The comment period for this Public Notice has been extended. Comment end date is now September 23, 2013.
SUBJECT: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Sacramento District, (Corps) is evaluating a permit application for the proposed Port of Stockton West Complex Docks 16 through 20 Dredging Project. The proposed project which would conduct maintenance dredging within approximately 12.75 acres of waters of the United States at the Port’s West Complex, directly abutting the southern boundary of the Stockton Deep Water Ship Channel. 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: Jeffrey D. Wingfield, Port of Stockton, 2201 West Washington Street, Stockton, California 95203
LOCATION: The 12.75-acre site is located along the northern shoreline of the Port of Stockton’s West Complex, abutting the southern boundary of the Stockton Deep Water Ship Channel, in Section 21, Township 2 North, Range 6 East, Mount Diablo Meridian, Latitude 37.959085°, Longitude -121.359912°, Stockton, San Joaquin County, California, and can be seen on the Stockton West, California United States Geological Survey (USGS) Topographic Quadrangle.
PROJECT DESCRIPTION: The Applicant (Port of Stockton; hereafter, “Port”) proposes to conduct maintenance dredging of Docks 16 through 20 of the Port’s West Complex to -35 feet ([relative to] Mean Lower Low Water [MLLW]), with an additional 2-foot overdepth. Based on the available information, the overall project purpose is to facilitate access of deep-draft commercial vessel traffic to Docks 16 through 20 of the Port’s West Complex. The Applicant believes there is a need to provide the water depth necessary to allow commercial shipping vessels the ability to safely access the docks, such that the efficiency of terminal operations at the Port can be maintained and enhanced.
The five docks proposed for dredging (Docks 16 through 20) are located adjacent to the southern boundary of the Stockton Deep Water Ship Channel (DWSC), along the north shore of the Port’s West Complex on Rough and Ready Island. Sedimentation has resulted in a current average bottom depth of approximately -26 feet MLLW for Docks 16 through 20. Dredging to the -35 foot MLLW depth would involve maintenance-level dredging to the historically-established depth of -35 feet MLLW, and would result in consistent depths for Docks 16 through 20, relative to the adjacent DWSC, a federally-authorized navigation channel that is maintained at -35 feet MLLW. The West Complex was under U.S. Navy ownership until 2000, at which time the land was transferred to the Port. There was little documentation available regarding historic depths along the docks under Navy ownership, so historic photos were used to determine that the depth was at least -30 feet MLLW, based on the size of ships moored at the docks. During the spring of 2013, the Applicant conducted testing of the proposed project site’s sediments, the results of which indicated that the area had been historically dredged to -35 feet MLLW. The Applicant will be providing a copy of the final report documenting the testing methods and results to the Corps. Based on the Applicant’s investigation of the project area’s sediment characteristics, best available information indicates that although the area has not been dredged in many years, the proposed dredging of Docks 16 through 20 is considered maintenance (to -35 feet MLLW) rather than “deepening.”
Dredging may take up to three years, with proposed work dates between August 1st and November 30th in any given year. After the initial maintenance dredging is completed, the Applicant proposes to conduct annual maintenance dredging for the period of time remaining under the permit (e.g., two or three years). The total proposed duration of the Section 10/404 permit is anticipated to be five years.
The Docks 16 through 20 project area is approximately 4,443 feet-long by 125 feet-wide (12.75 acres), extending from the face of each dock outward to the southern boundary of the DWSC. The proposed project would result in a maximum of 160,000 cubic yards (CY) of dredged material being removed during the initial dredging effort (i.e., to re-establish the historical depth of -35 feet MLLW). Subsequently, during the annual maintenance phase, a maximum total of 40,000 CY of material would be removed. Thus, the maximum total amount of material to be removed over the permit’s anticipated five-year term would be 200,000 CY. Dredging is proposed to be conducted using a hydraulic suction cutterhead, and dredged material (consisting of a slurry mix approximately 85-90% water and 10-15% solids) pumped via pipeline for placement.
