April 30, 2020
We need your help. On April 7, the US Forest Service released a draft decision and Environmental Assessment (EA) for the proposed action at Spirit Lake. The Forest Service plans to move forward with the proposal to construct a road straight through the Pumice Plain. Those of you who commented on the original proposal now have an opportunity to object to the draft decision, no later than May 22, 2020.
[Note: The Forest Service will only accept objections from individuals who previously submitted public comments, and objections must relate to the specific issue[s] discussed in your original comments. Didn’t comment but still want to help protect the Pumice Plains? Help CFC get the word out by sharing the articles linked below on your social media accounts. CFC commented on the original proposal, will be submitting detailed objections to the draft decision, while we continue working to raise public awareness around this issue. If you’re in a position to do so, consider making a donation to CFC to support our conservation work.]
The US Forest Service has released its draft decisions and EA for activities to replace the Spirit Lake intake gate system and to drill into the debris field from the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens. To accomplish this, The Forest Service plans to build a 3.5-mile, 16-foot wide road across the Pumice Plain within the Mount St. Helens National Monument, replacing the Truman Trail (https://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/truman-trail-pumice-plain)
The Pumice Plain is like nowhere else on Earth. Since the destruction brought by the 1980 eruption, the area has been protected, researched, and allowed to return without interference. As a result, the Pumice Plain is now a wild and beautiful natural laboratory that is reshaping our understanding of ecosystem development.
The proposed road would severely impact the Pumice Plain by:
• disturbing wildlife including mountain goats, fish, deer, and elk.
• negatively impact streams, watersheds, and wetlands,
• disrupting recreation and hunting,
• opening a potential door for invasive species,
• impacting, and possibly destroying 25 research plots, and cutting across most of the transects scientists and researchers have been using to record the recovery of the area.
The proposed project addresses legitimate concerns. There is a need to modify and repair the intake gate for the Spirit Lake Tunnel, and to provide access for tunnel maintenance to protect downstream communities. But the timeline expressed in the draft decision does not accurately reflect the situation. It would take an abnormal series of climatic events followed by months of inaction to result in a breach. In the unlikely event of infrastructure failure around Spirit Lake, there would still be “substantial response time to prevent catastrophic breaching and protection of the downstream communities.”*
We believe the agency is using the ruse of an emergency as the pretense for forcing action without a fair public participation process or adequate analysis in the form of an Environmental Impact Statement. Additionally, we believe that the need for the geotechnical drilling project is premature, and by combining these projects the agency is dismissing reasonable alternatives that could minimize impacts on the environment, wildlife, and research, while still protecting downstream communities.
CFC formed a coalition and voiced our concerns when the project was proposed. The recently released draft decision does not adequately address our concerns with this project. We are submitting a formal objection to the agency’s decision and will continue to do all that we can to advocate for a plan that both protects communities and this beautiful, important, and unique place.
*Grant, et al., GEOLOGIC, GEOMORPHIC AND HYDROLOGIC CONTEXT OF THE SPIRIT LAKE OUTLET (2017).
Objections to the Spirit Lake Intake Gate Replacement and Geotechnical Drilling Project or to the forest plan amendment will only be accepted from those who have previously submitted timely comments regarding these planning efforts during any designated opportunity for public comment in accordance with the project objection requirements in section 218.5(a). Issues raised in objections must be based on previously submitted timely, specific written comments regarding the proposed project unless based on new information arising after the designated comment opportunities.
Please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions about submitting objections.
Objections can be submitted electronically here:
Objections may also be mailed to:
Regional Forester (Reviewing Officer)
Pacific Northwest Regional Office
Attn: 1507 Objections
P.O. Box 3623
Articles to share:
The Daily Chronicle Researchers, Conservationists Raise Alarm About Proposed Road Through Mount St. Helens Pumice Plain* January 24, 2019
The Daily News Mount St. Helens ecological research could help conserve, restore nature April 8, 2020
The Columbian ‘Floating habitat’ could be key for Spirit Lake fish April 5, 2020
*this article references the withdrawn 2019 Spirit Lake project proposal, which was similar to the current 2020 proposal.
Photos by Carri LeRoy