Juniper Dunes Public Access Road

Design update and Section 4(f) de minimis determination

Project design refinements have been made since the 2015 EA/FONSI was published:

  1. The proposed intersection of the new access road with Pasco-Kahlotus road is located about 350 feet west of the original intersection, then S-curves towards the section line. The intersection was moved to avoid utilities and the natural low spot in the land;
  2. The current alignment weaves the road back and forth to place a greater portion of the road on BLM land and minimize private property impacts. The EA/FONSI assumed an 80-foot wide corridor that would travel down the section line, with half of the property acquisitions on each side of the property line.
  3. The entire 4.2 miles of the project will be paved. The EA indicated that only the first mile would be paved.
  4. An off-highway vehicle (OHV) path will be built, at the request of Bureau of Land Management (BLM), from Smith Canyon to the designated access road endpoint in the OHV area. The path is 16-ft wide and is located at the edge of the cut/fill slopes on the west side of the corridor.
  5. A 385-foot long side road stub that connects the main access road to the existing dirt path at Smith Canyon was added at the request of BLM. The existing dirt path leads to the area that is currently used for camping.

Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act protects land that is used as a publicly-owned park, recreation area, wildlife and waterfowl refuge, or any significant historic site.

There are two properties in the project area that are covered by Section 4(f):

  1. The Juniper Dunes OHV Area.
  2. The Juniper Dunes Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC).

FHWA has determined that the impact to the Section 4(f) properties from the Juniper Dunes Access Road project should be considered de miminis (minimal) because:

  • Juniper Dunes OHV Area
    • The current project would convert 5.0 acres of OHV open area to transportation use. The Juniper Dunes OHV Area is 3,920 acres. The OHV Area qualifies as a 4(f) resource because it is a recreation site. The conversion of 5.0 acres would be just over 1/10th of 1 percent of the entire recreation area. Since the proposed transportation use is such a small percentage of the overall area, and the project is being built specifically for the purpose of accessing Juniper Dunes and would benefit recreation in the OHV area, it "does not adversely affect the activities, features, and attributes that qualify the resource for protection under Section 4(f)."
  • Juniper Dunes ACEC
    • The current project would convert 48.5 acres of ACEC to transportation use. The Juniper Dunes ACEC is 8,620 acres. The ACEC qualifies as a 4(f) resource because it is a wildlife management area. The conversion of 48.5 acres would be just over 1/2 of 1 percent of the entire wildlife management area. The ACEC areas that would be converted are all at the border of the ACEC, most near agricultural operations, and therefore are not prime habitat. Since the proposed transportation use is such a small percentage of the overall area and it does not convert prime habitat, it "does not adversely affect the activities, features, and attributes that qualify the resource for protection under Section 4(f)."

Finding of No Significant Impact/
Final Environmental Assessment

The Western Federal Lands Division of the Federal Highway Administration, in partnership with the Bureau of Land Management and Franklin County, is planning to construct a public access to the Juniper Dunes Wilderness and off-highway vehicle areas. The project recently published a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) and a Final Environmental Assessment (EA). Click on the links below to view the FONSI and EA:

Purpose

Provide a legal public access road to the Juniper Dunes Wilderness Area and adjacent off-highway vehicle (OHV) open area, starting at a public road and ending at a staging area adjacent to the Juniper Dunes OHV open area.

Needs

  • Users currently access the Wilderness and OHV area by a private road (Peterson Road) that does not have an access easement.
  • The owners of the road have closed Peterson Road in the past, cutting off access to the Wilderness and OHV area to the public.
  • Peterson Road is not constructed or maintained by the County, so it does not meet County standards for safety and maintenance, and has the following deficiencies:
    • Intersection with Pasco-Kahlotus Road (major rural collector) is at an acute angle which can cause an increase in crash frequency.
    • Inadequate safety clear zone on the roadway, which can cause an increase in property damage and injury accidents.
    • Substandard roadway drainage, which causes poor surface conditions.
    • Poor road surface conditions, such as washboards and potholes, which can cause an increased crash frequency and increase in vehicle damage.
    • Inadequate and inconsistent width, which can cause passing conflicts and increased crash frequency.
  • There has been damage to private property along Peterson Road from users of the road.
  • The most accessible parking area for the OHV area is outside of the OHV area and is near to private property. The location of the parking area outside of the OHV area leads to use of OHV in unauthorized areas. The proximity of the parking area to private land has caused impacts to private property.
  • The lack of legal access and poor road conditions make it difficult for law enforcement and emergency medical services to access the area. Currently, law enforcement patrols are very infrequent and emergency medical services are provided by helicopter.

Bureau of Land Management Purpose and Need

In addition to the purpose and needs described above, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has their own need with respect to the use of BLM managed lands by Franklin County.

BLM Purpose

To provide public access to meet the recreational demands in the Juniper Dunes Recreation Areas.

BLM Need

The BLM's need for the proposed action is to respond to a right-of-way application submitted by Franklin County under the authority of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act. It also would implement the 1987 Spokane Resource Management Plan's action to acquire public assess rights to the Juniper Forest Management Area. Franklin County is applying to construct, operate and maintain a county road to the Juniper Dunes recreation area over lands administered by the BLM's Border Field office of the Spokane District.

Project Map

Project Map

Previous Project Meetings

Map showing general vicinity of project
View a larger interactive map of the project area.

Project Details
Project # WA Franklin 2013(1)
Project Name Juniper Dunes Public Access Road Project
Location Franklin County, WA
Status In Development

Contact Information

Keith Wong, Project Manager
(360) 619-7547
Email: keith.wong@dot.gov

Seth English-Young, Environmental Specialist
Phone: (360) 619-7803
Email: seth.english-young@dot.gov

Federal Highway Administration
Western Federal Lands Highway Division
610 East Fifth Street
Vancouver, WA 98661-3801