Comment Period: June 4, 2015 – July 18, 2015
SUBJECT: Notice of application for a Department of the Army permit under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act, NOA of DSEIS and Notice of Public Meeting for the Delta Wetlands Project, Contra Costa and San Joaquin Counties, California. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Sacramento District, (Corps) is evaluating a permit application to develop two reservoir islands (Bacon Island and Webb Tract) which would result in impacts to 2156 acres of waters of the United States, including wetlands, to implement the proposed project. This notice is to inform interested parties of the availability of the SDEIS and the location, date and time of the public meeting; and to solicit comments on the proposed activities.
DRAFT ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT: The Corps has prepared a Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS) pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to analyze the direct, indirect and cumulative effects associated with the implementation of four (4) land-use alternative scenarios a water storage project. The Corps, as the NEPA lead agency, has determined that an SDEIS should be prepared for the proposed action because the previously-issued permit to discharge dredged or fill material into waters of the U.S. has expired. Pursuant to NEPA, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) published a notice in the Federal Register on May 29, 2015 (80 FR 30676), informing the public of the availability of the DSEIS.
AVAILABILITY OF THE SDEIS: The DSEIS is available for review in the following formats:
o Corps’ website at: http://www.spk.usace.army.mil/Missions/Regulatory/Permitting/EnvironmentalImpactStatements.aspx
o Compact Disks are available per request from the Corps by contacting Marc A. Fugler, by phone at 916-557-5255, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org; or by mail at 1325 J Street, Room 1350, Sacramento, California 95864
• Hard Copies are available upon request at the address above.
COMMENT PERIOD: The SDEIS is available for public comment for 45 days. The comment period will end on July 17, 2015.
PUBLIC MEETING: A public meeting for the SDEIS and proposed project will be held on June 22, 2015, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Tsakopoulos Galleria Library located at 828 I Street, Sacramento, California. (Originally scheduled for June 10, 2015.)
PERMIT APPLICATION: In addition to soliciting comments on the DSEIS, the Corps is also soliciting comments on a pending permit application for the proposed Delta Wetlands project. Under its regulatory program, the Corps will complete a decision for a Department of the Army permit for the discharge of dredged and/or fill material for the proposed project following the completion of the Final SEIS and Record of Decision.
AUTHORITY: This application is being evaluated under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (CWA) for discharges of dredge or fill material into waters of the U.S. and Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act (RHA) for activities within navigable waters.
APPLICANT: Delta Wetlands Properties, 1330 Arnold Drive, Suite 142, Martinez, CA 94553
AGENT: Renewable Resources Group, Inc. , Attn: Mr. Jim James, 3065 Samarkand Drive, Santa Barbara, CA 93105
LOCATION: Bacon Island and Bouldin Island are located in San Joaquin County; Holland Tract and Webb Tract are located in Contra Costa County. Places of use of water supply consist of: (1) Semitrophic Water Storage District in Kern County, (2) Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (which also includes Western Municipal Water District of Riverside County) in parts of Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Ventura counties, and (3) Golden State Water Company in portions of Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura counties.
PROJECT DESCRIPTION: The applicant is proposing to place dredged or fill material into approximately 2,156 acres of waters of the U.S. on Bacon Island and Webb Tract, including 1506.9 acres of farmed wetlands, 275.9 acres of freshwater marsh, 221.9 acres of forested wetland, 0.9 acre of tidal marsh, 60.8 acres of canals and ditches, 83.3 acres of ponds and 6.3 acres of tidal channel for the construction of the proposed project. An additional 705 acres of waters on the habitat islands may be converted to other wetland types as part of the applicant’s mitigation proposal. The proposed action is generally the same as described in the 2001 EIS and Department of the Army permit for the project issued in 2002. Since 2002, the applicant has entered into a partnership with Semitropic Water Storage District (Semitropic) to develop the project, to integrate the project into the operation of the Semitropic Groundwater Storage Bank and the Antelope Valley Water Bank, and to provide project water for agricultural uses within Semitropic’s service area.
