TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN: The purpose of this public notice is to inform you of the availability of a revised compensatory mitigation plan (CMP) and Environmental Information Document (EID) submitted to this office by Hobet Mining, LLC for their previously submitted application for a Department of the Army permit. The applicant requested a Department of the Army permit, under provisions of Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, to discharge fill material into waters of the United States (U.S.) in connection with the proposed Sandlick Surface Mine (being reviewed by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection under pending surface mining application S-5012-12).
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) is in the process of reviewing the above-stated documents. This public notice is published to provide a summary of the revised CMP and EID, and to solicit your comments and information regarding these revised documents. A full copy of the revised CMP and EID are also available for review in the Huntington District Office, shown by appointment, at the above address.
A previous public notice LRH-2012-290-GUY was issued on March 24, 2014, which described the location and potential environmental effects of the proposed discharges of fill material into waters of the U.S., and a description of the original CMP submitted as compensation for unavoidable discharges of fill material into waters of the U.S. After considering all comments received in response to that public notice, the applicant submitted a revised CMP dated July 2015, and a revised EID dated February 2015. A revised EID was also submitted to provide updated information to help fully evaluate the potential environmental effects of the proposed discharge of fill material into waters of the U.S.
APPLICANT: Hobet Mining, LLC
P.O. Box 305
Madison, WV 25130
LOCATION: The proposed project area is located at Latitude N 38° 05’ 21”, Longitude W 82° 00’ 08”, in Lincoln County, West Virginia. The project boundary encompasses a portion of Chestnut Oak Creek (of Laurel Creek of Big Ugly Creek); and Sandlick Hollow, tributaries of Mullins Branch and tributaries of Mud River (a tributary of Guyandotte River). See attached maps (Exhibit 1 General Location; and Exhibit 2 Project Boundary & Proposed Stream Fills).
DESCRIPTION OF THE REVISED CMP (July 2015): The original CMP proposed construction of 4,373 linear feet (lf) of ephemeral streams within the project site; off-site stream creation and rehabilitation (Stanley Fork); and off-site creation of emergent wetlands. After considering comments received, the applicant eliminated the off-site mitigation, then proposed to create additional on-site ephemeral streams. Additionally, project maps were revised using more precise mapping data. The updated mapping was verified by the Corps and it was determined the proposed project would discharge fill material into a total of 9,499 linear feet of stream, a reduction of 596 lf from the figure stated in the original public notice. The following paragraphs summarize the applicant’s revised July 2015 CMP.
To compensate for the proposed loss of 9,499 lf of stream (6,655 lf ephemeral and 2,844 lf intermittent stream) and 0.33-acre of emergent wetland, the revised July 2015 CMP proposes to create a total of 9,380 lf of ephemeral streams within the topographic drainage areas of the reclaimed mine site (and a portion of an adjacent mine site), and to create an emergent wetland on-site. The location of each proposed stream is shown in the attached Exhibit 3. The CMP objective is to compensate for the proposed on-site stream impacts, sufficient to result in a no net loss of aquatic resources and to offset the structural and functional losses of the affected streams. Seven ephemeral headwater streams would connect to the Mullins Branch, eight streams to the Chestnut Oak Branch, and two streams to the Sandlick Branch. Creating these headwater streams is a part of the project’s final grading plan and the post-mining land-use plan. The project’s final grade would include 10 catchment areas, which the applicant proposed to provide sufficient surface drainage area to produce ephemeral surface flow in the constructed streams. The streams would be created in the approximate location of the original streams. Two of the streams would be constructed within an adjoining mining project area. To guide construction, the CMP includes final regrade drawings (showing stream location and pattern) (see Exhibit 5) and horizontal cross section drawings.
The proposed streams would be constructed as high-gradient, cascade/step/pool type streams [A2a+ and A2 Rosgen stream types], designed as stable, high-energy, low-bedload systems contained within steep, highly entrenched swales. The streams would be graded to a width/depth ratio of less than 12. The bed and bank materials would consist of boulders and lesser amounts of cobble and gravel-sized material. Larger pools would be constructed in conjunction with rock steps at intervals. Pool/step spacing would be determined by local slope. All proposed streams would be hydrologically connected to known jurisdictional streams in the watershed. Most of these proposed streams would have a 50-foot riparian buffer zone on each side of the channel. Five of the streams (3 in Mullins Branch and 2 in Sandlick Branch) would have 100-foot buffers on each side because of land management allowances. Each stream’s riparian buffer area would be planted with native, non-invasive grasss, shrubs and trees. Vegetative success would be achieved with ground cover of at least 70 percent and survival of woody/tree species of 450 trees per acre.
To compensate for the loss of the 0.33-acre emergent wetland, a 1.1-acre wetland would be created within an on-site perimeter sediment ditch that would be located on the “downdip” side of the project (and re-designed to impound surface runoff and groundwater discharge sufficient to create a wetland). Salvaged topsoil from the impacted wetland would be placed in the constructed wetland. The targeted cover type is palustrine forested, with black willow as the dominant tree. Supplemental planting would be done to create diversity or establish cover.
Upon completing the CMP work, a real estate restrictive covenant would be established to create permanent legal protection to prevent future destruction of each stream mitigation site. The
CMP includes a 10-year monitoring plan, with annual monitoring reports, to assess the success of all mitigation sites. Functional losses and gains would be calculated using the Corps’ West Virginia Stream & Wetland Valuation Metric (SWVM), which compares baseline data with anticipated or actual post-mitigation data to calculate impact debits and achieved mitigation credits. The CMP indicates that mitigation success would be evaluated by examining stream SWVM scores; vegetation density, composition and buffer width; invasive species control; vertical stability; stream bank stability (with a Bank Erosion Hazard Index score in the moderate range or better); and assurance that each constructed stream is connected to downstream waters of the U.S. Wetland mitigation success would be determined by the Corps’ wetland delineation methodology. The attached Exhibit 4 summarizes the proposed stream fill impacts, proposed stream compensatory mitigation and anticipated SWVM debits and credits.
The February 2015 EID was submitted to the Corps to provide: (a) changes to the demonstration of No Practicable Alternatives; (b) information on the affected environment and the potential enviromental effects of the proposed discharge of fill material in waters of the U.S.; (c) additional stream condition data and clarifications on potential cumulative environmental effects of the proposed discharge of fill material in waters of the U.S. for each affected HUC-12 watershed; (d) methods proposed to minimize discharges to the Laurel Creek watershed (through revisions to the Adaptive Management Plan); (e) drainage density evaluations applied to the post-mining regrade and the on-site CMP plans; and (f) additional stream bio-assessment data, corrected stream fill lengths and SWVM debit/credit calculations.
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 CMP. For accuracy and completeness of the administrative record, comments received in response to the revised CMP and EID 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 Corps.
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
502 Eighth Street, Huntington, West Virginia 25701-2070
ATTN: CELRH-RD-E; Richard Berkes
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 provisions of the Freedom of Information Act. Thank you for your interest in our nation's water resources. If you have any questions concerning the above, please contact Richard Berkes of the Energy Resource Branch at (304) 399-5610.