SUBJECT: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Sacramento District (Corps), is evaluating a permit application to expand coal mining operations at an existing coal mine located in western Colorado. The nature and extent of impacts are more specifically described below. 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: Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, Inc., Attn: Barbara Walz
P.O. Box 33695, Denver, CO 80233, Phone: (303) 452-6111, Email: email@example.com
AGENT: Colowyo Coal Company, Attn: Mr. Tony Tennyson, 5731 Highway 13, Meeker, CO 81641
Phone: (970) 824-1532, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
LOCATION: The project area is located 4 miles west of the existing Colowyo Mine, 5731 State Highway 13, approximately 22 miles north of the Town of Meeker, Sixth Principal Meridian, located centrally at 40.27076° north latitude, -107.90231° west longitude, Moffat County, Colorado.
ROJECT NEED AND PURPOSE: The applicant states that permitted coal seams at the existing mine site will be depleted (mined out) in the near future, and expanded coal mining operations are necessary to 1) meet company production demands and 2) provide coal for the regions numerous coal-powered power plants. Based on available information, the Corps has determined the basic project purpose is expansion of an existing coal mining operation.
PROJECT DESCRIPTION: The applicant is proposing to expand an existing surface coal mining operation. The applicants preferred alternative, known as the Collom pit project, would result in the filling of 0.388 acre of wetlands and 0.797 acre of open water (1.185 acres of waters of the U.S.). These impacts will occur in Little Collum Gulch, Wilson Creek, and Jubb Creek. The volume of fill required to construct the culvert crossings across Jubb Creek and Wilson Creek is approximately 1,800 cubic yards and 2,200 cubic yards respectively. The fill used in the mine area to replace the wetlands would consist of backfilled non-toxic spoil material overlain with 4 inches to 4 feet of salvaged topsoil depending upon slope position and the vegetative community to be established. In addition, a rock-lined channel would be built to convey water through the reclaimed area to serve as a replacement drainage for Little Collom Gulch. This alternative is depicted in Figure 1A (attached).
The area to be mined within the Collom pit covers an area of two long ridge lines at about 7900 feet in elevation which is bisected by a 100 to 200 feet deep valley formed by the ephemeral stream channel of Little Collom Gulch. Ultimately the Collom pit is expected to encompass approximately 880 acres and may be 600 feet deep in places. The proposed disturbance areas with the exception of the wetlands and other Waters of the U. S. located in, abutting, and adjacent to Little Collom Gulch, Jubb Creek, and Wilson Creek, are uplands and will be returned to uplands condition via the reclamation process.
The Little Collom X pit is located approximately one and one-half miles north of the Collom pit and 600 feet lower in elevation relative to the Collom pit. Similar to the Collom pit area, the area to be mined within the Little Collom X pit covers an area of two long ridge lines at about 7,000 feet in elevation which is bisected by a 100 foot deep valley formed by the ephemeral stream channel of Little Collom Gulch. Ultimately the Little Collom X pit is expected to encompass approximately 213 acres and may be 100 feet deep in places.
Initially, Colowyo will construct a downstream sediment control pond and the sump near the eventual toe of the proposed temporary spoil pile in order to establish sediment control in the area. Temporary and permanent drainage ditches of various types, functions and configurations will be constructed to control erosion, route stormwater from undisturbed areas around disturbed areas, and capture stormwater generated from disturbed areas within the disturbance footprint.
Prior to any mining related disturbances, topsoil will be removed from planned disturbance areas and redistributed or stockpiled as necessary to satisfy the needs of the reclamation timetable. Mining is anticipated to be conducted in an up-dip direction (north to south) using conventional truck/shovel mining techniques with the potential for utilization of draglines and highwall mining equipment.
After the removal of overburden (interburden), individual coal seams are exposed. As the coal seams are exposed, they will be cleaned using auxiliary equipment, then either drilled and shot with explosives, or ripped to prepare the coal for loading and removal. Once the coal has been prepared for loading, a rubber-tired front-end loader or excavator will load the coal into haulage trucks. Haulage trucks will transport the coal via in-pit haulage routes to the primary crusher located just outside the pit. Coal from the primary crusher will be loaded into trucks and transported on a paved haulage road to the train loadout.
Background and History: Coal mining activity (primarily underground mining initially) has occurred in the area since the late 1800’s. Commercial surface coal mining activities began in this area in the mid-1970’s.