The project would involve diverting and storing water on the two reservoir islands (Bacon Island and Webb Tract) for later discharge for export or to meet outflow or environmental requirements for the San Francisco Bay/Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Estuary. In addition, the applicant also proposes diverting water seasonally to create and enhance wetlands and to manage wildlife habitat on two habitat islands (Bouldin Island and all but the southwestern portion of Holland Tract). To operate the project, the project applicant would improve and strengthen levees on all four islands and would install additional siphons and water pumps on the perimeters of the reservoir islands.
Activities that would result in the discharge of dredged or fill material into waters of the U.S. on the reservoir islands interiors consist of interior grading and perimeter levee improvements, construction of new intake and discharge facilities, and construction of new boat berthing facilities adjacent to each intake and discharge facility. Activities that would result in the discharge of fill material in the channels adjacent to the reservoir islands consist of the placement of new intake facilities and installation of fish screens, new boat berthing facilities adjacent to each intake and discharge facility, and new pumps and outfalls to discharge water stored in the reservoirs into the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The applicant proposes compensation for wetland and wildlife effects of the water storage operations on the reservoir islands would be provided by implementing a proposed Compensatory Mitigation Plan on the two habitat islands.
Based on the available information, the overall project purpose is to develop reservoir islands to increase the availability of high-quality water in the Delta for export or outflow, by storing water on two reservoir islands (Webb Tract and Bacon Island) and by doing so, to increase the reliability of water supplies. The attached drawings provide additional project details. In addition, a complete project description of the proposed action can be found in Section 2.3 of the SDEIS.
Background: The applicant has applied for a Department of Army permit under Section 404 of the CWA and Section 10 of the RHA to develop the two Reservoir Islands. Applications were first filed with the Corps in 1987. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) issued no-jeopardy Biological Opinions (BOs) for the project in May and June, 2000. The Corps issued a Department of the Army Permit under CWA Section 404 and RHA Section 10 (Permit 190109804) for the project on June 26, 2002. Permit 190109804 required that construction be completed by December 31, 2007. The applicant is applying for a new permit for the project because the previously issued permit has expired.
As part of the application for a new Department of the Army permit to fill waters of the U.S., a revised wetland delineation was prepared and verified by the Corps in 2012. This revised wetland mapping resulted in an increase in the amount of waters that were identified as jurisdictional under the Clean Water Act. However, the currently proposed action (i.e., Alternative 2) involves a similar physical amount of earth to be moved in the same locations as identified in the previous environmental documents and previous Corps permit.
Environmental Setting: The Delta Wetlands project, including two reservoir islands and two habitat islands, encompasses approximately 21,180 acres in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Delta). The total area within the legal Delta boundary is approximately 738,000 acres (approximately 1,503 square miles). The Delta is primarily composed of agricultural lands (approximately 538,000 acres) and tidal water channels (approximately 61,000 acres). The four project islands cover about 4 percent of the Delta agricultural land. Land uses on the project islands and in the vicinity are mainly agricultural, but also includes rural residential, recreational, open space. There are a combined total of 56 miles of levees which surround the perimeters of the project islands.
Both aquatic and upland habitats in the Delta have been heavily modified by these and other activities over the past 150 years. Farming of islands in the Delta has resulted in subsidence or topsoil loss, because peat is no longer generated through the decomposition of vegetation and wind scours the exposed soils. All of the islands within the project area exhibit varying levels of subsidence, with most areas exhibiting elevations that are substantially below sea level.
