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LRH 2019-791-TUG

Published Feb. 12, 2020
Expiration date: 3/12/2020

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:  The following application has been submitted for a Department of the Army (DA) Permit under the provisions of Section 404 of the Clean Water Act for the proposed discharge dredged and/or fill material into waters of the United States (U.S.). This notice serves as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (Corps) request to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) to act on the Section 401 Water Quality Certification (WQC) for the following application. 

 

APPLICANT:       Mid-Vol Coal Sales Inc.  

                              640 Clover Dew Dairy Road

                              Princeton, WV  24739

 

LOCATION:  The proposed project would be located approximately one mile north of the community of Thorpe, in McDowell County, West Virginia at latitude 37.39504 and longitude -81.500492.  The proposed surface mine would be constructed in Upper Belcher Branch, Harmon Branch and their unnamed tributaries.  Upper Belcher Branch and Harmon Branch flow into the Tug Fork River, a traditional navigable water of the U.S.  See Sheet 1 of 6 for a depiction of the proposed project location.

 

DESCRIPTION OF THE PROPOSED WORK:  The applicant has requested a DA permit to discharge dredged and/or fill material into 7,178 linear feet (0.59 acre) of waters of the U.S., as indicated on Sheet 2 of 6 and Table 1, in conjunction with the construction, operation and reclamation of the Harmon East Surface Mine. Work within waters of the U.S. would consist of the construction of two (2) valley fills, two (2) sediment control ponds, and three (3) mine-through areas.  Approximately 240.2 cubic yards (c.y.) of durable rock fill would be permanently discharged into approximately 211 linear feet (0.03 acre) of an ephemeral section of Harmon Branch and 2,592 linear feet (0.30 acre) of an intermittent section of Harmon Branch  in conjunction with the construction of the underdrain structure associated with Valley Fill HF-1.  Approximately 11.2 c.y. of earthen fill material would be temporarily discharged into 380 linear feet (0.04 acre) of an ephemeral segment of Harmon Branch in conjunction with the construction of the embankment structure of Sediment Pond 1.  Approximately 50.6 c.y. of durable rock fill would be permanently discharged into approximately 855 linear feet (0.07 acre) of one (1) ephemeral segment of Upper Belcher Branch in conjunction with the construction of the underdrain structure associated with Valley Fill HF-2.  Approximately 7.8 c.y. of earthen fill material would be temporarily discharged into 500 linear feet (0.03 acre) of an ephemeral segment of Upper Belcher Branch in conjunction of the embankment structure of Sediment Pond No. 2.  Approximately 103.5 c.y. of earthen and rock fill material would be permanently excavated/discharged into 2,569 linear feet (0.16 acre) into three (3) ephemeral and intermittent tributaries of Harmon Branch and Upper Belcher Branch in conjunction with mine-through activities (See Table 1)

The purpose of the project is to remove 5.0 million tons of bituminous metallurgical and steam-grade bituminous coal reserves within the 792.2-acre Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) permit area.  The proposed surface mine operation would use a combination of area and highwall mining techniques to recover the coal reserves. The mining plan, inclusive of reclamation, would occur over a period of ten (10) years. The post-mine land use is forestland.  The applicant has applied to the WVDEP for the required SMCRA permit (S-5008-19).  Plans of the proposal are attached to this notice (Sheets 1-6).  A copy of the application, including all supplemental materials (alternative analysis, compensatory mitigation plan, environmental information documents, etc.), is available for review in the Huntington District Office, by appointment. 

ALTERNATIVE ANALYSIS:  Approximately 7,178 linear feet (0.59 acre) of intermittent and ephemeral streams are proposed to be permanently and temporarily as a result of the mining activities.  No wetlands or other special aquatic sites would be affected by the discharge of dredged and/or fill material.  No permit will be issued unless the alternatives analysis clearly demonstrates that practicable upland alternatives are not available to achieve the overall project purpose.  The applicant has submitted the required alternative analysis for review. A complete copy of the applicant’s alternatives analysis can be reviewed by appointment at the above address. 

