The Mountain Home Ranger District of the Boise National Forest is soliciting public scoping comments on the proposed Henry Clay Exploration Minerals Project. The Henry Clay Exploration Project area is located about 7 miles north of Featherville, Idaho in Elmore County. The project area encompasses approximately 200 acres of National Forest System (NFS) lands.
Purpose and Need for Action
The decision whether to allow mining or locatable minerals exploration activity is not within the agency’s authorities as long as the proposal is reasonable. Through the General Mining Laws of 1872, the public has a right to locate and develop mineral resources on any public lands open to mineral entry. The management of the subsurface mineral resource is mainly according to Federal law and regulation rather than the management discretion of the Forest Service. The Forest Service manages the surface of National Forest System land under 1897 Organic Act, the Multiple Use Mining Act of 1955, and the 1872 Act Surface Use Regulations (Title 36, Code of Federal Regulations Part 228(A)). The 228 Regulations require an operator to submit a Plan of Operations (POO) for operations which might cause a significant disturbance to surface resources. In developing the proposed action, the Forest Service then has the authority to include provisions such as project design features, operational requirements, mitigation measures, and monitoring programs deemed necessary to minimize environmental impacts to surface resources. The major laws and regulations governing such responses include the following:
- The 1872 Mining Law as amended (also referred to as the U.S. Mining Law[s]), provides in part that, "...all mineral deposits in land belonging to the United States are free and open to exploration and the lands in which they are found are open to occupation and purchase." This granting of statutory rights to explore, develop, and gain title to the minerals estate of federal lands open to mineral entry, remain in effect today.
- The 1897 the Organic Administration Act (16 USC 478, 551) created the National Forest System, and at the same time opened these lands to entry under the 1872 Mining Law. This law also gives the Secretary of Agriculture authority to regulate activities conducted under the Mining Law.
- The Multiple Use Mining Act of 1955 (30 USC 612) reserved to the United States the right to use the surface of unpatented mining claims providing such use did not endanger or materially interfere with prospecting, mining or processing operations or reasonably incident uses.
- Regulations defining Forest Service authority to manage locatable mineral activities were adopted in 1974, and are codified in 36 CFR 228A. In accordance with these regulations, an approved plan of operation is required for any locatable mineral activity on National Forest System land that would cause a significant disturbance of surface resources. These regulations also require the Forest Service to conduct an analysis that meets the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for each plan of operation received. Forest Service responses to a proposed plan of operation are defined by regulation at 36 CFR 228.5. The overall purpose of these regulations as stated in 36 CFR 228.1, is to manage operations so as to minimize adverse environmental impacts on National Forest System surface resources.
The Forest Service’s Purpose is to minimize adverse environmental impacts to surface resources by regulating the functions, work, and activities connected with the proponent’s plan to remove locatable minerals from National Forest System lands. The compelling Need for the Forest Service to take this action is to comply with the legal requirements to respond to the claimant’s reasonable Plan of Operations (36 CFR 228.4), and to ensure that “operations are conducted so as, where feasible, to minimize adverse environmental impacts on National Forest surface resources” ((36 CFR 228.8).
The action to be considered by the Forest Service is the approval of the proposed Henry Clay Plan of Operations for locatable minerals exploration activities on National Forest System lands. The locatable minerals exploration proposal includes the following actions:
- Four trench excavations would be accomplished using a small excavator (<12,000 GVW): trenches are proposed as two-feet wide (width of excavator bucket), up to 25-feet long and 2- to 6-feet deep. Bulk material samples would be gathered during excavation from each trench (up to 100 pounds of material per trench), then trenches would be immediately backfilled with the excavated material. One to two trenches would be excavated, sampled and reclaimed in one day. Bulk samples would be removed from Forest Service lands for analysis at a private facility.
- Up to 11 core holes (1 13/16 inch diameter) would be drilled to a maximum of 400 feet below ground surface. Suitable drill pads already exist and no additional construction of drill pads is anticipated. Drilling would require either 1) a drilling-mud sump on each site, approximately 4-feet by 4-feet and up to 4-feet deep, or 2) self-contained sump such as a 100-gallon watering trough or equivalent. Mr. Cook would design and implement the exploration drilling operations in compliance with the Rules of the Department of Environmental Quality, Idaho Administrative Procedures Act (IDAPA_ 58.01.02 “Water Quality Standards”, IDAPA 20.03.02 “Exploration, Surface Mining, Closure of Cyanidation Facilities” and 58.01.11 “Ground Water Quality Rule.” Specifically per the Water Quality Standards, Mr. Cook must ensure:
- “No pollutant shall be discharged from a single source or in combination with pollutants discharged from other sources in concentrations or ina manner that: a) will or can be expected to result in violation of the water quality standards applicable to the receiving water body or downstream waters; or b) will injure designated or existing beneficial uses; or c) is not authorized by the appropriate authorizing agency for those discharges that require authorization” (IDAPA 58.01.02.080.01).
- For the Ground Water Quality Rule: “No person shall cause or allow the release, spilling, leaking, emission, discharge, escape, leaching, or disposal of a contaminant in the environment in a manner that a) causes a ground water quality standard to be exceeded; b) injures a beneficial use of ground water; or c) is not in accordance with a permit, consent order or applicable best management practice, best available method or best practical method.” (IDAPA 58.01.11.01)
- Core holes would be abandoned immediately upon reaching desired depth in accordance with requirements at IDAPA 20.03.02: as the drill rods are retrieved from the hole, backfill material would be simultaneously placed at the bottom of the hole through the drill rods.
