on May 1, 2021, to 
solicit comments on the scope of the EIS and the issues and 
alternatives that should be analyzed. Detailed information for the 
virtual scoping meeting process will be announced in advance through 
local media, newspapers, and the project website at: https://www.wmat-rws-eis.com/. At the time of this publication, the dates and log-in 
information for the scoping meeting will be available on the project 
    Additional opportunities to review project materials, ask 
questions, and submit comments will be provided on the project website 
(https://www.wmat-rws-eis.com/) or at the phone number above. It is 
important that reviewers provide their comments at such times and in 
such manner that they are useful to the agency's preparation of the 
EIS. Therefore, comments should be provided prior to the close of the 
comment period and should clearly articulate the reviewer's concerns 
and contentions. Comments received, including names and addresses of 
those who comment, will be part of the public record for this Proposed 

Public Availability of Comments

    Before including your address, phone number, email address, or 
other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be 
aware that your entire comment--including your personal identifying 
information--may be made publicly available at any time. While you can 
ask us in your comment to withhold your personal identifying 
information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be 
able to do so.

Request for Identification of Potential Alternatives, Information, and 
Analyses Relevant to the Proposed Action

    Reclamation requests assistance with identifying potential 
alternatives to the Proposed Action to be considered. As suggested 
alternatives should still meet the purpose and need for the Proposed 
Action, please be as descriptive as possible with the suggested 
alternative. Reclamation also requests that potential impacts that 
should be analyzed be identified. Impacts should be a result of the 
action; therefore, please identify the activity and the potential 
impact that should be analyzed. Information that reviewers have that 
would assist in the development of alternatives or analysis of resource 
issues is also helpful.

Lead and Cooperating Agencies

    Reclamation is the lead Federal agency and the WMAT, BIA, and USACE 
are cooperating agencies in the preparation of this EIS.

Decision Maker

    The responsible official is Reclamation's Regional Director, 
Interior Region 8: Lower Colorado Basin, as delegated by the Secretary 
of the Interior.

Nature of Decision To Be Made

    In accordance with the Act, ``the Secretary shall carry out all 
necessary environmental compliance activities required by Federal law 
in implementing the Agreement [WMAT Water Rights Quantification 
Agreement dated January 13, 2009].'' Following completion of a final 
EIS, the responsible official will approve a Record of Decision.

Karl Stock,
Acting Regional Director, Interior Region 8: Lower Colorado Basin, 
Bureau of Reclamation.
[FR Doc. 2021-07974 Filed 4-16-21; 8:45 am]