RESPONSE TO COMMENTS
The pre-decisional Environmental Assessment documented the range of alternatives, affected environment, and environmental consequences of each action, and was available for public review beginning on June 5, 1998. At that time, a legal notice was published in the Ogden Standard-Examiner and copies of the document were mailed to known interested parties. Over 60 Huntsville residents participated in a public meeting at the Weber County Library in Huntsville on May 29th. An open house was held at the County library in Huntsville on the evening of June 24, 1998. Newspaper articles describing general details of the plan and select public opinion were published on June 10, 1998.
Comments were taken from this mailing as well as during the open house until July 7, 1998. These comments were in the form of written letters, phone calls, e-mail, and discussions, and included comments from other government agencies. A total of 45 written comments and phone calls were received. Let me highlight some of the concerns that I heard.
In general, respondents were concerned with maintaining a rural atmosphere and preserving the quality of life within Ogden Valley. The public lands surrounding Pineview Reservoir play a critical role in preserving these values -- values that are deeply held by Valley residents. The role and importance of these National Forest System Lands -- for wildlife habitat, maintaining clean water, scenic beauty, and recreation were emphasized. Concerns were expressed that these proposed improvements would only increase use and crowding and could negatively impact these values and change the character of the Valley. Many expressed that the management of Pineview Reservoir needs to compliment the local community vision and not dominate the landscape. Most of all, I heard that the management and protection of Pineview Reservoir and the surrounding National Forest System lands is very complex, requiring collaboration with multiple entities. The Forest Service can not solve all the growth issues of the Wasatch Front and Ogden Valley -- but must recognize the effects that its management has on the surrounding area and value the unique resource of Pineview Reservoir- protecting the area for future generations to enjoy and use.
The following, more specific public concerns, were expressed:
A.1 WATER QUALITY
Comments identified a concern that the water quality will be degraded by the increased development and the number of visitors allowed. It was noted by one response that there is little scientific information on the effects of future development to water quality in Pineview.
Water resources were identified as one of the seven original issues used to guide the development of the alternatives. The last detailed analysis of the water quality was the 1990 Clean Water Study, done by Weber Basin Water Quality Management Council. It found that the soil types and geohydrologic characteristics of the Upper Ogden Valley drainage indicate that contaminates of the shallow groundwater aquifer surrounding the reservoir poses the greatest threat to water quality degradation in Pineview Reservoir. This likely still remains the greatest threat.
The growing number of new homes in the Ogden Valley has and will continue to increase based on the planning that Weber County is actively completing. The amount of recreation use, primarily day use, has increased annually at Pineview based on actual use records. The recreation facility developments and shoreline protections identified in the environmental assessment are designed to concentrate and contain use to specific areas that can accommodate the use. This will limit access and use of other less developed areas. Our objective is to contain the recreation use to facilities designed and built to limit and control the negative effects of the human use. All facilities will be operated to stay within the limits of the designed capacity, typically limited by available parking. Once that capacity is reached, no more people will be allowed to enter the area until the some people have left. This will lessen the affect to water quality from the Forest Service developments. All sewage created by the recreation facilities will be contained in vault toilets and removed to proper sanitation facilities. Facilities to pump sewage from boats will remain in place. This also will lessen the affect to the water resources.
Additional bank stabilization, rehabilitation, and erosion control measures will be added to the selected alternative to further protect the quality of water from shoreline use.
Through enforcement and education, the amount of trash and debris created by boats, shoreline recreation, and developed facilities such as the dock systems will be reduced. The reduction of boats at one time, including personal water craft, will reduce the overall effect from the presence of motorized vessels to water quality. There were comments about the use of Personal Water Craft (PWC) and the impact to water quality from gas and oil exhaust. At this time, we are concerned about this impact but need to continue to monitor and research the effects before a decision to limit or ban PWC occurs.
The Forest Service, in coordination with other local agencies, will continue to monitor changes to water quality of Pineview and the rivers and streams entering the reservoir.
A.2 CEMETERY POINT/BLUFF MARINA
Comments about the activities at Cemetery Point were primarily from the residents of Huntsville who want the facilities de-emphasized and replaced by other locations such as Anderson Cove. The concern was that traffic to and from these recreation areas are a constant conflict with the safety and life-style of the residents of Huntsville. Problems occur because of the heavy traffic on weekends by the recreationist, and conflict with families visiting the grave sites in the Huntsville Cemetery.
