FEDERAL PUBLIC NOTICE
The District Commander has received a joint application for Federal and State permits as described below:
City of Newport News
Mr. Everett Skipper, P.E.
Director of Engineering
8th Floor City Hall
2400 Washington Avenue
Newport News, VA 23607
WATERWAY AND LOCATION OF THE PROPOSED WORK: The project is located in wetlands connected to Stony Run, a tributary of the tidal Warwick River, in Newport News, Virginia.
PROPOSED WORK AND PURPOSE: The City of Newport News proposes the construction of a new connector road to be named Independence Boulevard in the northern end of the city connecting Fort Eustis Boulevard with Denbigh Boulevard. The purpose of the connector road is to reduce traffic congestion, shorten driving distances, reduce the risk of vehicular crashes, extend the life of other roads, and provide more choice in routing for area motorists. Alternative alignments have been evaluated, and the City has selected what is believe to be the least damaging practicable alternative based on project costs, landowner cooperation, and environmental impacts.
A wetland delineation has been performed and confirmed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the right‐of‐way. Impacts to wetlands associated with Independence Boulevard permit application amount to 0.24 acres of emergent wetlands and 1.95 acres of forested wetlands. Impacts to wetlands will be mitigated via the purchase of 4.14 wetland credits from a mitigation bank that services the Lower James River watershed.
Wetlands have been delineated along a 100‐foot wide corridor and confirmed by the Corps of Engineers. Impacts will occur to palustrine emergent and forested wetlands at separate locations totaling 2.19 acres along the main road corridor and the Richneck Road connectors. Emergent wetlands are located along the western side of the existing Richneck Road north of the railroad crossing where vegetation has been routinely mowed as part of the managed right‐of-way. Vegetation in these wetlands is limited to the herbaceous stratum, and includes species such as soft rush (Juncus effusus), grasses (Panicum spp.), and sedges (Carex spp.). Water permeability within these wetland soils is occasionally slow due to a clay layer, resulting in surface indicators of wetland hydrology such as Water Stained Leaves and Sphagnum Moss. Water gathers on the western side of the road after rain events and is conveyed to a small culvert underneath Richneck Road where the water is conveyed on the eastern side of the road to a man‐made ditch heading east where the water is released into a large Grafton Pond.
Wetlands proposed for impact south of the railroad crossing are forested. Forested wetland vegetation includes species such as red maple (Acer rubrum), sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua), loblolly pine (Pinus taeda), black gum (Nyssa sylvatica), willow oak (Quercus phellos), highbush blueberry (Vaccinium fuscatum), roundleaf greenbrier (Smilax rotundifolia), and cypress swamp sedge (Carex joorii). One vernal pool occurs near the proposed road right‐of‐way within the Huntington Pointe property just north of existing large BMP ponds, and situated adjacent to the western edge of the Dominion Virginia Power easement. The roadway will be aligned just to the west of this system to avoid its impact.
The roadway design will include the collection of surface water runoff using curbs and gutters. Runoff will be managed by the construction of two small stormwater best management practice (BMP) basins, one located on the northern end of the project near Fort Eustis Boulevard and the other next to the power line easement towards the southern end of the project. These basins will be located in uplands.
The Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 404(b)(1) Guidelines (Guidelines) specify an applicant’s need to avoid, minimize, and mitigate for unavoidable impacts to wetlands. These steps are studied in terms of alternatives that are deemed to be “available and capable of being done after taking into account costs, existing technology, and logistics in light of overall project purposes.” The City of Newport News has attempted to implement the construction of the connector road between Fort Eustis Boulevard and Denbigh Boulevard for decades. During those years, engineers and environmental scientists have analyzed various alignments in light of logistics, land use, environmental impacts, construction costs, and landowner impacts. Today, these same factors have been applied to evaluate alternative alignments taking into consideration those design criteria.
