APD NEPA Analysis Toolkit Project Plan


Project Description:  The BLM requested a project proposal from the University of Wyoming (UW), Wyoming Geographic Information Science Center (WyGISC) and the Department of Renewable Resources for the research and development of enhanced modeling tools to assist in streamlining the coal bed methane (CBM) gas Application for Permit to Drill (APD) process.  Initial work requiring extensive coordination and dialogue between the University and BLM technical team to assess the needs for this toolkit and to determine the feasibility of meeting these needs within the scope of this project and available funding has been ongoing.  This coordination will need to be an ongoing component throughout this project.  


Statement of Need:  Increasing demands to issue permits for CBM energy development throughout Wyoming is amplifying workloads associated with analysis and prescription of mitigation and reclamation measures to ensure resource protection for lands under the management of the BLM.  Utilization of models in support of decision making provides resource managers with a defensible mechanism for resource management.  Assessment and planning for land and water resource management involving the impact of regionally extensive CBM energy development are becoming increasingly more complex at local, regional, and temporal scales.  Spatially distributed models that can compute and model for runoff, erosion, and water quality, at these different scales can assist resource managers in addressing these spatial complexities and validate sound management decisions. 


Extensive data requirements and the difficult task of building input parameter files represent an obstacle to the timely and cost-effective use of such complex models by resource managers.  Low to medium resolution geospatial datasets used to develop input parameter files for watershed runoff and erosion modeling can be obtained via the internet.  The Wyoming BLM has made significant investments in developing better high resolution geospatial data for watersheds, hydrography, and soils to assist resource managers in their efforts to provide more effective and defensible strategies for planning and managing human impacts to natural resources.  These datasets lend themselves to produce better results in GIS modeling programs like the EPA Basins 3 and Automated Geospatial Assessment (AGWA) tools for water resource analysis, but often require significant modifications before they can be utilized.  Other data needed for the road networks between wells, stream flow, and water quality, are either not robust enough to provide a high degree of quality assessment at a local level, standardized to be used with similar data in the models, or nonexistent.  Existing data can be enhanced to compensate for these problems through geostatistical attribution to permit the models to better interpret variable landscape characteristics for a given sub basin.  Acquiring, modifying, standardizing, and packaging these data into a usable structure for use in these models is a time consuming process that can be accomplished through preliminary manual data mining and the creation of a semi-automated data preprocessor. 


Project Plan: To assist the BLM in utilizing spatially distributed models to better manage for the cumulative impacts of CBM development in Wyoming, we propose a three phase project with two primary focus areas: assessment and modeling.  The investigative focus for this project will be limited to a select number of PODs (plan of development, i.e. 35-40 CBM wells) within a project area tentatively within Pumpkin and Beaver Creek drainages for three 5th level watersheds located in the Upper Powder River sub basin (10090202) in northeast Wyoming. 


Preliminary discussions with the BLM the UW have led to a decision that an emphasis of software to be utilized in this effort will be given to the AGWA toolset.  AGWA contains two watershed runoff and erosion models:  Runoff and Erosion Model (KINEROS), Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) and has an explicit routing structure that may be modified for effective cumulative impact assessment work.  For in-stream water quality assessment a third stand alone model the Kinematic and Enhanced Stream Water Quality Model (QUAL2E) will be used.  While the BASINS tools have been considered for its advantages in terms of watershed assessment using historical data, it is not currently applicable to smaller 5th level watersheds and 6th level sub watersheds (10,000 - 250,000 acres).  The AGWA modeling tools are comparatively easier to learn and operate and are more suited to compute assessments for larger scale 5th and 6th level size watersheds.  A major concern for the BLM is in the investment of tools now operating in the ArcView software environment as the ESRITM ArcGIS software is now the primary software supported by the agency.  AGWA is currently in the process of being redeveloped to operate in the new ArcGIS environment.  An additional benefit for utilizing the AGWA tools is that AGWA is also being built as a component of BASINS.  We propose that minimal enhancements be built for the AGWA tools while in the ArcView environment to allow for the use of its current built-in assessment methods while complementary components such as the preprocessor are developed for use in the ArcGIS environment for use after the AGWA tools have migrated into ArcGIS.  More complex streamlined enhancements specific for use in CBM permitting will be developed in Phase III as AGWA becomes available in ArcGIS.  Common throughout each phase of this project are components of research, tool development and enhancement, and coordination and technological transfer through extension.