Federal agencies to host online meetings for Northern Corridor draft study review period

In this 2019 file photo, Sarah Thomas of Conserve Southwest Utah points out toward the Red Cliffs Desert Reverse that abuts to the Green Springs area of Washington City, which could have the Northern Corridor built in close proximity to area homes, Washington City, Utah, Dec. 12, 2019. | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Two online public meetings are being held regarding the recently released environmental impact statement for the proposed Northern Corridor and related draft amended the Washington County Habitat Conservation Plan. The meetings will be Thursday and the following Tuesday.

The proposed route for the Northern Corridor as shown by the white and blue line on the upper center-lift of the map. | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

The meetings are being held by the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as the two agencies analyze a proposal from the Utah Department of Transportation to construct a four-lane highway north of St. George that may cross portions of the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve and Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, including habitat for the federally threatened Mojave desert tortoise.

The current roadway route that is preferred by federal agencies in the impact statement would run from behind the Green Springs communities in Washington City on its eastern side through the tortoise reserve where it would connect to Red Hills Parkway on the western end.

While the environmental impact statement focuses on the proposed roadway, the amended Habitat Conservation Plan would add the proposed “Zone 6” to the Red Cliff Desert Reserve for desert tortoise habitat if the roadway crossing the reserve is approved.

The proposed zone covers nearly 6,900 acres in an area west of Bloomington in the Bear Claw Poppy Trail area. This area would be established in order to help mitigate the disturbance the Northern Corridor will cause to the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve and National Conservation Area.

The land within the red border is the proposed “Zone 6” – nearly 7,000 acres of land that would be turned into additional protected tortoise habitat in exchange for a right-of-way route through the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve for the Northern Corridor. | Image courtesy of Washington County, St. George News | Click to enlarge

The draft environmental impact statement and draft amendment Washington County Habitat Conservation Plan were released for public review in mid-June with a public input period that concludes Sept. 10.

Both drafts can be found on the Bureau of Land Management’s website.

Proponents of the Northern Corridor have long said it is necessary transportation infrastructure for Washington County’s future, especially with the population estimated to keep rising over the next 40 years. Opponents say other measures should be taken that do not involve cutting into the reserve and potentially threatening the desert tortoise.

The upcoming public meetings are meant to expand public access to information on the project and are being held virtually to prioritize the health and safety of federal employees and the public due to ongoing pandemic concerns.

This is an excellent opportunity to share information about the draft analysis with our local communities and people from around the country,” Acting BLM Color Country District Manager Randy Peterson said in a press release. “We are working hard to ensure we provide safe and informative meetings.”

The Thursday meeting will be held from 3:30-5 p.m., and the following meeting on Tuesday will be from 5-6:30 p.m. Participants must register online ahead of time for each meeting.

Mojave desert tortoise in the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve, Washington County, Utah, date unspecified | Photo courtesy of the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve, St. George News

The meetings will be conducted over the Zoom meeting telecommunications application.

Those who use a telecommunications device for the deaf may call the Federal Relay Service at 1-800-877-8339 to leave a message or question. The FRS is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Replies are provided during normal business hours.

Questions related to the virtual public meetings can also be directed to Gloria Tibbetts, BLM Color Country District Planning and Environmental Coordinator, at 435-865-3063 or email BLM_UT_NorthernCorridor@blm.gov.

The public comment period for the Northern Corridor project environmental impact statement and related items began Friday and will run through Sept. 10. Comments can be submitted through the methods featured below:

  • Standard mail: Bureau of Land Management, Attn: Northern Corridor, 345 East Riverside Drive, St. George, UT 84790. Include your name and street address. Your entire comment – including your personally identifiable information – may be made publicly available at any time. You can request your personally identifiable information be withheld from public review, but the BLM cannot guarantee that it will be able to do so.
  • Email: BLM_UT_NorthernCorridor@blm.gov.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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