SUBJECT: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Sacramento District, (Corps) is proposing to reissue a Regional General Permit (RGP) for the Sacramento Municipal Utility District’s (SMUD) Upper American River Project (UARP). The proposed RGP is intended to streamline the application and permitting process for SMUD who must otherwise obtain project specific Department of Army (DA) Permits before discharging dredged or fill material into waters of the United States (WOUS) for operations, maintenances and minor construction activities associated with the UARP. 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: Mr. Timothy Talbert
Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD)
3995 Old Carson Road
Pollock Pines, California 95726
LOCATION: The RGP is applicable to all WOUS including jurisdictional wetlands within the boundaries of the UARP and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) including adjacent areas where project activities occur. The project site, which encompasses approximately 10,300-acre, is located in El Dorado County, California, and is shown on the attached maps SMUD UARP Overview: Map index, A1-A2, B1, and C1-C-3.
PROJECT DESCRIPTION: This RGP would authorize the discharge of not more than
2.0 acres of WOUS for operations, maintenances and minor construction projects associated with the UARP over a 5 year period. Specifically, the RGP would authorize the following activities:
- Road drainage crossing improvements & repairs including existing crossings and culverts and new stream crossings as required by the new FERC license.
- Boat ramp maintenance and improvements are located in the project-related reservoirs of UARP: Loon Lake, Gerle Creek, Union Valley, Ice House, Junction, Slab Creek and Brush Creek.
- Maintenance of many UARP’s existing hydroelectricity facilities includes the Gerle Canal wall leakage, reservoir’s gate/trash rack maintenance, Robbs Forebay dredging, sedimentation removal located downstream of many powerhouses and many powerhouses concrete resealing.
- New construction/minor impacts including the trail construction, campground/recreation facility refurbishment in Crystal Basin area of the Eldorado National Forest, and weir construction and other minor construction that may involve discharge or fill material into WOUS.
- Temporary construction, access and dewatering including discharges associated with the installation of best management practices, staging areas and temporary dewatering.
Purpose of the Proposed RGP: The purpose of the RGP is to increase the efficiency of the application and permitting process for projects that are associated with the SMUD’s UARP that are similar in scope and nature, and have minimal environmental impacts.
Environmental Setting. The UARP site ranges in elevation from 995 feet at White Rock Powerhouse to 6,545 feet at Rubicon Reservoir. The landscape and topography of the UARP area reflects this change in elevation. Large expanses of exposed granite rock are common in the upper elevations. Former valley glaciers moved many miles down the west slope of the mountains, carving out the steep-walled river valleys characteristic of the range. The cutting action of streams has continued the process, deepening the canyons of the Rubicon River, Silver Creek, and the South Fork American River. Canyon wall vertical drop is as much as 1,000 feet in some places and as steep as 100 percent, rendering some of the river canyons nearly inaccessible. The UARP is located at the upper reach of the South Fork American River watershed.
Biological resources within the UARP are as varied as the elevations and types of ecosystems in which they are found. At the mid-elevation range (1,500 to 5,000 feet), a wide variety of plant and animal resources can be observed. Typical trees include ponderosa pine, sugar pine, white fir, black oak and incense cedar. In the higher elevation range (above 5,000 feet) the ecosystem is somewhat less diverse. White fir, ponderosa pine, jeffrey pine, western juniper, red fir and lodgepole pine are dominant trees, with huckleberry oak, various Ceanothus sp. and manzanita the dominant shrubs. Granite outcrops are commonplace, with very little vegetation found in some areas.
With few exceptions, the high mountain lakes and streams above 6,000 feet were, historically fishless, but dominated instead by amphibians, insects and small aquatic invertebrates, such as fresh-water shrimp.
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 would require compensatory mitigation. The applicant is proposing a variety of permittee-responsible mitigation projects including rehabilitation, re-establishment, or establishment (creation) within the UARP and Upper American River watershed.
OTHER GOVERNMENTAL AUTHORIZATIONS: Water quality certifications or waivers, as required under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act from the California Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) and the State Water Resource Control Board (SWRCB), are required for this RGP. SMUD is currently in the process of applying for a Section 401 Certification from RWQCB for projects not covered by the Section 401 Certification for UARP-FERC No. 2101 from the SWRCB. SWRCB has issued a Section 401 Certification for UARP-FERC No. 2101. RWQCB issued a 401 certification for this project on April 23, 2016, (WDID#5A09CR00136) and amended it on November 27, 2018, (WDID#5A09CR136Y2A1) to include the Loon Lake area.
HISTORIC PROPERTIES: Based on the available information, 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 project will not affect any Federally-listed threatened or endangered species or their critical habitat that are protected by the Endangered Species Act. 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 will not affect Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) as defined in the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. The Corps will not initiate consultation with the National Marine Fisheries Service, pursuant to Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.
PERMIT USAGE FROM 2015 TO 2019: To date the applicant has used this Regional Permit 11 times. These 11 projects have resulted in temporary and permanent impacts to 2.191 acres of waters of the United States.
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 may be 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-2013-01098 must be submitted to the office listed below on or before April 2, 2020.
Ms. Kathy Norton, Senior 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 Mr. Ethan Koenigs with SMUD for the applicant at firstname.lastname@example.org, (530) 647-5094, or the Corps' project manager Ms. Kathy Norton, (916) 557-5260, Kathy.Norton@usace.army.mil.
Attachments: 7 drawings including: SMUD UARP Overview: Map index, A1-A2, B1, and C1-C3.