Comment Period: August 20, 2020 – October 20, 2020
SUBJECT: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Sacramento District, (Corps) is evaluating a permit application for the discharge of dredged and fill material and/or work in waters of the U.S., resulting in permanent impacts to approximately 247.44 acres of waters, temporarily impacts to 87.17 acres of waters, and subsurface crossings under 16.88 acres of navigable waters to construct the Delta Conveyance project. 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 (33 U.S.C. 1344) for the discharge of dredged or fill material in waters of the United States and Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 (33 U.S.C. 403) for structures or work in or affecting navigable waters of the United States. The proposed project also requires permission under Section 14 of the RHA (33 U.S.C. 408) (Section 408) to construct the intakes and setback levees on the Sacramento River, a crossing under the Stockton Deep Water Ship Channel (SDWSC), and the barge landing in the SDWSC.
APPLICANT: California Department of Water Resources, Attn: Ms. Carolyn Buckman, 901 P Street, Room 432, Sacramento, CA 94236-0001
LOCATION: The approximately 4,565-acre project site is located in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Delta), starting along the east bank of the Sacramento river at approximately latitude 38.38531°, longitude -121.51519°, and continuing south approximately 45 miles, to the existing south Delta pumping facilities at latitude 37.81358°, longitude -121.60311°, within Sacramento, San Joaquin, Contra Costa, and Alameda Counties, California.
PROJECT DESCRIPTION: The project includes the construction of intake facilities on the Sacramento River, a 41-mile long tunnel section, and a new southern forebay complex. Project elements requiring a permit under Section 404 and/or Section 10 include the construction of the intakes within the Sacramento River and associated intake facilities which include setback levees, two tunnel shafts, and temporary construction work areas. Project elements along the tunnel corridor include 13 crossings of navigable waterways, eight tunnel shafts, access roads and access road improvements, staging areas, tunnel material storage areas, and a barge landing within the SDWSC at Lower Roberts Island. Project elements at the southern forebay facilities include construction of the new Southern Forebay, three tunnel shafts, one crossing of a navigable waterway, a pumping plant, outlet and control structure, tunnel material storage area, and temporary construction work areas. Project elements requiring authorization under Section 408 include the crossing under the SDWSC, the barge landing within the SDWSC, and alterations to the Sacramento River Flood Control Project to construct the intakes within the Sacramento River, associated intake facilities, and construction and maintenance of the setback levees along the Sacramento River.
Intake facilities would be located in the north Delta along the east bank of the Sacramento River between the communities of Clarksburg and Courtland. The new conveyance facilities would include a single tunnel to convey water from the new intakes, approximately 41 miles, to a pumping plant and new southern forebay on Byron Tract, immediately west of the existing Clifton Court Forebay. An approximately 1.7-mile dual tunnel would connect the new facilities in the south Delta to the existing State Water Project (SWP) Banks Intake Canal. The new north Delta facilities would be sized to convey up to 6,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) of water from the Sacramento River to the SWP facilities in the south Delta. The future operation of the intakes after completion of construction would not be within the control or responsibility of the Corps.
Construction of the overall conveyance project, if approved, would take approximately 13 years. The duration of construction at each location would vary and would not extend for the full construction period. Existing power lines would be used as much as possible for power needs during construction. New or modified power lines would be constructed as necessary.
The Corps, as the lead agency under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), will prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for construction of the proposed project. The EIS will analyze the applicant’s proposed action to construct new conveyance facilities and alternatives. The Notice of Intent to prepare an EIS was published in the Federal Register on August 20, 2020.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and in compliance with Army and USACE directives, no in-person public scoping meetings will be held. Members of the public are invited to view project information and a presentation on the USACE proposed action at https://www.spk.usace.army.mil/Missions/Regulatory/Delta-Conveyance/. Comments may be submitted via the website or through email or written comments submitted as described below.
Environmental Setting. The proposed project is within the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The Delta consists of the region and waterways around the confluence of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers upstream of the Suisun Marsh and San Francisco Bay. Saltwater from the San Francisco Bay mixes with fresh water from the Sacramento, San Joaquin, and other rivers to create the largest estuary on the West Coast. This estuary provides habitat critical to the survival of many fish and wildlife species. The conveyance of water from north to south relies on the movement through the Delta and the maze of levees and islands. The long-term sustainability of the Delta water supply and habitat is threatened by floods, rising sea levels, earthquake damage, aging levees, invasive species, and contaminants.
Alternatives. A number of project alternatives, including the no action alternative and the applicant’s preferred alternative will be evaluated in accordance with NEPA (33 CFR Part 230) (USACE NEPA Regulations) and 33 CFR Part 325, Appendix B (NEPA Implementation Procedures for USACE Regulatory Projects). Current alternatives to be analyzed include variations of the proposed project. Options include two of three possible intake structures, multiple intake structure designs based on impact footprint and fish screen designs, intake and tunnel capacity between 3,000 to 7,500 cfs, and optimizing a tunnel alignment to minimize impacts within either a central Delta or eastern Delta corridor.
Mitigation. The Corps requires that applicants consider and use all reasonable and practical measures to avoid and minimize impacts to aquatic resources. The Applicant is developing a mitigation plan to provide compensatory mitigation to offset unavoidable impacts to waters of the U.S. associated with the proposed discharges. The applicant is investigating restoration actions to provide habitat for species that may also serve as compensatory mitigation for the loss of aquatic resources, e.g. created emergent marsh may function as habitat for delta smelt, as well as compensatory mitigation for discharges into emergent marsh habitat. The proposed plan may include a combination of several methods of mitigation, including restoration, enhancement, establishment, and preservation. The proposed compensatory mitigation would be subject to specific success criteria and monitoring requirements, assurances of permanent protection, and long-term maintenance and monitoring commitments approved by the Corps.
OTHER GOVERNMENTAL AUTHORIZATIONS: Water quality certification or a waiver, as required under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act from the California State Water Resources Control Board is required for this project. The applicant has indicated they will apply 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 and Native American Tribes 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 and the National Marine Fisheries Service, pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act, as appropriate.
ESSENTIAL FISH HABITAT: The proposed project may adversely affect Essential Fish Habitat. The Corps will initiate consultation with the National Marine Fisheries Service, pursuant to Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, as appropriate.
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, Native American 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-2019-00899 must be submitted to the office listed below on or before October 20, 2020.
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.
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