Sept. 24, 2019
FEDERAL PUBLIC NOTICE
The district commander has received a joint application for federal and state permits as described below:
Hampton Roads Connector Partners Joint Venture
c/o Jose Martin
Dragados USA Inc., 810 Seventh Ave. (Floor 9)
New York, NY 10019
WATERWAY AND LOCATION OF PROPOSED WORK: The project is located in the lower James River of Hampton Roads, Virginia, and several of its tributaries, including Oastes Creek, Mason Creek and Willoughby Bay. The James River is a tributary to the Chesapeake Bay. The proposed Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel expansion project is on Interstate 64 in Hampton and Norfolk, between the Settlers Landing Road and I-564 interchanges. Coordinates for the project’s approximate center are latitude 36.990⁰ and longitude -76.310⁰ in Norfolk.
PROPOSED WORK AND PURPOSE: In order to relieve congestion at the HRBT on I-64 and improve accessibility, transit, emergency evacuation, and military and goods movement along the primary transportation corridors in the Hampton Roads region – including I-64, I-664, I-564 and the Western Freeway (Virginia Route 164) – Hampton Roads Connector Partners proposes to widen I-64 from Settlers Landing Road in Hampton to the I-564 interchange in Norfolk to create an eight-lane facility with six consistent-use lanes. The HRBT expansion’s total length is approximately 9.9 miles, and the tunnel segment of the project is about 1.8 miles, including the tunnel islands. New bridges will be constructed connecting the tunnels to the Hampton and Norfolk shorelines, and the existing highway from Settlers Landing Road to I-564 will be reconstructed. The expanded interstate will include four general-purpose lanes, two new high-occupancy toll lanes and two new drivable shoulders to be used at HOT lanes during peak usage. The existing bridge-tunnel facility is a four-lane roadway with bridges, trestles, man-made tunnel islands and tunnels under the main Hampton Roads shipping channel.
The proposed project includes construction of two new two-lane tunnels, expansion of existing tunnel islands; full replacement of existing trestle bridges at the HRBT, as well as the Willoughby Bay trestle bridge; sound-barrier walls, reconstruction of the existing roadway, new stormwater-management features and dredging of about 7.9 acres of subaqueous bottom in the James River at Hampton Roads. Once the project is completed, there will be a total of four tunnels, two new ones and two existing; two of the four tunnels will be used for eastbound traffic and two will be used for westbound traffic. A complete bridge replacement is being proposed for the Mallory Street interchange. The two new tunnels will be installed using bored-tunnel methods.
The project also includes construction and maintenance of two outfalls, which will discharge treated construction water from tunnel-boring operations and jet-grout and slurry-wall construction activities. These discharges into the James River at Hampton Roads will be authorized by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality through its Virginia Pollutant Discharge Elimination System program. Discharge volumes are expected to be less than 500,000 gallons per day. The proposed location for each outfall is based on hydraulic modeling of the tidal flow around each of the islands. The greatest flow rates occur on the southwest corner of North Island and northwest corner of South Island. These locations are closest to the main channel, which contains the greatest volume of flow during tidal cycles, and the applicant states these outfall locations will allow for the greatest amount of mixing.
As proposed, the project will permanently impact 18.92 acres of subaqueous bottom (14.83 acres for the North Island expansion, 3.71 acres for the South Island expansion, and 0.38 acres for piles, culverts and grading throughout the project); 0.4 acres of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV); 3.75 acres of tidal wetlands (0.7 acres of estuarine intertidal rocky shore, 0.69 acres of estuarine intertidal sandy unconsolidated shore, 2.17 acres of estuarine emergent wetlands and 0.19 acres of estuarine scrub-shrub wetlands) and 0.86 acres of nontidal wetlands (0.11 acres of unconsolidated bottom, 0.27 acres of palustrine emergent wetlands, 0.36 acres of palustrine scrub-shrub wetlands and 0.12 acres of palustrine forested wetlands). Temporary impacts include 26.53 acres of subaqueous bottom, 0.52 acres of SAV, 7.73 acres of tidal wetlands, 0.7 acres of nontidal wetlands and 27 linear feet of riverine lower perennial stream. The temporary subaqueous bottom impacts are primarily due to the trestle deck areas extending over the Hampton Roads river bottom, plus 20-foot work areas around the trestles and fills, and 40-foot work areas in Oastes and Mason creeks for potential pile rehabilitation. HRCP proposes to compensate for permanent impacts to nontidal wetlands, tidal wetlands, SAV and subaqueous bottom through the purchase of credits from approved mitigation banks and in lieu of fee funds.