Three Guidelines alternatives that would meet the project purpose have been dismissed from further consideration. The first dismissed alternative is the extension of Woodside Lane. As discussed earlier, this alternative was the first proposed routing of the connector road between Fort Eustis Boulevard and Denbigh Boulevard during the 1970s and early 1980s, which was terminated because of the strong negative outcry from local citizens. The City has no intensions of attempting to resurrect this old alignment because of the negative public response.
The second dismissed alternative includes a route on the eastern end of the study area nearer to U.S. Highway 17. This alternative was rejected because it would bisect the Grafton Ponds complex, impact high quality coastal plain vernal pools, and possibly encroach through the Grafton Ponds Natural Area Preserve. The environmental impacts of such an alignment were deemed too great, and for this reason, this alternative was dismissed.
The third dismissed alternative involves routing the connector road down a portion of the Dominion Virginia Power easement. This alternative was dismissed because there is no room for a 100‐foot wide road right‐of‐way without having to relocate large utility poles that suspend power lines that supply much of the electricity to the southeastern end of the Peninsula; and to relocate the power poles would require the widening of the utility easement and moving the power line poles at great expense. Dominion Virginia Power is currently proposing the installation of new towers within the easement to accommodate a new 230Kv line, and a major roadway would greatly interfere with their electrical transmission plans. Because these three alternatives were dismissed from further consideration, the City looked elsewhere for the alignment. Eventually, an agreement was reached with the owners of the Huntington Pointe property to allow the connector road to bisect their property.
The initial phase of Huntington Pointe development nearest Denbigh Boulevard is under construction. The entrance into the development will comprise a 4‐lane roadway with a median and sidewalk beginning at Denbigh Boulevard and ending at the northern extent of the Phase I construction for a distance of approximately 0.57 miles. Four Guidelines action alternatives (B, C, D, E) carried forward for consideration will each be an extension of this entrance road that will take the corridor northward to Fort Eustis Boulevard. In addition, each alternative utilizes a +2,000 foot section of Richneck Road between the railroad track northward to Fort Eustis Boulevard since this area is an established right‐of‐way and its use for the connector road would minimize the need to cut a new right‐of‐way through wooded habitats causing higher environmental impacts.
In selecting the preferred Guidelines alternative for the Independence Boulevard corridor, the City placed strong emphasis on balancing landowner cooperation, landowner impacts, and environmental impacts. Impacts to wetlands resulting from Alternatives B, C, and E are within an acceptable range, with Alternative E having fewer impacts. Alternative B and E, however, would cause significant land de‐valuation to the Huntington Pointe property with a 100‐foot right of way. Not only would the City be required to obtain the land for the right‐of‐way, the City would be required to compensate the landowner for the de‐valuation of adjacent land, which would be significant. Alternative D would have the highest amount of environmental impact, with 4.86 acres of wetland impacts and the impact of a vernal pool, and possible conflicts with watershed protection on Newport News Water Works (NNWW) property.
The City has identified Guidelines Alternative C1 as the preferred alternative because the City believes this routing of Independence Boulevard is the least environmentally damaging practicable alternative (LEDPA) in terms of environmental impacts as well as landowner impacts and cost. Alternatives B and E would cause fewer impacts to wetlands but would cost the City a significantly higher amount than the other alternatives due to impacts to land value. In addition, the landowner affected by Alternatives B and E would strongly oppose these routes. Alternative D has been eliminated because this alternative has the highest amount of wetland impacts, would require a completely new railroad crossing at considerable expense, and would interfere with Dominion Virginia Power’s plans for improving the electrical transmission structures currently underway.
Note: The City identified Alternative “A” as the no action alternative. However, no action is not considered a practicable alternative and is therefore not included as a Guidelines alternative
In addition to the required Department of the Army permit, the applicant must obtain a Virginia Water Protection Permit from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) assuring that applicable laws and regulations pertaining to water quality are not violated. Project drawings are attached.