Dredged material placement is proposed to occur at Roberts Island No. 1 (RN1), an approved dredged material confinement area (DMCA) along the northern margin of Roberts Island that has been in operation since 1982 (see attached drawings). The RN1 DMCA consists of approximately 300 acres of land that serves as a sedimentation area (or dredge placement site [DPS]), and also as an overflow area for decant water. The Applicant has stated that the RN1 DMCA has sufficient capacity to accommodate dredged material resulting from the proposed project. Further, the applicant has indicated that in most years, a substantial amount of material is removed from the RN1 DMCA for reuse (e.g., levee maintenance). Decanted water would be impounded, tested in accordance with all water quality requirements, and discharged to the DWSC after meeting all testing standards.
The plastic pipeline carrying dredged material to the Roberts Island DPS would float on the water surface when filled with water and air, and would rest on the river bottom (within the project area and between the project area and Roberts Island DPS) during dredging operations. The dredge operator would determine the preferred route for the pipeline, but it would most likely be positioned along the west bank of the DWSC (i.e., just north of Rough and Ready, and Roberts Islands), where it would be supported by a series of buoys to notify boaters of its presence. Depending on which dock is being dredged, the pipeline would extend for a range of 6,700 feet (for Dock 20) to 10,300 feet (for Dock 16).
After the initial maintenance dredging is completed, the Applicant’s proposed annual maintenance dredging of the project area during the remaining permit term would result in a maximum of 40,000 CY of material being removed. The maximum amount of material that would be removed in any given year would not exceed 30,000 CY. All proposed dredging would occur within an August 1st to November 30th work window on any given year, to minimize impacts on federally-listed fish. The actual dredging work would typically be completed in consecutive days, depending on conditions.
Environmental Setting. There are approximately 12.75 acres of waters within the project area. The site is located along a 4,443 ft-long portion of the north shore of the Port’s West Complex (Rough and Ready Island). The West Complex consists of approximately 1,500 acres, with seven docks along its north side (see attached drawings). For a distance of 125 feet extending toward the DWSC from the face of the docks, the Port is responsible for dredging the dock areas. Beyond 125 feet, the Corps maintains the DWSC’s depth of -35 feet MLLW. The DWSC itself is a maintained portion of the San Joaquin River that begins in the San Francisco Bay and terminates at the Port of Stockton. It is used as a shipping channel to provide large hauling vessels access to the interior of the Central Valley from the open sea. The DWSC edges in the project area are rip-rapped and/or covered by docks or piers. Riparian and/or aquatic vegetation is minimal. The RN1 DMCA is located within Roberts Island, just west of the proposed project area. Outside of the DMCA, the majority of Roberts Island supports agricultural uses. Topography slopes gently to the west, away from the DWSC. Within the DMCA, dredged material covers the site to varying depths, up to about 11 feet relative to mean sea level in the eastern portion of the site. Earthen dikes surround the site and confine material placed within the DMCA. No waters of the U.S., including wetlands, occur within the DMCA that would be filled as a result of placing dredged material associated with the proposed project.
Alternatives. The applicant has provided information concerning project alternatives. Project alternatives considered include “no project,” and “deepening of one or more Docks to -45 feet MLLW. 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. To offset temporary impacts to waters of the U.S., the Applicant proposes to implement several water quality- and fish/wildlife-related avoidance and minimization measures. The Applicant has not proposed compensatory mitigation, since the project would result in no loss of waters of the U.S., and dredging would be conducted in an area that has been historically dredged for decades, adjacent to a shipping channel that is also regularly dredged (by the Corps).
OTHER GOVERNMENTAL AUTHORIZATIONS: Water quality certification or a waiver, as required under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act from the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) is required for this project. The applicant has indicated that they are coordinating actively with the RWQCB in relation to water quality-related approvals for the proposed project, including Section 401 certification.
HISTORIC PROPERTIES: Based on the available information (including applicant's report entitled Cultural Resources Inventory Report for the Port of Stockton Dockside Maintenance Dredging Project [East and West Complexes], no cultural resources were identified within the project's area of potential effect. 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 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.
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-2008-00171 must be submitted to the office listed below on or before August 23, September 23, 2013.
Mary Pakenham-Walsh, Senior Project Manager
U.S. 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 Mary Pakenham-Walsh, 916-557-7718, Mary.R.Pakenham-Walsh@usace.army.mil.
Attachments: 4 drawings