Lewis County Proposed Recreational Trails Plan For ATVs
Scoping Document For A Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement
SEQRA Lead Agency: Lewis County Legislature
1. A Brief Description of the Proposed Action Lewis County proposes to establish a countywide trail system that is capable of supporting use by All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs). This proposed trail system is a natural outgrowth of the County’s longstanding history with outdoor motorized recreation. An extensive system of snowmobile trails currently exists within the County. However, few of these trails are open to ATV use. In light of the significant growth in ATV sales nationwide and statewide over the last decade, a need exists within the County to provide an organized, marked network of trails upon which ATV enthusiasts can legally ride. The proposed Lewis County ATV Trails Plan incorporates the use of existing town and county roadways (some that are currently permitted for ATV use and others that will be opened for ATV use as a result of this proposal), New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) truck trails that are currently open for ATV use, and some private parcels of land, to form a network of trails that cover a large expanse of the County. A map of the proposed ATV trails can be found in the attached ATV Zone Maps. Through use of the Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) process pursuant to the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA), the County will evaluate the potential environmental impacts of establishing a network of trails for the County’s ATV trail system. The network will consist of a current base set of trails plus any future expansions (additions of trails to the base). Expansion of the trail system is expected in the future as a result of the County’s cooperative efforts in working with local town governments, private landowners, local ATV trail clubs, the New York State Off-Highway Recreational Vehicle Association (NYSORVA), and other groups or individuals affiliated with the ATV industry. Future trail segments proposed for inclusion into the County’s trail system (whether privately or publicly owned) must undergo site-specific environmental evaluations if considered for addition to the existing trail system. A checklist of these necessary reviews and evaluations will be included in the GEIS. 2. Use of the Generic Environmental Impact Statement Process A GEIS is a type of environmental impact analysis that deals in a broad-based or conceptual way with a number of related or similar actions in a single geographic area which may have common impacts or may impact the same set of resources. A GEIS identifies the important elements of the natural resource base, discusses in general terms the constraints and consequences of narrowing future options, and can serve as a base for general projections for future activity or patterns of activities.
It is anticipated that the current proposed base network of ATV trails within the County would be expanded in the future. This expansion will require County personnel to conduct a series of analyses of as-yet-unknown, site-specific impacts which are too speculative to be properly assessed as part of the current proposed network. The County wishes to create a template for future decision making regarding these expansion opportunities, in order to bring consistency and predictability to the trail expansion process. By providing a broad-based analysis of ATV trail impacts, this GEIS is intended to: organize and economize the County’s decision process; establish criteria for simplifying future impact assessment pursuant to SEQRA; enhance sound environmental planning by allowing consideration of mitigation and alternatives at an early juncture when there is greater flexibility; providing early guidance on significance determinations; and providing public disclosure of agency considerations used in environmental decision making. 3. Identification of Potentially Significant Adverse Impacts A list of potential environmental impacts that could be associated with development of the proposed ATV trail system has been identified at the outset. Outlined below are the potential environmental impacts that will be addressed in the Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement (DGEIS). This list of potential impacts may be modified following the County’s consideration of comments submitted by other agencies and the public during the DGEIS scoping process. 3.1. The following activities have the potential to generate environmental impacts: construction activities for existing trail upgrades, new trails, and trailhead parking areas operation of ATVs on designated trails and roads unlawful off-trail ATV use These activities could potentially have impacts upon: 3.1.1. Fish, Wildlife, Plants, and Ecologically Sensitive Areas (including threatened or endangered species, other (non-threatened) species of plants and wildlife) Some wildlife species may be disturbed by human intrusion and noise associated with ATV activity. In addition, it is anticipated that increased ATV use will result in direct mortality of some wild animals, birds, and plants. Small mammals, reptiles, and amphibians are particularly susceptible to impacts by ATVs. The extent of these impacts will be evaluated in the DGEIS.
State and Federal agencies have indicated that there is the potential for the project site to contain State and/or Federally listed endangered wildlife species, a State listed rare plant species and a significant natural community. Field surveys will be conducted to determine the presence or absence of these species and this community type along the proposed trail corridor (i.e., areas other than municipal roadways). Should these resources be confirmed to exist within the trail corridor, methods to avoid, minimize and mitigate potential impacts to these resources will be evaluated. 3.1.2. Significant Historical or Archaeological Resources A review of available data regarding historic and archeological resources located along the proposed trail corridor will be conducted to determine whether any impacts to such resources will result from the proposed project. 3.1.3. Water Resources Portions of the proposed trail system may cross streams or run adjacent to ponds or lakes. If mitigation measures are not employed, the operation of ATVs and the construction of trails through streams or other water resources may lead to siltation of these resources, direct mortality of wildlife and plants, erosion of the bed and banks of the water bodies, and introduction of invasive species. Mapped streams, lakes, and ponds along the proposed trail corridor will be identified and methods to avoid, minimize and mitigate potential impacts to these resources will be evaluated. 3.1.4. Wetlands Portions of the proposed trail system may cross designated NYSDEC Freshwater Wetlands or federally regulated wetlands. Operation of ATVs and construction of trails through wetland areas can cause degradation of this habitat through direct mortality of fish, wildlife, and plant species, sedimentation of surface waters, compaction of wetland soils, introduction of fill, and introduction of invasive species, among other impacts. A field survey will be conducted to identify any State or federally regulated wetlands located within the proposed trail corridor, as described in section 3.3.2, below. Methods to avoid, minimize and mitigate potential impacts to these resources will be evaluated.
