Regulatory Public Notices

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Under the Corps' Regulatory Program, a public notice is the primary method for advising all interested parties of a proposed activity for which a permit is sought. Public notices are also published to inform the public about new or proposed regulations, policies, guidance or permit procedures.

We are requesting public comments on many Public Notices (PNs) concurrently; please pay careful attention to the file number and the comments Due Date.

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SPN-2022-00093 HRSP Watershed Restoration

CESPN-RGN
Published May 25, 2022
Expiration date: 6/24/2022

PROJECT: Humboldt Redwoods State Park Watershed Restoration Program (HRSP WRP)

PUBLIC NOTICE NUMBER:  2022-00093N
PUBLIC NOTICE DATE:  May 25, 2022
COMMENTS DUE DATE:  June 24, 2022
PERMIT MANAGER:  L. Kasey Sirkin  |  TELEPHONE:  707-443-0855  |  E-MAIL: l.k.sirkin@usace.army.mil


1.         INTRODUCTION:  California Department of Parks and Recreation (POC:  Mr. Victor Bjelajac, 707-445-6547), 1111 Second Street, has applied to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), San Francisco District, for a Department of the Army Regional General Permit to discharge fill material into jurisdictional waters of the United States associated with the rehabilitation of the South Fork and Lower Eel River Ecosystem, located near the town of Weott, Humboldt County, California.  This Department of the Army permit application is being processed pursuant to the provisions of Section 404 of the Clean Water Act of 1972, as amended (33 U.S.C. § 1344 et seq.).

2.         PROPOSED PROJECT:

Project Site Location:  Humboldt Redwoods State Park (HRSP) is located within the North Coast Redwoods District (NCRD) of California Department of Parks and Recreation (CDPR) in Humboldt County, California. HRSP is approximately 53,000 acres with more than 17,000 acres of old growth redwood and Douglas-fir forests. HRSP overlays numerous watersheds, including the entire Bull, Canoe, and Decker Creek watersheds, the downstream portions of tributaries to the lower Eel River and South Fork Eel River (SFER) along the Avenue of the Giants, and several small headwater sections that drain to the Mattole River. See enclosure 1.

Project Site Description: The original HRSP, founded in 1921, more than doubled in size in 1965 with the addition of the middle and upper Bull Creek to its current size of 53,000 acres. Save the Redwoods League acquired this property to prevent the loss of more old growth trees from Rockefeller Grove. Approximately 500-800 redwoods were eroded through Rockefeller Grove after unregulated logging and road creation combined with the 1955 and 1964 floods led to severe landslides, sediment erosion, downstream sedimentation, and streambank erosion. Numerous stabilization and restoration actions have occurred in HRSP since the Parks expansion, including, road and stream crossing removal, sediment control and reduction, instream structures and large wood rehabilitation, and vegetation restoration. The action area for the HRSP WRP is defined as all suitable Southern Oregon/Northern California Coast (SONCC) coho salmon, CA Coast Chinook salmon, and anadromous Northern CA steelhead stream reaches and riparian zones which includes critical and essential habitats. Suitable habitat within HRSP is mapped using CA Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW) winter steelhead data as a proxy

Project Description:  The HRSP WRP seeks a Regional General Permit to integrate various restoration actions (i.e., cannabis remediation, landform recovery, vegetation management and stream restoration) into a more holistic approach across HRSP. Restoration efforts will be integrated at the planning area level and across the HRSP. This Program aims to maximize restoration opportunities through strategic planning and synchronization that considers a suite of restoration actions and logistics (e.g., access, excess fuel/wood sources, fuel break locations).

