PUBLIC NOTICE: The purpose of this public notice is to inform you of the availability of a compensatory mitigation plan (CMP) required for unavoidable impacts to waters of the United States (U.S.) associated with a proposed surface coal mine. It is also to solicit your comments and information regarding the CMP.
REGULATORY PROGRAM: Since its early history, the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has played an important role in the development of the nation's water resources. Originally, this involved construction of harbor fortifications and coastal defenses. Later duties included the improvement of waterways to provide avenues of commerce. An important part of our mission today is the protection of the nation's waterways through the administration of the USACE Regulatory Program.
SECTION 10:The USACE is directed by Congress under Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 (33 USC 403) to regulate all work or structures in or affecting the course, condition or capacity of navigable waters of the U.S. The intent ofthis law is to protect the navigable capacity of waters important to interstate commerce.
SECTION 404:The USACE is directed by Congress under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (33 USC 1344) to regulate the discharge of dredged and fill material into all waters of the United States, including wetlands. The intent of the law is to protect the nation's waters from the indiscriminate discharge of material capable of causing pollution and to restore and maintain their chemical, physical and biological integrity.
TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:An application for a Department of the Army Permit (DA Permit) under the provisions of Section 404 ofthe Clean Water Act was submitted by Eastern Associated Coal, LLC for the Huff Creek Surface Mine (SMCRA permit S-4005-08), and a public notice was issued for the mine project on October 10, 2008. The public notice described the proposed project's impacts to waters of the U.S., and because the applicant had not submitted a CMP, the public notice stated the applicant's intent to compensate for unavoidable aquatic resource losses associated with the proposed project with a combination of on- and off-site stream mitigation within the Huff Creek watershed.
On August 19,2011, the applicant submitted a final CMP, and this notice serves as an amended public notice to provide a summary of the applicant's CMP. This document is available for review in the USACE Huntington District office, by appointment.
Eastern Associated Coal, LLC
Eastern Associated Coal, LLC
500 Lee Street, Suite 600
Post Office Box 1189
Charleston, West Virginia 25324
LOCATION:The proposed project is located approximately 4.4 miles northwest of the community of Kopperston, in Wyoming and Logan Counties, West Virginia. Specifically, the proposed project area is situated at latitude 37° 46' 11" and longitude 81 o 38' 26" on the Lorado, Matheny, Oceana, and Pilot Knob USGS 7.5-minute quadrangles (Exhibit 1). The proposed project, if authorized, would result in disturbances to tributaries of Huff Creek, including Coal Branch and Laurel Branch. Huff Creek is a direct tributary of the Guyandotte River, a traditional navigable water of the U.S.
COMPENSATORY MITIGATION PLAN: The applicant is required to compensate for unavoidable aquatic resource losses resulting from the discharge of fill material into waters of the U.S. in conjunction with the construction and operation ofthe Huff Creek Surface Mine. The applicant has developed a CMP to attempt to comply with this requirement. A summary of the CMP is provided below.
The applicant proposes on-site (within the SMCRA permit boundary) and off-site permitteeresponsible mitigation (PRM) with a watershed approach to compensate for unavoidable aquatic resource losses (Exhibit 2, Sheets 1 and 2). The applicant has used the West Virginia Stream and Wetland Valuation Metric, version 2.1 (WV SWVM) to evaluate the proposed stream mitigation work described in the CMP.
The objectives of the applicant's CMP are:
1. To generate 14,271 mitigation credits to off-set the 14,228 debits associated with the temporary and permanent impacts to perennial, intermittent, and ephemeral streams from the discharge of fill material into waters ofthe U.S. in conjunction with the construction and operation of the Huff Creek Surface Mine.
2. Mitigation credits would be generated by a combination of off-site stream enhancement, and on-site stream establishment and re-establishment. This public notice summarizes the applicant's proposed compensatory mitigation plan.
Enhancement of a degraded reach of Huff Creek:To compensate for permanent and temporal loss of aquatic habitat associated with the construction and operation of the Huff Creek Surface Mine, the applicant's proposes to enhance a 3,500-foot reach of Huff Creek that is dominated by bedrock and exhibits poor aquatic habitat diversity. The applicant proposes to install grade control structures and substrate to diversify aquatic habitat. Natural channel design techniques would be used to determine structure placement and provide appropriate bank protection. The riparian buffer would be enhanced by planting native woody and herbaceous vegetation. The proposed work would be initiated either prior to or concurrent with proposed stream impacts.
Re-establishment of a portion of Laurel Branch in conjunction with the construction of Valley Fill No 1:To compensate for the permanent loss of aquatic habitat associated with the construction of Valley Fill No.1, the applicant proposes to re-establish 2, 782 lf of stream channel along the toe of Valley Fill No.1. The applicant has indicated that it would take approximately 12 months to construct the toe of Valley Fill No.1, and the re-established Laurel Branch stream channel would be constructed within the newly formed valley bottom located approximately 90- to 1 00-feet above the existing valley floor. The re-established stream channel would be designed and constructed with natural channel design techniques, and would replace lost aquatic habitat. A riparian buffer would be established along both banks of the re-established stream channel, and would consist of native woody and herbaceous vegetation.
Stream establishment via mine reclamation in the Coal Branch and Laurel Branch watersheds:To compensate for the permanent loss of aquatic habitat associated with the construction and operation of the Huff Creek Surface Mine, the applicant evaluated the potential to establish new stream channel that could be established during mine reclamation. The applicant evaluated the drainage area and final regrade plan for the surface mine, and determined that 13 NPDES outlets within the Coal Branch and Laurel Branch watersheds would have sufficient flow and topography to establish ephemeral stream channels. A total of approximately 8,914lf of ephemeral channel would be established from each NPDES outlet and these channels would connect to waters of the U.S. The applicant proposes to use natural channel design techniques to facilitate channel establishment, and the established channel would restore lost sediment and nutrient transport function within the Coal Branch and Laurel Branch watersheds. The proposed work would be initiated in conjunction with mine construction and reclamation over a period of nine years.
Re-establishment of streams in conjunction with the reclamation of in-stream sediment basins and stream crossings:To compensate for the temporary loss of aquatic habitat associated with the construction and operation of the Huff Creek Surface Mine, the applicant proposes to re-establish stream reaches impacted by the construction of in-stream sediment basins and stream crossings for access roads. A total of 1,499 lf of stream channel would be re-established with natural channel design techniques upon reclamation of the sediment basins and access roads with natural channel design techniques. Associated riparian buffers would also be re-established with native woody and herbaceous vegetation. The applicant states the proposed stream re-establishment would restore the temporary loss of aquatic habitat and function within the Coal Branch and Laurel Branch watersheds, and the proposed work would occur following the completion of mine reclamation and operation activities.
SOLICITATION OF COMMENTS:The USACE is soliciting comments from the public;The USACE 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 CMP. For accuracy and completeness of the administrative record, comments received in response to the CMP should be provided in writing and set forth sufficient detail to furnish a clear understanding of the reasons for support or opposition. Any comments received regarding the CMP will be considered by the USACE.
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 Alison Rogers, Project Manager, Energy Resource Section, CELRH-OR-FE, USACE Huntington District, 502 Eighth Street, Huntington, West Virginia 25701-2070. Please note names and addresses ofthose who submit comments in response to this public notice become part of our administrative record and, as such, are available to the public under provisions of the Freedom oflnformation Act (FOIA). Thank you for your interest in our nation's water resources. If you have any questions concerning the above, please contact Alison Rogers of the Energy Resource Section at (304) 399-5610.