Comments Period: August 14 – September 13, 2018
SUBJECT: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Sacramento District, (Corps) proposes a regional general permit (RGP) as an additional permit type available for a multi-tiered approach to Clean Water Act Section 404 (CWA 404), or “CWA 404 permit strategy,” for activities that involve a discharge of dredged or fill material into waters of the United States, and covered by the South Sacramento Habitat Conservation Plan (SSHCP) proposed under Section 10 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Corps has issued two public notices for the CWA 404 permit strategy (June 2017 and May 2018); please refer to the public notice link below. The SSHCP requires approval of a species incidental take permit under Section 10 of the ESA from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). This notice is to inform interested parties and to solicit comments.
PURPOSE: The proposed RGP (Attachment 1) is intended to expedite authorization under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act for establishment, re-establishment, enhancement, or rehabilitation activities that result in a net increase in aquatic resource functions and services and are approved by the Corps under the SSHCP Plan Partner’s proposed SSHCP In-Lieu Fee (ILF) Program. The RGP is premised on the approval of an activity by the Corps under the SSHCP ILF Program, conducted by a SSHCP “Land Use Authority Permittee” (SSHCP LUAP, consisting of Sacramento County, City of Galt and City of Rancho Cordova) or the SSHCP Implementing Entity (SSHCP IE), also referred to as “SSHCP Permittees.” The RGP would eliminate the need for the SSHCP LUAPs and SSHCP IE to seek separate authorization from the Corps for those activities approved by the Corps under the SSHCP ILF program. The RGP would reduce time and paperwork, and improve efficiency for the Corps and SSHCP Permittees for activities approved under the SSHCP ILF program.
AUTHORITY: The RGP is being evaluated under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act for the discharge of dredged or fill material in waters of the United States.
LOCATION: The proposed RGP would be applicable to the SSHCP Plan Area, which encompasses approximately 317,655 acres within Sacramento County (Attachment 2). The Plan Area includes the City of Galt and the City of Galt’s sphere of influence, and the portion of the City of Rancho Cordova that is located south of U.S. Highway 50. The Plan Area excludes the northern portion of Sacramento County, the portion of Rancho Cordova located north of U.S. Highway 50, the City of Sacramento, City of Elk Grove, City of Folsom, sovereign lands of the Miwok Tribe, and the Sacramento County community of Rancho Murieta.
ACTIVITIES COVERED: The RGP would authorize discharges of dredged and/or fill material into waters of the U.S. associated with establishment, re-establishment, enhancement, and rehabilitation activities, provided the activities result in a net increase in aquatic resource functions and services, and are approved by the Corps under the SSHCP ILF program. The activities authorized under the RGP would include only those activities required to meet the SSHCP’s Conservation Strategy, as identified in Chapter 5 of the SSHCP.
OVERVIEW OF CWA 404 PERMIT STRATEGY: A multi-tiered approach to CWA 404 permitting will address activities which involve discharges of dredged or fill material into waters of the U.S. covered by the SSHCP. Attachment 3, CWA 404 Permit Strategy Aligned with the South Sacramento Habitat Conservation Plan (dated February 2018), provides a summary of the permit strategy, to which the proposed RGP would be added.
Environmental Setting. The environmental setting for the approximately 317,655-acre SSHCP Plan Area consists of two physiographic regions. The first is the lower Sacramento Valley, which extends through the western and central parts of the County from north to south. The lower Sacramento Valley region is the predominate region within the Plan Area and is characterized as nearly level to gently rolling, although some areas in the eastern part of the Plan Area are rolling to hilly and the relatively flat terrain is broken up by low and high terrace formations. The second region is the Sierra Nevada foothills, which are located along the northeast edge of the Plan Area. The terrain in this area is characterized as rolling to hilly. Additional information on environmental setting is available in the USFWS’s SSHCP Final EIS, inclusive of the SSHCP document, located at http://southsachcp.com.
Mitigation. The RGP is intended to expedite authorization of compensatory mitigation projects under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act for establishment, re-establishment, enhancement, or rehabilitation activities that result in a net increase in aquatic resource functions and services and are approved by the Corps under the SSHCP Plan Partner’s proposed SSHCP In-Lieu Fee (ILF) Program. The proposed ILF Program is currently under review following the procedures of the Federal mitigation rule (33 CFR Part 332).
