Snow and Avalanche Center 2006 Avalanche News

Glacier National Park Avalanche Control Program Draft EIS Released

This is the letter from the Park announcing the DEIS with some background information and a bottom line summary. There is a link to the full DEIS in the Current Issues section.

23 October 2006

Dear Friends:

Enclosed is the Avalanche Hazard Reduction by Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway in Glacier National Park and Flathead National Forest Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for your review and comment. It is available for public review for 60 days and comments are due by December 22, 2006.

Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway requested Glacier National Park to issue a special use permit to conduct on-going avalanche testing and triggering using explosives in Glacier National Park to protect BNSF employees, equipment and Amtrak passengers. This request was in response to an incident on January 28, 2004, when a series of avalanches derailed an empty 118-car train and nearly missed railroad cleanup crews in John F. Stevens Canyon. Passenger service on Amtrak was temporarily stopped and 70 miles of freight trains were backed up on both sides of Marias Pass for 29 hours. A three-day emergency special use permit was issued for explosive avalanche hazard reduction, however; the snowpack stabilized naturally and explosive use was not necessary.

The railroad lies within a right-of-way on Flathead National Forest lands and is adjacent to the parkâ~@~Ys southern boundary. US Highway 2 shares the same traffic corridor adjacent to the railroad on a separate right-of-way across Flathead National Forest lands.

The Flathead National Forest and Montana Department of Transportation are cooperating agencies. An interagency team consisting of staff from all three agencies prepared the DEIS. The DEIS presents four alternatives addressing a range of explosive and non-explosive avalanche hazard reduction actions on Glacier National Park lands, Flathead National Forest lands, and within the adjacent BNSF and US Highway 2 transportation corridor. Alternative A: No Action is the status quo alternative that addresses the consequences of continuation of the current conditions. Alternative B is the Preferred Alternative and recommends that BNSF construct less than one mile of snowsheds. No explosive use is permitted under this alternative. Alternative C permits limited explosive use (excluding military artillery) to reduce avalanche hazard for up to 10 years upon a commitment from BNSF to construct recommended snowsheds. Alternative D is the BNSF proposal to use explosives (including military artillery) indefinitely in the park for avalanche hazard reduction and includes the extension of two snowsheds. This DEIS has been prepared in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act and analyzes the natural, cultural and socioeconomic consequences of each alternative.

Our practice is to make comments, including names, home addresses, home phone numbers, and email addresses of respondents, available for public review. Individual respondents may request that we withhold their names and/or home addresses, etc., but if you wish us to consider withholding this information, you must state this prominently at the beginning of your comments. In addition, you must present a rationale for withholding this information. This rationale must demonstrate that disclosure would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of privacy. Unsupported assertions will not meet this burden. In the absence of exceptional, verified circumstances, this information will be released. We will always make submissions from organizations or businesses, and from individuals identifying themselves as representatives of or officials of organizations or businesses, available for public inspection in their entirety.

Public open houses and hearings are scheduled for Tuesday, December 5, 2006 at the Red Lion Inn Kalispell (20 Main Street-Kalispell mall) from 6:00 p.m. â~@~S 8:00 p.m. and on Wednesday, December 6, 2006 in West Glacier at the West Glacier Community Building from 4:30 p.m. â~@~S 6:30 p.m. Open houses will be held during the first hour and hearings will be held during the second hour at each session.

If you wish to comment on the draft environmental impact statement, you may mail comments to the name and address below or post comments online at or by mail to Superintendent Glacier National Park, Attn: Avalanche Hazard DEIS, P.O. Box 128, West Glacier, Montana 59936. Comments are due by December 22, 2006.

Thank you for your continued support of Glacier National Park.


/s/ Michael O. Holm

Michael O. Holm

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