[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 145 (Friday, July 27, 2012)]
[Notices]
[Pages 44259-44262]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-18337]


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DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY

U.S. Customs and Border Protection

[ADM-9-03 OT:RR:RD:BS; H218497 MAW]


Notice of Availability of a Final Programmatic Environmental 
Impact Statement and Draft Record of Decision for Northern Border 
Activities

AGENCY: U.S. Customs and Border Protection, DHS.

ACTION: Notice of availability.

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SUMMARY: U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announces that the 
Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) and Draft 
Record of Decision (ROD) for Northern Border Activities are now 
available. The Final PEIS analyzes the potential environmental and 
socioeconomic effects associated with its ongoing and potential future 
activities along the northern border between the United States and 
Canada. The overall area of study analyzed in the document extends 
approximately 4,000 miles from Maine to Washington and 100 miles south 
of the U.S.-Canada Border. A Draft ROD announcing CBP's decision 
concerning which alternative to select is available for review for 30 
days.

DATES: The Draft ROD will be available until August 27, 2012. CBP will 
issue a Final ROD no sooner than August 27, 2012.

ADDRESSES: The public and other interested parties may obtain copies of 
the Final PEIS and Draft ROD by accessing the following Internet 
address: http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/about/sr/ and www.dhs.gov/nepa, by 
contacting CBP by telephone (202-325-4191), by email 
cbpenvironmentalprogram@cbp.dhs.gov, or by writing to: Jennifer DeHart 
Hass, Environmental and Energy Division, 1331 Pennsylvania Ave. NW., 
Suite 1220N, Washington, DC 20229.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jennifer DeHart Hass, CBP, Office of 
Administration, telephone 202-325-4191. You may also visit the 
project's Web site at: http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/about/sr/.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background

    U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is charged with the 
mission of enforcing customs, immigration, agriculture, and numerous 
other laws and regulations at the Nation's borders and facilitating 
legitimate trade and travel through legal ports of entry. As the 
guardian of the United States' borders, CBP protects the roughly 4,000

[[Page 44260]]

miles of northern border between United States and Canada, from Maine 
to Washington. The terrain ranges from densely forested lands on the 
west and east coasts to open plains in the middle of the country.
    CBP has completed a Final Programmatic Environmental Impact 
Statement (PEIS) for its ongoing and potential future activities along 
the northern border. The Final PEIS is now available. (For instructions 
on obtaining a copy of the PEIS, please see the ADDRESSES section of 
this document.) Because this effort is programmatic in nature, the PEIS 
does not define effects for a specific or planned action. Instead, it 
analyzes the overall environmental and socioeconomic effects of 
activities supporting the homeland security mission of CBP and looks at 
various alternatives that would enhance CBP's border security 
activities.

Public Scoping Process

    On July 6, 2010, CBP published in the Federal Register (75 FR 
38822) a notice announcing that CBP intended to prepare four PEISs to 
analyze the environmental effects of current and potential future CBP 
border security activities along the northern border. Each PEIS was to 
cover one region of the northern border: The New England region, the 
Great Lakes region, the region east of the Rocky Mountains, and the 
region west of the Rocky Mountains. The notice also announced and 
initiated the public scoping process to gather information from the 
public in preparation for drafting the PEISs. The notice provided that 
the scoping period would conclude on August 5, 2010, after CBP held 11 
scoping meetings at various locations along the northern border. CBP 
continued to take comments past the initial scoping period.

Draft PEIS

    Subsequently, and in part due to comments received during public 
scoping, CBP decided to refocus its approach and develop one PEIS 
covering the entire northern border, rather than four separate, 
regional PEISs. CBP concluded that, relative to four separate PEISs, 
one PEIS would be a more useful planning tool. CBP also determined that 
this new approach would ensure that CBP could effectively analyze and 
convey impacts that occur across regions of the northern border. 
Therefore, CBP published a notice in the Federal Register (75 FR 68810) 
announcing this intention on November 9, 2010. On September 16, 2011, 
CBP published a notice of availability of the Draft PEIS in the Federal 
Register (76 FR 57751) with request for comments and announcement of 
public meeting dates.
    In the Draft PEIS, CBP analyzed the environmental and socioeconomic 
effects of current and potential future CBP border security activities 
along the northern border between the United States and Canada, 
including an area extending approximately 100 miles south of the 
northern border. For the purposes of the PEIS, CBP defined the northern 
border as the area between the United States and Canada extending from 
the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean, encompassing all the states 
between Maine and Washington, inclusively. (The Alaska-Canada border is 
not included in this effort.) In the PEIS, CBP evaluated the 
environmental and socioeconomic impacts of routine aspects of its 
operations along the northern border and considered potential 
enhancements to its infrastructure, technologies, and application of 
manpower to continue to deter existing and evolving threats to the 
Nation's physical and economic security. The PEIS analyzed four 
northern border regions: The New England region, the Great Lakes 
region, the region east of the Rocky Mountains, and the region west of 
the Rocky Mountains. The PEIS did not contain specific proposals for 
projects, nor did it convey a specific intent to expand CBP's 
activities within the period covered by the PEIS.
    Publication of the Draft PEIS initiated a public review and comment 
period. During that review and comment period, CBP held 12 public 
meetings in various locations within the area of study and one 
additional meeting in the Washington, DC metropolitan area to reach any 
national interest groups seeking information on CBP's evaluation. CBP's 
public involvement strategy sought to cover a broad range of the 
northern border, including remote areas, mid-sized towns, and some 
population centers. Because CBP will take the requisite steps to comply 
with NEPA for specific projects that are within the scope of the 
alternatives or activities covered by this PEIS, there will be 
additional opportunities for public involvement regarding potentially 
significant impacts to the environment.
    CBP received 123 pieces of correspondence providing comments, which 
contained over 700 comments on the Draft PEIS. Some recurring themes 
received in the comments include:
     Concerns with the sufficiency of the range of alternatives 
proposed and their comparative analysis;
     Concern about potential impacts to transboundary areas and 
transboundary movement of species;
     Concerns regarding belief that CBP would use this PEIS to 
justify building a fence along the border;
     Concerns with potential impacts to specific cultural 
resources identified by commenters; and
     Issues with the extent of public outreach conducted by CBP 
for the PEIS.

