A Bit About The Process
Protect Our Resources from Out of State Interests
In general, under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the difference between an Environmental Analysis (EA) and an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is simple. An EA is a concise review document taking into account the purpose and need of the proposal, any alternatives, and a brief review of the impacted environment. An EA will either result in a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) or if significant environmental impacts appear likely, an EIS. The FONSI determination is made without consideration of any cumulative impacts or geographic context.
An EIS is a much more comprehensive document. An EIS requires everything an EA would require while also requiring a much more comprehensive discussion of the reasonable alternatives and a “hard look” at the cumulative impacts of the proposal along with all existing and reasonably foreseeable future development within the project area. The use of an EA rather than an EIS means that an agency is not required to assess the cumulative impacts of the proposal along with all other existing and reasonably foreseeable future development nearby. In a practical sense, EAs function as piecemeal planning due to their limited scope, while EIS’s function more as holistic, landscape-level planning.
An EIS can cost between $200,000 and $650,000+ at F3's expense.
For comments to have an impact at this time for the exploratory drilling, (which is what is under review) stakeholders need to define and prove 2 things. #1) Why they are a stakeholder. #2) What, why, how the exploratory drilling will have an impact.
I've identified several groups that are potential stakeholders that will be obviously impacted by the exploratory drilling. These stakeholders are key to forcing the EIS process which will make this project financially untenable for F3.
-Individuals who have private water wells in the watershed. The potential for this drilling to interrupt or damage an existing well is significant. The potential for well contamination is also there but the interruption of the water source is a more significant concern. There are at least 80 private wells in the Silver City basin that have high potential to be affected. Silver City does not have a water district which is unfortunate. This is the most likely group to be impacted and we need every one of these stakeholders to submit a comment.
- Individuals who recreate on the roads that will be used in the exploratory process. There is a case to be made that the drilling process will impact trail and road usage for groups like OHV, UTV, ATV riders due to additional usage and traffic. Horse packers and other equine users have a potential impact as well that is worth submitting a comment on. This is not a strong argument but it is worth the effort of these stakeholders to submit their comments.
- Residents of SIlver city and recreational users (fishermen, hikers, paddlers, tubers, etc) of the Jenny Gulch access point, and Silver City / Trail 40 access have a case to be stakeholders. There is a potential for the additional activity to impact access to a section of road that is narrow and steep and expensive to maintain. The impact of transporting the equipment as well as shift change and other staffing activities will cause an increase in traffic impacting these user groups. This is a weaker argument but every comment matters.
- There is a nesting pair of Osprey on a private land owner's property in Silver City. The landowner has a good case for this activity to impact these nesting raptors which are a threatened and indicator species.
The reality is the argument against the exploratory drilling based upon contamination concerns is very weak. The drilling process is minimally invasive and the case for potential contamination is not very strong. It should still be made, the water quality issue is a major concern and heavy metals do occur in the geology along with sulfur-bearing rock which leads to acid mine drainage. The reality is the risk is very low and that argument alone will not force the EIS process. It is worth the effort to submit comments as a drinking water user in the region to flood the process with comments that must be addressed.
Another key element for success to forcing the EIS process would be if there were identified threatened or endangered species in the watershed that could potentially be directly impacted by this activity. If someone knows of botanical species or wildlife that meet this requirement and we can prove their location and existence this can force the process.