Comment Period: July 31– August 31, 2020
SUBJECT: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Sacramento District, (Corps) is evaluating a permit application to construct the Smith Creek Crossing Development Road Access project, which involves two separate construction sites and would result in impacts to approximately 0.16 acre of waters of the United States (WOTUS). Proposed impacts to WOTUS include the permanent filling of approximately 0.11 acre of palustrine emergent fen wetlands and 0.05 acre of palustrine emergent wetlands associated with Smith Creek, which is tributary to the Colorado River. This notice is to inform interested parties of the proposed activity and to solicit comments. This notice may also be viewed at the Corps’ website at www.spk.usace.army.mil/Media/RegulatoryPublicNotices.aspx.
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. John McLaren
President, Sun Smith Creek Crossing, LLC
27777 Franklin Road, Suite 200
Southfield, Michigan, 48034
LOCATION: There are two separate locations where work is being proposed to occur within WOTUS. The southern project site is approximately 1.5 acre and is located 0.25 mile west of the intersection of U.S. Highway 40 and U.S. Highway 34, centered at Latitude 40.093459°, Longitude -105.964442°, Granby, Grand County, Colorado. The northern project site is approximately 0.25 acre and is located 200 feet south of the Summit Trail Road bridge over Smith Creek, at Latitude 40.096629°, Longitude -105.960479°. The sites are at the Smith Creek Crossing Development located east of the confluence of the Fraser River and the Colorado River in the NE ¼ of Section 36, Township 2 North, Range 76 West, Sixth Principal Meridian and can be seen on the Granby USGS Topographic Quadrangle.
PROJECT DESCRIPTION: The project involves modifying the existing Summit Trail Road and constructing a new road access point off of U.S. Highway 40 for the 65-acre Smith Creek Crossing residential development. There are two separate areas where additional road construction is needed to complete construction of the residential development. At the southern project site, the applicant is proposing to widen 1,500 linear feet of U.S. Highway 40 by a maximum of 12 feet to allow for acceleration and deceleration lanes and create a two-lane asphalt access road into the associated Smith Creek Crossing residential development. The residential access point will be located outside of wetlands, but wetlands to the west of the access point would be impacted. The resulting highway surface would be 59 feet in total width for 470 linear feet before slowly tapering down to match the existing 47-foot-wide highway surface. Activities at the southern site would result in the permanent loss of 0.11 acre of fen wetland and 0.04 acre of palustrine emergent wetlands adjacent to fen wetlands. Activities at the northern project site (i.e., Summit Trail Road) involve placing fill material into 266 square feet (0.01 acre) of palustrine emergent wetland to raise the grade of the existing two-lane concrete road to meet design standards. Colorado Regional Condition 6 has revoked Nationwide Permits for activities located in fens and wetlands adjacent to fens. Therefore, an application for a Standard Individual Permit is being processed.
Based on the available information, the overall project purpose is to create road access to the Smith Creek Crossing residential development that meets current design and safety requirements. The applicant has included information regarding the need for access to the development directly from U.S. Highway 40 due predominantly to safety concerns. The applicant has identified that two access locations are needed for the development (one at south end by U.S. 40 and one at north end) citing Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) highway access requirements and local safety requirements (e.g. fire and emergency vehicles).
Background Information. The Corps has maintained project file number SPK-2006-75203 for the proposed project because the project site partially overlaps the Orvis Shorefox residential development and associated golf course that originally authorized 3.0 acres of aquatic resource impacts by Standard Individual Permit on August 4, 2006, under the same file number. The 3.0 acres of impacts to aquatic resources occurred when the site was graded for the residential development and golf course but the site was never fully developed as planned due to the economic recession. Approximately 6.9 acres of compensatory wetland mitigation was completed directly northwest of the developed site. This mitigation site is trending towards success but monitoring of the site continues.
In 2010, the original permit was modified to allow for the removal of materials and restoration of impacts that occurred when a borrow pit perched above the west side of the Colorado River slumped into the river, effectively damming flows in the main channel. The site has also been subject to a Nationwide Permit 27 to conduct additional work on the Colorado River and the wetland mitigation site in 2012 and a Regional General Permit 12 for aquatic enhancements in Smith Creek in 2013.
Currently, a portion of the areas impacted through the Corps’ 2006 authorization are being developed as the Smith Creek Crossing residential development, but additional road access improvements are needed to address the greater density of housing compared to the previously authorized Orivs Shorefox residential development plan. The golf course has not been constructed, but the remaining northern portion of the original project site has been developed as the River Run Recreational Vehicle Resort.
Environmental Setting. An approximately 60-acre fen complex exists within the southern project site and extends to the west where an unnamed tributary from within the fen forms and contributes hydrology to Smith Creek, near its confluence with the Colorado River. The Colorado River is a traditional navigable waterway. Multiple fen complexes are thought to exist in the general area due to adequate subsurface hydrology. The northern project site has been previously disturbed by development, and it is thought that the wetland at this location was actually man-made during the partial construction of the previously planned golf course. Both sites are located on the western periphery of the Town of Granby where the dominate land use transitions from residential and commercial development to rural ranches and open space.
Alternatives. The applicant feels that the proposed project is the practicable alternative with least amount of impacts to aquatic resources. According to the permit application, the access road and widening of U.S. Highway 40 (i.e, southern project site) is necessary for safety reasons, and shifting the footprint of the access road in either direction would result in additional wetland impacts or would not meet current safety requirements. Proposed alternatives for the northern project site are limited by the scope and nature of the work on an existing road. Additional information concerning project alternatives for both sites 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 conduct on-site compensatory mitigation work aimed at improving the function of 17 acres of the large fen wetland complex that will partially be impacted by the proposed project. Improving wetland function of the mitigation site would be accomplished by attempting to eliminate unnatural drainage patterns created by agricultural ditches that are thought to be first constructed at least several decades ago. According to the proposal, mitigation efforts will include installing impermeable barriers within the ditch to eliminate un‑natural drainage patterns. The existing side-cast organic soils will be used to backfill the ditches. This mitigation site is now owned by the Town of Granby and will be protected from further development. A map of the proposed mitigation site is identified on the attached Overall Site Plan (drawing 3 of 7), but new locations or strategies for compensatory mitigation may develop during the review process for this permit application.
OTHER GOVERNMENTAL AUTHORIZATIONS: Water quality certification or a waiver, as required under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is required for this project. The applicant has indicated they have applied for certification. The applicant has received a State Highway Access Permit from the Colorado Department of Transportation (permit No. 319183).
HISTORIC PROPERTIES: Based on the available information, including a 2006 Cultural Resource Inventory, no cultural resources were identified within the project's area of potential effect. An additional cultural resource inventory was recently conducted to ensure that best information was available. 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 would not affect any federally listed, threatened or endangered species or their critical habitat that are protected by the Endangered Species Act.
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-2006-75203 must be submitted to the office listed below on or before August 31, 2020.
Ben Wilson, Project Manager
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Sacramento District
Colorado West Regulatory Section
400 Rood Avenue, Room 224
Grand Junction, Colorado 81501
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 Ben Wilson, (970) 243-1199 ext. 1012, Benjamin.R.Wilson@usace.army.mil.