Comments Period: May 21, 2019 – June 21, 2019
SUBJECT: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Sacramento District, (Corps) is evaluating a permit application to construct the Lower Elkhorn Basin Levee Setback project, which would result in permanent impacts to approximately 19.61 acres and temporary impacts to approximately 23.01 acres of waters of the United States, in or adjacent to the Yolo and Sacramento Bypasses and Lower Elkhorn Basin. This notice is to inform interested parties of the proposed activity and to solicit comments.
AUTHORITY: This application is being evaluated under 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.
APPLICANT: California Department of Water Resources, Attn: Mr. Jon Ericson, 3310 El Camino Avenue, Sacramento, California 95821-6300
LOCATION: The approximately 1,979-acre project site is located within the Lower Elkhorn Basin immediately north of the Sacramento Bypass, east of the Yolo Bypass, and west of the Sacramento River, Yolo County, California (Figure 1). The proposed set-back levee starts immediately south of I-5 (38.672763°, -121.642373°) and continues approximately 7.2 miles to the Sacramento Bypass north levee immediately west of Old River Road (38.606743°, -121.560984°).
PROJECT DESCRIPTION: The applicant is proposing to construct a setback levee approximately 1,500 feet east of the existing Yolo Bypass East Levee and 1,500 feet north of the existing Sacramento Bypass North Levee. The new levee would be approximately 7.2 miles long, 27 feet high, and 244 feet wide at the base. Portions of the existing levees would be degraded while approximately 4,500 linear feet would be left in place to provide upland habitat for special-status species. The attached Figure 2. Lower Elkhorn Basin Setback Levee Project-Level Components, provides additional project details.
Based on the available information, the overall project purpose is to reduce flood risk to the Cities of Sacramento, West Sacramento, and Woodland by improving the flood management system consistent with the State-approved 2012 Central Valley Flood Protection Plan. The applicant believes there is a need to increase the capacity of the Yolo and Sacramento bypasses, repair or replace the Yolo Bypass east levee and Sacramento Bypass north levee, and increase the amount of native fish and riparian habitat in the Sacramento River basin.
A draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was released for this project on May 25, 2018 (Federal Register Vol. 83, No. 102) and is available at https://www.spk.usace.army.mil/Missions/Regulatory/Permitting/Environmental-Impact-Statements/. The comment period ended on July 9, 2018. A final EIS is currently being prepared. The applicant certified a final Environmental Impact Review in March 2019, available at https://water.ca.gov/Programs/Flood-Management/Flood-Projects/Lower-Elkhorn-Basin.
The proposed project would result in permanent impacts to approximately 19.61 acres and temporary impacts to 23.01 acres of waters of the U.S. Impacts include filling portions of drainage ditches and agricultural canals within the Lower Elkhorn Basin. With the exception of 0.38 acre of temporary impacts to the Sacramento Bypass, all impacts would be to agricultural canals and ditches. Temporary impacts to the Sacramento Bypass include dewatering and removal of pipes and outfalls and one access ramp from the existing north levee.
The proposed project also requires permission from the Corps under Section 14 of the Rivers and Harbors Act (Section 408 Permission) for impacts to the federal flood control project. The Corps will make a decision on both the Section 404 and 408 permit/permissions once all environmental and engineering reviews are complete, including the Final EIS and Record of Decision.
Environmental Setting. A preliminary jurisdictional determination was completed on January 17, 2018. There are approximately 12.45 acres of wetlands and 110.85 acres of other waters within the project area. The wetlands are identified as palustrine forested wetlands and are located with the Yolo and Sacramento Bypasses. The other waters consist of ditches and canals located within the Lower Elkhorn Basin and support the agricultural operations within the basin. The Lower Elkhorn Basin is primarily used for agricultural production of row crops (e.g., tomatoes, sunflowers, safflowers); alfalfa; and nut-bearing orchards.
Alternatives. The applicant has provided information concerning project alternatives. Additional information concerning project alternatives is available in the EIS and EIR listed above. 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 proposes to create a total of 23.3 acres of canals and drainage ditches by creating new features or widening previous features that would be impacted by the project. The proposed compensation would be at a ratio of 1.19:1 and require the creation of a mitigation and monitoring plan and long-term management plan.
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 applied for certification.
HISTORIC PROPERTIES: Based on the available information (including applicant's report titled Cultural Resources Inventory and Evaluation Report for the Lower Elkhorn Basin Levee Setback Project, dated October 2017), potentially eligible cultural resources may be affected by the proposed project. The Corps initiated consultation with the State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) and appropriate Native American tribes in November 2017, under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. The Corps is currently working with the SHPO, DWR, and Native American tribes on a memorandum of agreement and historic properties treatment plan for this project.
ENDANGERED SPECIES: The proposed activity may affect Federally-listed endangered or threatened species or their critical habitat. The Corps initiated consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act. The NMFS provided a Letter of Concurrence on March 1, 2019, concurring that the project is not likely to adversely affect the California Central Valley steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss), Central Valley spring-run Chinook salmon (O. tshawytscha), Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon (O. tshawytscha), the southern distinct population segment of North American green sturgeon (Acipenser medirostris), or their associated designated critical habitats.
The FWS provided a Biological Opinion on May 2, 2019. The FWS concurred that the project is not likely to adversely affect the least Bell's vireo (Vireo bellii pusillus) and the western yellow-billed cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus). The FWS also determined that the project would not jeopardize the continuing existence of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle (Desmocerus californicus dimorphus) and giant garter snake (Thamnophis gigas), and provided an incidental take statement for both species.
ESSENTIAL FISH HABITAT: The NMFS concluded that the proposed project would not adversely affect Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) as defined in the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.
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-2016-00457 must be submitted to the office listed below on or before June 21, 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 applicant or the Corps' project manager Zachary Simmons, (916) 557-6746, Zachary.M.Simmons@usace.army.mil.
Attachments: 2 drawings