SUBJECT: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Sacramento District, (Corps) is evaluating a permit application for the discharge of dredged or fill material and work in approximately 1.60 acres of waters of the United States to construct the North Delta Drought Salinity Barriers project. 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 (RHA) for structures or work in or affecting navigable waters of the United States and Section 404 of the Clean Water Act for the discharge of dredged or fill material in waters of the United States. The proposed work would also require permission under Section 14 of the RHA (33 USC 408, Section 408).
APPLICANT: California Department of Water Resources, Attn: Mr. Jacob McQuirk, 1416 9th Street, Room 215-23, Sacramento, CA, 95814-5511
LOCATION: The approximately 1.72-acre project site is located on Miner Slough approximately 0.2 mile upstream of the Miner Slough Bridge and CA-84N, Latitude 38.29113°, Longitude -121.62873°, Solano County, and on Steamboat Slough approximately 1 mile upstream from the downstream confluence of Steamboat Slough and the Sacramento River, Latitude 38.18533°, Longitude -121.64775°, Sacramento and Solano Counties, California, and can be seen on the Liberty Island and Rio Vista USGS 7.5” Topographic Quadrangles.
PROJECT DESCRIPTION: The applicant is proposing to install a temporary rock fill barrier in Steamboat Slough and another in Miner Slough to prevent the intrusion of high-salinity water into the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta if critical drought conditions persist into 2023 and beyond. The two barriers would include culverts installed within the barriers to allow fish passage and manage water quality. A small-boat portage would be provided at the Steamboat Slough barrier. Both barriers would be installed annually, as needed, starting as early as June 1st and removed no later than November 15th. Based on the available information, the overall project purpose is to protect beneficial uses of water in the Delta during drought periods, including reducing the intrusion of saltwater in the Delta, while minimizing reservoir releases. The applicant believes there is a need to protect water supplies used by people who live in the Delta and in Contra Costa, Alameda, and Santa Clara counties, as well as those who rely on the Delta-based federal and state water projects for at least some of their supplies. The attached drawings provide additional project details.
Environmental Setting. There are approximately 1.60 acres of perennial riverine waters within the project area. Both Miner Slough and Steamboat Slough are tidally influenced waterways within the upper Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and bordered on both banks by man-made levees protected by rock embankments.
Alternatives. At this time the applicant has not yet provided information concerning project alternatives. Additional information concerning project alternatives 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 that no compensatory mitigation is necessary because the barriers are temporary and fill material placed in waters would be removed and restored to pre-project contours after a maximum of six months.
OTHER GOVERNMENTAL AUTHORIZATIONS: Water quality certification or a waiver, as required under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act from the State Water Resources Control Board is required for this project. The applicant has initiated the application process.
HISTORIC PROPERTIES: Based on the available information (including applicant's report titled North Delta Drought Salinity Barriers Project, Sacramento and Solano Counties, California, Cultural Resources Inventory Report), potentially eligible cultural resources may be affected by the proposed project. The Corps will initiate consultation with the State Historic Preservation Officer under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.
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.
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.
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-2021-00763 must be submitted to the office listed below on or before July 18, 2022
Zachary Simmons, Project Manager
US Army Corps of Engineers
Sacramento District, Regulatory Division
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.