Project islands contain a mix of habitats, with dominant plant communities comprised of cropland and fallow fields. The main crops grown on Bacon Island, Webb Tract and Bouldin Island are corn and alfalfa. Minor crops include grain and seed crops such as wheat, rice, oats, and sunflowers although row crops such as tomato are also grown to a lesser extent. Holland Tract was previously grazed by cattle. The majority of wetlands on the project islands are farmed wetlands which are either fallow agricultural fields that contain dense stands of exotic herbaceous weeds (as in the case for many areas on Holland Tract) or are actively cultivated fields that exhibit standing water during the late winter and early spring months, after the majority of the water has been pumped off of the islands (i.e., after the “draw-down” of flooded fields). Farmed wetlands on the project islands are found near the edges of agricultural fields along smaller lateral drainage canals. Other habitats within the project islands consist of perennial grassland, urban/disturbed area, freshwater marsh, forested wetland, tidal marsh, canals and drainage ditches, ponds, and delta river channels. Each of the project islands has a network of agricultural irrigation canals which range from small lateral ditches (many lined with dense vegetation) to larger main canals which convey water year-round and are consistently maintained.
The project islands contain approximately 3,839 acres if waters of the U.S., consisting of 2,617 acres of farmed wetlands, 587 acres of freshwater marsh, 343 acres of forested wetland, 1 acre of tidal marsh, 125 acres of canals and drainage ditches, 160 acres of ponds, and 6 acres of tidal channels.
Alternatives: The applicant has provided information concerning project alternatives, which can be found in the SDEIS. The SDEIS evaluates the impacts of the following alternatives: No Action, Proposed Action, Proposed Action with different operating criteria and a alternative with four islands.
No-Action Alternative – The No Action Alternative has not changed since publication of the 2001 FEIS. Actions would be limited to those that could be implemented without a permit issued by USACE or State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB). The project applicant would implement intensive agricultural operations on the four project islands or sell the property to another entity that would likely implement intensive agriculture. Under the No-Action Alternative, a more intensive for-fee hunting program would be operated on the project islands. No new recreation facilities would be constructed on any of the project islands. Under the No-Action Alternative, consumptive use would increase, reflecting more extensive agricultural use of the islands, but not measurably so at the scale of monthly water supply modeling. The currently existing siphon facilities on the islands, which are unscreened, would not be modified under the No-Action Alternative.
Alternatives 1 and 2 – Alternatives 1 and Alternative 2 both entail development of reservoir islands (Bacon Island and Webb Tract) and habitat islands (Bouldin Island and Holland Tract). Alternatives 1 and 2 would result in the loss or conversion of approximately 2,861.4 acres of wetlands and other waters of the U.S. This total includes 705 acres of waters that may be converted to other wetland types on the habitat islands as part of the applicant’s mitigation proposal. Under these alternatives 3,920.2 acres of wetlands and other waters of the U.S. would be restored and protected in perpetuity for a net increase of approximately 1,134.21 acres.
Under Alternatives 1 and 2, Bacon Island and Webb Tract would be managed as reservoir islands for water diversion, storage, and discharge. The project life-cycle for this use is planned for 50 years. Facilities needed for project operations consist of intake siphon stations with fish screens and auxiliary pumps to divert water onto the Reservoir Islands, pump stations to discharge stored water from the islands, and improvements to the existing levees.
Under Alternatives 1 and 2, Bouldin Island and Holland Tract would be dedicated to and managed for wetlands and other wildlife habitat and vegetation. Wetland management on the habitat islands would require grading, planting, and seasonally diverting water. Improvements would be made to existing siphon and pump facilities and to perimeter levees, including buttressing levees, to provide for levee stability and flood control. No new siphon or pump stations would be constructed on the habitat islands. Some of the existing siphon facilities on the project islands would be removed. Fish screens would be installed on remaining siphons and on all proposed new siphons.
Alternative 1 differs from Alternative 2 only with regard to the operating criteria for export of stored water. Under Alternative 1, discharges of water from the reservoir islands would be exported in any month when unused capacity within the permitted pumping rate exists at the State Water Project (SWP) and Central Valley Project (CVP) pumps and when strict interpretation of the export limits (i.e., percentage of total Delta inflow, or “percent inflow”) specified in the 1995 Water Quality Control Plan for the San Francisco Bay/Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Estuary (1995 WQCP) does not prevent use of that capacity. Such unused capacity could exist when the amount of available water (i.e., total inflow less Delta outflow requirements) is less than the amount specified by the export limits. Under Alternative 2, the export of project discharges would be limited by the 1995 WQCP Delta outflow requirements and the permitted combined pumping rate of the export pumps, but would not be subject to strict interpretation of the 1995 WQCP “percent of inflow” export limit.