We realize that conflicts are occurring from the use of Cemetery Point and that the recreation use has a major impact on the quality of life of town residents. The Town of Huntsville has been asked to "accommodate" the increasing recreation use. During our summer operations, weekends often fill the Point to capacity and managers must turn people away. The people who are turned away are finding other parking in the Town and Reservoir access.
To address these comments, we have decided to modify our proposed action for the facility improvements to the marina and beach so as to not increase the total people at one time capacity at Cemetery Point, and instead decrease the available parking at the beach by approximately 30 vehicles. These changes will concentrate on improving the control of traffic into the sites, including providing access and parking for the Huntsville cemetery. The entry roadways, stations, and beach parking will be reconfigured to facilitate law enforcement patrols, access and parking for the Cemetery, and decreased congestion. Also the changes will make access easier for the general public and those with special recreation access needs, such as physically challenged access to the waters edge from the beach parking. The new fishing access, in the Bluff Marina cove, will utilize existing parking and provide a much needed accessible shoreline fishing opportunity site at Pineview. The existing parking (minus 30 spaces) will determine the capacity at Cemetery Point/Bluffs Marina. Access to the area will be restricted when the parking capacity is reached. The reduction in total number of boats allowed on the Reservoir will also reduce the boating related traffic.
Our objective is to de-emphasize the use of Cemetery Point and Bluffs Marina and to relocate this use to Anderson Cove. The proposed boat launch and expanded day use facilities at Anderson Cove should draw traffic away from Cemetery Point and reduce traffic through Huntsville. The facilities at Bluffs Marina and Beach still have a substantial value and function to distribute use around the Reservoir and will remain operational for the foreseeable future, at a reduced level. Use patterns will continue to be monitored.
A.3 NO ALCOHOL
Concerns were expressed with the irresponsible use of alcohol by some recreation visitors. There is strong sentiment that the possession and use of alcohol should be restricted at the recreation facilities, especially at swim beaches. In the environmental assessment, this was an alternative that was considered but eliminated from further study. It was felt that there were existing laws for use of motor vehicles and public intoxication that are in place for controlling alcohol use.
We will continue to monitor this concern along with the Weber County Health Department and Sheriffs Office. The primary problems have been the beaches at Cemetery Point and boating under the influence of alcohol. We will work cooperatively with local Health Department and law enforcement agencies on education and awareness programs. We will continue to enforce the "No Glass" on the beach prohibition. The elimination of 30 existing parking spaces immediately adjacent to Bluffs Swim Beach will "separate" beach users from their cars, which we hope will reduce the irresponsible use of alcohol.
Comments concerning the protection of waterfowl and wildlife habitat along the shoreline of Pineview mostly centered around the conflicts with trails and shoreline use by boaters. The comments were also about protection of the riparian and wetlands areas since these areas provide a haven for animals that may not otherwise continue living in the Ogden Valley. The Reservoir and surrounding National Forest System Lands are an "island" within the larger landscape. As such, the role and function of the area for a diversity of wildlife species is especially critical. The shoreline around Pineview Reservoir is a refuge for a number of plant and animal species.
The Forest Service also has a desire to protect these natural habitats. The proposed activities include establishing a management designation of sections of the shoreline as undeveloped natural areas. These shorelines will be maintained to promote the natural vegetation with only limited improvements by the Forest Service. We will emphasize maintenance of existing improvements and user education/ethics within the undeveloped natural areas. The needs of the plants and animals will be the priority for these designated areas for the foreseeable future. Activities like trails, noxious weed control, shoreline stabilization, and fence maintenance will be limited in scope, designed to minimize the potential impacts to wildlife, and improve habitat quality.
The conflict from boaters will be reduced by the management activities proposed. The number of boats allowed at one time on the surface will be reduced and the entire shoreline except at Anderson Cove Campground will be closed to any form of camping and will be strictly enforced. This will reduce the negative effects in the section of shore that are easily accessible to boats. Two new areas will be closed to motorized vessels and wakeless areas will be expanded for the protection of wildlife habitat. These areas are at the mouth of the Middle fork of the Ogden River, at the northern end of Geertsen Bay, and Spring Creek Cove.
Protection of riparian areas, wetlands, and floodplains is a legal requirement and will be emphasized in all projects. Any activities we do that have an effect to these areas will require strict efforts to first avoid these impacts and secondly, to minimize the impacts to the greatest extent possible. Appropriate permits and approvals will be required if any riparian or wetland area has potential to be impacted. This will be the case where proposed trails cross drainages. The extent of trail development originally proposed along the south and north shores has been reduced to protect wetlands and floodplains.