Alternatives: The following list of alternatives has been provided by the applicant, and has not been vetted or otherwise evaluated at this time. The Corps will perform an alternatives analysis of both onsite and offsite alternatives as part of the project evaluation.
Alternative 1 (No Action): No expansion of the existing surface coal mining operation would occur under this alternative. The existing surface coal mining operation would continue to operate within the permitted boundaries of the active mine site.
Alternative 2 (Collom Mine, Applicant preferred): The applicants preferred alternative, as described under PROJECT DESCRIPTION, above.
Alternative 3 (Larger Collom Pit Expansion): In addition to the area targeted for coal extraction identified in Alternative 2, above, additional disturbance would occur via expanding the existing Collom Pit to the east into the West Fork and East Fork Jubb Creek drainages. A total of 2.488 acres of jurisdictional features would be targeted for disturbance under this alternative, more than twice the impact proposed under Alternative 2. Additional impacts of this alternative include increased interception of rain and snowmelt, construction of more sediment control structures, and temporary reduction to the base-flow of Jubb Creek, which supports jurisdictional features downstream. This alternative is depicted in Figure 1B (attached).
Alternative 4 (Collom Haul Road /Jubb Creek Culvert Alternative): Under this alternative, an alternative haul road alignment would be used which would minimize the volume of material required to be moved during its construction, and would minimize potential maintenance issues post-construction. This configuration of the haul road essentially replaces approximately 10,982 linear feet of natural drainage bottom with a 10 feet tall by 8 feet wide box culvert to route rainfall, snowmelt and spring flows through the area and maintained existing hydrologic function of the drainage. This structure would accommodate the flow from a 100 year 24 hour storm event. The haul road would be constructed over the box culvert. The specific engineering and construction requirements applied to this road alignment are identical to those applied to Alternative 2, above. Material from within the disturbance footprint of the haul road would be utilized to set the culvert and construct the haul road. Approximately 102,246 cubic yards of non-toxic material would be utilized to fill the jurisdictional features in question, of which the average width is approximately 12.86 feet through this segment of Jubb Creek. A total of 4.429 acres of jurisdictional features would be targeted for disturbance under this alternative, nearly four times the impact proposed under Alternative 2. This alternative is depicted in Figure 1C (attached).
MITIGATION: The Corps requires that applicants consider and use all reasonable and practical measures to avoid and minimize impacts to aquatic resources. The applicant has proposed purchasing of mitigation credits from the Finger Rock Preserve mitigation bank, and has prepared a functional assessment (FACWet).
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 (CDPHE), is required for this project. The application status of the applicants water quality certification is unknown at this time.
Authorization from the Colorado Department of Reclamation, Mining and Safety (CDRMS) and the federal Office of Surface Mining (OSM) is required.
HISTORIC PROPERTIES: A Class III cultural resource inventory has been performed within the Area of Potential Effects (APE), and consultation with the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), as required under the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), has been initiated by the OSM. In order to insure compliance with the NHPA, a Corps permit will not be issued until all required consultation is completed, and any agreements or stipulations which may result from that consultation are finalized.
ENDANGERED SPECIES: Formal consultation, as required under Section 7 of Endangered Species Act (ESA), and request for concurrence with effects determinations for 14 plant and animal species, has been initiated with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) by the OSM. The USFWS has expressed concern regarding potential effects the project may have on Greater sage-grouse (Centorcercus urophasianus), a candidate species under the ESA. In order to insure compliance with the ESA, a Corps permit will not be issued until all required consultation is completed, and any agreements or stipulations which may result from that consultation are finalized.
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-2012-00515, must be submitted to the office listed below on or before January 31, 2013.
Steve Moore, Project Manager
US Army Corps of Engineers, Sacramento District
Colorado West Regulatory Branch
400 Rood Avenue, Room 224
Grand Junction, CO 81501
Phone: 970-243-1199, ext. 13
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 Steve Moore at 970-243-1199 ext. 13, or by email at Stephen.A.Moore@usace.army.mil
Attachments (Project Plans):
- Figure 1: Project Location Map
- Figure 1A: Collom Mine Plan w/wetland overlay
- Figure 1B: Large Collom Pit Plan
- Figure 1C: Haul Road/Jubb Creek Culvert Plan