Comment Period: April 7, 2023 – May 8, 2023
SUBJECT: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Sacramento District, (Corps) is evaluating a permit application for the Millsite Reservoir Sluicing Project, which would result in increased sediment loading in Ferron Creek, a perennial water of the United States, downstream of the Millsite Reservoir spillway. 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: Ferron Canyon Canal & Irrigation Company, Attn: Tracy Behling, P.O. Box 256, Ferron, UT, 84523
LOCATION: The project site is located on Millsite Reservoir and below along Ferron Creek, approximately 3 miles west of the town of Ferron, Latitude 39.0994°, Longitude - 111.1976°, Emery County, Utah, and can be seen on the UT-FERRON USGS Topographic Quadrangle.
PROJECT DESCRIPTION: The applicant is proposing to dredge approximately 115,000 cubic yards of accumulated sediments from the Millsite Reservoir forebay, using suction dredging methods, and transport the material, by way of floating pipeline, to the uncontrolled peak-flow spillway. At this location the sediments would be re- introduced into the downstream portion of Ferron Creek. The sediments would be released through the spillway and into the channel only when the reservoir is overtopping the spillway, which occurs approximately 5 out of 7 years and lasts 6 weeks on average. The suction dredging activity alone does not result in a discharge and is not regulated by the Corps. However, it is the discharge of the dredged material downstream and into waters adjacent to the reservoir that requires a Department of the Army authorization.
Each year an estimated 180,000 cubic yards of sediment is deposited in Millsite Reservoir, causing the flow that leaves the reservoir to be nearly sediment-free. The project is designed to mimic the historic natural function of Ferron Creek and restore the stream to a more natural turbidity regime, while maintaining the capacity of the reservoir. Turbidity meters would continue to be utilized to measure sediment loads upstream and downstream of the reservoir and would ensure the outflow of sediments did not exceed the inflow. If excessive channel deposition were observed downstream, the applicant proposed to cease operations.
Based on the available information, the overall project purpose is to maintain the current reservoir storage capacity and to restore the stream habitat to a more natural condition. A similar Section 404 permit was issued for Millsite Reservoir on June 15, 2015 and expired on June 15, 2020. Like the previous work, the project does not propose to restore the original capacity of the reservoir. The applicant believes there is a need to allow sediment in Ferron Creek to pass through the reservoir, which will increase levels of turbidity and help improve native fish habitat.
Environmental Setting. Millsite Reservoir is located on the main channel of Ferron Creek. At the project location, the watershed of Ferron Creek is approximately 153 square miles in size. Flow is measured to be between approximately 300 to 550 cubic feet per second (CFS) immediately upstream of the reservoir. Based on available information, the Ferron watershed is comprised of predominantly US Forest Service, US Bureau of Land Management and State managed lands, with residential and agricultural development located downstream of the dam and around the City of Ferron. The reservoir is used principally for irrigation water storage, municipal-industrial water supply, and recreational activities.
Approximately 458.8 acres of waters of the United States are located within the Ordinary High Water Mark (OWHM) of the Millsite Reservoir. Fremont cottonwood, coyote willow, tamarisk, and Russian olive trees and shrubs surround the reservoir and Ferron Creek on or near the OWHM. Riparian vegetation also occurs along Ferron Creek downstream of the dam and in a channel off the existing spillway.
Since its construction in early 1970’s, Millsite Reservoir has lost an estimated 2,600 acre-feet of the original 18,000 acre-feet capacity due to sedimentation. According to the applicant, most of this sediment can be found in the active storage zone of the reservoir, not in the lowest part of the reservoir. Ferron Creek is a perennial stream that drains into the San Rafael River, which flows into the Green River, eventually flowing into the Colorado River. Four federally listed fish species occur where the flows from the project site enter the Colorado River, approximately 200 river miles downstream.
Ferron Creek and Millsite Reservoir are used for recreational activities such as whitewater rafting, kayaking, tubing and fishing.
Alternatives. The applicant has not provided information concerning project alternatives. Additional information concerning project alternatives may be available from the applicant or their agent. 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 monitor Ferron Creek to demonstrate that the project is beneficial in nature.
OTHER GOVERNMENTAL AUTHORIZATIONS: Water quality certification or a waiver, as required under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act from the Utah State Department of Environmental Quality is required for this project. The applicant has indicated they have applied for certification.
HISTORIC PROPERTIES: 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 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, pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species 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-2013- 00240 must be submitted to the office listed below on or before May 8, 2023.
Hollis Jencks, Project Manager
US Army Corps of Engineers, Sacramento District 533 West 2600 South, Suite 150
Bountiful, Utah 84010
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 Hollis Jencks, (801) 295-8380 ext. 8318, Hollis.G.Jencks@usace.army.mil.
Attachments: 2 drawings