Since there are known Bald Eagles which winter at the reservoir, there will be special mitigation measures developed to maintain the number of roosting trees and monitor and manage the recreation activities that may negatively effect these birds. Conflict with winter snowmobile use on the ice surface and roosting eagles will be closely monitored, and restrictions put in place where necessary.
Increased traffic in Ogden Valley, due to recreation visitors, is one of our greatest challenges. The traffic and congestion causes concern with safety, noise, and impacts on quality of life. As the Wasatch Front and Ogden Valley continue to expand in population, the traffic issues will only get worse. Our challenge is to manage the recreation traffic, in light of other traffic safety issues throughout the Ogden Valley. Comments received concerning the flow of traffic in and around the reservoir as well as the conflicts to the local residents identified two specific problem areas. The first is at the entrance to Port Ramp Marina. Here boat traffic turning into the ramp conflict with the normal flow on SR 162. This is the main travelway for those that live in Eden and Liberty. The second area of concern is the traffic through the Town of Huntsville to Cemetery Point and the conflict with the residential homes.
The Forest Service and Utah Department of Transportation are working cooperatively to improve the access off and on to SR 39 and SR 162, by installing acceleration and deceleration lanes. This is a high priority to both agencies. In addition to providing safe access, the Forest Service recommends that the State and County restrict roadside parking immediately adjacent to the highway access points (Port Ramp, Pineview Trailhead, Middle Inlet, Quist Beach, etc.). This roadside parking is currently the cause of much congestion and visibility limitations.
The traffic through Huntsville continues to be one of our most challenging issues. We are sensitive to the impacts on local residents and have modified proposed improvements at Cemetery Point and Bluffs Marina to address these concerns. At this time, there are three things that we can concentrate our management efforts on. First is reducing the number of vehicles. This can be done by reducing the number of parking spaces and thus reducing capacity, and by creating services in other areas outside of Huntsville. The first row of parking spaces at the Bluffs Swim Beach will be removed (30 spaces), except for handicap parking spaces. A beach and boat launch at Anderson Cove Campground will likely attract visitors away from Cemetery Point. Anderson Cove is an easily accessible site from both Ogden Canyon and Trappers Loop. The reduction in boats at one time on the reservoir should also limit the total number of vehicles associated with boating. There are ways to let people know that the boat capacity has been reached or the parking areas are full before people drive into Huntsville, and before they drive up the canyon or over Trappers Loop. Improved signing outside of Huntsville And at the base of the canyons may be possible. Another idea is an electronic signboard at the mouth of the canyons and better use of local radio news stations.
Second, we can find ways to ensure the travel speed along 100 South is below the posted speed limit of 35 miles per hour. We are coordinating with Weber County Sheriff, who does the law enforcement for Huntsville, to find solutions to this problem. A trailer mounted radar unit which would display the on-coming vehicle speed has been suggested by the Sheriff. This trailer would be in place during high use periods.
The third emphasis management item is the issue of what people do when Cemetery Point is full and we turn people away. Typically, these people have friends and relatives they plan to meet at the beach so they park in the nearest side street and walk into Cemetery Point. Others drive the side streets looking for a public access to the reservoir and park there. We will try to reduce this impact by reducing the number of vehicles driving this direction when the capacities are reached. We will restrict the number of walk in users in order to discourage leaving their vehicles parked in Huntsville. We will increase the patrols by Forest Service and Weber County Sheriff Deputies working with the Forest Service at known reservoir access points.
Concern was also expressed that the 950 PAOT capacity increase identified for Alternative 2 deserved more attention in the analysis. It is important to recognize that much of the increase PAOT capacity projected is not necessarily "new" use. Although not well reflected in the No Action alternative, much of the displayed increased use is actually existing use that is currently occurring around the reservoir at "undeveloped" facilities and is not being managed. Because the use has been in undeveloped facilities, it was not reflected in the officially reported PAOT capacity figures. The action alternatives capture this existing use at facilities and locations that can accommodate and better manage the impacts. All the areas are receiving use currently. The greatest increase in new uses is with the group areas proposed at Anderson Cove Expansion.