AVOIDANCE AND MINIMIZATION: In evaluating a project area containing waters of the U.S., consideration must be given to avoiding impacts on these sites. If waters of the U.S. cannot be avoided, then impacts must be minimized.  Approximately13,819 linear feet of intermittent and ephemeral stream s exist at the site.  The applicant indicated the proposed project cannot be located in an area that would avoid all discharges of dredged and/or fill material into waters of the U.S.  The applicant stated the mine plan and developmental sequence were designed to avoid and minimize the discharge of dredged and/or fill material into waters of the U.S. to the maximum extent practicable, while meeting the stated project purpose.  As a result of their avoidance and minimization efforts, the applicant’s proposed mine plan would avoid approximately 48% of the stream s located at the site.  The material proposed to be discharged into waters of the U.S. consists of native, durable rock and clean earthen soil.  Best management practices, including the use of temporary sediment control structures and contemporaneous reclamation and re-vegetation of disturbed areas, would be utilized.  The applicant’s material handling plan would assure that all dredged and/or fill material discharged into waters of the U.S. would be managed and monitored pursuant to the required Section 402 National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit (issued by the WVDEP) to ensure water quality standards are met.  After mining and reclamation, the stream segments associated with the sediment pond would be re-established and the area would be returned to a post-mining land use of forestland.

COMPENSATORY MITIGATION PLAN (CMP): The applicant has submitted a CMP to compensate for unavoidable discharges of dredged and/or fill material into waters of the U.S.  The applicant proposes to purchase 5,746.20 stream credits from a federally approved mitigation bank within the primary service area and/or secondary service area  To calculate an appropriate amount of mitigation to compensate for the loss of waters of the U.S. associated with the proposed project, the applicant used the Corps’ West Virginia Stream and Wetland Valuation Metric (SWVM, Version 2.1).  The SWVM compares baseline data with anticipated or actual post-mitigation data to calculate impact debits and mitigation credits.  The impact debits for the proposed surface mine total 5,746.20.  The proposed CMP is open to comment and is subject to change based on comments received.  After review of all the submitted information the Corps will make a determination of appropriate mitigation, in the event a decision is made to issue a permit. 

WATER QUALITY CERTIFICATION: An individual Section 401 WQC is required for this project.  The applicant’s WQC application is currently under evaluation by the WVDEP.  

HISTORIC AND CULTURAL RESOURCES:  The National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) has been consulted and it has been determined there are no properties currently listed on the NRHP that would be indirectly or directly affected by the proposed work.  In a letter dated June 5, 2019, the West Virginia Division of Culture (WVDCH) stated the proposal would not affect any archaeological or architectural properties listed on or eligible for the NRHP.  This Public Notice serves as coordination with the WVDCH, pursuant to Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966.  No DA permit will be issued until all obligations under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 have been fulfilled. 

ENDANGERED/THREATENED SPECIES:  The proposal lies within the range of the endangered gray bat (Myotis gresescens), the endangered Indiana bat (Myotis soldalis), the threatened northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis), the endangered Virginia big-eared bat (Corynorhinus townsendii virginianus), and the endangered Big Sandy crayfish (Cambarus callainus).  Consultation regarding potential effects to these federally-listed species is currently underway U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the WVDEP. This Public Notice serves as coordination with the USFWS concerning any information they may have on whether any listed or proposed to be listed endangered or threatened species may be present in the area which would be affected by the activity, pursuant to Section 7(c) of the Endangered Species Act of 1972 (as amended). No DA permit will be issued until the Corps has verified that all obligations under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act have been fulfilled. 

PUBLIC INTEREST REVIEW AND CUMULATIVE EFFECTS:  This application will be reviewed in accordance with 33 CFR 320‑332, the Regulatory Program of the Corps, and other pertinent laws, regulations, and executive orders.  Our evaluation will also follow guidelines published by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency pursuant to Section 404(b)(1) of the Clean Water Act (40 CFR 230). The decision whether to issue a permit will be based on an evaluation of the probable impacts, including cumulative impacts, of the proposed activity on the public interest.  That decision will reflect the national concern for both protection and utilization of important resources.  The benefits that reasonably may be expected to accrue from the proposal must be balanced against its reasonably foreseeable detriments.  All factors that may be relevant to the proposal will be considered including the cumulative effects thereof; of 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, considerations of property ownership and, in general, the needs and welfare of the people. 

