Forest Service Delays Chattooga Analysis
The US Forest Service announced yesterday that they will release an Environmental Assessment (EA) of recreation uses on the upper Chattooga River in mid-December. The agency had originally planned to release the EA early this month. Breaking with standard practice, the Agency will be releasing a final EA without issuing a draft version first for the public to respond to.
“Our specialists in South Carolina, Georgia and North Carolina are working hard to analyze the environmental effects of several alternatives for managing recreation uses on the river,” said Sumter National Forest Supervisor Jerome Thomas. “The social and biophysical issues being considered in this EA are extensive and complex; we simply need more time to ensure the analysis provides the decision makers with the information we need to select an agency preferred alternative.”
The Forest Service presented six preliminary alternatives to the public during a scoping period in August. The agency revised some of those preliminary alternatives and added new ones which were presented at an alternatives workshop in Clayton, GA, in September. The agency is now analyzing those alternatives in an EA which will go out for a 45-day public review period in mid-December.
Supervisor Thomas also confirmed that more time would be needed for comments: “We realize that delaying the release of the EA until mid-December could make it difficult for the public to focus on reviewing the material during the holidays. Therefore, we are extending the review period from 30 to 45 days. Now the public will have until the end of January to respond.”
The delay will almost assuredly mean that paddlers will be senselessly deprived of yet another paddling season on the Wild and Scenic Upper Chattooga River.
It will be vitally important for the paddling community to review and file comments on the Environmental Assessment, which will include the Agency's proposal for managing boating use.