Comments Period: March 13, 2015 – April 13, 2015
SUBJECT: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Sacramento District, (Corps) is evaluating a permit application to construct the Vernal Regional Airport Relocation project, which would result in permanent impacts to approximately 1.67 acres of wetlands and 3,372 linear feet of jurisdictional channels. 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: Vernal Regional Airport, 825 South 500 East, Vernal, Utah 84078
LOCATION: The 360-acre site is located in Sections 25 and 36, Township 4 South, Range 21 East, Salt Lake Meridian, Latitude 40.4444°, Longitude -109.51377°, Vernal, Uintah County, Utah, and can be seen on the UT-VERNAL NE USGS Topographic Quadrangle.
PROJECT DESCRIPTION: The applicant is proposing to relocate and reconstruct the main airport runway in order to meet all applicable Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) design standards and recommendations. With increased use of the airport by medium sized business jets and commercial service aircraft, the applicant believes there is a need to maximize the length of the main runway from 6,200 feet to 7,000 feet. With the increased level of commercial service utilizing the airport, it is important to minimize closure of the existing runway to maintain normal operations. According to the applicant, this need to maintain operations necessitates the relocation of the main runway to the west in order to leave the existing main runway open. The wetlands and other waters of the U.S. within the airport property would be filled and their flows would be directed through culverts to the east. All culverts would be 36” and 54” reinforced concrete pipes and would have cast-in-place concrete inlet headwalls and outlet aprons. Wetlands and waters of the U.S. not within the grading limits of the relocated runway and taxiway are proposed to be removed from the airport to decrease wildlife habitat in an effort to minimize aircraft-wildlife strikes, which pose a risk to safe aviation on airports. The first portion of the runway relocation project to include wetlands disturbance is scheduled to begin in July of 2015, with final completion of the runway relocation project scheduled for 2016. Based on the available information, the overall project purpose is to expand the existing airport runway. The applicant believes there is a need to extend the runway to meet applicable FAA design standards and recommendations. The attached drawings provide additional project details.
Environmental Setting. There are approximately 1.67 acres of palustrine emergent wetlands and 3,372 linear feet of jurisdictional channels within the project area. The site is characterized by being relatively flat with a mix of grasses with several isolated stands of trees around the perimeter. The project area has undergone disturbance from agricultural and airport maintenance activities. Wetlands within the project area are characterized as having tall emergent vegetation such as common reed (Phragmites australis), reed canarygrass (Phalaris arundinaceae), great bulrush (Scirpus validus), as well as some areas with wet meadow wetlands dominated by arctic rush (Juncus balticus) and saltgrass (Distichilis spicata). Multiple channels flow from the western border of the property and pass through culverts under the existing runway and taxi way then emerge on the eastern border of the property. These channels convey irrigation and stormflows from offsite.
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 construct off-site mitigation at an 80-acre site along the Green River southeast of Jensen, Utah. The proposed mitigation would use water from three known springs to create a channel and pond that would improve water quality and provided habitat for wildlife.
OTHER GOVERNMENTAL AUTHORIZATIONS: Water quality certification or a waiver, as required under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act from the Utah Department of Water Quality is required for this project. The applicant has not indicated they have applied for certification. Any comments specific to Section 401 water quality certification should be sent to Mr. Bill Damery, Utah Division of Water Quality, 15 North 1950 West, PO Box 144870, Salt Lake City, UT 84114-4870, or email email@example.com, on or before April 13, 2015.
HISTORIC PROPERTIES: Based on the available information (including applicant's report titled Review of Cultural Resources Sections for Vernal Regional Airport EA, June 2012), potentially eligible cultural resources may be affected by the proposed project. 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 project would not affect any Federally-listed threatened or endangered species or their critical habitat that are protected by the Endangered Species Act. The Corps will initiate consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and/or the National Marine Fisheries Service, pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act, as appropriate.
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 Corps will initiate consultation with the National Marine Fisheries Service, pursuant to Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management 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-2011-00409 must be submitted to the office listed below on or before April 13, 2015.
John Urbanic, Project Manager
US Army Corps of Engineers
533 West 2600 South, Suite 150
Bountiful, Utah 84010
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 John Urbanic, 801-295-8380, John.E.Urbanic@usace.army.mil.
Attachments: 3 drawings