SUBJECT: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Sacramento District, (Corps) is evaluating a permit application to construct the Head of Old River Temporary Barrier project (HOR), which would result in impacts to approximately 0.44 acres of waters of the United States in Old River near the divergence from the San Joaquin River. 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 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.
APPLICANT: Katherine Kelly, California Department of Water Resources 1416 9th Street,
Room 215-37, Sacramento, California 94236-0001
LOCATION: The 0.44-acre site is located is located between Upper Roberts Island and Stewart Tract at the divergence of the San Joaquin River and Old River, within Section 32, of Township 1 South, Range 6 East, MDB&M, Latitude 37.809°, Longitude -121.328°, San Joaquin County, California, and can be seen on the CA-LATHROP USGS Topographic Quadrangle.
PURPOSE: The applicant has stated that the project purpose is to protect juvenile salmon and steelhead migrating through the Delta in the spring and improve dissolved oxygen levels in the Stockton deepwater shipping channel in the fall to benefit returning adult salmonids.
PROJECT DESCRIPTION: The project consists of constructing the HOR barrier at the above described location each year (2013 through 2017). The barrier serves a dual purpose and may be installed in the spring and in the fall. In the spring, the barrier acts as a fish barrier to decrease the number of salmonid smolts entering Old River. This can be accomplished by installing a rock barrier or a Non Physical Barrier (NPB). In the fall, the barrier may be needed to increase flows and dissolved oxygen levels downstream in the San Joaquin River including the Stockton deepwater shipping channel; therefore, a rock barrier must be used. A fish study may be conducted in some years to understand survival and behavior of salmonids and predatory fish in the vicinity of the barrier.
Spring Rock Barrier
The spring HOR rock barrier is intended to prevent downstream-migrating salmon smolts in the San Joaquin River from entering Old River, which would expose them to State Water Project (SWP) and Central Valley Project (CVP) diversion operations and unscreened agricultural diversions. The spring HOR rock barrier is constructed with approximately 12,500 cy of rock to form a 225-foot long and 85-foot wide (at the base) berm (0.44 acre) and it has a crest elevation of 12.3 feet (NAVD88). Construction at the south end of the barrier includes the placement of six to eight, 48-inch diameter culverts with slide-gates into the barrier abutment. The middle section includes a 75-foot weir at an elevation of 8.3 feet that is capped with clay up to the barrier crest elevation (12.3 feet, NAVD88). A ramp and dock may be secured to the shore in order to allow storage and safe access to small boats that may be used for construction, maintenance and research purposes.
Fall Rock Barrier
Installation of the fall HOR rock barrier may be needed to increase flows and dissolved oxygen levels downstream in the San Joaquin River. The fall HOR rock barrier is constructed similarly to the spring barrier, but using approximately 7,500 cy of rock to form a smaller 225-foot long and 65-foot wide (at the base) berm (0.34 acre) that is constructed to a crest elevation of 8.3 feet (NAVD88) and includes a 30-foot wide notch at elevation 2.3 feet (NAVD88) to allow the passage of adult salmonids.
Spring Non-Physical Barrier
The HOR NPB is a multi-stimulus fish barrier that combines high-intensity light-emitting diode (LED) Modulated Intense Lights (MILs), an air bubble “curtain,” and sound at frequencies and levels that are repellent to Chinook salmon (Bowen et al. 2009; Bowen and Bark 2010). The sound system and MIL flash rate can be tuned to known sensitivities of various fish species. Investigations have indicated that the most effective acoustic deterrents for multiple fish species fall within the sound frequency range of 5 to 600 hertz (Hz) (Bowen and Bark 2010). Studies with Chinook salmon and delta smelt have shown that when the sound and strobe light flash rate were tuned according to these species’ sensitivities, the barrier was particularly effective as a deterrent for Chinook salmon smolts (Bowen et al. 2008). Based on these studies, it has been hypothesized that the sound is the deterrent. The sound is trapped by refraction within the bubble curtain, producing a sharply defined sound field that fish do not detect until within a few meters of the barrier. The flashing MILs are aligned such that the light beam projects onto the bubble curtain. This helps identify the bubbles so that the source of the sound can be determined by the fish. A narrow vertical MIL beam minimizes light saturation within the experimental area.
Modifications to the length and orientation of the HOR NPB may be made each year based on acoustic telemetry data obtained during operation. The 2009 HOR NPB was approximately 367 linear feet and spanned across the mouth of the Old River. The 2010 HOR NPB was 450 linear feet and was oriented further out in San Joaquin River than the 2009 NPB. Future HOR NPB’s, if constructed, may have varying orientations in order to improve the barriers effectiveness on deterring and protecting smolts.
Current ideas on barrier design have been refined based on information collected in 2009 and 2010. The barrier may be up to 700 feet long and may be comprised of as many as 30 metal framed sections. The sections will be positioned along the barrier line such that, during average annual flow conditions, as much of the barrier as possible is at a depth where the height of the bubble curtain is less than 12 feet. The frames will be placed approximately 18 inches from the channel bottom. The top of the frame sections will be at 5–10 feet below the water surface elevation at low tide during average annual flow conditions. The barrier frames will be supported and secured with steel piles and concrete pier blocks. The NPB will require as many as 8 piles (including one scientific pile) and 30 pier blocks.