Aquatic-resource impacts have been minimized through the use of pile-supported trestles, shifting the limits of disturbance in several locations to avoid wetland impacts, reducing fill slopes where possible and by using the bored-tunnel approach instead of the immersed-tube tunnel construction method. The applicant’s use of bored tunnel versus an immersed-tube tunnel will considerably reduce navigation impacts and subaqueous impacts to the James River bottom in Hampton Roads.
Bored-tunnel construction avoids about 60 acres of dredging that would have been required if the immersed-tube tunnel was used. Through tunnel island and roadway design, island-expansion footprints were reduced from 20 acres to approximately 18.72 acres. For landward-roadway improvements, moving the construction limits closer to the existing road avoided impacts to 1.8 acres of nontidal wetlands and 1.3 acres of tidal wetlands.
In addition to the required Department of the Army permit, the applicant must obtain a Virginia Water Protection Permit/401 certification from the DEQ, assuring applicable laws and regulations pertaining to water quality are not violated, and a permit from the Norfolk and Hampton Wetlands boards. Project drawings are attached.
AUTHORITY: Permits are required pursuant to Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 (33 U.S.C. 403), Sections 401 and 404 of the Clean Water Act (Public Law 95-217), and Title 62.1 of the Code of Virginia.
FEDERAL EVALUATION OF APPLICATION: The decision whether to issue a permit will be based on a probable-impact evaluation, including cumulative impacts of the proposed activity on the public interest. It will reflect the national concern for both protection and utilization of important resources. The benefits that reasonably may be expected from the proposal must be balanced against its reasonably foreseeable detriments. All of the proposal's relevant factors will be considered, including conservation, economics, aesthetics, general environmental concerns, wetlands; cultural, fish, wildlife and flood-plain values; flood hazards, land use, navigation, shoreline erosion and accretion, recreation; water supply, conservation and quality; energy and mineral needs, safety, food and fiber production, property ownership and, in general, the people’s needs and welfare. The Environmental Protection Agency's "Guidelines for Specification of Disposal Sites for Dredged or Fill Material" will also be applied (Section 404(b)(1) of the Clean Water Act).
The Corps of Engineers 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 direct, indirect and cumulative impacts of this proposed activity. 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, the environment and other public-interest factors listed above. Comments are used in the preparation of an Environmental Assessment and/or Environmental Impact Statement pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act. They are also used to determine the need for a public hearing and overall public interest of the proposed activity. Anyone may request a public hearing to consider this permit application by writing to the district commander within 30 days of this notice date, stating specific reasons for holding it. The district commander will then decide if a hearing should take place.
Preliminary review indicates: (1) a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the Hampton Roads Crossing Study was signed April 25, 2017, and an Environmental Assessment Re-evaluation was completed and signed June 7, 2018; (2) after conducting the preliminary Norfolk District Endangered Species Act Project Review Process, the following listed/proposed/candidate species and/or designated/proposed critical habitat under the ESA of 1973 (16 U.S.C. 1531-1544, 87 Stat. 884, as amended) may be affected: northern long-eared bat, northeastern beach tiger beetle, fin whale, North Atlantic right whale, piping plover, red knot, Atlantic sturgeon, shortnose sturgeon, Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, loggerhead sea turtle, leatherback sea turtle and green sea turtle. Based on this “may affect” determination, the Official Species List and Species Conclusion Table are attached for review and comment by Fish and Wildlife Service. Additional information may change these findings.
