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LRH 2014-555-MON

Published June 27, 2014
Expiration date: 7/28/2014

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.  This notice serves as the United States Army Corps of Engineers’ (Corps) request to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) to act on Section 401 Water Quality Certification for the following application.

 

APPLICANT:                       West Virginia Department of Transportation

                                    Division of Highways

                                    1900 Kanawha Boulevard East

                                    Building 5, Room 110

                                    Charleston, West Virginia  25305-0430

 

LOCATION:  The proposed project is located in unnamed tributaries of Dents Run, near Morgantown, Monongalia County, West Virginia.  The proposed new interchange is located on Interstate 79 (I-79) between existing Exit Number 155 (Star City) and exit Number 152 (Westover).  The proposed project is located at Latitude 39.64336 and Longitude -80.00803 as shown on the attached Figure 2. 

 

DESCRIPTION OF PROPOSED WORK:  The applicant has requested a DA permit to discharge fill material in waters of the United States (U.S.) in conjunction with the construction of a new interchange along I-79 near Morgantown, West Virginia.  The project would reduce traffic congestion, improve safety, provide additional traffic capacity, and provide access to the University Town Centre.  The new interchange would be constructed in a diamond configuration between the existing Star City and Westover interchanges. The University Town Centre Drive would be extended over I-79 to the west via a bridge while a portion of County Route (CR) 46/3 would be relocated to the west and connected to the west terminus of University Town Centre Drive.  To regulate traffic flow a roundabout would be constructed at the intersection of University Town Centre Drive and the west side of I-79 access ramps. 

The proposed I-79 interchange would result in the permanent discharge of fill material into a total of 2,927 linear feet of five jurisdictional streams.  Construction activities include rock channel protection, culvert installations, and permanent stream fills and/or relocations.  A total of 1,660 cubic yards of fill material would be permanently discharged below the ordinary high water (OHW) elevation of unnamed tributaries of Dents Run. Temporary flow diversion dikes would be utilized to facilitate construction.  A total of 145 cubic yards of fill material would be temporarily discharged into 180 linear feet of three jurisdictional streams.  After completion of the construction activities the temporary material would be removed and the streams restored to their approximate original contours.   (See attached Tables 1 and 2, as well as Sheets 1-20).   

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is the lead federal agency for the New I-79 Interchange project.  An Environmental Assessment (EA) dated December 2013 was prepared and approved by the West Virginia Department of Transportation- Division of Highways and the FHWA.  A subsequent Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) was signed March 2014. 

 

ALTERNATIVES ANALYSIS:  The applicant is required to show that no other less damaging practicable alternatives, which do not require the discharge of fill material into waters of the U.S., are available that would achieve the overall project purpose.  No permit will be issued until the alternative analysis clearly shows that practicable upland alternatives are not available to achieve the overall project purpose.  The applicant has submitted an alternatives analysis for review.  The alternatives include a no build alternative, upgrades to existing infrastructure, and multiple new interchange configurations. 

Under the no build alternative, no discharge of fill material would occur in waters of the U.S.  However, the applicant has indicated this alternative would not meet the project purpose.  The upgrade of existing infrastructure without the undertaking of major construction would partially meet the project purpose, however; improvements alone would not be able to improve efficiencies, eliminate the current and future congestion within the study area, improve safety, and address future traffic volumes consistent with local planning.  Therefore, the applicant stated this alternative was not carried forward as a stand-alone alternative since it does not meet the purpose and need of the project.

A total of seven (7) interchange configurations were evaluated by the applicant.  Based on their analysis, the applicant has stated that due to the steep terrain, availability, loss of developable land, increased right-of-way costs, the presence of an existing landfill, and safety concerns, the diamond interchange with a roundabout at the southbound ramps is the preferred alternative.  The applicant’s alternatives analysis is currently under review.  A complete copy of the applicant’s alternative 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 discharges of fill material into these sites.  A total of 8,010 linear feet of streams and 0.13 acre of wetlands, subject to Section 404 of the Clean Water Act regulation, exist on the project site.  Avoidance and minimization efforts were incorporated into the project development plan by limiting the overall footprint of the interchange and the implementation of best management practices.  The project has been designed to avoid the discharges of fill material into 5,083 linear feet of streams and 0.13 acre of wetlands.

 

COMPENSATORY MITIGATION PLAN:   To compensate for the permanent discharge of fill into streams, the applicant proposes to purchase 2,023.918 credits from an approved mitigation bank and/or purchase 2,266.788 credits from the West Virginia In-Lieu Fee Program.  No permittee responsible mitigation is proposed.

 

WATER QUALITY CERTIFICATION: A Section 401 Water Quality Certification is required for this project.  It is the applicant’s responsibility to obtain certification from the WVDEP.

 

HISTORIC AND CULTURAL RESOURCES:  The FHWA is the lead Federal agency for this project and is responsible for compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.  The applicant has consulted with the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) and it was determined there were no properties eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places. 

The Corps intends to rely upon the information collected and the consultation previously performed regarding the effects to historic properties.  That information would be used to support our evaluation of the permit application.  A copy of this Public Notice will be sent to the SHPO for their review.  Comments concerning archeological sensitivity of a project area should be based upon collected data.

 

ENDANGERED AND THREATENED SPECIES:  The FHWA has the ultimate responsible for compliance with Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act.  The applicant has consulted with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) regarding federally-protected species.  In a letter dated February 3, 2014, the USFWS stated that the project would not likely to adversely affect the Indiana bat and the northern long eared bat since the project would clear greater than 17 acres of forest and would not pass through any hibernacula or known maternity roost buffer zones.  Based on the information provided to the Service, they concluded that no federally listed endangered and threatened bats are expected to be impacted by the proposed project.

The Corps intends to rely upon the information collected by or on behalf of the FHWA, and consultation performed by or on behalf of FHWA, regarding the effects to threatened or endangered species.  That information would be used to support our evaluation of the permit application.  A copy of this Public Notice will be sent to USFWS for their review.

 

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 United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) pursuant to Section 404(b)(1) of the Clean Water Act (40 CFR part 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.  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 at the beginning 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:

United States Army Corps of Engineers

ATTN: CELRH-RD-S

Public Notice: LRH-2014-555-MON

502 Eighth Street

Huntington, WV 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, are available to the public under the 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 call Sarah Workman of the South/Transportation Branch at (304) 399-5710 or by email at sarah.m.workman@usace.army.mil.