Once remediation, vegetation management, and stream restoration actions are complete, designated abandoned and/or reoccupied roads and appurtenant features will be removed, consistent with the HRSP Roads and Trails Management Plan. Complete fill recovery and drainage structure removal will be implemented along all unneeded roads and landings. The distance of road and the number of crossings removed each year will vary depending on the sub-watershed terrain, fill volumes, road network layout, and size of the road-stream crossings. Based on previous road removal efforts in the Bull Creek watershed, this Program will remove up to 12 miles of road and 20 stream crossings per season. Stream crossing removal will include excavation of road/stream channel and stabilization of excavated materials. Crossings will be fully recontoured and fill will be removed and exported to adjacent road sections. The channel grade will be re-established, and the banks will be laid back to as low a slope as is practical. The excavation is generally designed to match the slopes and banks upstream and downstream from the crossing. In cases where the failed crossing includes a large inner-gorge gully or has incised below pre-disturbance stream grade, it may be necessary to leave the channel configuration in its unnatural condition.

Large wood loading will help restore river corridor complexity (e.g., deep pools, alluvial patches, and interactive floodplains), natural physical processes (e.g., floodplain interaction, channel migration, and sediment routing), and aquatic habitats (e.g., diversity of flow velocities and depths, instream cover, scour pools, spawning areas, and facilitate floodplain connectivity and off-channel habitat). Large wood loading will rapidly increase wood volumes until the riparian and hillslope conifer forests are able to provide sufficient quantities to the creeks and river corridors. If future large wood surveys reveal the need to add more large wood in a reach, then additional large wood loading may occur. Surveys will occur at 5-10-year intervals and/or after large storm events (>10-year recurrence intervals flows).

Basic Project Purpose: The basic project purpose comprises the fundamental, essential, or irreducible purpose of the project, and is used by USACE to determine whether the project is water dependent. The basic project purpose is to restore coastal redwood forest ecosystems.

Overall Project Purpose:  The overall project purpose serves as the basis for the Section 404(b)(1) alternatives analysis and is determined by further defining the basic project purpose in a manner that more specifically describes the applicant's goals for the project while allowing a reasonable range of alternatives to  be analyzed.  The overall project purpose is to improve aquatic and upland habitat conditions through forest and stream restoration activities in north coastal redwood forest lands

Project Impacts:  The proposed project would result in the placement of fill annually within jurisdictional waters, including perennial and intermittent rivers and tributaries, and wetland waters, and would result in  permanent, beneficial effects on the ecosystem. 

Proposed Mitigation:  The proposed project is comprised wholly of restoration activities that would result in a net benefit to the ecosystem. Therefore, the proposed project does not require mitigation.

Project Alternatives:  USACE has not endorsed the submitted alternatives analysis at this time. USACE will conduct an independent review of the project alternatives prior to reaching a final permit decision.

3.         STATE AND LOCAL APPROVALS:

Water Quality Certification:  State water quality certification or a waiver thereof is a prerequisite for the issuance of a Department of the Army Permit to conduct any activity which may result in a fill or pollutant discharge into waters of the United States, pursuant to Section 401 of the Clean Water Act of 1972, as amended (33 U.S.C. § 1341 et seq.).  The applicant has recently submitted an application to the California Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) to obtain water quality certification for the project. No Department of the Army Permit will be issued until the applicant obtains the required certification or a waiver of certification.  A waiver can be explicit, or it may be presumed if the RWQCB fails or refuses to act on a complete application for water quality certification within 60 days of receipt, unless the District Engineer determines a shorter or longer period is a reasonable time for the RWQCB to act.

Water quality issues should be directed to the Executive Officer, California Regional Water Quality Control Board, North Coast Region, 5550 Skylane Boulevard, Suite A, Santa Rosa, California 95403, by the close of the comment period. 

Coastal Zone Management:  Section 307(c) of the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972, as amended (16 U.S.C. § 1456(c) et seq.), requires a Federal applicant seeking a federal license or permit to conduct any activity occurring in or affecting the coastal zone to obtain a Consistency Determination that indicates the activity conforms with the state’s coastal zone management program.  Generally, no federal license or permit will be granted until the appropriate state agency has issued a Consistency Determination or has waived its right to do so. Since the project occurs in the coastal zone or may affect coastal zone resources, the applicant has applied for a Consistency Determination from the California Coastal Commission to comply with this requirement.

Coastal zone management issues should be directed to the District Manager, California Coastal Commission, North Coast District Office, 1385 8th street, Suite 130, Arcata, CA, 95521 by the close of the comment period.   

