Comments Period: August 5 – September 7, 2015
SUBJECT: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Sacramento District, (Corps) is evaluating a permit application to construct a medical center in the Town of Mountain Village, which would result in impacts to approximately 0.45 acre of waters of the United States, including wetlands. The nature and extent of the impacts are more specifically described below. The Telluride Medical Center applied for a permit at the same location in February of 2015, and a Public Notice was issued on February 25, 2015, under the same permit number. However, the application was withdrawn due to a change in project purpose and a permit was not issued for the proposed work. Project plans have been modified and 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: Telluride Medical Center, Attn: Mr. Gordon Reichard, 500 West Pacific Avenue, Telluride, Colorado 81435, (970) 728-3848, GReichard@tellmed.org
AGENT: Mr. Mike Claffey, Claffey Ecological Consulting, Inc., 1371 17 Road, Fruita, Colorado 81521, (970) 640-3783, MCLAFFEY@ACSOL.NET
LOCATION: The 1 acre site is located in the Town of Mountain Village (Town), north of The Town Hall Market and south of the Gondola Parking Garage, at Lot 1003r-1, Latitude 37.9329°, Longitude -107.8559°, San Miguel County, Colorado, and can be seen on the CO-TELLURIDE USGS Topographic Quadrangle (see Attachment 1).
PROJECT DESCRIPTION: The applicant is proposing to construct a 40,000-square foot building to serve as a medical center for the Telluride Region, to include an emergency room, waiting rooms, doctor offices, examination rooms, administration offices, a testing laboratory, a small pharmacy, and radiology. The construction of the medical center building and associated structures would result in the fill of 0.44 acre of wetlands and 0.01 acre (144 linear feet) of an unnamed tributary of Prospect Creek, on the project site (see Attachment 2). The construction of the medical facility would involve the placement of approximately 1,200 cubic yards (CY) of clean construction grade fill for stability, then foundation material, and the building structure. Prior to the discharge of fill material, there would be mechanized land clearing in the wetland, including excavation and grading to level the site. There will be fill discharged during the mechanized land clearing as the wetland topsoil would be harvested and removed from the site for the proposed mitigation area. The amount of material discharged during grading would be less than 20 CY of native material, discharged into the 0.44 acre of wetlands (see Attachment 3). The Attachments provide additional project details.
The applicant’s stated overall project purpose for the Telluride Medical Center relocation is to construct an expanded medical center facility that will meet the requirements of a Critical Access Hospital (CAH) Compliant Facility, to serve the Telluride Region. A CAH facility will provide additional medical services to the community, with pedestrian access close to public transportation and opportunity for pedestrian access for visitors and the elderly, a helicopter pad and access for critical care patients, and adequate space for potential expansion in the future. The project need is to provide primary medical care and emergency services to residents and visitors within the Telluride Region. The applicant states these needs are currently underserved given the limitations attributable to the existing aging facility, located at 500 W Pacific Avenue in the Town of Telluride, which lacks opportunities for sufficient updates and expansions to meet the current and future healthcare needs of the community. The current space is approximately 10,000 square feet, and was constructed in accordance with 1978 medical building codes. According to Mahlum Architects Incorporated, a 40,000-square foot building is necessary to adequately address the needs of the Telluride community.
Environmental Setting. The project area is located in the Town of Mountain Village at an elevation of 9,200 feet above mean sea level in San Miguel County, Colorado. Mountain Village sits on a hillside above Telluride, Colorado and below the Telluride Ski Resort (Telski) in a mixed spruce-fir and aspen forest in the subalpine ecosystem. The project area is developed with residential and commercial development typical of a base village at a ski resort. Tree cover includes subalpine fir, Englemann spruce, lodgepole pine, and aspen. Man-made grasslands in the form of downhill ski trails and golf course fairways are prevalent, as well as asphalt for roads, driveways and parking lots. The forested cover is interspersed with several willow scrub-shrub wetlands and open water ponds. The area drains into Prospect creek which flows north to the valley floor then to the San Miguel River. The immediate project area is bounded by Town Hall, a grocery store, a parking lot, a gondola landing structure, pedestrian trail and elevated bridge, and a large parking structure. The project area parcel is approximately 1 acre. The parcel is fairly level topography in the center but with a gentle slope down to the north side. On the east side of the parcel, the grade is more pronounced (2-4%) to the east as the terrain slopes down to the Double Cabin Ski Run. On the west side the terrain slopes more to the northwest with some more pronounced topography breaks on the western edge where the channel starts and the upland edges grade up to the existing road.
