The National Park Service has published its Final Environmental Statement (FES) on the Susquehanna-Roseland Transmission Line through the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. The FES effectively approves the utilities' proposed route of a new 500kV line across the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, Middle Delaware National Scenic and Recreational River, and the Appalachian National Scenic Trail in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
The final environmental statement confirms NPS's previous determination that the "no action" alternative is the environmentally-prefereable alternative, but determined that the utilities' proposed route - among six alternatives evaluated - is its "preferred alternative", assuming the incorporation of "critical mitigation measures." The "preferred alternative" is the one “which the agency believes would fulfill its statutory mission and responsibilities, giving consideration to economic, environmental, technical and other factors.”
NPS made this determination despite finding that the proposed route "would cause significant adverse impacts to geologic resources; wetlands; vegetation; landscape connectivity, wildlife habitat, and wildlife; special-status species; rare and unique communities; archeological resources; historic structures; cultural landscapes; socioeconomics; infrastructure, access and circulation; visual resources; visitor use and experience; wild and scenic rivers; and park operations."
Specifically, among other impacts, the alternative will cause:
- conversion of 20.28 acres of forested wetlands to scrub shrub and/or emergent wetlands
- adverse impacts to 15.22 acres of Exceptional Value Wetlands and/or rare and unique wetlands
- clearing of 240 acres of vegetation, including 129 acres of mature forest
- adverse impacts to multiple archaeological sites, at least 17 historic structures, 18 cultural landscapes, including the Appalachian National Scenic Trail.
The FES articulates NPS's intention to require mitigation of adverse impacts where possible:
The NPS expects to conclude consultation by including in any ROD a binding commitment to the mitigation measures disclosed in this EIS, as required by 36 CFR § 1508.8. Mitigation measures specific to the impact topics, where applicable, are presented in appendix F. The NPS would also establish mechanisms to ensure that all mitigation obligations are met, mitigation measures are monitored for effectiveness, and unsuccessful mitigation is quickly remedied. In instances where impacts cannot be avoided and mitigation is not feasible, compensation for resources lost or degraded through project construction, operation, and maintenance would be required. Examples of items that cannot be remedied through mitigation include impacts that degrade the scenic and other intrinsic values of the parks or impacts that result in the loss of recreational use and visitor enjoyment.
The Final Environmental Impact Statement is available here.