Other Local Approvals:  The applicant has applied for the following additional governmental authorizations for the project:  Lake and Streambed Alteration Agreement to be issued by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

4.         COMPLIANCE WITH VARIOUS FEDERAL LAWS:

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA):  Upon review of the Department of the Army permit application and other supporting documentation, USACE has made a preliminary determination that the project neither qualifies for a Categorical Exclusion nor requires the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement for the purposes of NEPA.  At the conclusion of the public comment period, USACE will assess the environmental impacts of the project in accordance with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. §§ 4321-4347), the Council on Environmental Quality's regulations at 40 C.F.R. § 1500‑1508, and USACE regulations at 33 C.F.R. § 325.  The final NEPA analysis will normally address the direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts that result from regulated activities within the jurisdiction of USACE and other non-regulated activities USACE determines to be within its purview of Federal control and responsibility to justify an expanded scope of analysis for NEPA purposes. The final NEPA analysis will be incorporated in the decision documentation that provides the rationale for issuing or denying a Department of the Army Permit for the project. The final NEPA analysis and supporting documentation will be on file with the San Francisco District, Regulatory Division. 

Endangered Species Act (ESA):  Section 7(a)(2) of the ESA or 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. § 1531 et seq.), requires Federal agencies to consult with either the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) or the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to ensure actions authorized, funded, or undertaken by the agency are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any Federally-listed species or result in the adverse modification of designated critical habitat.  As the Federal lead agency for this project, the Corps will be responsible for determining the presence or absence of Federally-listed species and designated critical habitat and the need to conduct consultation.  To complete the administrative record and the decision on whether to issue a Department of the Army Permit for the project, USACE will obtain all necessary supporting documentation from the applicant concerning the consultation process.  Any required consultation must be concluded prior to the issuance of a Department of the Army Permit for the project. 

Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSFCMA):  Section 305(b)(2) of the MSFCMA of 1966, as amended (16 U.S.C. § 1801 et seq.), requires Federal agencies to consult with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) on all proposed actions authorized, funded, or undertaken by the agency that may adversely affect essential fish habitat (EFH).  EFH is defined as those waters and substrate necessary to fish for spawning, breeding, feeding, or growth to maturity.  EFH is designated only for those species managed under a Federal Fisheries Management Plan (FMP), such as the Pacific Groundfish FMP, the Coastal Pelagics FMP, or the Pacific Coast Salmon FMP.  As the Federal lead agency for this project, the Corps will be responsible for determining the presence or absence of EFH and the need to conduct consultation.  To complete the administrative record and the decision on whether to issue a Department of the Army Permit for the project, USACE will obtain all necessary supporting documentation from the applicant concerning the consultation process.  Any required consultation must be concluded prior to the issuance of a Department of the Army Permit for the project.

Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act (MPRSA):  Section 302 of the MPRSA of 1972, as amended (16 U.S.C. § 1432 et seq.), authorizes the Secretary of Commerce, in part, to designate areas of ocean waters, such as the Cordell Bank, Gulf of the Farallones, and Monterey Bay, as National Marine Sanctuaries for the purpose of preserving or restoring such areas for their conservation, recreational, ecological, or aesthetic values. After such designation, activities in sanctuary waters authorized under other authorities are valid only if the Secretary of Commerce certifies that the activities are consistent with Title III of the Act.  No Department of the Army Permit will be issued until the applicant obtains any required certification or permit.  The project does not occur in sanctuary waters, and a preliminary review by USACE indicates the project is not likely to affect sanctuary resources.  This presumption of effect, however, remains subject to a final determination by the Secretary of Commerce or his designee.