There is approximately 0.44 acre of wetlands within three areas of the project site and the remaining habitat is an aspen forest with scattered spruce and fir trees. The wetlands are a mixed scrub/shrub slope wetland within an aspen forest. Willow species include mountain willow and Geyer’s willow and understory species include cowparsnip, Canada reed grass, fringed brome, Canada thistle, beaked sedge, and water sedge. There is also 0.01 acre of existing channel on site at the southwest corner of the site. This channel is a tributary to Prospect Creek and was created as part of the mitigation for impacts associated with extending an existing culvert near the Gondola Parking Structure, Lot 1003, in 2005 (Corps permit # SPK-2005-75097). In 2005, approximately 100 feet of this unnamed tributary to Prospect Creek was enhanced to mitigate for the proposed 65-foot culvert extension.
Background. In the summer of 1989, the Corps became aware of unauthorized discharges of dredged and fill material associated with the development of Mountain Village, which impacted approximately 55 acres of waters of the U.S. The enforcement case was referred to the Environmental Protection Agency in 1990 and to the US. Department of Justice in 1991. Settlement negotiations eventually led to a consent decree entered by the U.S. District Court of the District of Colorado, in full settlement of the litigation. The 1996 settlement resulted in site restoration and enhancement, resource protection through conservation easements, mitigation, and monetary penalties. Under the settlement, the defendants (The Telluride Company and Mountain Village Inc.) jointly paid fines under section 309(d) of the Clean Water Act. The settlement also provides for protection of 43 acres of wetlands under conservation easements.
Additionally, restrictions were implemented for all future actions within Mountain Village that involve proposed impacts to waters of the U.S. and issuance of Corps permits. Effective April 1, 1998, Nationwide General Permit (NWP) Nos. 12, 14, 18, 29, and 32 were modified and NWP 26 and Regional General Permit Nos. 4, 42, and 45 were revoked in Mountain Village. As a result of these past cumulative aquatic impacts, the Applicant has applied for an Individual Permit for this project, proposing an additional 0.45 acre aquatic impact.
Alternatives. The applicant has provided information concerning project alternatives, summarized as follows:
No Action Alternatives: The following actions do not require a discharge of fill material in waters of the U.S.:
Alternative 1 (A) - Lawson Hill, Big Dog Holdings (parcel next to the Conoco Station along Hwy 145): The Big Dog Holding property is located in the Lawson Hill area in San Miguel County, Colorado. This parcel covers approximately 3.9 acres. There does not appear to be any direct impacts to waters of US related to this parcel’s development. This alternative is available to Telluride Medical Center, but was rejected due to zoning restrictions and approval complexities (see Attachment 4 and 5). The cost of the land acquisition for this parcel is estimated at $3.29 million, and construction costs are estimated between $17.3 and $22.2 million. The overflow parking is a public use amenity provided by San Miguel County in the Lawson Hill area. If San Miguel County requires the Telluride Medical Center to provide alternative overflow space in the Lawson Hill area, that cost could be substantial for land acquisition or an agreement from a landowner. The increased bus service runs to meet the needs of the public using the medical center would be an additional cost for the Telluride Medical Center. Finally, there is the cost of a new Planned Unit Development approval in the future for any expansion of the medical center. A dollar amount estimate for the land use approvals is not available as the actual approval complexities could vary including fees for engineers, planning consultants, architects, and attorneys.
Alternative 2 (B) - Lawson Hill Lots H and I (on Society Hill Drive on a bluff overlooking the San Miguel River): These sites are also located in the Lawson Hill area on Society Hill Drive. These parcels are approximately 1.96 acres. There is not any wetland impact associated with development of these lots. The lots sit on a bluff above the San Miguel River, and have been cleared of vegetation. San Miguel County zoning is appropriate for the medical center. The site is served by public transportation from Telluride and Mountain Village, but San Miguel County would require Telluride Medical Center to fund the additional routes required for this community facility. Lots H and I are not close to major population centers, but provide a central location for the region. There are no issues with overflow parking and the property is approved for a helipad. This parcel does have a building size limit of 30,000 square feet. The owners of the H and I parcels, Lawson Hill Property Owners Company, are willing to sell for a medical center development. The cost of the acquisition of the parcel (Lots H and I) is $2.5 million, and the cost of construction is between $20.4 and $23.8 million. There would be additional costs associated with development approvals through the town of Telluride for water and sewer and through San Miguel County for a development approval, and then an unknown cost for any future expansion. In addition, without a variance from San Miguel County for reduced number of parking spaces, the costs for this alternative would increase by approximately $3.24 million for an underground parking structure. Beyond the initial cost associated with the facility, Telluride Medical Center would have to bear the ongoing costs of funding the additional buses for public transportation. This annual cost is not known at this time, but Telluride Medical Center states it has no method to fund this cost at this time (see Figures 5, 6, and 7).