OTHER GOVERNMENTAL AUTHORIZATIONS: The issuance of the proposed RGP would not would not require other governmental authorizations. A water quality certification or a waiver, as required under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act from the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board is required for activities authorized under the RGP. The Sacramento District will request programmatic water quality certification under CWA 401 from the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board for all activities under the CWA 404 permit strategy, inclusive of the RGP.
HISTORIC PROPERTIES: The issuance of the proposed RGP would have no potential to affect cultural resources. Authorization of activities under the RGP may affect cultural resources. The Corps will initiate consultation with the State Historic Preservation Officer under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), as appropriate. The Corps proposes to develop a Programmatic Agreement for compliance of the CWA 404 permit strategy, inclusive of the proposed RGP, with Section 106 of the NHPA.
ENDANGERED SPECIES: The issuance of the proposed RGP would have no effect on threatened or endangered species. Authorization of activities under the RGP may affect threatened or endangered species. The Sacramento District will request from the USFWS consultation under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act for coverage of activities authorized under the CWA 404 permit strategy, inclusive of the RGP.
ESSENTIAL FISH HABITAT: The issuance of the proposed RGP would not adversely affect Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) as defined in the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. Authorization of activities under the RGP is not expected to adversely affect EFH, since there are no fish included as covered species in the SSHCP.
The above determinations are based on available information and our preliminary review.
EVALUATION FACTORS: The decision whether to issue the proposed RGP will be based on an evaluation of the probable impacts, including cumulative impacts, on the public interest. That decision will reflect the national concern for both protection and utilization of important resources. The benefit, which reasonably may be expected to accrue from use of the RGP, must be balanced against its reasonably foreseeable detriments. All factors which may be relevant to the proposed RGP will be considered, including the cumulative effects thereof; among those are conservation, economics, aesthetics, general environmental concerns, wetlands, historic properties, fish and wildlife values, flood hazards, floodplain values, land use, navigation, shoreline erosion and accretion, recreation, water supply and conservation, water quality, energy needs, safety, food and fiber production, mineral needs, consideration of property ownership and, in general, the needs and welfare of the people. The proposed RGP’s impact on the public interest will include application of the Section 404(b)(1) guidelines promulgated by the Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency (40 CFR Part 230).
The Corps is soliciting comments from the public, Federal, State, and local agencies and officials, Indian tribes, and other interested parties in order to consider and evaluate the impacts of this proposed CWA 404 permit strategy. Any comments received will be considered by the Corps to determine whether to issue the proposed RGP. To make this decision, comments are used to assess impacts on endangered species, historic properties, water quality, general environmental effects, and other public interest factors listed above. Comments will be considered by the Sacramento District Corps as a cooperating agency on the SSHCP Environmental Impact Statement pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act. Comments are also used to determine the need for a public hearing and to determine the overall public interest of the proposed activity.
SUBMITTING COMMENTS: Written comments, referencing Public Notice SPK-1995-00386 must be submitted to the office listed below on or before September 13, 2018.
Mary Pakenham-Walsh, Senior Project Manager
US Army Corps of Engineers, Sacramento District
1325 J Street, Room 1350
Sacramento, CA 95814-2992
The Corps is particularly interested in receiving comments related to the proposal's probable impacts on the affected aquatic environment and the secondary and cumulative effects. Anyone may request, in writing, that a public hearing be held to consider this application. Requests shall specifically state, with particularity, the reason(s) for holding a public hearing. If the Corps determines that the information received in response to this notice is inadequate for thorough evaluation, a public hearing may be warranted. If a public hearing is warranted, interested parties will be notified of the time, date, and location. Please note that all comment letters received are subject to release to the public through the Freedom of Information Act. If you have questions or need additional information please contact the applicant or the Corps' project manager Mary Pakenham-Walsh, (916) 557-7718, Mary.R.Pakenham-Walsh@usace.army.mil.
Attachment 1: SSHCP ILF Regional General Permit
Attachment 2: SSHCP Plan Area
Attachment 3: CWA 404 Permit Strategy Aligned with the SSHCP