Surface Transportation Board
Section of Environmental Analysis
Release of Draft Environmental Impact Statement and Notice of Public Meetings and Public Comment Period Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad’s (DM&E) Proposed
Powder River Basin Expansion Project

The Surface Transportation Board’s (Board) Section of Environmental Analysis (SEA), in cooperation with U.S.D.A. Forest Service, U.S.D.I. Bureaus of Land Management and Reclamation, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and U.S. Coast Guard, has published a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (Draft EIS) for the Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad Corporation’s (DM&E) proposed Powder River Basin Expansion Project. The project involves approximately 280.9 miles of new rail line construction and associated facilities in south-central Minnesota, southwest South Dakota, and east-central Wyoming, and would extend DM&E’s existing rail line from Wall, South Dakota west to coal mines in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin. Additionally, DM&E proposes to rebuild approximately 600 miles of existing rail line along its current system to standards acceptable for operation of unit coal trains.

SEA has announced details for the 90-day public comment period, which ends January 5, 2001, and the dates, times, and locations of 12 public meetings that will be held to receive comments on the Draft EIS.

The Draft EIS discusses the potential environmental impacts that could result from the proposed Powder River Basin Expansion Project and includes SEA’s preliminary recommendations for mitigating possible environmental effects. The Draft EIS reflects SEA’s independent analysis and considers the views of Federal, state, and local agencies, Tribes, ranchers, farmers, communities, homeowners, organizations, businesses, and environmental groups.

SEA welcomes written comments on all aspects of the Draft EIS. SEA also invites comments on the Programmatic Agreement and Identification Plan, the Memorandum of Agreement, the Biological Assessment, and the Forest Plan Amendments, which are set forth in the Appendices to the Draft EIS.

Regarding the Forest Plan Amendments, the National Forest Management Act, 36 CFR 219.10(e), requires consistency between projects being proposed and National Forest Land and Resource Management Plans (Forest Plans). Two existing Forest Plans (Nebraska and Medicine Bow Forest Plans) were evaluated for consistency with standards and guidelines of those plans as well as the Draft National Grasslands Plan Revision (Preferred Alternative 3). Based on the U.S. Forest Service identification of its Preferred Alternative, Alternative C, it has been determined that if Alternative C is selected for implementation, then Alternative C will not be consistent with any of the Forest Plans above and plan amendments must be proposed. You are invited to comment on these proposed Forest Plan Amendments (set forth in Appendix L of the Draft EIS) and may send written comments to Ms. Wendy Schmitzer, USFS Project Coordinator, Douglas Ranger District, 2250 East Richards Street, Douglas, Wyoming, 82633 or call (307) 358-1634. Email comments on the Forest Plan Amendments to: Because the Draft EIS is quite large -- over 2,000 pages and several volumes -- SEA has made the entire document available only to key governmental agencies and other appropriate entities, parties of record, and those who specifically requested all or part of it in response to a postcard mailing in June 2000. However, SEA has distributed the Draft EIS to over 80 public libraries. If you would like information about the library nearest you, please call SEA’s toll-free Environmental Hotline at (877) 404-3044. The entire document also is available on the Board’s website at

SEA will consider all public and agency comments in preparing the Final EIS and in making its final recommendations to the Board. The Board and the five cooperating agencies will then consider the entire environmental record, including all public and agency comments, the Draft EIS, and the Final EIS in making their final decisions on the proposed project.

Comments on the Draft EIS must be postmarked by January 5, 2001. For comment letters over 5 pages, please mail a signed original plus 10 copies. For comment letters 5 pages or less, a signed original is sufficient. All comments must be mailed to:

Office of the Secretary
Case Control Unit
STB Finance Docket No. 33407
Surface Transportation Board
1925 K Street, NW
Washington, DC 20423-0001

Please write the following in the lower left hand corner of the envelope:

Attention: Victoria Rutson
Environmental Project Manager
Environmental Filing.

Finally, SEA advises that comments on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (COE) permitting requirements under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, specifically on DM&E’s Section 404 Permit Applications, should be filed directly with the appropriate COE district office. Please send comments on the Section 404 Permit Application relating to Minnesota to Mr. Timothy Fell, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District, 190 5th Street East, St. Paul, MN, 55101- 1638. Please send comments on the Section 404 Permit Application relating to South Dakota and Wyoming to Mr. Jerry Folkers, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District, 215 North 17th Street, Omaha, NE, 68102-4978. The COE has made the Applications available for review at various locations. To find out the location nearest you that has the Section 404 Application relating to Minnesota please contact Mr. Fell at 651-290-5360. To find out the location nearest you that has the Section 404 Application relating to South Dakota and Wyoming please contact Mr. Folkers at 402-221-4173.

The public is also invited to attend public meetings at which SEA and the participating cooperating agencies will make a brief presentation, and written and verbal comments will be accepted. Please call the toll-free Environmental Hotline at (877) 404-3044 by October 20, 2000 to pre-register for the meetings, and to indicate if you require special accommodations to participate in a meeting. The dates, times and locations of the public meetings are listed below.

Douglas, WY
Best Western Douglas Inn
1450 Riverbend Drive
Douglas, WY 82633
Monday, October 30, 2000
6:00 - 10:00 p.m.

Newcastle, WY
The Fountain Inn
2 Fountain Plaza
Newcastle, WY 82701
Wednesday, November 1, 2000
1:00 - 4:00 p.m. and 6:00 - 10:00 p.m.

Rapid City, SD
Rushmore Plaza Civic Center
444 Mount Rushmore Road North
Rapid City, SD 57701
Thursday, November 2, 2000
6:00 - 10:00 p.m.

Pierre, SD
Best Western Kings Inn
200 South Pierre
Pierre, SD 57501
Monday, November 13, 2000
1:00 - 4:00 p.m. and 6:00 - 10:00 p.m.

Brookings, SD
Brookings Inn
2500 East 5th Street
Brookings, SD 57006
Tuesday, November 14, 2000
1:00 - 4:00 p.m. and 6:00 - 10:00 p.m.

Mankato, MN
Best Western Hotel and Restaurant
1111 Range Street
North Mankato, MN 56003
Wednesday, November 15, 2000
1:00 - 4:00 p.m. and 6:00 - 10:00 p.m.

Rochester, MN
Mayo Civic Center
30 Civic Center Drive South East
Rochester, MN 55904
Thursday, November 16, 2000
1:00 - 4:00 p.m. and 6:00 - 10:00 p.m.

SEA will also conduct a meeting specifically for interested Tribes and Tribal organizations, as part of the formal government-to-government consultation process on the Draft EIS.

Additional information can be found on the Board’s website at