4. Degradation of Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Routes
The proposed project would traverse areas within the ANF that have a Recreation Opportunity Spectrum designation of semi-primitive, motorized, which permits motorized use of local primitive or collector roads and includes trails suitable for motorbikes. As described in Section B.2.2.1 of the Final EIR/EIS, the proposed project would include clearing and grading of existing access and spur roads, some of which would be located along designated OHV routes. OHV roads within the Center Area of the proposed project have been designated Maintenance Level 2. The ANF has established maintenance prescription guidelines for each designated road maintenance level. Level 2 roads are maintained for high clearance vehicles, and traffic is limited to administrative, permitted, dispersed recreation, or other specialized uses.22
Roads that are improved from Level 2 to Level 3 would no longer allow OHV use. Designated Level 3 roads can accommodate standard passenger vehicles, which would pose a safety hazard to OHV users. For road improvements to a Level 3, the ANF would require an engineering study to determine the road's suitability and safety for OHV use. As such, any improvements to existing OHV roads resulting from the construction or operation of the proposed project that are needed to meet the Level 3 maintenance prescription guidelines (or above) would serve to prohibit future OHV use along that route.
The construction and maintenance of Alternative 1 would require permanent upgrades to existing OHV routes, which would significantly impact future OHV use within the ANF. If Alternative 1 is selected, an all-weather access road would be constructed along three miles of Del Sur Ridge (not including the 4.0-mile underground segment that would also be upgraded as a result of underground construction), which would permanently upgrade the existing ANF roads along this portion of the project from a Maintenance Level 2 to a Level 3. Consequently, the improvements to ANF roads that would be required for Alternative 1 would permanently preclude OHV use along portions of Del Sur Ridge. Impacts to OHV users would be significant and unavoidable (Class I).
However, a selection of the proposed project or any of the other alternatives (i.e., Alternatives 2 through 5), would allow this otherwise significant and unavoidable impact to be mitigated to a level of insignificance.
The Final EIR/EIS reports that with the exception of Alterative 4, all of the project alternatives, including the project as proposed by SCE, would have unmitigable adverse socioeconomic impacts. The Final EIR/EIS, at pages C.12-1 through C.12 -24, describes the various adverse socioeconomic impacts of the project and alternatives.
22 See, US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service Handbook, Section 7709-58 (1995).