Each barrier frame section will have approximately four sound projectors spaced 6.5 feet apart, eight strobe lights, and a perforated “bubble” pipe. The bubble pipe will be positioned along each frame below and upstream of the sound projectors. A bubble curtain will be created by passing compressed air into the perforated pipe. The air flow rate will typically be 1.38 cubic feet per minute (cfm) per linear foot for the length of the barrier. The MILs will be powered from an “accumulator” positioned on each frame section. A mounting plate will be attached to the support tray to house the accumulators. The junction of each frame section can pivot with the adjacent section, and where needed, each frame section will be supported at either end with a piling or pier block.
Light cables, sound cables, and air lines will run from generators and air compressors located on the water side berm along the south bank of the San Joaquin River adjacent to the NPB, where a portion of the stockpile for the HOR rock barrier is stored.
Approximately 120 amps (115 volts) of an inductively–rated power supply will be required to run the complete electrical system. A small trailer will house the control units, signal generators and amplifiers. A temporary floating dock will be installed near the trailer to tether a small boat used for operation, maintenance, and monitoring. All generators, air compressors, trailers and fuel storage containers will be placed such that it can be removed quickly and most equipment will be readily towable while staged.
In addition to the NPB structure, warning signs, lighted warning buoys, high visibility float rope, and ball buoys will be deployed around the barrier to alert boaters of its location. Up to 40 concrete anchors would be placed on the river bottom or on river banks to anchor the warning buoys and signs in place.
Construction and Removal Schedule
The spring barrier would be installed as early as March 1 and breached between May 16 and May 31 and the fall barrier may be installed as early as September 1 and would be completely removed by November 30. The attached figures provide additional project details.
TBP Fish Study
This program includes tagging and releasing salmon and steelhead in the south Delta, installing an acoustic receiver network including a two‐dimensional (2-D) biotelemetry system, implementing a mobile monitoring effort to find acoustic tags on the river bottom using global positioning system (GPS), monitoring fish using Dual-Frequency Identification Sonar (DIDSON) cameras, placement of hydroacoustic and other scientific instrumentation and sampling, tagging and releasing predatory fish. Scientific equipment will be affixed to several types of mounting brackets depending on equipment type, barrier type and location. Up to 50 anchors made from sections of railroad track will be used to anchor floating scientific equipment, such as hydrophones in the water column using tensioned lines. Additionally, up to 10 weighted stands and one scientific pile will be used for placing stationary equipment such as Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP’s) and DIDSON cameras. A scientific pile will only be placed if the NPB is used at the HOR. The minimum required number of railroad track anchors and weighted stands will be placed each year and scientific equipment will be placed using barrier related structure, as much as possible. All scientific equipment will be affixed to anchors and stands similar in nature and impacts to those used for ADCP’s, DIDSON cameras and hydrophones. Additional studies of salmonid smolts and predatory fish may occur, however, techniques used to capture predatory fish will be limited to electrofishing, hook and line sampling and fyke trapping.
Study techniques used in the past and likely to be used for future studies include 2-D tracking of acoustically tagged Chinook salmon and steelhead smolts, 2-D tracking of acoustically tagged predatory fish, acoustic tagging of salmonid smolts and predatory fish, capture of predatory fish using multiple techniques, placement of a 2-D hydrophone array within ½ mile of barrier locations, placement of hydrophone nodes at strategic locations within the south Delta (e.g. peripheral nodes to determine migration paths), placement of ADCP’s within ½ mile of barrier locations, placement of DIDSON cameras within ½ mile of barrier locations, and mobile hydroacoustic monitoring within the south Delta. Advanced technologies and monitoring techniques may be used in the future, as they are developed. A study plan will be prepared and submitted to the FWS and NMFS for comment and approval for each year a study is planned.
On February 13, 1998, the Corps issued public notice 199600027/199800015 stating that the HOR Barrier would be administratively separated from the three agricultural barriers. The PN indicated that these barriers would be evaluated as separate projects under separate Department of the Army permits and these projects have been evaluated separately since.
Alternatives. The applicant has 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. DWR purchased 6.0 acres of shallow water habitat credits for the TBP. DWR utilized a credit of 1.25 acres left over from the Kimball Island Mitigation Bank and an additional 4.75 acres of shallow water habitat credits was purchased at the Liberty Island Conservation Bank.
OTHER GOVERNMENTAL AUTHORIZATIONS: Water quality certification or a waiver, as required under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act from the California Regional Water Quality Control Board, Central Valley Region is required for this project. The applicant has indicated they have applied for certification.
HISTORIC PROPERTIES: Based on the available information, no cultural resources were identified within the project's area of potential effect.
ENDANGERED SPECIES: The HOR barrier is within designated critical habitat for federally listed fish species. This project may affect delta smelt (Hypomesus transpacificus), Sacramento River winter-run chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), Central Valley spring-run chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), Central Valley steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss), and Green Sturgeon (Acipenser medirostris). On November 27, 2012, the Corps initiated consultation for the above species and their designated critical habitat with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service under 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-2000-00696 must be submitted to the office listed below on or before December 27, 2012.
William Guthrie, Project Manager
US Army Corps of Engineers,
Sacramento District, Regulatory Division 1325 J Street, Room1480
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 beheld 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 William Guthrie, 916-557-5269, William.H.Guthrie@usace.army.mil.