Final PEIS

    After further analysis and consideration of the comments received 
on the Draft PEIS, CBP has now completed a Final PEIS. CBP has prepared 
the Final PEIS as a planning tool in accordance with DHS Directive 023-
01, Environmental Planning. The Final PEIS is intended to provide 
decision-makers within CBP with information on the potential for 
direct, indirect, and cumulative environmental impacts that could 
result from any future proposals to secure and otherwise facilitate 
legal trade and travel through the northern border. CBP plans to use 
the information derived from the analysis in the Final PEIS in 
management, planning, and decision-making for its mission and its 
environmental stewardship responsibilities. It will also be used to 
establish a foundation for future impact analyses.
    More specifically, CBP plans to use the Final PEIS analysis over 
the next five to seven years as CBP works to improve security along the 
northern border. CBP will use this PEIS as a foundation for future 
environmental analyses of specific programs or locations as CBP's plans 
for particular northern border security activities develop. The Final 
PEIS provides background information for the incorporation of more 
project-specific plans; CBP would not implement any alternative or any 
element of any alternative in the Final PEIS based solely on the 
analysis presented in the Final PEIS. To implement a specific plan, CBP 
would take the requisite steps to comply with the National 
Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA).

Incorporation of Comments

    The Final PEIS reflects the consideration and incorporation of 
public comments received on the Draft PEIS. In its responses, CBP 
sought to improve the explanation of the comparative merits of each 
alternative and make clear that the alternatives represent a reasonable 
set of options given that CBP is not proposing specific

[[Page 44261]]

location or intensity based-strategies for augmenting activities at 
this time. In addition, CBP clarified that the PEIS did not set forth a 
specific proposal for expansive use of barriers between the ports of 
entry and that any future proposal would be subject to a site-specific 
impacts analysis, including consultation with affected landowners, land 
managers, and agencies with jurisdiction over impacted resources. 
Finally, CBP clarified that several comments regarding impacts to 
specific resources of cultural or socioeconomic importance to 
individual commenters were not addressed in the PEIS because the 
programmatic nature of the document would not permit addressing 
detailed impacts to every location-specific resource.
    Substantive comments within the scope of considerations covered in 
the Draft PEIS have been incorporated in the Final PEIS. CBP's 
responses to all comments received are summarized in Appendix A of the 
Final PEIS. CBP also made additional technical clarifications from the 
draft identified through the course of incorporating comments.

