Corps of Engineers completes Hanford Reach Interpretive Center draft Environmental Assessment and other key reviews

Published April 20, 2011

Walla Walla, Wash. – The Walla Walla District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has completed a draft Environmental Assessment (EA) and draft Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the Hanford Reach Interpretive Center project. The Center is a project of the Richland Public Facilities District, which proposed to build on a project site on Corps-administered land located in Columbia Park West in Richland, Wash. The Corps proposes to approve construction of the Center if the proposed action is determined to not significantly affect the quality of the human environment and does not require preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), a more in-depth document.

Both the EA and FONSI documents are open to public comment until May 23, 2011. Documents are available at Comments may be submitted by email or U.S. Mail. If during the 30-day public review period no substantive comments are received, the Corps will finalize the EA and sign the FONSI as its National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance for the HRIC Project. These actions would conclude the Corps’ review requirements under NEPA.

As part of the process, an Archeological Resource Protection Act (ARPA) permit was issued by the Corps to the Richland Public Facilities District in January 2011 for cultural resources investigations at the proposed project site.  While the assessment identified four artifact clusters within the project footprint, none were considered significant for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. Given the extent of archeological survey and testing work done on the site, it is believed no additional archeological investigations are required. Based on available information, the Corps made a determination of “no historic properties affected” and recommended monitoring during construction at two locations—a footpath and an access road.

In an April 6, 2011, letter the Corps requested concurrence from the Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation as part of consultation with the “state historic preservation office” (SHPO) required by the National Historic Preservation Act, Section 106. Also on April 6, the Corps asked for review and comments from the Yakama Nation, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR), Colville Tribe, Nez Perce Tribe and the Wanapum Band on its “no historic properties affected” determination.  The SHPO subsequently concurred with the federal determination of no historic properties affected and the recommendation for monitoring construction activities in specific locations. There is a 30-day review period beginning with the date of receipt of the letter within which the tribes can provide comments.

The Corps entered into consultation on the Hanford Reach Interpretive Center project with area tribes in June 2010. The Corps has met with the tribes, both collectively and individually, to discuss the proposed project and to obtain feedback from them on areas of interest or concern such as archaeological sites, Traditional Cultural Properties and Sacred Sites. Consultation is available to the Tribes for the duration of the project. Currently, no tribal issues or concerns have been raised with the Walla Walla District with regard to the Center construction at the proposed site.

The Corps also recently completed a real estate review of a sub-lease between the City of Richland and the Richland Public Facilities District for use of the federally owned, Corps-administered property. While the Walla Walla District is not a signatory to that sub-lease, it found the sub-lease meets district requirements for protecting taxpayer interest in this federally owned property.

“We’ve made significant progress in thoroughly reviewing this proposal while meeting complex environmental and other requirements,” said Lt. Col. Dave Caldwell, commander of the Walla Walla District. “It’s typical of how we serve the taxpayers as a good steward of federal real estate and the environment.”

The Corps of Engineers is the lead federal agency for environmental review of the proposal and is working within the established NEPA process. The draft Environmental Assessment reviews identified several alternative locations plus impacts to water quality, vegetation, fish and wildlife, cultural resources, noise and other environmental factors. Environmental Assessment Reviews also identified potential impacts resulting from construction of the Center per the National Historic Preservation Act, Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act and seven other federal or state acts or executive orders.

The Walla Walla District assisted the Richland Public Facilities District with the preparation of various application documents in order to comply with multiple requirements and applicable laws. The District also coordinated with applicable agencies and groups including the Washington State Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Corps held a public scoping meeting on Dec. 16, 2010 to explain the environmental review process and to receive public comments about the proposed action and the planned draft Environmental Assessment. No comments received after that meeting were deemed to be significant objections to the project. Parties previously requesting direct notification of project documents are being notified or provided copies of applicable documents.

Public comments about the draft EA or FONSI may be mailed by May 23 to Walla Walla District, Corps of Engineers, Environmental Compliance Section, ATTN: John Leier, 201 North Third Avenue, Walla Walla, WA 99362-1876. They may also be emailed to or faxed to 509-527-7832.

The Walla Walla District is one of 41 Districts within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It is responsible for managing environmental, hydroelectric, navigation, engineering, construction, emergency management and recreation services within a region covering 107,000 square miles and includes parts of six states. The district operates and maintains six hydroelectric power facilities and $2.5 billion of infrastructure. For more information about Walla Walla District, see the district website at




Public Affairs

Release no. 11-41