Bedford- The Houston South Vegetation Management and Restoration Project activities were approved by the Forest Service in February, 2020, based on the analysis documented in the November 2019 Houston South Vegetation Management and Restoration Project Environmental Assessment. As a result of ensuing litigation, though the court ruled in favor of the Forest Service in two of the three claims, the case was remanded back to the Forest Service in a March 30, 2022 ruling by the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. Though the court did not rule that the project presented any threat to the water quality of Lake Monroe, the ruling stated that the Forest Service failed “to fully evaluate the environmental effects to Lake Monroe”.
To address the District Court’s ruling, the Forest Service has produced a Draft Supplemental Information Report (SIR) for the project which is now available for a 30 day public review. The Draft SIR for the Houston South Project is meant to provide information that further clarifies already available information in the Administrative Record on the environmental effects to Lake Monroe and will facilitate the intent to show the public the Forest Service’s interest in protecting water quality to the communities surrounding the Hoosier National Forest. Although this does not change the outcome of the decision and is not significant in terms of changes to the effects, it helps disclose information as required by the court, and to further evaluate effects from the project on the Lake. The Draft SIR was based on the project record and new information from the ruling of the United States District Court, Southern District of Indiana, New Albany Division, March 30, 2022, and the Lake Monroe Watershed Management Plan, dated February 23, 2022.
The mitigation actions described in the Draft SIR, as well as in the Environmental Assessment and Specialist Reports, which are incorporated to protect water quality in the Lake Monroe watersheds, have been shown to be highly effective in protecting water quality and exceed those recommended by the Lake Monroe Watershed Management plan, giving the Forest Service a high level of confidence that the implementation of the actions in the Houston South Restoration Project will not negatively impact the water quality of Lake Monroe.
“Based on the findings of the Draft SIR, it is my decision that a correction, supplement, or revision to the project Environmental Assessment is not necessary. Additionally, consideration of the information contained, and incorporated by reference, in the Draft SIR addresses the Court’s ruling by fully evaluating environmental effects to Lake Monroe from the Houston South Restoration Project, and this does not trigger a significant change to the project to need supplementation,” said Chris Thornton, district ranger.
“I am inviting the public to provide any input they may have regarding the Draft SIR during a 30-day review period ending at midnight on November 7, 2022. Responses received will be used as a basis for finalization of the SIR. Implementation of the Houston South Project may resume following completion of the final SIR as long as there is no change in effects warranting a correction, supplement, or revision to the 2019 environmental assessment.”
The Draft SIR and associated documents can be accessed on the Houston South Project website at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=55119.
How to Submit Your Review
Reviews received in response to this invitation, including name and address of those who submit, will be considered part of the public record for this project and will be available for public review. At this time only input on the contents of the SIR will be considered, and not on the entirety of the Environmental Assessment which was previously presented for public comment prior to the responsible official’s decision in 2020.
For your review to be considered it must be submitted in writing in one of the following ways:
- Email: [email protected]. Please include the subject header “Houston South SIR” in your email.
- Mail: District Ranger Chris Thornton, Attn: Houston South SIR, 811 Constitution Avenue, Bedford, IN 47421.
- FAX: (812) 279-3423, Attn: Houston South SIR.
- Hand delivered to the Hoosier National Forest Supervisor's Office at 811 Constitution Avenue, Bedford, IN 47421 during normal business hours, Monday to Friday, excluding holidays (8:00 am to 4:30 pm).
For more information regarding the Houston South Vegetation Management and Restoration Project Draft SIR, please contact Kevin Amick at [email protected].