Chattooga River Update - Comments Due by July 3

posted April 1, 2003
by Don Kinser

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Now is a critical time for the future management of the Chattooga as the USFS works to revise the Sumter Forest Plan. This is our best chance to influence the management of the entire Chattooga River for the next 10 -15 years. All of the letter writing regarding the Chattooga River over the past 6 years has gotten us to this point. Now is crunch time as we enter the final stretch.

Our Goal by July 3, 2003

We want to mobilize significant public support supporting AW's comments and position regarding the proposed forest plan. Click here for an early outline and information on how to submit your official comments regarding the proposed plan. We continue to analyze the DEIS and proposed plan and will update our website on a regular basis so keep coming back and visiting to stay informed.

We want the USFS to modify the preferred alternative in the Final EIS to include boating above Highway 28 and other key issues as we determined in our analysis.

Overview of the Current Situation

Land and Resource Management Plans (LRMP) govern the use and management of National Forest lands. Each National Forest has its own plan. The Chattooga River is in Sumter National Forest. Specifically the river is located in the Andrew Pickens District of the Sumter NF and this district is responsible for management of recreational boating on the Chattooga River. Thus, use of the Chattooga River is governed by the LRMP for Sumter NF.

The current LRMP for Sumter NF was published in 1985 and this plan has been amended 14 times. The latest revision, Amendment 14, dealt entirely with management of recreational boating on the Chattooga River. Many boaters will remember AW's involvement working with the USFS to shape the final form of Amendment 14 during the past two years or so. Many of you probably wrote letters to the Agency regarding Amendment 14. For those who did, thank you, your involvement made a difference.

The USFS published a Proposed Revised LRMP in early March 2003. This proposed revised plan will replace the current 1985 LRMP in it's entirety including all amendments. The LRMP is meant to last about 10 years between revisions, making the 1985 LRMP revision long overdue.

The USFS concurrently published a Draft Environmental Impact (DEIS) document along with the proposed LRMP. The DEIS is a study that establishes the environmental impacts of the preferred alternative and also evaluates several alternative management prescriptions for the forest and their associated environmental and social impacts. The "preferred alternative" is the proposed LRMP. This is represented as Alternative I in the DEIS.

There is a 90 day official comment period once the DEIS is published in the Federal Register. The official comment period ends July 3, 2003 (comments must be postmarked by this date). During the comment period the Agency solicits public input in the proposed plan and the alternatives vetted in the DEIS.

The agency may then choose to modify (or not) the proposed plan based on public comment. The USFS then publishes a final EIS along with a decision memo adopting the modified (or not modified as the case may be) preferred alternative in the final EIS document. This then becomes the new forest plan. The Final EIS and decision memo are due out at the end of 2003 or early 2004.

The preferred alternative will most probably change from the DEIS to the Final EIS based on public comment and input placed on the record during the comment period. This is not to say that the preferred alternative will simply switch to one of the other alternatives evaluated in the DEIS but rather the preferred alternative will be recast based on public comment.

Issues in the Plan that Involve the Chattooga

The Proposed LRMP does not open the Chattooga headwaters to whitewater boating. One of our primary goals is legal headwaters boating access on a year round basis. Appendix H of the DEIS provides the analysis of boating above Highway 28 and deals specifically with this issue. Alternatives A and E do include boating in the headwaters to varying degrees.

Pages 4-6 through 4-14 of the proposed revised plan deal with the management of the Chattooga River below Highway 28.

These pages in the DEIS along with Appendix H mentioned above would be good reading for the boater interested in learning how the Chattooga River will be managed under the new plan.

There are several aspects of the proposed management prescription for the Chattooga River that AW will want to influence in different directions. Many of these issues were originally addressed in our comments regarding Amendment 14 of the 1985 Sumter LRMP.

And finally, there are many general forest management issues we are looking closely at to make sure that the Chattooga watershed is managed in the best way possible. This analysis will take a bit longer.

Other important links to learn more:

AW official comments regarding Amendment 14 - This is a good discussion of the decisions made in August 2002.

Opening Chattooga Headwaters to be considered By USFS! - this link includes minutes to our August 23, 2002 meeting with the USFS and provide a good summary of the history of the management of the Headwaters.

AW webpage with lots of Chattooga Links and other information

Click here to read a newspaper article about the Chattooga aspects of the proposed forest plan published Feb 27 by the Anderson Independent Mail

Click here to read a newspaper article about the Chattooga aspects of the proposed forest plan published March 13 by the Anderson Independent Mail

AW's core Chattooga Advocacy team includes:

Don Kinser

Charlene Coleman

Kevin Colburn

If you have any questions, want to discuss the issue or just share your thoughts just drop us an email and let us know. Stay tuned here at the AW's website for current information.

Don and Nanci Kinser
1263 COLONY DR
MARIETTA, GA 30068-2808