Comments Period: October 4, 2018 – November 3, 2018
SUBJECT: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Sacramento District, (Corps) is evaluating a permit application to construct the Phoenix Lake Preservation and Restoration Plan project, which would result in impacts to approximately 30.34 acres of waters of the United States, including wetlands. This notice is to inform interested parties of the proposed activity and to solicit comments.
AUTHORITY: This application 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.
APPLICANT: Tuolumne Utilities District,
Attn: Mr. Erik Johnson,
18885 Nugget Blvd,
Sonora, California 95370
LOCATION: The approximately 162-acre project site is located on Phoenix Reservoir, which is approximately 3 miles east of the town of Sonora in Tuolumne County, California, at Latitude 37.999441°, Longitude -120.323668°.
PROJECT DESCRIPTION: The applicant is proposing to restore storage capacity and improve the water quality of the reservoir by excavating 62.7 acres and by installing water quality berms. The excavation would result in the conversion of 18.84 acres of wetland habitats to open water features. To facilitate the excavation and future maintenance, a permanent access road and ramp would be constructed. Berms would be constructed in the reservoir to assist with water quality management. The road, ramp and berms would result in 5 acres of permanent fill. Temporary access roads would also be constructed on 6.5 acres of the lake bed. Lastly, a crossing of Power Creek would be accomplished by installing a steel railroad flatcar that spans the channel. Based on the available information, the overall project purpose is to restore reservoir capacity and improve water quality. The applicant believes there is a need to restore the capacity of the reservoir and improve water quality as sediment deposition within the reservoir has impacted storage capacity and the applicant’s ability to convey water through their intake tower. Furthermore, the high turbidity and organic loads in the reservoir make it difficult and more costly to treat the raw water from the lake. The attached drawings provide additional project details.
Environmental Setting. Within the 162-acre project area, there are approximately 43.3 acres of wetland habitats, including 34.6 acres of emergent wetlands, 7.1 acres of forested wetlands, and 1.6 acres of wet meadows. There are approximately 62.6 acres of non-wetland habitats within the project area, including 2.66 acres of streams and 60 acres of open water habitat. The approximately 90-acre reservoir is primarily fed by three creeks (Chicken Creek, Power Creek, and Sullivan Creek) and an out-of-basin diversion from the South Fork Stanislaus River. Chicken, Power and Sullivan Creeks all enter the northern end of the reservoir. Two smaller unnamed creeks enter the reservoir from the south. The reservoir’s dam and spillway is on the southwest side and the reservoir drains to a downstream stretch of Sullivan Creek, which is a tributary of the Tuolumne River.
The reservoir supports bass (Micropterus sp.), bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus), crappie (Pomoxis sp.) and other warm water fishes. Native amphibians like the Pacific chorus frog (Pseudacris regilla) may breed in and along the margins of the lake. The non-native American bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus) has been identified in the reservoir, Chicken Creek, and an adjacent pond. Western pond turtle (Actinemys marmorata), a California species of concern, has been observed in the reservoir and along Sullivan Creek upstream of the project area. The reservoir is used by many species of waterfowl, such as American coots (Fulica americana), mallards (Anas platyrhynchos), and Canadian geese (Branta canadensis). Wading birds, shorebirds, and raptors also use the lake, with bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) frequently observed foraging in the lake during the winter.
Alternatives. The applicant has provided information concerning project alternatives. Additional information concerning project alternatives may be available from the applicant or their agent. Other alternatives may develop during the review process for this permit application. All reasonable project alternatives, in particular those which may be less damaging to the aquatic environment, will be considered.
Mitigation. The Corps requires that applicants consider and use all reasonable and practical measures to avoid and minimize impacts to aquatic resources. If the applicant is unable to avoid or minimize all impacts, the Corps may require compensatory mitigation. The applicant has proposed to purchase 0.14 acres of wetland credits from National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Sacramento District in-lieu fee Program for impacts to aquatic habitats outside of the reservoir. The applicant contends that implementation of the project will result in adequate aquatic resource enhancement to offset all permanent and temporary impacts to aquatic habitats within Phoenix Reservoir and that no additional compensatory mitigation should be required.
OTHER GOVERNMENTAL AUTHORIZATIONS: 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 this project. The applicant has indicated they have applied for certification.
HISTORIC PROPERTIES: Potentially eligible cultural resources may be affected by the proposed project. The Corps will initiate consultation with the State Historic Preservation Officer under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, as appropriate.
ENDANGERED SPECIES: The proposed activity may affect Federally-listed endangered or threatened species or their critical habitat. The Corps will initiate consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act, as appropriate.
ESSENTIAL FISH HABITAT: The proposed project would not adversely affect Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) as defined in the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.
The above determinations are based on information provided by the applicant and our preliminary review.
EVALUATION FACTORS: The decision whether to issue a permit will be based on an evaluation of the probable impacts, including cumulative impacts, of the described activity 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 the described activity, must be balanced against its reasonably foreseeable detriments. All factors which may be relevant to the described activity 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 activity'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 activity. Any comments received will be considered by the Corps to determine whether to issue, modify, condition, or deny a permit for this proposal. 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 are used in the preparation of an Environmental Assessment and/or an 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-2016-00765 must be submitted to the office listed below on or before November 3, 2018.
William Ness, Project Manager
US Army Corps of Engineers, Sacramento District
1325 J Street, Room 1350
Sacramento, California 95814-2922
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 William Ness, (916) 557-5268, William.W.Ness@usace.army.mil.
Attachments: 5 drawings