Concerns about trails in close proximity to residential homes was the greatest topic of written responses to our proposed projects. The loss of privacy and fear that trails would attract the wrong element of society and bring them into residents backyards was in nearly all the comments from citizens of Huntsville. There were also comments about the negative affect of trails in wetlands. It should be noted that there were some comments in favor of building trails around the Reservoir.
The idea of a trail around the shoreline of Pineview Reservoir is not new. Citizens who were involved in the Ogden Valley General Plan were asked their opinion of this trail system and the number who supported the trail were over three times those who opposed it. The Forest Service continues to support development of trail networks, and links between existing trail systems. We are also committed to working cooperatively with Weber County, Town of Huntsville, and other trail advocacy groups to develop a bike trail/lane adjacent to SR 39 and SR 162.
Nearly all the comments against the trails in this assessment specifically addressed the trail along the south shore of Huntsville, not necessarily trails along other sections of shoreline. We feel that this section of shoreline trail needs to have further review and discussion with local citizens to develop trail and access points within Huntsville that compliment the community vision and meet local needs. We will continue these discussion into the near future before substantially improving the existing paths near Huntsville. Some minor maintenance on existing paths will be done to reduce erosion and resource impacts, and protect the existing pathway from total loss.
There were comments about law enforcement and security patrols on trails. We will add these patrols to Forest Service and Weber County Sheriff patrol schedules. As these trails become more popular, it will be less likely that there will be problems with safety and security.
The initial trail proposal was described as a wide gravel path that would resemble a roadway. This would emphasize the urban nature of Pineview with a park-like walkway. General opinion was that this size of trail wasn't appropriate or necessary anywhere on the reservoir. We have scaled back the size of our proposal to lessen the affects from this trail.
Our current proposed trail will compliment the shoreline recreation activities in the undeveloped natural areas by concentrating use along a defined route that we manage, therefore eliminating many of the random people-created paths that negatively impact the shoreline. A few comments were concerned about horse use on this trail and the environmental and social affect from horses.
Where any trail comes into contact with riparian or wetlands, additional requirements must be met to comply with existing federal regulations to protect these lands. We will avoid these areas whenever possible; but if we can't, we will use designs that will cause the least amount of impact even if it means additional cost of construction and future maintenance. Proposed trail routes along the South and North shores have been modified to reduce riparian, wetland and floodplain impacts. Within undeveloped natural areas, emphasis will be placed on maintaining existing "paths" and access points.
Concerns were expressed with the parking situation at Geertsen Bay. Respondents suggested that parking should be kept to a minimum, provide safe on/off access to highway, and reduce posted speed limit on the Highway. The Forest Service will be working cooperatively with Weber County to address the parking situation at Geertsen Bay. The current "pull off" needs to be improved to provide adequate drainage and safe on/off to the highway. At a minimum, the Forest Service will be installing an informational/education sign.
A.7 ANDERSON COVE
Comments generally were in favor of building new facilities at Anderson Cove Campground especially those facilities that would draw people away from Cemetery Point and the Town of Huntsville. Many expressed that improved facilities at Anderson Cove would reduce traffic in Huntsville. This would be services such as a boat launch, swim beach access, and picnicking. Some comments did express a concern about new facilities which would add to the operational workload the concessionaire has now and increase total use and congestion at the Reservoir.
The opportunity for expansion is the best here because of the location, available land, quality of the shoreline, and adjacent utilities. Anderson Cove Campground and the adjacent expansion area has the advantage of being easier to drive to than nearly any other location on the reservoir.
The original proposal for Anderson Cove expansion, in the 1985 Wasatch-Cache Forest Plan, was for a new campground. After listening to the public comments and reviewing the recreation demands, it was decided that it would better serve the public for beach access and larger group sites. This will be presented to the next campground concessionaire as an opportunity to build these facilities with a long term permit that would allow the private investment to be amortized. If the private investor doesn't feel that this is a good investment, then this office will seek alternate public funding sources.
Concern was again expressed that the 950 PAOT capacity increase identified for Alternative 2 deserved more attention in the analysis and that there are conflicts between the purpose and need and the proposed action. It is important to recognize that much of the increase PAOT capacity projected is not necessarily "new" use. Although not well reflected in the No Action alternative, much of the displayed increased use is actually existing use that is currently occurring around the reservoir at "undeveloped" facilities and is not being managed. Because the use has been in undeveloped facilities, it was not reflected in the PAOT figures. The action alternatives capture this existing use at facilities and locations that can accommodate and better manage the impacts. All the areas are currently receiving use. The greatest increase in new uses is with the developed group areas proposed at Anderson Cove Expansion.