Soils ATV use has the potential to cause erosion and compaction of soil, depending on the soil type. In addition, trail construction activities have the potential to cause soil erosion. Environmental analyses (review of local soil maps, where available, and field walkovers) will be undertaken to assess potential impacts upon soils.
Noise The heavy vegetation in the forested areas on County Reforestation Lands will help to buffer much of the noise from ATV traffic, potentially making it less obtrusive to neighboring landowners and other forest users, depending upon their distance from the noise source. Noise from ATVs operated on local roadways, which are designated as part of the trail system, may be more noticeable to nearby residents due to the likely closer proximity of the noise source to the receiver and the potential for less vegetation to buffer the noise from nearby receptors. Mitigation measures that may be used to reduce any potential noise impacts will be described in the DGEIS.
Air Quality ATVs create engine exhaust, which in turn creates odors. Some trail users may consider these odors objectionable, as might some persons participating in recreational activities or living in close proximity to the trail. These odor impacts, however, will be short term in nature. Under certain conditions, ATV operation may generate dust. Dust generation is not expected to be significant on County Reforestation Lands in areas where common vegetation and poorly drained soils exist, as both factors act to suppress dust generation. Fugitive dust impacts may be more pronounced on gravel roads used by ATVs in the dry summer months. Mitigation measures to reduce the amount of fugitive dust will be explored in the DGEIS.
Traffic ATV traffic on local roads open to ATV use is expected to increase to some degree with the implementation of the County’s ATV trail system. Impacts to motor vehicle traffic caused by the increased ATV usage on these roads will be examined in the DGEIS.
Recreational Activities County Reforestation Lands are open to a variety of recreational activities, including hiking, bird watching, hunting, mountain biking, and cross-country skiing, among others. Some participants in these types of recreational activities may view ATV riding as an intrusion upon their enjoyment of these public lands. Steps that may be taken to minimize conflicts between those who enjoy non-motorized recreation, and those who enjoy motorized recreation, will be discussed in the DGEIS.
3.1.10. Growth and Character of the Community The proposed ATV trail system is likely to attract many ATV riders, considering the fact that there currently exist a limited number of areas in the Tug Hill Region where ATVs may legally ride. With an increased number of riders comes a need for increased accommodations such as food, clothing and equipment, gas, etc. The Tug Hill Council commissioned the preparation of an ATV economic impact study, and in June 2006 the results of this study were published. The findings of this study will be a principal tool in assessing impacts upon the growth and character of the communities along the proposed trail corridor. 3.1.11. Community Services Establishing a County-wide trail system for ATV riders will increase the amount of time spent by law enforcement officials to monitor the trails and enforce regulations. In addition, it will increase the demand on emergency service providers due to the increased potential for more ATV incidents with a larger ATV population. The ability of the local law enforcement and emergency service providers to handle this increase in ATV traffic will be evaluated in the DGEIS. 4. Information Needed to Address Potential Impacts Potentially significant environmental impacts will be assessed through review and analyses of information obtained from the sources listed below. Methodologies used to obtain new information will be in accordance with accepted standards and procedures applicable to each specific area of environmental analysis. This listing of information resources is subject to change as deemed necessary or appropriate by the SEQRA Lead Agency during preparation of the DGEIS. 4.1. Available published maps, reports, and other documents on file with various local, County, State, and Federal agencies will be utilized to the extent they provide relevant information. This information may include: -5-
Mapped soils (where available - Natural Resource Conservation Service) National Wetland Inventory Maps (where available) Mapped state wetlands (New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC)) Archeologically sensitive areas and state and national register listed properties (New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation (NYSOPRHP)) Mapped Stream, ponds, lakes (United States Geologic Survey (USGS) quadrangle maps) Adirondack Park Data (for portion of County within Blue Line) State Recreation Areas/Parks/Forest Lands Agricultural Districts 4.2. Information provided by the County and previous studies related to ATV use in the County will be assessed. Existing studies such as those listed below will be reviewed and relevant portions will be utilized during preparation of the DGEIS: 4.2.1. Camoin Associates. 2006. Tug Hill Region ATV Economic Impact Study – Cooperative Tug Hill Council. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC). 2005. Draft ATV Policy for Public ATV Access to Recreational Programs on the Forest Preserve, Reforestation, Multiple Use, Unique, Wildlife Management Areas, Environmental Education Centers and Conservation Easement Lands. NYSDEC. 2006. Management Plan. Watson’s East Triangle Proposed Final Unit