- Roads: Access to the project area for vehicles and equipment would be from Featherville, ID via Forest Service 156,104, and 104H roads for roughly 9 miles. No road improvements are anticipated and no road construction is necessary.
- Cross-country travel is required to access three of four trench sites, and two drill sites. Total cross country travel is less than 0.1 mile.
- No road construction is required to access these sites: the ground surface was previously disturbed and is covered with sparse vegetation on flat ridge-top topography.
- The remaining nine drill sites and one trench site are located on previously constructed roads consisting of either ML-1 status (maintenance level 1; closed or unauthorized for public use).
- Equipment: Two pickups, one small excavator (12,000 lb GVW), one trailer mounted Acker wireline core drill, one 22’ self-contained camp trailer, one 16’ utility trailer.
- Water Use: No identified surface waters exist in the project area: water necessary for exploration drilling operations would be brought from off site as necessary. Process water would be contained to minimize erosion, sedimentation or other potential concerns.
- Water Quality, Surface: The closest surface water (Bear Creek) is approximately 1,000 feet (line of sight, as obtained from a topographic map) from the northern most proposed drill site. No surface waters exist in the project vicinity. Any water used for drilling would be obtained off-site. Any water used for drilling would be contained in either an adjacent sump and allowed to infiltrate or evaporate prior to sump reclamation, or in a self-contained water trough. During both drilling and trenching, Best Management Practices for erosion control would be in place to protect water quality. Examples include silt fences, interceptor trenches, and fiber wattles. Temporary cessation of activities would occur during adverse weather conditions.
- Water Quality, Groundwater: A detailed analysis of the affected environment related to groundwater hydrology would be completed and mitigations would be determined to minimize adverse effects to groundwater hydrology.
- Air Quality: The project is not anticipated to create adverse air quality but dust abatement would be performed as needed.
- Hazardous Materials: Less than 20 gallons of fuel would be stored at the site. Lubricants, diesel fuel, and gasoline would be hauled in as needed. An appropriate sized spill kit would be on site for refueling and temporary storage of fuel and lubricants would be in secondary containment.
- Waste: Garbage would be hauled off from the project location on a daily basis and would not be allowed to accumulate.
- Structures: A 22 foot camp trailer, self-contained would be used as living quarters for one to three people on site during operations.
- Cultural Resources: A site survey of cultural resources would be completed and mitigations would be determined to avoid or minimize adverse effects to cultural resources.
- Reclamation: Upon completion of each drill or excavation site, re-contouring would take place immediately upon completion of respective trench excavations, including replacement of any topsoil present and grading to mimic pre-exploration topography. All disturbed areas, e.g. drill sites, pads and trenches, would be seeded with Forest Service botany-recommended seed mix. If necessary, debris such as downed trees from the sites and other vegetative matter, would be placed to minimize and mitigate possible erosion resulting from precipitation events. The Forest Service would monitor those areas subjected to replanting for up to three years to ensure vegetation success. A reclamation bond would be required prior to Plan of Operations authorization.
- Oversight: The District Minerals Administrator would inspect the site several times during the operating season to ensure compliance with the approved Plan of Operations. Upon completion of the project, the Forest Service would inspect the site to ensure successful reclamation and to determine when to release the bond.
A notice regarding the project and invitation to comment is anticipated to be published in the Idaho Statesman (newspaper of record) on July 16, 2013. To be most helpful, please submit your scoping comments by August 15, 2013, and make your comments as specific as possible. Your comments will help us refine the proposal, and identify preliminary issues, interested and affected persons, and possible alternatives.
Written comments may be submitted to the Mountain Home Ranger District, ATTN: Casey Watson, Team Leader, 2180 American Legion Boulevard, Mountain Home, ID 83647, or FAX 208-587-9217. Office business hours for hand-delivered comments are: 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, excluding holidays. Oral comments must be provided at the Mountain Home Ranger District office during normal business hours via telephone 208-587-7961 or in person. Electronic comments must be submitted in a format such as an e-mail message, plain text (.txt), rich text format (.rtf), or Word (.docx) to the Mountain Home RD Comment Inbox. Comments may also be submitted through the Henry Clay Minerals Project Web Page. To submit comments using the web form select “Comment on Project” under “Get Connected” on the right panel of the project’s webpage.
In an effort to reduce costs and gain efficiencies, the Forest Service is transitioning to an electronic delivery and notification system for future and ongoing projects. If you would like to continue receiving notifications and updates on the status of the Henry Clay Minerals Project, please respond to this solicitation for public scoping and provide a valid email address for future electronic notifications. Additionally, you may subscribe to the Henry Clay Minerals Project Web Page to receive electronic project notifications and updates.
Future notifications will be focused on interested and affected persons. Therefore, please respond if you would like to remain on the project’s mailing list, even if you do not have specific scoping comments. Comments received in response to this solicitation, including the names and addresses of those who comment, will be considered part of the public record and will be available for public inspection and will be released in their entirety if requested pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act.
For additional information please contact Brad Campbell, Forest Geologist at 208-373-4136, or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Zone NEPA Coordinator
1249 South Vinnell Way, Suite 200
Boise, ID 83709