Preserve Lakeside, Flathead Lake, and the Highway 93 Corridor

Preserve Lakeside, Flathead Lake, and the Highway 93 Corridor

July 7, 2022
Signatures: 1,381Next Goal: 1,500
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Why this petition matters

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Flathead Lake is a remnant of a glacial lake, which covered much of Western Montana until roughly 15,000 years ago.  This spectacularly beautiful lake is the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi River.  

Hugging the west shore of pristine Flathead Lake is the rural town of Lakeside, Montana (population 2,160).  The cozy community of Lakeside treasures the lake, takes pride in the town, and is determined to preserve its environment.

On May 18th, representatives from the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) informed concerned community members of Lakeside that developers intended to install an Alpine Coaster on the main artery to their town – across the highway from Flathead Lake.

The development of a commercial entity of this magnitude as well as the cumulative impacts of other similar commercial entities that might choose to co-locate along this gateway entrance to Lakeside has the potential to be environmentally catastrophic and degrade the performance of this highway corridor and create a serious safety hazard for those traveling this section of US Hwy 93 which has been declared a limited access highway by the MDOT. There is also significant concern regarding the potential negative impacts on the water quality of Flathead Lake.  The natural habitat for eagles, bears, mountain lions, foxes, deer, lynx, osprey, grouse, and wild turkeys would be devastatingly overwhelmed by human interference.

MEPA is Montana Environmental Policy Act

Montana’s Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) requires that state agencies comply with its terms "to the fullest extent possible." (State of Montana Administrative Rule 32.2.221) MEPA is a vitally important tool that should be utilized in addition to the standard System Impact Analysis that MDOT follows for routine approach permits for highway access.

MEPA’s chief sponsor, former Representative George Darrow of Bigfork, once noted that the fundamental premise of MEPA is common sense.  In his words, MEPA is a "think before you act" act. State agencies are required to think through their actions before acting.  MEPA provides a process that can help ensure that permitting and other agency decisions that might affect the human environment are INFORMED DECISIONS—informed in the sense that the consequences of the decision are understood, reasonable alternatives are evaluated, and the public’s concerns are known. (A Guide to the Montana Environmental Policy Act, revised 2021) 

US Hwy 93 as a federal highway is also governed under a similar federal National Environmental Policy Act. NEPA was signed into law on January 1,1970 and requires federal agencies to assess the environmental effects of their proposed actions prior to making decisions. The range of actions covered by NEPA is broad and includes: 

  • Making decisions on permit applications,
  • Adopting federal land management actions, and
  • Constructing highways and other publicly owned facilities

Using the NEPA process, agencies evaluate the environmental and related social-economic effects of their proposed actions. Agencies also provide opportunities for public review and comment on those evaluations. 

In addition, the MDTs official Approach Manual for Landowners and Developers dated December 2013, provides clear guidance for landowners and developers when proposing new approaches or proposing modifications to existing approaches on all highways. On the very first page of the manual, it states that, “Frontage property owners have some right of reasonable access to public highway and highway users have a right to safety and freedom of movement. The Department must consider the needs and right of both the property owner and the highway user. When the needs of the individual property owner and the public highway user conflict, the needs of the highway user control.” 

As a public highway user in the state of Montana, we ask you to, please, sign this petition urging the Montana Department of Transportation along with the Federal Highway Administration to immediately initiate a comprehensive highway corridor analysis through an Environmental Impact Statement as set forth under both the Montana Environmental Policy Act and the National Environmental Policy Act, and also urging the Montana Department of Environmental Quality to conduct a thorough review of the potential water quality impacts of this proposed large-scale commercial high-impact recreational attraction and the cumulative impacts of potentially other such proposed high-impact developments along this highway corridor at Mile Marker 99 just half a mile north of Lakeside, MT. The Montana Sanitation in Subdivisions Act (MSIS) requires that a Certificate of Subdivision Approval (COSA) be obtained prior to the erection of Facilities. We believe that the DEQ has a responsibility to request the developer stop all construction until the COSA process is completed. 

Furthermore, we’d like the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and MDT to prepare an EIS along the Highway 93 Corridor from Polson to Somers. An Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is a government document that outlines the impact of a proposed project on its surrounding environment. We believe an environmental review and assessment will show the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) that an EIS is necessary along the Flathead Lake Highway 93 Corridor from Polson to Somers. 

Your signature will allow your voice to be heard – tell the MDT, FHWA, and DEQ to prohibit any permitting or construction of the Alpine Coaster development until proper environmental reviews have been done.

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Signatures: 1,381Next Goal: 1,500
Support now