SOLICITATION OF COMMENTS:  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.  For accuracy and completeness of the administrative record, all data in support of or in opposition to the proposed work should be submitted in writing setting forth sufficient detail to furnish a clear understanding of the reasons for support or opposition. Any person may request, in writing, within the comment period specified in the notice, that a public hearing be held to consider the application. Requests for public hearings shall state, with particularity, the reasons for holding a public hearing. 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 the 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.  Written statements on these factors received in this office on or before the expiration date of this Public Notice will become a part of the record and will be considered in the final determination.  A permit will be granted unless its issuance is found to be contrary to the public interest.

CLOSE OF COMMENT PERIOD:   All comments pertaining to this Public Notice must reach this office on or before the close of the comment period listed on page one of this Public Notice.  If no comments are received by that date, it will be considered that there are no objections.  Comments and requests for additional information should be submitted to:

 

U. S. Army Corps of Engineers

ATTN: CELRH-RD-E Public Notice: LRH-2019-791-TUG

502 Eighth Street

Huntington, West Virginia 25701-2070

 

Please note that names and addresses of those who submit comments in response to this Public Notice become part of our administrative record, and, as such, may be available to the public under provisions of the Freedom of Information Act.  Thank you for your interest in our nation's water resources.  If you have any questions concerning this Public Notice, please contact Kimberly Courts-Brown of the Energy Resource Branch at (304) 399-6906.                                                                                        

                                                             

Table 1 – Proposed Discharges of Dredged and/or Fill Material

Harmon East Surface Mine

LRH-2019-791-TUG

Permanent Discharges of Dredged and/or Fill Material

Mining Activity

Name of Stream

Flow Regime

Length/Acreage

(linear feet and acreage)

Amount and Type of Material To Discharged

(cubic yards)

Valley Fill HF-1 Underdrain Structure

Harmon Branch

Ephemeral

271 linear feet

0.03 acre

 

 

20.1 cubic yards of durable rock

Valley Fill HF-1  Underdrain Structure

Harmon Branch

Intermittent

2,592 linear feet

0.30 acre

220.1 cubic yards of durable rock

Valley Fill HF-2

Underdrain Structure

Upper Belcher Branch

Ephemeral

866 linear feet

0.07 acre

50.6 cubic yards of durable rock

Mine-Through

Tributary A/A1

UNT Upper Belcher Branch

Ephemeral

1,459 linear feet

0.1 acre

54.0 cubic yards of rock and earthen fill

Mine-Through

Tributary B1

UNT Upper Belcher Branch

Ephemeral

215 linear feet

0.01 acre

7.96 cubic yards of rock and earthen fill

Mine-Through

Tributary C

UNT Harmon Branch

Ephemeral

661 linear feet

0.04 acre

30.6 cubic yards of rock and earthen fill

Mine-Through

Tributary C

UNT Harmon Branch

Intermittent

234 linear feet

0.01 acre

10.9 cubic yards of rock and earthen fill

TOTAL PERMANENT DISCHARGES

6,298 linear feet

0.52 acre

343.7 cubic yards of durable rock and earthen fill

Temporary Discharges of Dredged and/or Fill Material

Sediment Pond 1

Harmon Branch

Intermittent

380 linear feet

0.04 acre

11.2 cubic yards of rock and earthen fill

Sediment Pond 2

Upper Belcher Branch

Ephemeral

500 linear feet

0.03 acre

7.8 cubic yards of rock and earthen fill

TOTAL TEMPORARY DISCHARGES

880 linear feet

0.07 acre

19 cubic yards

TOTAL DISCHARGES OF DREDGED AND/OR FILL MATERIAL INTO WATERS OF THE U.S.

7,178 linear feet

0.59 acre

362.7 cubic yards