Alternative 3 – Under Alternative 3, all four of the project islands would be used as reservoirs with limited compensatory habitat provided on 875 acres of Bouldin Island. Facilities needed for project operations consist of intake siphon stations with fish screens and auxiliary pumps to divert water onto the island, pump stations to discharge stored water from the islands, improvements to the existing levees, and construction of a new dam. Alternative 3 would result in the loss or conversion of approximately 3,712 acres of wetlands and other waters of the U.S. Alternative 3 would include establishment and management of habitat for wildlife including approximately 50 acres of perennial ponds, 330 acres of seasonal managed wetland habitat, 170 acres of corn and wheat, 200 acres of riparian woodland, and 125 acres of herbaceous upland. Additional off-site mitigation would be required to compensate for wetland losses.
Mitigation: The applicant has provided a detailed Draft Compensatory Mitigation Plan or CMP.
Project impacts to wetlands and other waters of the U.S. would be mitigated through the creation and revegetation of wetlands and waters of the U.S. on the proposed habitat islands. In-kind mitigation is proposed for most wetland habitat types, with some out-of-kind mitigation proposed for impacts to the “farmed wetland” habitat type. The CMP proposes no net loss of wetlands and other waters of the U.S. Although the post-project acreage of farmed wetlands would be lower than existing conditions (net loss of 656.9 acres of farmed wetlands), total acreage of created and enhanced wetlands and waters of the U.S. would be greater than existing conditions on the combined project islands. In summary, there would be a total net increase of approximately 1,038.2 acres of wetlands as a result of the project. Net increase of other wetland types includes 747.1 acres of freshwater marsh, 279.0 acres of cottonwood-willow riparian, 136.9 acres of Great Valley willow scrub, and 532.9 acres of seasonal wetlands. Mitigation lands would be managed in perpetuity to maintain wetlands, open water, and wildlife habitat.
Loss of farmed wetlands would be compensated by the overall gain in wetland acreage of other habitat types, including the creation and preservation of wetland types with relatively higher functions and services, such as freshwater marsh, seasonal wetland, cottonwood-willow, and Great Valley willow scrub. Permanent impacts to tidal marsh and Delta channel habitat (approximately 1 acre) would occur outside of the levees on the reservoir islands as a result of construction of the intake facilities and associated structures. Mitigation of tidal marsh and Delta channel habitat is proposed in conjunction with fish mitigation by permanently preserving 40 acres of shallow-water vegetated habitat at the Chipps Island site owned by the project applicant.
OTHER GOVERNMENTAL AUTHORIZATIONS: Water quality certification as required under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act from the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board is required for this project.
HISTORIC PROPERTIES: Based on the available information, the Corps will reinitiate consultation with the State Historic Preservation Officer under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.
ENDANGERED SPECIES: The project would primarily be implemented in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The project may affect the following Federally listed endangered or threatened species or critical habitat for these species: Central Valley spring-run and Sacramento River winter-run Chinook (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), Central Valley steelhead (O. mykiss), delta smelt (Hypomesus transpacificus), green sturgeon (Acipenser medirostris), Valley elderberry longhorn beetle (Desmocerus californicus dimorphus), and the Giant garter snake (Thamnophis gigas). The Corps has requested reinitiation of consultation with the USFWS and NMFS pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act.
ESSENTIAL FISH HABITAT: The proposed project may 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 the 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-1901-09804 must be submitted to the office listed below on or before July 18, 2015.
Marc Fugler, Project Manager
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Sacramento District
1325 J Street, Room 1350
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. 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 Marc Fugler, 916- 557-5255, Marc.A.Fugler@usace.army.mil.
Attachments: 6 drawings