The BLM Boise District, Four Rivers Field Office recommends to implement the actions as described in Alternative B of Environmental Assessment DOI-BLM-ID-B010-2014-0036-EA (EA). The BLM will offer five parcels of federal mineral estate totaling 6,349 acres at a spring 2015 competitive oil and gas lease sale. The parcels include 997 acres of BLM-administered lands (surface) and 5,352 acres of split estate (private surface with BLM-managed subsurface) within a 15,644-acre area in Payette County, Idaho (Table 1, Map 2 and Appendix of the EA). The following stipulations and lease notices will be applied to all BLM-administered surface and subsurface in the lease area:
· No Surface Occupancy (NSO) –1: Surface occupancy and use on BLM-administered and split estate lands would be prohibited until the Four Rivers Resource Management Plan (FRMP) is finalized.
· No Sub-surface Occupancy (NSSO) –1: Subsurface occupancy and use on federal mineral estate lands would be prohibited until the FRMP is finalized.
Once the FRMP is final, the leases will be modified replacing the NSO-1 and NSSO-1 with stipulations consistent with the FRMP. Development of State and private leases will continue as before; however, drainage of the federal mineral estate may be allowed and typical royalties will be applied.
Purpose and Need for Action
This action was based on need due to the rapid development of oil and gas interests in the area, to address continuing industry interests and in order to ensure preservation of all mineral rights until implementation of the Four Rivers RMP (anticipated draft publication June 2015). Additionally, completion of an EA at this time was applicable based on recent Idaho Oil and Gas Commission rulings to offer parcels for lease sale. Issuance of a competitive oil and gas lease(s) would give the lessee exclusive rights to explore and develop federal oil and gas mineral resources, but would not authorize surface-disturbing activities. If the lessee desires to drill into federal lands, additional, site specific NEPA analyses will be required.
The proposed lease sale area is located approximately five miles east of Payette, Idaho, and just north of Highway 52 and Big Willow Creek and encompasses a portion of Rock Quarry Gulch, the Patton Canal, and Little Willow Creek. The area is within the Snake River Plain major land resource area (MLRA). Snake River Plain MLRA topography is characterized by sloping lava plateaus with gently to moderately sloping alluvial fans (cone-shaped deposits of sediment crossed and built up by streams), terraces, and bottom lands. Soils are mainly loams, silt loams, and coarse sandy loams with moderate to high potential for erosion (based on K-factor erosion susceptibility index). Elevations in the proposed lease sale area range from 2,300 to 2,800 feet.
Vegetation communities are largely dominated by cheatgrass, an invasive annual grass, and introduced annual forbs (e.g., tall tumblemustard). Perennial plant species occasionally present include Sandberg bluegrass, rabbitbrush, and crested wheatgrass. Several wildlife species occupy the area including, but not limited to: southern Idaho ground squirrel, mule deer, badger, hawks, and several reptile species.
The proposed leasing area contains private and public lands. There are 997 acres with BLM surface jurisdiction and 5,355 acres of federal mineral estate with private surface ownership (see attached map). Private surface ownership with public mineral subsurface is called split estate. Split estate is a result of Âthe surface rights and mineral rights being severed under the terms of the Nation’s homesteading laws. These and other Federal laws, regulations, and BLM policy directives, give managers the authority and direction for administering the development of Federal oil and natural gas resources beneath privately owned surface.
The oil and gas development process occurs in four steps: 1) planning and leasing; 2) permitting; 3) drilling and production; and 4) surface reclamation (see attached figure titled "Oil and Gas Development Process"). This proposal only addresses Step 1. Future permitting, drilling, and production on BLM surface lands or BLM mineral estate would require an official permit to be filed after which the BLM would initiate additional NEPA analysis with further opportunities for public participation and comment.
BLM has identified the following issues since the proposed action is only the planning and leasing step of the oil and gas development process. While no ground disturbing activities would occur during this step, project specific stipulations will be Âdeveloped in follow-up analyses if the lessor applies for additional permits.
· Issuing oil and gas leases in the Willow Field would prevent uncompensated drainage resulting in federal mineral resources being produced by adjacent wells without paying the United States royalties required by the Mineral Leasing Act, as amended.
· Issuing oil and gas leases in the Willow Field would allow the BLM to analyze environmental, biological, and social concerns if additional actions are taken in the Oil and Gas Development Process.
The primary contact for questions and comments for this analysis is Matt McCoy, Four Rivers Assistant Field Manager (208-384-3343).
ÂPlease see the following Attachments in "Documents" and "Maps" in the sidebar to the left.
Updated EA Little Willow Creek Protective Leasing 02272015
Updated Unsigned FONSI Little Willow Creek Protective Leasing 02272015
Recommendation Letter Little Willow Creek Protective Leasing 02272015
Lease Sale Notice 02272015
Map Package (Including supplemental Map 2 General LWOG revised)