Alternative 4 - No Action Alternative: Under the No Action alternative, the proposed medical center would not be constructed. The No Action alternative does not include Telluride Medical Center remodeling or enlarging the building they are currently housed in now. The current building is too old to bring up to code for hospitals, and Telluride Medical Center only subleases the building without a possibility for a guaranteed long-term rental from the owner or potential purchase.
Alternative 3 – Applicant Preferred, Mountain Village, Town Hall Site, between Mountain Village Town Hall and the Parking Structure: The applicant’s preferred alternative is described above, under PROJECT DESCRIPTION. The cost of land acquisition is zero. The Town proposes to donate the land to Telluride Medical Center as the Town sees a major public interest for their citizens to have the medical center in Mountain Village. The costs of construction range between $17.9 and $20.9 million. There would also be a reduced cost for development approvals as the Town has waived development fees.
For additional details on Project Alternatives, contact the applicant’s agent or Corps. See Attachment 6 for more details on Alternatives.
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 these impacts by restoring/establishing 0.73 acre of willow-scrub/shrub slope wetlands to compensate for 0.44 acre of wetlands lost (1.64:1 mitigation to impact ratio). The proposed mitigation would involve the establishment of willow scrub/shrub slope wetlands at two offsite locations owned by the Town of Mountain Village and zoned as Open Space (parcels OSP-18 and OSP-54). The first site, known as mitigation site 1 or the Entrance Site, is located at the intersection of Highway 145 and Mountain Village Boulevard. Mitigation site 1 currently supports existing wetlands, but a larger wetland existed on the site prior to historic alterations to water source, groundwater, and surface flows. Approximately 0.6 acre of slope wetlands would be created adjacent to and adjoining the existing wetlands and improvements to the overall site hydrology would be incorporated into the restoration plan to improve conditions and functions of the entire system. Mitigation site 2, or the Benchmark Site, is located off Benchmark Drive in south Mountain Village. Mitigation site 2 also currently supports slope scrub/shrub wetlands but has potential for approximately 0.13 acre of wetland creation and/or expansion. See Attachment 8 for more details on the proposed compensatory mitigation.
Claffey Ecological Consulting, Inc., has conducted a wetland assessment at the impact site and assessment of existing conditions and post-wetland creation conditions at the two potential mitigation site locations using the Function Assessment of Colorado wetlands (FACWet) methodology. The Composite Functional Capacity Indices (FCI) score for the impact site preconstruction is 0.73 (functioning). The FCI score for mitigation site 1 pre-project is 0.65 (functioning impaired) and post-project is 0.85 (highly functioning). The FCI score for mitigation site 2 pre-project is 0.71 (functioning) and post-project is 0.86 (highly functioning).
The Applicant would place a legal deed restriction on the two mitigation sites. The deed restriction would prohibit any changes in the subject property from dedicated open space. The deed restrictions would be recorded and held by the Town, and submitted to the Corps for approval prior to project construction activities.
Through a separate agreement between the Town and the applicant, the Town is providing the lands for wetland mitigation, water rights, and the long term maintenance. The agreement between the Town and the Telluride Medical Center also specifies the Town would be responsible for the financial assurances required for the mitigation plan.
The Town of Mountain Village would be the responsible entity implementing long-term management of the mitigation site wetlands. As the proposed compensatory wetlands would be created on public lands owned by the Town, the wetlands would be maintained by Town staff or Town appointed consultants/staff if required. Currently, the Town employs staff who performs general maintenance of public lands and landscaped areas; therefore, adequate budget is in place to support staff for long-term management of the compensatory wetlands. Should additional staff be required to perform the required work, the Town would allocate additional funding to that effect.
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 not indicated they have applied 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.
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-2014-01067 must be submitted to the office listed below on or before September 7, 2015.
Carrie Sheata, Project Manager
US Army Corps of Engineers, Sacramento District
Colorado West Regulatory Branch
400 Rood Avenue, Room 224
Grand Junction, Colorado 81501
(970) 243-1199, extension 14
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 Carrie Sheata at the contact information listed above.
Attachments: 8 drawings