Comments Period: August 2, 2016 – September 8, 2016
SUBJECT: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Sacramento District, (Corps) is evaluating a permit application for the Alton Coal North Private Lease Area project, which would result in impacts to approximately 2.5 acres of waters of the United States, including wetlands, in the project area. 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: Alton Coal Development, Mr. Larry Johnson, 463 North 100 West Suite 1, Cedar City, Utah 84721
LOCATION: The approximately 296-acre project site is located approximately 1 mile southeast of Alton and directly east of County Road 10, Latitude 37.4266°, Longitude -112.4694°, Kane County, Utah, and can be seen on the UT-BALD KNOLL USGS topographic quadrangle. Attachment 1 (Figure 2a, Site Location Map) shows the general location of the project area.
PROJECT DESCRIPTION: Alton Coal Development (Applicant) operates a commercial coal mining operation in Kane County, Utah, in an area known as the North Private Lease Area (NPLA). The NPLA consists of 3 mine areas, as shown on Attachment 2 (Figure 3 Alton Coal NPLA Delineation Map). The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) issued a Nationwide Permit 14 in December 2015 to authorize the discharge of fill in 784 square feet of wetland to construct a haul road to access Area 1. Surface coal mining is in progress in Area 1 and, according to Applicant, has approximately 1 year of remaining production. Area 2 is immediately east of Area 1 and will yield approximately 3 years of production. Area 3 is on the east side of Kanab Creek and will yield approximately 2 years of production. The applicant is seeking a Standard Individual Permit from the Corps under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act for the discharge of fill into approximately 2.43 acres of jurisdictional wetlands, 0.04 acre of jurisdictional open water, and 257 linear feet of jurisdictional stream to expand coal mining operations into Areas 2 and 3 in order to continue the existing coal mining operations and keep the skilled workers employed. The proposed project would facilitate a combination coal mining operation, utilizing open pit mining and high-wall mining. The primary mining equipment would include hydraulic excavators, a high-wall miner, and end-dump mining trucks. Topsoil and soil would be excavated from pits and stockpiled separately for reclamation. The raw coal would be mined from the open pits and loaded to over-the road coal trucks and delivered to the Coal Hollow Mine (located approximately 2.5 miles to the south) for crushing, then hauled to market in over-the-road coal trucks. The pits would be filled, recontoured and revegetated per Utah Division of Oil and Gas and Mining (DOGM) reclamation standards and monitored for 5 years post mining.
Of the impacted waters, 2.38 acres of wetlands and 0.04 acre of open water in the ephemeral drainage that crosses Area 2 north to south (labeled as Wet Meadow on Attachment 2) would be lost due to surface coal mining operations. An additional 257 linear feet of intermittent stream (Kanab Creek) and 0.05 acres of wetland adjacent to Kanab Creek would be impacted by the construction of a crossing to accommodate a haul road to transport coal mined from the area. The applicant intends to mine the coal below Kanab Creek using a high wall process that would not impact the creek. The drainages, and other areas impacted by surface mining would be restored to their approximate original contour, revegetated with native seed mix and monitored for 5 years. The crossing at Kanab Creek would be removed at the conclusion of mining and the creek and wetlands restored to their approximate original condition.
Environmental Setting. The NPLA lies approximately 7,000 feet above sea level. The area has a semi-arid climate, receiving approximately 17 inches of precipitation annually. Uplands cover more than 98% of the project area where the native plant communities have mostly been replaced by developed rangelands, primarily pasture. Within the entire project area, only about 25 acres exist of native undisturbed vegetation. There are approximately 6.34 acres of wetlands, 4,632 linear feet of intermittent stream channel (0.14 acres) and a 0.04 acre stock pond within the project area.
Kanab Creek, an intermittent stream within the project area, meanders through the eastern third of the project area, flowing north to south in an incised drainage. Kanab Creek has a narrow zone of riparian vegetation (native and non-native) and a wetland fringe. Kanab Creek is heavily diverted for agricultural use just north of the NPLA. Measured at the county road crossing at the southern end of the NPLA, Kanab Creek’s average monthly flows range from 5000 gallons per minute (GPM) in mid-winter to nearly zero in the summer months. Within the project area, Kanab Creek lies on top of a layer of low permeability Tropic Shale with a coal seam below it.
A separate branched incised drainage bisects the project area. This drainage runs from north to south and is located west of the main branch of Kanab Creek, roughly paralleling the Creek. This branch includes a small excavated stock pond at the upper extent of the project area. The applicant’s hydrologic study suggests this drainage receives alluvial drainage from seeps in very low amounts relative to the surface water inputs to the Kanab Creek drainage. This drainage, while incised, has no ordinary high water mark (OHWM) or bed and bank formations and is not a jurisdictional stream. However, water inputs to this drainage have been sufficient to develop approximately 2.4 acres of wetlands, linear in nature, along with associated riparian vegetation.
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 project is not within the service area of a wetland mitigation bank or an in-lieu fee program. Therefore, any compensatory mitigation would occur through a permittee responsible mitigation project. The Applicant has proposed to mitigate wetland and stream losses within the NPLA with a project approximately 1.5 miles downstream of the project area on Kanab Creek. The mitigation proposal involves restoring approximately 2,760 feet of stream channel that has been degraded by headcutting and erosion to create conditions that would allow the lost adjacent wetland/riparian areas to redevelop. The Applicant has proposed to enhance/rehabilitate an additional 1,800 foot long stretch of stream and its adjacent wetland/riparian located just upstream of the stretch to be restored.
OTHER GOVERNMENTAL AUTHORIZATIONS: The applicant will or has applied to the Utah Department of Natural Resources, Division of Oil, Gas and Mining (DOGM) for a permit to mine the NPLA; the Utah State Engineer’s Office for a Stream Alteration Permit for the Kanab Creek haul road; Utah Division of Air Quality for an air approval order; the Utah Division of Water Quality for a Utah Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit; the Federal Mine Safety and Health Administration for a Safety Permit and mine ID number; and the Federal Communications Commission for a Radio Permit.
Water quality certification or a waiver, as required under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act, is also required for this project. Written comments on water quality certification should be submitted to Mr. William Damery, Utah Division of Water Quality, P.O. Box 144870, Salt Lake City, Utah 84114-4870, or email email@example.com, on or before September 8, 2016.
HISTORIC PROPERTIES: 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.
ESSENTIAL FISH HABITAT: The proposed project would not adversely affect Essential Fish Habitat 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-2011-01248 must be submitted to the office listed below on or before September 8, 2016:
Craig Brown, Senior Project Manager
US Army Corps of Engineers, Sacramento District
196 East Tabernacle Street, Suite 30
Saint George, Utah 84770-3474
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 Craig Brown, 435-986-3979,Craig.J.Brown@usace.army.mil.
Attachments: 2 Maps