The comments concerning the boat capacity were mixed. There were some that felt it was critical to reduce the numbers of boats and the boat length, while others that felt it was not necessary. A number of the comments were questions of how the capacity would be implemented and ensure fairness to all boaters including those who used the Ogden Yacht Club and the concessionaire wet storage.
The Forest Service and Utah State Division of Parks and Recreation have been working with the boat limit for a number of years. Our concern is on those peak use days when the quality of the experience is diminished, user conflicts are on the increase, and public safety is compromised. The decision to establish the "boats at one time" limits at each ten foot level was based on a combination of experience and computer-aided mapping that showed us the usable surface acres at each level. The subjective part of this analysis was determining how many acres per boat would allow for safety and a quality recreation experience. This was where experience played a role. With regards to boat length, we are proposing that the facilities be designed for maximum watercraft of 32'.
Other citizen comments were about problems with Personal Water Craft and concerns that the numbers of this type of vessel were not being restricted. We intend to continue to study and research the use of Personal Water Craft before a decision is made. We are aware of the recent actions by the US Park Service to limit these vessels.
We received very few comments about the planned changes to surface zoning. Most comments were in favor of continued and improved zoning.
A.9 SAFETY/LAW ENFORCEMENT
A number of comments addressed the concern about Pineview Reservoir remaining a good place to bring families for water based recreation. Citizens feel that the laws and ordinances are not being enforced and should be a priority. Experience by all the agencies involved with law enforcement at Pineview shows that constant presence and active enforcement are the only ways to ensure safety and security. Pineview Reservoir has the same problems suffered by the large cities like Ogden and Salt Lake. This is because the reservoir visitors are the same citizens who live in these urban center and they bring their behavior with them.
We realize that a feeling of security is critical for citizens in all of our recreation facilities. Pineview currently has the highest Forest Service budget for patrolling in this part of the west. Weber County Sheriff Deputies are on call or actually patrolling the reservoir every day of the summer. Additional shifts are scheduled for Fridays and Saturdays. During the planning and design of the project proposals, increasing security was a key goal. Many of the activities we are proposing are intended to decrease security issues and improve our ability to effectively enforce the restrictions. An example of this is changing all of the improved access points to day-use only and making it illegal to be at these sites after 10 PM. Another method will be to require the concessionaire to use some of the collected fees to increase security within the facilities. We are also coordinating with Weber County and Division of Parks and Recreation to share boating equipment and expertise.
We recognize that an increased Forest Service presence will be critical for the next 3-4 years as we implement management changes.
Concerns were raised about the problem of excessive noise from the reservoir. These are mostly caused by loud boats and parties after dark. Sounds on the surface of the reservoir have the ability of traveling a great distance. At night, you can clearly hear normal conversations from boats hundreds of feet away. Residential homes against the reservoir have all experienced this phenomenon. When boaters are having a party and playing loud music, it often results in a call to the County Sheriff as a noise nuisance complaint. This can also occur from parties on the shoreline.
Pineview Reservoir is unique in being a "backyard" reservoir with substantial neighborhood development existing and proposed around the shoreline. This concern was one of the reasons we are structuring the management of Pineview to be mostly day-use only. This reduces the conflicts with the rural life-style of the Ogden Valley and the recreation activities on Pineview. No camping on the shoreline restriction will be strictly enforced, in addition to the closure of developed recreation facilities at 10:00 PM.
A.11 CUMULATIVE EFFECTS
Concerns were expressed that the effects analysis in the pre-decisional Environmental Assessment was inadequate and that all direct, indirect, secondary, and cumulative effects had not been displayed. Due to the number of agencies and their jurisdictional responsibilities within the Ogden River Watershed, the environmental study process should have been a joint interagency process.
In response to these comments, we have acknowledged that there may be effects on the National Forest from activities occurring on public and private land within Ogden Valley and the Ogden River Watershed. We have attempted to identify the past and on-going activities and to incorporate the analysis completed in the Ogden Valley Master Plan.
It is difficult to predict, without some current scientific study, what will be the social affects to the Ogden Valley from the proposed recreation at Pineview. The recent growth of population in northern Utah has overshadowed management changes we have proposed. It has been difficult factoring in the activities occuring outside of Pineview Reservoir and the local National Forest with the effects produced by our proposals to determine the overall cumulative impacts.