N.Y.S Tug Hill Commission. 2003. All Terrain Vehicles in Lewis County – A Summary of Comments From Three Public Meetings. Lewis County Department of Economic Development. County Recreational Trails Plan – ATV Trails 2007. Lewis
4.3. Field investigations and studies to be undertaken specifically for preparation of the DGEIS are listed below: 4.3.1. Previous correspondence with the U.S. Department of the Interior Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has indicated that there is the potential for a State and Federally listed endangered mammal species to occur on two of the County Reforestation Areas. In addition, the NYSDEC identified a rare plant species and a significant natural community on one of the County Reforestation Areas. A literature search and field survey of the proposed trail corridor, which lies outside of municipal roadways, will be conducted to confirm the existence and extent of these species and natural communities and determine whether the proposed ATV trail system will have an impact upon them. New York State Freshwater Wetlands Maps, National Wetlands Inventory Maps, and field investigations will be utilized to determine whether State or Federally regulated wetlands are located along the proposed trail corridor. Field investigations will be conducted to identify areas along the proposed trail system and outside of municipal roadways that meet the Federal wetland criteria, in accordance with wetlands identification criteria set forth in the 1987 Corps of Engineers’ Wetlands Delineation Manual. Information published by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) will be reviewed to determine whether any significant archeological and historical resources are found within the proposed project corridor. If the OPRHP deems it necessary, a Cultural Resources Survey of the proposed trail corridor (or portions therein) will be completed. Any Phase 1A Cultural Resources Survey that is undertaken will be conducted in accordance with guidelines issued by the OPRHP and New York State Archeological Council. It will be conducted to evaluate the potential for cultural resources to occur in the project area, and to identify the presence or absence of previously recorded cultural resources that could be affected by construction activities undertaken as part of the proposed ATV trail system. This phase of the Cultural Resources Survey would include a literature search of site files at the New York State Museum and the OPRHP, and other documentary research. It would also include a walkover of the project areas proposed for construction activities. The Phase 1A Report would include a recommendation as to whether a Phase 1B field investigation is warranted. If warranted, a Phase 1B Cultural Resources Survey would be completed to enable potential impacts on significant historic/archeologic resources to be assessed. -7-
5. An Identification of Mitigation Measures Mitigation measures that could be used to minimize potential impacts associated with the proposed project include, but are not necessarily limited to, the measures listed below: 5.1. Identify ATV routes that, to the greatest extent practicable, avoid impacts to any significant environmental or cultural resources. 5.2. Identify ATV routes that, to the greatest extent practicable, avoid steep slopes or wet areas. 5.3. Identify ATV routes that, to the greatest extent practicable, avoid passing within close proximity to residential areas. 5.4. Establish a trail user education program to inform ATV riders about proper trail etiquette, the impacts associated with off-trail riding, and the role ATVs may play in the spread of invasive plant species. 5.5. Keep areas of exposed soils to a minimum practicable size during construction, and re-vegetate areas as soon as possible after disturbance to minimize erosion and stormwater runoff impacts. 5.6. Use silt fences at construction sites where appropriate and as necessary, to help protect nearby water resources from siltation during storm events. 5.7. Require construction equipment to use appropriate mufflers to reduce noise impacts. 5.8. Require riders to use appropriate noise emission controls/mufflers on their equipment (in accordance with 40CFR205.166, Subpart E). 5.9. Partner with local law enforcement agencies, local ATV clubs, and NYSORVA to patrol the trails to ensure safety of the riders and protection of natural resources. 5.10.Install appropriate signage to alert ATV riders about closed trails, sensitive environmental areas, and other trail hazards. 5.11.Close certain trail segments, as needed, to reduce the potential for trail damage and damage to specific natural resources.
6. Reasonable Alternatives to be Considered The DGEIS will include an evaluation of reasonable alternatives to the proposed project that are potentially feasible, considering the objectives and capabilities of Lewis County. The alternatives listed below will be evaluated: 6.1. The “no action” alternative (i.e., not taking any action to establish a Countywide system of trails suitable for ATV use). 6.2. The development of alternative trail corridors. evaluated include: 6.2.1. 6.2.2. Specific alternatives to be
Alternative ATV routes on County Reforestation Lands. Alternative ATV routes on private lands.
7. An Identification of Information/Data to be Included in an Appendix to the DGEIS Information/data that will be contained in an appendix to the DGEIS, rather than in the body of the DGEIS, include the following: 7.1. Summaries of previously published reports/studies regarding ATV use in Lewis County. 7.2. Separately bound reports and data referenced in the DGEIS, including but not necessarily limited to the field investigations and studies listed in Section 3.3 above. 7.3. A bibliography of references and information sources used during preparation of the DGEIS.