For Immediate Release
Contact: [email protected]
FORMER SECRETARY RYAN ZINKE CALLS ON BIDEN ADMIN TO TAKE IMMEDIATE ACTION TO REBUILD HIGHWAY 89 AND OTHER CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE TO HELP STRANDED GARDINER RESIDENTS
Nearly a thousand residents plus tourists trapped by destroyed roads and bridges after 100-year flood
(WHITEFISH, MT) Today, Ryan Zinke, former Montana Congressman and U.S. Secretary of the Interior, and current candidate for Montana’s First Congressional District, called on the Biden Administration to exercise emergency powers to provide a categorical exclusion and waive certain environmental regulations in order to quickly restore access to the town of Gardiner and other small communities isolated after an historic flood on the Yellowstone River earlier this week.
Under the 2020 Council on Environmental Quality memo titled Emergencies and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Guidance and the original 1978 law, the Federal government has the authority to provide a NEPA categorical exclusion or waive certain aspects of other regulations such as the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act and Historic Preservation Act in emergency situations. Currently about a thousand residents in the town of Gardiner and countless more residents and tourists in the surrounding area are trapped with limited food, fuel and medical supplies.
“The devastation along the Yellowstone River is historic and so should be our nation’s response to this natural and emerging humanitarian disaster,” said Zinke. “As a former Secretary of the Interior, I know the Biden Administration has the authority to grant categorical exclusions and expedite or waive certain processes. This prudent action would allow an expedited reconstruction of highway 89 and quick construction of temporary bridges while new bridges are built. There is no amount of air lifts that will be adequate to serve the people of Gardiner and other small, isolated communities in the area. The Biden Administration must act now to save lives and prevent long term crisis.”
Zinke continued, “The Biden Administration’s Forest Service must also take immediate steps to reopen and maintain the Old Yellowstone Trail Road on the west side of the Yellowstone River through Yankee Jim Canyon so residents have a reliable emergency route now and when, God forbid, another disaster strikes. These roads and bridges have been in the area for generations and rebuilding them will not cause significant environmental impact. Anyone who tries to say otherwise is more concerned about the grizzly bear than the people of Park County.”
“Lastly, I also call on the Congress to provide quick funding through the Great Outdoors Act, Land and Water Conservation Fund, and highway dollars to rebuild roads and bridges in Yellowstone National Park, as well as replace the destroyed employee housing,” said Zinke.
Elsewhere in Montana, flooding has eroded sections of roads and flooded areas of Livingston, Red Lodge, Stillwater County and other areas. The Governor has declared a statewide disaster to assist with rescue and recovery efforts.
The 2020 memo states, “As agencies respond to situations involving immediate threats to human health or safety, or immediate threats to valuable natural resources, they must consider whether there is sufficient time to follow the procedures for environmental review established in the CEQ National Environmental Policy Act Implementing Regulations, 40 CFRparts 1500-1508 (CEQ NEPA regulations),3 and their agency NEPA procedures.” (Link: emergencies-and-nepa-guidance-2020.pdf – National …https://ceq.doe.gov › docs › nepa-practice › emer…)
Under NEPA, Federal agencies, in consultation with CEQ, develop CEs for categories of agency actions that they have found do not have a significant impact on the environment. Federal agencies’ CEs cover a broad range of actions, including administrative functions, operations and maintenance activities, research and information collection, emergency preparedness and response, and certain land management and infrastructure activities.
CEs, which are not exemptions from NEPA review, reduce paperwork and allow agencies to focus their resources on actions that may significantly affect the quality of the environment.
When establishing or revising a CE, Federal agencies publish their proposed CEs in the Federal Register for public comment. Following conclusion of the comment period, the agency evaluates the comments received. CEQ reviews an agency’s proposed CE for conformity with NEPA, completing its review within 30 days of receiving the final text.