Multiple cultural resource investigations have been conducted in support of the HRBT expansion project in order to comply with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 and its implementing regulations at 36 CFR Part 800. Previous cultural resource studies have identified 20 historic properties within the HRBT project’s area of potential effect. Consultation conducted by the Federal Highway Administration and Virginia Department of Transportation under Section 106 with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, which serves as the State Historic Preservation Officer, resulted in a finding of “no adverse effect” for the HRBT expansion project through the 2017 execution of a Programmatic Agreement. The Programmatic Agreement requires VDOT to meet specific design commitments for the avoidance of adverse effects, complete efforts to identify archaeological sites eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places within the area of potential effect for the project and assess effects on identified historic properties. VDOT continues to participate in ongoing coordination with VDHR regarding the Programmatic Agreement.
For compliance with the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972, as amended for Tidewater projects, the applicant must certify that federally licensed or permitted activities affecting Virginia's coastal uses or resources will be conducted in a manner consistent with the Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program and obtain concurrence from the Department of Environmental Quality, Office of Environmental Impact Review. The applicant submitted its consistency certification to DEQ on Aug. 8. Proof of DEQ concurrence must be submitted to the Corps prior to final permit issuance. For more information or to obtain a list of the Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program’s enforceable policies, contact the Department of Environmental Quality’s Office of Environmental Impact Review at 804-698-4330 or email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, as amended by the Sustainable Fisheries Act of 1996 (Public Law 104-267), requires federal agencies to consult with the National Marine Fisheries Service on all actions, or proposed actions – permitted, funded or undertaken by the agency – that may adversely affect essential fish habitat. The James River in Hampton Roads contains essential fish habitat for various life stages of 11 species, including dusky shark, butterfish, windowpane flounder, bluefish, black sea bass, summer flounder, red drum, sandbar shark, cobia, king mackerel and Atlantic Spanish mackerel. The habitat this project would affect consists of submerged aquatic vegetation, tidal wetlands, shallow water, rocky subtidal areas and sandy subaqueous bottom. The proposed project is described above in “Proposed Work and Purpose.” As part of the north and south tunnel island expansion, this project will result in the conversion of 13.7 acres of subaqueous bottom to uplands. There will also be temporary turbidity due to the mechanical dredging of about 7.9 acres, temporary impacts to benthic communities within the project area and possible effects from pile-driving activities. These impacts may be mitigated through the use of dredging and pile-driving best management practices, as well as compensation measures, including the purchase of wetland credits and in-lieu fee fund credits for unavoidable impacts to wetlands, subaqueous bottom and SAV. The Corps assessment of the project leads to a preliminary determination it may have a substantial adverse effect on essential fish habitat and therefore expanded consultation may be required. This preliminary determination’s rationale is based on the amount of subaqueous-bottom impacts, as well as impact to tidal wetlands and SAV. Based on National Marine Fisheries Service comments in response to this public notice, further essential fish habitat consultation may be necessary.
COMMENT PERIOD: Comments on this project should be in writing. They can be sent by email to email@example.com or regular mail, addressed to: Norfolk District, Corps of Engineers, (ATTN: CENAO-WR-R, George Janek), 803 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510-1011. All comments must be received by close of business Oct. 24.
PRIVACY & CONFIDENTIALITY: Comments and information, including submitter identity, provided in response to this public notice may be disclosed, reproduced and distributed at U.S. Army Corps of Engineers discretion. Information submitted in connection with the public notice cannot be maintained as confidential by USACE. Submissions should not include any information the submitter seeks to preserve as confidential.
If you have questions about this project or the permit process, contact George Janek (Corps of Engineers) at 757-201-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.