Comments Period: January 30, 2015 – March 2, 2015
SUBJECT: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Sacramento District, (Corps) is evaluating a permit application to construct the Liberty Ranch project, which would result in impacts to approximately 7.5601-acres of waters of the United States, including wetlands adjacent to Deadman Gulch. This notice is to inform interested parties of the proposed activity and to solicit comments. This
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: Liberty Ranch, LLC, Attn: Mr. Sam Veltri, c/o Argent Management, LLC, 2392 Morse Avenue, Irvine, California 92614
LOCATION: The approximately 351.5-acre site is located near Deadman Gulch, Section 13, Township 5 North, Range 6 East, Mount Diablo Meridian, Latitude 38.284304°, Longitude -121.273410°, Galt, Sacramento County, California, and can be seen on the CA-GALT USGS Topographic Quadrangle.
PROJECT DESCRIPTION: The applicant proposes to construct approximately 1,435 dwelling units with a mix of Low Density and High Density Residential uses, Parks, Schools, and Open spaces on approximately 351.5-acres. To accommodate development, essentially 100% of the property, including the Deadman Gulch Drainage Corridor, is proposed to be re-graded to provide 100-year flood protection, water quality and detention basins, and to provide positive drainage.
The proposed design for Deadman Gulch includes a widened channel corridor with a shallow meandering low flow channel. The low flow channel would be designed to contain less than the projects average annual flows so the normal high water would be expected to extend to the toe of slope on either side of a series of small shallow depressions in the bottom of the channel which would increase plant community diversity and edge habitat. Post construction, the channel would be approximately 9.8-acres in area as measured to the ordinary high water mark. Off-channel water quality basins would treat storm water runoff prior to discharge into the channel. An 8-foot wide bicycle/pedestrian trail would be located south of the channel.
The applicant proposes to place the reconstructed Deadman Gulch corridor, along with an average 50-foot wide upland buffer separating it from adjacent development, into a preserve, with a conservation easement to be granted for the preservation and management of the area in perpetuity. The boundaries of the preserve would be fenced with post-and-cable or other open fencing. The upland buffer would be re-vegetated with native trees and shrubs along with native and naturalized grasses and herbs. The water quality basins and trail would be located outside of the preserve boundaries. The attached drawings provide additional project details. The applicant believes there is a need to provide additional residential housing in Galt, California.
Environmental Setting. The project site is located east of downtown Galt, California on relatively flat terrain with a median elevation of approximately 57-feet (NAVD88). Marengo Road and Cherokee Lane parallel the west and east borders of the site, respectively, while Twin Cities Road and Liberty Ranch High School abut the northern boundary. An active portion of the Southern Pacific Railroad runs near the southern edge of the site. The majority of the site is composed of leveled flood-irrigated agricultural fields. Deadman Gulch, with two in-stream ponds and several channelized irrigation/drainage ditches traverse the site. A farmstead with two small residences, a garage, and several barns and sheds is located on the east side of the property near Cherokee Lane.
The majority of the project site contains irrigated agricultural lands which were planted in clover and rye in 2014. Approximately 22-acres of the site contains highly disturbed non-native annual grasslands which support numerous weedy species including medusahead (Elymus cap-medusae), wild oats (Avena fatua), soft brome (Bromus hordeaceus), yellow star-thistle (Centaurea solstitialis), stork’s bill (Erodium botrys), and prickly lettuce (Lactuca serriola).
A delineation of waters of the United States was prepared for the Project site in January 2014 and subsequently verified by the Corps on July 14, 2014. A total of 7.5601 acres of waters of the U.S. was mapped on the site, including 5.5991-acres of wetland channels and 1.9610-acres of irrigation ponds.
Based on a review of 1937 aerial photography, it appears that all 5.5991-acres of the wetland channels are manipulated natural drainages that have been straightened and aligned for use as irrigation/drainage features for several decades. The two irrigation ponds (1.9610-acres) appear to represent captured and modified reaches of the original Deadman Gulch. The two ponds and deeper channels support cattails (Typha sp.), smartweed (Persicaria sp.), and bulrush (Schoenoplectus acutus). Plants observed growing in and around shallow reaches include tall flatsedge (Cyperus eragrostis), yellow bristle grass (Setaria pumila), Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon), dallis grass (Paspalum dilatatum), and curly dock (Rumex crispus).
Alternatives. The applicant has indicated they will provide information concerning project alternatives. Additional information concerning project alternatives may be available from the applicant. Other alternatives may develop during the review process for this permit application. The Corps will consider all reasonable project alternatives, in particular those which may be less damaging to the aquatic environment.
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 impacts, the Corps may require compensatory mitigation. The applicant has proposed to compensate for direct impacts to potential waters of the U.S. through the re-establishment of the widened Deadman Gulch channel and associated in-channel ponds.
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 would be required for this project. The applicant has indicated they have applied for certification. The applicant has indicated they have applied for a Tentative Subdivision Map Approval from the City of Galt and a Streambed Alteration Agreement from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
HISTORIC PROPERTIES: Based on available information, 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 the Federally listed giant garter snake (Thamnophis gigas). The Corps will initiate consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act, as appropriate. No critical habitat would be affected by the proposed activity.
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-2014-00131 must be submitted to the office listed below on or before March 2, 2015.
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 or the Corps' project manager Ramon Aberasturi, 916-557-6865, Ramon.Aberasturi@usace.army.mil.
Attachments: Four (4) drawings