National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA):  Section 106 of the NHPA of 1966, as amended (16 U.S.C. § 470 et seq.), requires Federal agencies to consult with the appropriate State Historic Preservation Officer to take into account the effects of their undertakings on historic properties listed in or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.  Section 106 of the Act further requires Federal agencies to consult with the appropriate Tribal Historic Preservation Officer or any Indian tribe to take into account the effects of their undertakings on historic properties, including traditional cultural properties, trust resources, and sacred sites, to which Indian tribes attach historic, religious, and cultural significance.  As the Federal lead agency for this project, the applicant Corps will be responsible for determining the presence or absence of historic properties or archaeological resources and the need to conduct consultation.  To complete the administrative record and the decision on whether to issue a Department of the Army Permit for the project, USACE will obtain all necessary supporting documentation from the applicant concerning the consultation process.  Any required consultation must be concluded prior to the issuance of a Department of the Army Permit for the project.  If unrecorded archaeological resources are discovered during project implementation, those operations affecting such resources will be temporarily suspended until USACE concludes Section 106 consultation with the State Historic Preservation Officer or the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer to take into account any project related impacts to those resources.

5.         COMPLIANCE WITH THE SECTION 404(b)(1) GUIDELINES: Projects resulting in discharges of dredged or fill material into waters of the United States must comply with the Guidelines promulgated by the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under Section 404(b) of the Clean Water Act (33 U.S.C. § 1344(b)).  An evaluation pursuant to the Guidelines indicates the project is not dependent on location in or proximity to waters of the United States to achieve the basic project purpose. This conclusion raises the (rebuttable) presumption of the availability of a less environmentally damaging practicable alternative to the project that does not require the discharge of dredged or fill material into special aquatic sites. The applicant has been informed to submit an analysis of project alternatives to be reviewed for compliance with the Guidelines.

6.         PUBLIC INTEREST EVALUTION:  The decision on whether to issue a Department of the Army Permit will be based on an evaluation of the probable impacts, including cumulative impacts, of the project and its intended use on the public interest. Evaluation of the probable impacts requires a careful weighing of the public interest factors relevant in each particular case.  The benefits that may accrue from the project must be balanced against any reasonably foreseeable detriments of project implementation.  The decision on permit issuance will, therefore, reflect the national concern for both protection and utilization of important resources.  Public interest factors which may be relevant to the decision process include conservation, economics, aesthetics, general environmental concerns, wetlands, cultural values, fish and wildlife values, flood hazards, floodplain values, land use, navigation, shore erosion and accretion, recreation, water supply and conservation, water quality, energy needs, safety, food and fiber production, mineral needs, considerations of property ownership, and, in general, the needs and welfare of the people.

7.         CONSIDERATION OF COMMENTS:  USACE is soliciting comments from the public; Federal, State, and local agencies and officials; Native American Nations or other tribal governments; and other interested parties in order to consider and evaluate the impacts of the project.  All comments received by USACE will be considered in the decision on whether to issue, modify, condition, or deny a Department of the Army Permit for the project.  To make this decision, comments are used to assess impacts on endangered species, historic properties, water quality, and other environmental or public interest factors addressed in a final environmental assessment or environmental impact statement.  Comments are also used to determine the need for a public hearing and to determine the overall public interest in the project.

8.         SUBMITTING COMMENTS:  During the specified comment period, interested parties may submit written comments to L. Kasey Sirkin, San Francisco District, Regulatory Division, Eureka Field Office, 601 Startare Drive, Box 14, Eureka, California 95501; comment letters should cite the project name, applicant name, and public notice number to facilitate review by the Regulatory Permit Manager.  Comments may include a request for a public hearing on the project prior to a determination on the Department of the Army permit application; such requests shall state, with particularity, the reasons for holding a public hearing.  All substantive comments will be forwarded to the applicant for resolution or rebuttal.  Additional project information or details on any subsequent project modifications of a minor nature may be obtained from the applicant and/or agent or by contacting the Regulatory Permit Manager by telephone or e-mail (cited in the public notice letterhead).  An electronic version of this public notice may be viewed under the Public Notices tab on the USACE website:   https://www.spn.usace.army.mil/Missions/Regulatory.


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Contact Information

Department of the Army
San Francisco District, Corps of Engineers
Regulatory Division
450 Golden Gate Ave., 4th Floor
San Francisco, California 94102-3404

Phone Number: (415) 503-6795
Fax Number: (415) 503-6693
cespn-regulatory-info@usace.army.mil