BLM begins new court-ordered Ruby Pipeline review

RENO — Federal land managers have begun a second environmental review of a 678-mile natural gas pipeline stretching from Wyoming to Oregon after a federal court said the first evaluation failed to make sure rare fish would be protected.

Officials for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management said they have started preparing another draft supplemental environmental impact statement for the Ruby Pipeline. It’s the result of a U.S. appeals court in San Francisco ruling in October that the agency hadn’t done enough to ensure protection of the Lahontan cutthroat trout and other rare fish in Wyoming, northern Utah, Northern Nevada and southern Oregon.

The new draft impact statement will provide more detailed information about the cumulative loss of sagebrush vegetation and habitat across the Great Basin and high desert, BLM officials said Thursday.

Project manager Mark Mackiewicz, based in Price, Utah, said the public will have 45 days to comment once the new review is published.

The pipeline has been transporting natural gas from the Rocky Mountain area to the Pacific Northwest and Northern California since July 2011. It runs from Opal, Wyo., south of Logan, Utah, into Nevada north of Elko and Winnemucca before terminating in Opal, Ore., near the California line.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals determined the BLM and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service broke the law by failing to adequately examine the potential harm to fish as a result of pumping more than 300 million gallons of water from beneath the ground in Oregon and Nevada in connection with the pipeline.

The appellate court also agreed with environmentalists who said the government illegally relied on mitigation measures that have not been funded in concluding there are enough protections in place for the cutthroat trout and other fish in hundreds of rivers and streams in the four states.

Lawyers for the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife and the Summit Lake Paiute Tribe have been fighting the project for years.

Besides the Lahontan cutthroat trout, they said the 42-inch pipeline built in 2010 affected habitat for the Warner sucker, Lost River sucker, shortnose sucker and Modoc sucker, as well as four endangered fish in the Colorado River — the Colorado pikeminnow, humpback chub, razorback sucker and bonytail chub.

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