SUBJECT: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Sacramento District, (Corps) is evaluating a permit application to construct the James Irrigation District Water Augmentation Project, which would result in impacts to approximately 67.5-acres of waters of the United States, including wetlands, in Fresno Slough (James) Bypass, a flood channel for Kings River drainage. 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: John Mallyon
James Irrigation District
P.O. Box 757
San Joaquin, California 93660
LOCATION: The 377-acre site is located in Fresno Slough (James) Bypass, Section 27, Township 15 South, Range 17 East, Mount Diablo Meridian, Latitude 36.5962416°, Longitude -120.106522°, near San Joaquin, Fresno County, California, and can be seen on the CA-HELM USGS Topographic Quadrangle.
PROJECT DESCRIPTION: The applicant is proposing to construct a phased water banking expansion project within the Fresno Slough (James) Bypass. Following early coordination, Bureau of Reclamation was designated the lead Federal Agency July 20, 2011. Based on the available information, the overall project purpose is to provide regulation, recharge, banking, storage and recovery of water for irrigation of crops at farms serviced by the James Irrigation District. The applicant proposes to create 154.7-acres of above-ground recharge cells within Fresno Slough (James) Bypass by excavating (15.2-acres) from existing below-ground recharge basins; using the excavated soil to construct (8.2-acres) of basin and channel improvements and construct (38.4-acres) of recharge cell berms. Additional impacts are proposed due to construction of a water control structure (0.06-acre) and temporary impacts (5.1-acres). The applicant believes there is a need to lessen the James Irrigation District reliance on Central Valley project water from the San Joaquin-Sacramento Delta, to provide capacity for peak irrigation demands, to provide for efficient re-regulation of flows and to allow for groundwater recharge/banking in a critically overdrafted groundwater basin. The attached drawings provide additional project details.
Environmental Setting. There are approximately 377-acres of waters of the United States, including wetlands within the project area; a portion of the 1,200-foot wide flood channel for Kings River drainage. The flood channel is characterized by dry non-native annual grassland habitat that receives occasional flood waters. The site includes 0.36-acres of vernal pools, two channels that convey all but the greatest flood flows and three existing groundwater recharge basins.
Alternatives. The applicant has not 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 mitigate for the 62.4-acres of permanent impacts by constructing, maintaining and operating 154.7-acres of above-ground recharge cells. The applicant has proposed to avoid 0.36-acres of vernal pools. The applicant has proposed to compensate for the loss of 154.7-acres of suitable San Joaquin Kit Fox Habitat by establishing a preserve with a conservation easement over a 154.7-acre area of a separate portion of the James Bypass in perpetuity.
OTHER GOVERNMENTAL AUTHORIZATIONS: Water quality certification or a waiver, as required under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act from the California State Water Resources Control Board is required for this project. The applicant has indicated they have applied for certification.
HISTORIC PROPERTIES: Based on the available information (including applicant's August 2008 report entitled A Cultural Resources Assessment of the Fresno Slough (James) Bypass Water Regulation and Recharge Project, James Irrigation District, Western Fresno County, California, no cultural resources were identified within the project's area of potential effect. The Bureau of Reclamation as lead federal agency will initiate consultation with the State Historic Preservation Officer under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.
ENDANGERED SPECIES: The proposed activity may affect Federally-listed endangered or threatened species or their critical habitat. The Bureau of Reclamation as lead federal agency has initiated consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act.
ESSENTIAL FISH HABITAT: The proposed project would not adversely affect Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) as defined in the 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-2009-01080 must be submitted to the office listed below on or before April 11, 2014.
Ramon Aberasturi, Project Manager
US Army Corps of Engineers, Sacramento District
1325 J Street, Room 1480
Sacramento, California 95814
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: John Mallyon, 559-693-4356, firstname.lastname@example.org, their consultant: Eric Abrahamsen, 559-326-1100, email@example.com, or the Corps' project manager: Ramon Aberasturi, 916-557-6865, Ramon.Aberasturi@usace.army.mil.
Exhibit 1: Vicinity Map
Exhibit 3: Plan View (1of3)
Exhibit 3: Plan View (2of3)
Exhibit 3: Plan View (3of3)
Exhibit 8: Proposed Facilities