AUTHORITY: Permits are required pursuant to 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 an evaluation of the probable impact including cumulative impacts of the proposed activity on the public interest. The decision will reflect the national concern for both protection and utilization of important resources. The benefits which 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 values, fish and wildlife values, flood hazards, flood plain values, land use classification, navigation, shoreline erosion and accretion, recreation, water supply and conservation, water quality, energy needs, safety, food and fiber production, mineral needs, consideration of property ownership and, in general, the needs and welfare of the people. 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 of Engineers 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. Anyone may request a public hearing to consider this permit application by writing to the District Commander within 30 days of the date of this notice, stating specific reasons for holding the public hearing. The District Commander will then decide if a hearing should be held.
Listed species information was extracted from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF), the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation Division of Natural Heritage (VDCR‐DNH), and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) on‐line database sources (Appendix C). Four state protected animal species were itemized in the database as occurring within two miles of the study area. The USFWS on‐line project review lists the northern long‐eared bat as the only federally listed animal potentially occurring in the vicinity.
Although considered a “draft” assessment, the USFWS cites more than 1/3 of the contiguous United States, to include the entire state of Virginia, as the potential range for the northern long‐eared bat. This species overwinters in caves and abandoned mines with large entrances, constant temperatures, and high humidity. The Lower Peninsula of Virginia within the coastal plain offers no such habitat. Summertime roosting habitat includes behind tree bark, within tree cavities, and tree crevices. Feeding habitat includes the understory of forested hillsides and ridges. It is highly unlikely that the Independence Boulevard project area is being utilized by northern long‐eared bats. The trees within the road corridor are generally young in age and size, resulting in bark with no sizeable crevices where bats could roost. In addition, much of the Independence Boulevard alignment falls within an existing road corridor where disturbances from passing vehicles would likely discourage usage of the area for bats.
The Center of Conservation Biology is tasked with inventorying bald eagle nests in the State of Virginia. Based on their records, the closest bald eagle nest occurs approximately 1.8 miles north of the project site adjacent to headwaters of the Lee Hall Reservoir. Impacts to this nest site from the project will not occur.
Preliminary review indicates that: (l) no environmental impact statement will be required; (2) after conducting the NAO Endangered Species Act (ESA) Project Review Process there is not likely an effect to listed/proposed/candidate species and/or designated/proposed critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 and the Official Species List and Species Conclusion Table is attached for review and comment by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; and (3) while a known battlefield eligible for inclusion or included in the National Register of Historic Places is in or near the permit area, the battlefield would not likely be affected by the proposal. Additional information might change any of these findings.
For compliance with the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972, as amended for projects located in Tidewater, 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 (VCP) and obtain concurrence from the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), Office of Environmental Impact Review (OEIR). We have not received a certification from the applicant prior to publication of this public notice. It is the applicant’s responsibility to submit a consistency certification to the Office of Environmental Impact Review for concurrence or objection and proof of concurrence must be submitted to the Corps prior to final permit issuance. A template federal consistency certification can be found here: http://www.deq.virginia.gov/Programs/EnvironmentalImpactReview/FederalConsistencyReviews.aspx#cert . For more information or to obtain a list of the enforceable policies of the VCP, contact the Department of Environmental Quality, Office of Environmental Impact Review at (804) 698-4330 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
COMMENT PERIOD: Comments on this project should be made in by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or in writing, addressed to the Norfolk District, Corps of Engineers (ATTN: CENAO-WR-R (Evans)), 803 Front Street, Norfolk, Virginia 23510-1096, and must be received by the close of business on February 8, 2016.
PRIVACY & CONFIDENTIALITY: Comments and information, including the identity of the submitter, submitted in response to this Public Notice may be disclosed, reproduced, and distributed at the discretion of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Information that is submitted in connection with this Public Notice cannot be maintained as confidential by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Submissions should not include any information that the submitter seeks to preserve as confidential.
If you have any questions about this project or the permit process, contact John Evans at email@example.com or call 757-201-7794.
Official Species List
Species Conclusion Table