Notice of Availability of the Draft Environmental Assessment (EA) 576 entitled “Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA) Construction Projects; West Shore Lake Pontchartrain (WSLP), Comite River Diversion (Comite) and East Baton Rouge (EBR) Flood Risk Management, BBA Construction Mitigation EA #576”
Introduction. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New Orleans District (CEMVN), has prepared Draft EA #576 which is available for your review and comment. This public notice is being posted per the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Council of Environmental Quality’s Regulations for Implementing NEPA, Section 1506.6, Public Involvement and the Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 404 in accordance with provisions of Title 33 CFR Parts 336.1(b)(1) and 337.1, which establish policy, practices, and procedures to be followed on Federal actions involving the disposal of dredged or fill material into waters of the United States (application of Section 404(b)(1) of the CWA guidelines). Notice is hereby given that for the EA #576, a 401 Water Quality Certification (WQC 190828-02) has been received. CEMVN has coordinated this proposed action with the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, Office of Environmental Services for a Water Quality Certification in accordance with statutory authority contained in the LAC 33:IX.1507.A-E and provisions of Section 401 of the Clean Water Act and no further action is required.
The purpose of the proposed action discussed in EA #576 is to evaluate alternatives to mitigate impacts incurred during construction of the BBA Construction Projects (West Shore of Lake Pontchartrain, Comite, and East Baton Rouge). The mitigation plan described in EA #576 will provide compensatory mitigation for all swamp and bottomland hardwoods (BLH) impacted by these projects. Evaluation of the proposed action includes application of the Section 404(b)(1) guidelines promulgated by the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, through 40 CFR 230.
Location of Work. The proposed action is located in Ascension, East Feliciana, St. James, St. John the Baptist, St. Mary, St. Tammany, St. Helena, and Tangipahoa Parishes, LA
Description of Work. The proposed action as presented in EA #576 consists of restoring or enhancing up to 4,694 acres of swamp to mitigate 1,504 average annual habitat units (AAHUs) of swamp impacts and restoring up to 2,647 acres of BLH to mitigate 1,045 AAHUs of BLH impacts incurred during construction of the BBA 18 Construction Projects.
The majority of the proposed projects within the tentatively selected alternative (TSA) are restoration of wetlands from agricultural land. Projects converting agricultural land/low quality habitat types already at the required elevation for the target habitat type would include work items such as construction of new access roads, clearing and grubbing, backfilling of existing ponds/ditches, demolition of onsite structures, leveling/harrowing soil to receive planting, and planting of canopy and mid-story plant species required to establish BLH and/or swamp habitat. If the land is not at required elevation, removal the top 6 inches to 1 foot of soil would be necessary. The removed earthen material would be used to fill depressions at the site to achieve uniform target elevations throughout the site or would be hauled off by a Contractor to a Government approved disposal area.
Projects converting open water to forested wetlands would require such construction activities as construction of containment dikes, hydraulic dredging and placement of fill material, planting of canopy and mid-story plant species required to establish BLH and/ or swamp habitat, and gapping or degrading of containment dikes after the fill material has settled to the target elevation.
Projects enhancing degraded forested wetlands would require such construction elements as invasive species control and planting of canopy and mid-story plant species required to establish BLH and/or swamp habitat.
Detailed project descriptions including site specific components are presented in Appendix G of EA #576.
Public Involvement. The purpose of this notice is to solicit comments from the public; Federal, State and local agencies and officials; Indian Tribes; and other interested parties. Copies of EA #576 and supporting documents are available at http://www.mvn.usace.army.mil/About/Projects/ or upon request.
The 30-day public review and comment period for EA 576 and CWA Section 404(b)(1) will begin on January 31, 2020 and end on March 2, 2020. Interested parties may express their views on the proposed action. All comments postmarked on or before the expiration of the comment period for this notice will be considered. Comments may be submitted to Tammy H. Gilmore by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or mailed to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Regional Planning and Environmental Division South; PDS-C; 7400 Leake Ave, New Orleans, Louisiana 70118-3651.
Notice of Availability is available here.
Please note that copies of the above ran in The Advocate and Times Picayune Friday, Jan. 31, 2020.