KETCHIKAN (KDN) — The U.S. Forest Service on Friday released the draft Environmental Impact Statement for the South Revilla Integrated Resource Project, setting the stage for a 45-day public comment period regarding the document that includes a proposed action for harvesting up to 6,500 acres of old- and young-growth timber in the Carroll Inlet area.

The 326-page DEIS has been in development since the pre-scoping work began in May 2018.

“The intent of the South Revilla Project is to contribute jobs and labor income in local and regional communities in the timber and tourism sectors, contribute to improved terrestrial and aquatic conditions, support access to subsistence resources, and provide safe access to (Tongass National) Forest users,” states the document.

Proposed actions for the 15-year project “include, but are not limited to, cabin construction, timber harvest, stream restoration, and road construction.”

In his introductory letter to the DEIS, Tongass National Forest Supervisor Earl Stewart wrote that the Forest Service has not identified a preferred alternative for the project “at this time.”

However, the DEIS does highlight one of the four alternatives as the “proposed” option.

 The overall South Revilla Project area includes about 44,300 acres of national forest lands, and about 8,220 acres that are being proposed for exchange with the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority, according to the DEIS.

Portions of the area, which includes Shelter Cove and Shoal Cove next to Carroll Inlet, have been roaded and logged in the past.

 The first alternative is the “no-action” option.

Alternative 2 is described as the Forest Service’s proposed action, and would provide the most volume of timber.

The proposed alternative would provide about 70 million board feet of old-growth timber from about 5,115 acres, and 22 million board feet of young-growth timber from about 1,087 acres, during the 15-year project period.

About 4,025 acres would be harvested by clearcut logging, while approximately 1,085 acres would be logged via helicopter.

“Alternative 2 would offer additional flexibility for the Forest Service to provide a range of available timber products and the size of potential timber offers to meet industry demands, market conditions, and local needs identified through public involvement,” states the DEIS.

The Forest Service estimates that the alternative could support between 338 and 354 “annualized” jobs.

As for roads, the alternative calls for maintenance of about 34 miles of currently closed National Forest System roads for use as log haul roads, according to the DEIS. About 14 miles of new NFS roads — and 34 miles of temporary roads — would be built for access to timber units.

The total estimated cost of the road work is estimated at $11.75 million, according to the DEIS.

The Forest Service notes that “Alternative 2 would allow the use of the very low scenic integrity objectives of 1,752 acres within the project area, approximately 28 percent of all harvest acres.”

Alternatives 3 and 4 provide various levels of timber harvest while addressing other issues.

For example, Alternative 3 would provide for about 60 million board feet of old-growth timber and 19 million board feet of young-growth timber while excluding areas of high-value winter habitat for deer and wildlife travel corridors, according to the DEIS.

Alternative 4 would provide about 68 million board feet of old-growth timber and 21 million board feet of young-growth timber without lowering “scenic integrity objectives in the project area, resulting in more uneven-aged management and reduced impacts to scenery in the Saddle Lakes and Shelter Cove recreation areas,” states the document.

Each of the alternatives include recreational opportunities identified by the 2018 Shelter Cove Area Recreation Master Plan. These potential items include parking and signage at Shelter Cove; parking, boardwalk trail, and nonmotorized boat launch at upper and lower Saddle Lake; parking area, trail and camping sites at South Lake; and trail improvements for ATVs, a foot trail, three-sided shelter and nonmotorized boat launch at Lemon Lake.

The full DEIS is available on the Forest Service website at  https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=53477.

The agency anticipates having a public meeting and a subsistence hearing or hearings within the 45-day comment period that began Friday and ends on Oct. 19.

The agency is encouraging that written comments be specific to the proposed actions.

Written comments can be submitted via the website by email to SM.FS.AtkmComments@usda.gov; or by fax to (907) 225-8738.

Comments may be sent by mail or by hand delivery to Shane Walker, District Ranger; ATTN: South Revilla Integrated Resource Project; USDA Forest Service; Tongass National Forest, Ketchikan Misty Fjords Ranger District; 3031 Tongass Ave.; Ketchikan, AK 99901.