Comments Period: March 21, 2019 – April 19, 2019
SUBJECT: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Sacramento District, (Corps) is proposing to issue a new regional general permit (RGP) for activities to restore salmonid habitat in support of the restoration and recovery of Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), Central Valley spring-run Chinook salmon (O. tshawytscha) and Central Valley steelhead (O. mykiss). Impacts to waters of the U.S. would be limited to beneficial effects to salmonid habitat. This notice is to inform interested parties of the proposed activity and to solicit comments.
AUTHORITY: This RGP would authorize activities subject to Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 for structures or work in or affecting navigable waters of the United States and/or 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 covers the range of salmon and steelhead habitat in the Central Valley, Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Delta), and Suisun Bay within the boundaries of the Sacramento and San Francisco Districts, as identified in Figure 1. The permit area includes portions of the following 27 counties: Shasta, Tehama, Glenn, Butte, Colusa, Sutter, Yuba, Nevada, Placer, Yolo, Sacramento, El Dorado, Amador, Solano, Contra Costa, Alameda, San Joaquin, Calaveras, Stanislaus, Tuolumne, Merced, Mariposa, San Benito, Madera, Fresno, Kings, and Tulare Counties.
RGP DESCRIPTION: The proposed RGP would authorize permanent or temporary work in navigable waters of the U.S. or the permanent or temporary discharge of fill material into waters of the U.S. associated with salmonid habitat restoration activities funded by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Fisheries Restoration Grant Program (FRGP) or similar activities, regardless of funding, that meet the FRGP requirements. These activities conform to state law and must be implemented consistent with the current version, or most recent update, of the California Salmonid Stream Habitat Restoration Manual (Restoration Manual). The current version of the manual and general information on the FRGP are available at: https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Grants/FRGP/Guidance. Impacts to waters of the U.S. related to the following activities may be authorized under this permit: Fish Passage at Stream Crossings, Instream Barrier Modification for Fish Passage, Instream Habitat Restoration, Riparian Restoration, Instream Bank Stabilization, Fish Screening of Diversions and, Water Conservation Measures.
Environmental Setting. Waterways within the Central Valley and Delta have been modified or degraded as a result of human activity, resulting in a reduction of habitat value and availability for anadromous salmonids. Activities authorized under this RGP would restore habitat within the permit area, benefiting the target species as well as other species and human use of the waterways.
Alternatives. Each activity authorized under this RGP would be required to be designed to avoid and minimize impacts to aquatic resources and threatened and endangered species.
Mitigation. Activities authorized by this RGP must be restoration or enhancement in nature, resulting in an increase of aquatic resource functions and services. Activities resulting in a loss of functions and services would not be authorized under this RGP.
OTHER GOVERNMENTAL AUTHORIZATIONS: Water quality certification or a waiver, as required under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act will be requested from the state of California.
HISTORIC PROPERTIES: The issuance of the RGP will have no potential to affect cultural resources listed in, or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. The Corps will initiate any required consultation under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act for individual activities that may qualify for authorization under the RGP, if issued. A programmatic agreement may be requested for this RGP, if deemed appropriate.
ENDANGERED SPECIES: Impacts to threatened and endangered species resulting from authorized activities may affect, but are not likely to adversely affect valley elderberry longhorn beetle (Desmocerus californicus), giant garter snake (Thamnophis gigas), yellow-billed cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus), and Least Bell’s vireo (Vireo bellii pusillus). A Letter of Concurrence (LOC) was issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) on November 13, 2018. Authorized activities may adversely affect Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon, Central Valley spring-run Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, and the southern distinct population segment of North American green sturgeon (Acipenser medirostris), and their critical habitat. Impacts to these species would be covered through the Nation Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) statewide Biological Opinion (BO) for Restoration Projects in the Central Valley, dated August 31, 2018. Any proposed activities that do not qualify under the USFWS LOC or the NMFS BO would require individual consultation, as applicable.
ESSENTIAL FISH HABITAT: The NMFS BO concluded that the proposed actions would have minimal adverse effects to Pacific salmon and Pacific groundfish EFH.
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-2014-00534 must be submitted to the office listed below on or before April 19, 2019.
Zachary Simmons, 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 Corps' project manager Zachary Simmons, (916) 557-6746, Zachary.M.Simmons@usace.army.mil.
Attachment: draft RGP with drawing