Alternatives Considered

    The Final PEIS considers the environmental impacts of several 
alternative approaches CBP may use to protect the northern border 
against evolving threats. These alternatives would all support 
continued deployment of existing CBP personnel in the most effective 
manner while maintaining officer safety and continued use of 
partnerships with other Federal, state, and local law enforcement 
agencies in the United States and Canada. CBP needs to maintain 
effective control of the northern border via all air, land, and 
maritime pathways for cross-border movement.
    The No Action Alternative (or ``status quo'') would be to continue 
with the same facilities, technology, infrastructure, and approximate 
level of personnel currently in use, deployed, or currently planned by 
CBP. Normal maintenance of existing facilities is included in this 
alternative, along with previously planned or started projects. This 
alternative would not meet the purpose and need of the proposed action 
to allow CBP the flexibility to improve its capability to interdict 
cross-border violators and to identify and resolve threats at the ports 
of entry in a manner that avoids adverse effects on legal trade and 
travel. However, it is evaluated in the PEIS because it provides a 
baseline against which the impacts of the other reasonable alternatives 
can be compared.
    The Facilities Development and Improvement Alternative would focus 
on providing new permanent facilities or improvements to existing 
facilities, such as Border Patrol stations, ports of entry, and other 
facilities to allow CBP officials to operate more efficiently and 
respond to situations more quickly. This alternative would help meet 
CBP's goals because the new and improved facilities would make it more 
difficult for cross-border violators to cross the border. It would also 
divert traffic from or increase the capacity of the more heavily used 
ports of entry, decreasing waiting times. The applicability of this 
alternative would be limited, as most roads crossing the northern 
border already have a crossing facility.
    The Detection, Inspection, Surveillance, and Communications 
Technology Expansion Alternative would focus on deploying more 
effective detection, inspection surveillance, and communication 
technologies in support of CBP activities. This alternative would 
involve utilizing upgraded systems that would enable CBP to focus 
efforts on identifying threat areas, improving agent and officer 
communication systems, and deploying personnel to resolve incidents 
with maximum efficiency. This alternative would meet CBP's goals by 
improving CBP's situational awareness and allowing CBP to more 
efficiently and effectively direct its resources for interdicting 
cross-border violators.
    The Tactical Security Infrastructure Deployment Alternative would 
focus on constructing additional barriers, access roads, and related 
facilities. The barriers would include selective fencing and vehicle 
barriers at selected points along the border and would deter and delay 
cross-border violators. The access roads and related facilities would 
increase the mobility of agents and enhance their capabilities for 
surveillance and for responding to various international border 
violations. This alternative would help meet CBP's goals by 
discouraging cross-border violators and improving CBP's capacity to 
respond to threats, but would not assist CBP in identifying and 
classifying threats.
    The Flexible Direction Alternative would allow CBP to follow any of 
the above directions in order to employ the most effective response to 
the changing threat environment along the northern border. This 
approach would allow CBP to respond flexibly to a constantly changing 
threat environment.

Identified Preferred Alternative and Draft Record of Decision

    As a result of the analysis in the PEIS, the Draft Record of 
Decision (ROD) identifies the alternative that is most representative 
of the approach CBP will employ in order to respond to changes in 
security or trade and travel priorities or evolving threats within the 
next five to seven years. CBP is making the Draft ROD available at this 
time. The Final ROD will be issued no sooner than 30 days from the date 
of publication of this notice.
    The Final PEIS identifies the Detection, Inspection, Surveillance, 
and Communications Expansion Alternative as the environmentally 
preferred alternative. Likewise, the Draft ROD selects the Detection, 
Inspection, Surveillance, and Communications Expansion Alternative as 
the one that is most representative of the approach CBP will employ in 
the next five to seven years; however, changes in the nature, 
intensity, or locations of cross-border threats, or changes in national 
security or trade, travel, and economic priorities may compel CBP to 
adopt the Flexible Direction Alternative in the future. If such changes 
in cross-border threats or national security priorities occurred within 
five to seven years of the issuance of a final ROD, CBP would notify 
the public that it was changing its selected alternative through its 
Web sites (http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/about/sr/ and www.dhs.gov/nepa) 
and through the Federal Register with a new Draft ROD and a 30 day 
waiting period before making this change by issuing a Final ROD. 
Otherwise, CBP would determine if it needed to supplement the PEIS in 
accordance with the requirements found at 40 CFR 1502.9.
    The Draft ROD also clarifies CBP's recognition that the actual 
level of activities that might be required could very likely be 
substantially lower than what is addressed in the PEIS.

NEPA

    This environmental analysis is conducted pursuant to the National 
Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq., the 
Council on Environmental Quality Regulations for Implementing the NEPA 
(40 CFR parts 1500-1508), and Department of Homeland Security Directive 
023-01 (renumbered from 5100.1), Environmental Planning Program of 
April 19, 2006. NEPA addresses concerns about environmental quality and 
the government's role in protecting it. The essence of NEPA is the 
requirement that every Federal agency examine the environmental

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effects of any proposed action before deciding to proceed with it or 
with some alternative. NEPA and the implementing regulations issued by 
the President's Council on Environmental Quality call for agencies to 
document the potential environmental effects of actions they are 
proposing. Generally, agencies must make those documents public, and 
seek public feedback on them.
    In accordance with NEPA, the PEIS analyzes the effects on the 
environment of CBP's Northern Border Activities. CBP has sought public 
input on these studies and will use them in agency planning and 
decisionmaking. Because NEPA is a uniquely broad environmental law and 
covers the full spectrum of the natural and human environment, the PEIS 
also addresses environmental considerations governed by other 
environmental statutes such as the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, 
Endangered Species Act, and National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA).

Next Steps

    The Draft ROD is available to the public at the following Web 
sites: http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/about/sr/ and www.dhs.gov/nepa. A 
final decision will be made no sooner than 30 days from July 27, 2012 
and issued in a Final ROD. The Final ROD will select an alternative to 
guide CBP's activities along the northern border for the next five to 
seven years. That decision will be published in the Federal Register in 
a Final ROD and will be made available to the public at the same Web 
site.

    Dated: July 23, 2012.
Christopher S. Oh,
Acting Executive Director, Facilities Management and Engineering, 
Office of Administration.
[FR Doc. 2012-18337 Filed 7-26-12; 8:45 am]
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