Glacier National Park is requesting public comment on a proposal to construct replacement employee housing in the Swiftcurrent employee housing area at Many Glacier and in the East Glacier Ranger Station compound. This action would replace ten National Park Service (NPS) owned trailers in the St. Mary District employee housing area which are severely deteriorating from age, rodent infestations, mold, and other factors.
Installed in the 1960s, the trailers were intended to be temporary. Lack of funding for permanent housing has led to their continued use to this day. One trailer has been condemned and three others have been removed from the housing list due to their poor condition.
Over the years, a number of locations have been considered, both inside and outside the park, in which to construct new housing to replace the trailers. The Swiftcurrent housing area at Many Glacier and the ranger station compound in East Glacier were initially dismissed due to long commuting distances for employees. Currently, these areas are considered the best options for replacement housing. Both have adequate existing utilities and building at the sites would cause the least amount of new disturbance. Both of these areas are historic districts.
In accordance with Executive Order 11988 (Floodplain Management) and NPS policy, housing will not be rebuilt at the existing site in St. Mary because it is within the Divide Creek floodplain. Removing the St. Mary trailers will be a first step toward implementing a decision from the 1999 General Management Plan/Final Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision (GMP) to relocate all St. Mary infrastructure out of the Divide Creek flood hazard zone. Divide Creek floods frequently, usually as a result of rain-on-snow events, putting human safety and government property at potential risk. The park has a flood warning system and evacuation/response plan in place, and the stream channel has been stabilized by the Blackfeet Tribe and NPS to minimize flood risk. But as stated in the GMP, "Stabilization… is in direct conflict with NPS policy on resource management" and does not adequately ensure the safety of park employees and visitors.
Three alternatives have been identified to date: 1) no action - do not replace employee housing once the St. Mary trailers are removed; 2) construct replacement housing in the Swiftcurrent housing area at Many Glacier and at the NPS ranger station compound in East Glacier; and 3) construct replacement housing behind the 1913 St. Mary Ranger Station, above the St. Mary Campground, at Rising Sun, or outside the park.
The public scoping brochure contains additional information about this project and is available on the NPS Planning, Environment, and Public Comment (PEPC) website. Comments can be posted on the website or mailed to Superintendent, Glacier National Park, Attn: East Side Housing EA, P.O. Box 128, West Glacier, MT, 59936. Comments are due by August 6, 2012. There will be another opportunity to comment when the plan/Environmental Assessment is completed.
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