SUBJECT: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Sacramento District, (Corps) is evaluating the re-authorization of a permit application to construct the US Highway 160 Improvements from Durango to Bayfield project, which will result in impacts to approximately 15.32 acres of wetland, 3,761 linear feet of other waters of the U.S., and 4.76 acres of Colorado Department of Transportation’s (CDOT) determination of non-jurisdictional wetlands. 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: Tony Cady, Colorado Department of Transportation, Region 5 Planning/Environmental Manager, 3803 Main Ave, Suite 300, Durango, Colorado 81301
LOCATION: The project site is located in La Plata County, Colorado on US Highway 160 (US 160) and US Highway 550 (US 550) (see Figure 1). The project length on US 160 is 16.2 miles extending from milepost (MP) 88.0, located east of Durango, to MP 104.2, located east of Bayfield. The project length on US 550 is 1.2 miles, extending from MP 16.6, located at the US 160/US 550 (south) intersection, to MP 15.4, located south of the US 550/County Road (CR) 220 intersection.
The project site can be found on Loma Linda, Gem Village, and Bayfield Colorado 7.5 minute US Geological Survey quadrangles and is located in Sections 1, 2, 5U, 9, 10, 11 and 12 of Township 34 North, Range 9 West; Sections 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 of Township 34 North, Range 8 West; Sections 1, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 15, 16 and 17 of Township 34 North, Range 7 West; and Section 6 of Township 34 North, Range 6 West.
PROJECT DESCRIPTION: The proposed project extends the existing four-lane highway of US 160 from Grandview east to Bayfield where it transitions to a two-lane highway. On November 27, 2006, the Corps issued permit number SPK-2002-75568 authorizing this project. The permit expired on November 15, 2011. Therefore, CDOT is reapplying for a permit to complete this activity.
Four roadway segments were completed under Department of the Army Permit 200275568 prior to its expiration. These segments include Grandview 4th Lane, Grandview Ramp B, County Road 222/223 Intersection, and Grandview Phase 3. Future work to be completed includes reconstruction of the US 160/US 550 (south) connection in Grandview. An alternatives analysis for the US 550/US 160 south connection is being developed for inclusion within the US 550 South Connection to US 160 Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS). The Record of Decision on the SEIS may warrant a modification to the 404 IP if the proposed project is not the Preferred Alternative under the SEIS. Additional improvements to the corridor include construction of two or possibly three interchanges in Grandview, widening US 160 to four lanes, access consolidation and control, installation of large mammal crossings and barrier fencing, and intersection improvements to accommodate capacity and turning movements. The project will be constructed over an indefinite period of time as funding allows.
Final designs for these improvements are not yet complete and specifics for activities are not yet known; however, the general nature of activities for all roadway sections will include excavation and fills, construction of retaining walls, bridges, pavement, curbs and gutters. There is a combination of storm sewer and drainage structures (either pipes or box structures) installed where necessary. Details will be supplied to the Corps office for approval with each individual project plan as final design is complete.
Based on the available information, the overall project purpose is to improve the conditions of the traveling public along US 160 in the project corridor. Specifically, the purpose of the project is to increase travel efficiency/capacity to meet current and future needs, improve safety for the traveling public by reducing the number and severity of accidents, and control access. The need for this project is based on the projected travel demands on highway capacity and efficiency, and the existing substandard design that contributes to accidents associated with roadway deficiencies.
US 160 is a national highway system route and is the only principal east west highway traversing the entire state of Colorado that serves the Four Corners Region. This vital link to the transportation system provides for the transport of people, goods, and services through the state and serves as a local and regional highway for the City of Durango and Town of Bayfield. The growth in population and associated commercial and office related facilities are the major reasons for expected traffic volume increases along the US 160 project corridor and need for highway improvements. Tourism traffic is anticipated to remain high during the summer months and will likely increase as the number of resort and recreational facilities increases in the region.
According to CDOT, US 160 has a higher than average number and severity of accidents in the state. Contributing to this rating is uncontrolled access; lack of shoulders, turning lanes, and wildlife crossings; and steep grades with insufficient lanes for passing. These problems are compounded by the increasingly high traffic demands that are being placed on this section of highway. CDOT believes design improvements are needed for US 160 to reduce both the accident rates and the severity of the accidents, as well as to mitigate wildlife collisions through the use of wildlife crossings. The attached drawings provide additional project details.
Environmental Setting. There are approximately 20.08 acres of wetlands or other waters of the US that will be impacted within the project area. The wetlands were delineated in 1999 and 2000. Due to the size of the project area and the long-term nature of the propose project, wetland boundaries and jurisdictional status were not formally verified by the Corps. The applicant feels that approximately 4.76 acres of wetlands are not jurisdictional and therefore not regulated by the Corps. The Corps will complete a determination during the planning and design phase of the specific construction project.
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. The applicant has proposed to compensate impacts to aquatic resources through a combination of purchasing mitigation credits from a mitigation bank that services the impact area and providing permittee responsible mitigation in the form of on-site or off-site restoration, creation/establishment, enhancement or preservation of wetlands.
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, is required for this project. The applicant has indicated they have applied for certification.
HISTORIC PROPERTIES: Potentially eligible cultural resources may be affected by the proposed project. CDOT has completed consultation with the State Historic Preservation Office. The Corps will initiate consultation with the State Historic Preservation Officer under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act if additional consultation is required.
ENDANGERED SPECIES: The proposed activity may affect federally-listed endangered or threatened species or their critical habitat. CDOT or 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-2002-75568-DC must be submitted to the office listed below on or before October 15, 2013. November 1, 2013
Kara Hellige, Project Manager
US Army Corps of Engineers, Sacramento District
1970 E. 3rd Ave, #109
Durango, Colorado 81301
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 Kara Hellige, 970-259-1604, Kara.A.Hellige@usace.army.mil.
Attachments: 11 drawings