Comments Period: February 18, 2015 – March 20, 2015
SUBJECT: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Sacramento District, (Corps) is evaluating a permit application to continue operations of the SAKO Excavation, LLC project, which would result in impacts to approximately 9 acres of waters of the United States in and adjacent to the Uncompahgre River. 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: SAKO Excavation, LLC, Attn: Mr. Travis Sackman, P.O. Box 1103, Ouray, Colorado 81427-1103
LOCATION: The approximately 9-acre site is located in the Uncompahgre River, Section 2, Township 44 North, Range 8 West, New Mexico Principal Meridian, Latitude 38.092139°, Longitude -107.715611°, Ouray, Ouray County, Colorado, and can be seen on the CO-OURAY USGS Topographic Quadrangle.
PROJECT DESCRIPTION: The applicant is proposing to continue operations at an existing gravel pit. A Corps of Engineers permit was issued in 1992 to begin operations by diverting the river to one side of the active floodplain, mining the abandoned area, then diverting the river back to its original location to replenish materials from the bedload during spring runoff. Operations would alternate from each side of the river annually as needed. The permit was later modified to limit mining to the west side of the floodplain landward of a historic flood protection berm. The berm currently is breached as needed annually during spring runoff to fill the previously excavated area. Based on the available information, the overall project purpose is to produce gravel in the Ouray region. The applicant believes there is a need for a commercially viable operation to provide gravel for projects in the immediate area. The attached drawings provide additional project details.
Environmental Setting. The proposed project site is located on the Uncompahgre River, east of County Road 23 and just north of Idlewild Subdivision. This approximately 9-acre site has been mined since 1992 (reference Corps permits 199200135 and 199975153). The permit area is an aggrading reach of the Uncompahgre River where the river transitions from the steep upland topography to a relatively flat floodplain valley. The grade of the river channel immediately upstream of Ouray is approximately 6.4%, but at this site is only 1%. The USGS stream gage located downstream at Ridgway indicates an average annual bankfull discharge of approximately 900 cubic feet per second (cfs). The high flow of record, based on 40 years of gage data, occurred on June 24, 1983, measuring 2,100 cfs.
The active floodplain is wide, sparsely vegetated, and contains several high water channels. The location and configuration of the interconnecting channels are often altered by the seasonal deposition of excess bedload comprised of sand, gravel, and cobbles. Such materials have low cohesion and are easily eroded. Thus, the lateral stability of the channel is quite low within the boundaries of the active floodplain. In its natural state, this reach of the Uncompahgre River is braided and highly unstable.
Prior to ZMK mining at this site, the natural channel had been heavily modified. In the 1950s, flood protection dikes were constructed by Ouray County by pushing alluvial material from the channel to form dikes along the sides of the channel banks. The dikes constrict flood flows to the channel and deny the river access to some of the floodplain areas. This includes the protection of County Road 23 (to the west) and adjoining properties. The surrounding land use consists of agricultural grazing and livestock forage production and rural residential development.
This site is located within a heavily accreted riparian corridor that is void of vegetation due to past mining activities. The vegetative overstory of the areas adjacent to the project site is comprised of ponderosa pine and narrowleaf cottonwood on the west and east banks, respectively. There is a sparse understory of willow existing along the east bank with the herbaceous layer largely missing due to past flood events and the lack of finer material to support herbaceous seed germination. The site is affected by product extraction. The previous Department of the Army permits limited the depth of the excavation area to 10 feet, which occured outside the active channel. According to the applicant, the mining method utilized at this site, and described above, allows the pit area to recharge with course sediment and ensures a renewable resource while minimizing impacts to the main channel. The Ouray County Special Use permit limits the volume of mining to 45,000 cubic yards per year (approximately 67,500 tons) within the limits of the Colorado Division of Minerals and Geology's minimum impact permit which allows a maximum of 70,000 tons per year. Three groundwater monitoring wells are located on the property and are evaluated each month to assure that the groundwater is greater than 2 feet below mining activities. In addition, two domestic wells (one on the Webb property to the south and one next to the ZMK maintenance building) are also monitored monthly to determine the depth to groundwater at those locations.
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.
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 are applying for certification.
HISTORIC PROPERTIES: Based on the available information, no cultural resources were identified within the project's area of potential effect.
ENDANGERED SPECIES: The project would not affect any Federally-listed threatened or endangered species or their critical habitat that are protected by 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-2005-75121 must be submitted to the office listed below on or before March 20, 2015.
Hildreth Cooper, Project Manager
US Army Corps of Engineers, Sacramento District
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 Hildreth Cooper, 970-259-1582, Hildreth.L.Cooper@usace.army.mil.
Attachments: 6 drawings