FINDING OF NO SIGNIFICANT IMPACT
SANDY RIVER DELTA SECTION 536 ECOSYSTEM RESTORATION PROJECT
Multnomah Co., Oregon
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Portland District, the U.S. Forest Service, Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area and the Portland Water Bureau plan to implement restoration actions under Section 536 of the Water Resources Development Act to improve habitat for juvenile salmonids (salmon and steelhead) in the Sandy River Delta, particularly those species listed under the Endangered Species Act. To achieve this, flow will be restored to the historic main channel of the Sandy River at the delta to provide year-round access of fish to this channel and eliminate stranding potential by providing continuous flow. This will be done by removing a dam built in the 1930s and excavating a pilot channel within the historic main channel. Dam removal will be funded by the Corps and the Portland Water Bureau. Upon project completion, Sandy River water will flow year-round through the historic main channel and the present-day main channel. Rearing and refuge habitat for juvenile salmonids will be substantially improved. Native riparian forest habitat will also be restored along the historic main channel. Work will be conducted during the summer in-water work period when much of the channel is expected to be dry.
I have reviewed the Environmental Assessment and have determined that implementation of the preferred alternative will not significantly affect the quality of the human environment and that an Environmental Impact Statement is not required.
While acknowledging the impacts discussed in the EA and outlined above, the Corps is required by the National Environmental Policy Act to make a determination of the significance of those impacts. The Council of Environmental Quality has defined “significance” in 40 CFR 1508.27.
The EA and this Finding of No Significant Impact have listed all of the important considerations and their environmental impacts; these, both individually and cumulatively, are not significant as significant has been defined by NEPA regulations and case law.
While acknowledging the impacts discussed in the EA and outlined above, the Corps is required by NEPA to make a determination of the significance of those impacts. A checklist of considerations that help in making the determination of whether impacts of a project rise to the level of significantly affecting the quality of the human environment is provided at 40 CFR 1508.27. Following is the checklist from 1-10.
(1) Significant impacts include both beneficial and harmful impacts: Only minor disturbances are expected from the construction of the proposed project. Benefits of the project will result primarily from increasing juvenile rearing and refuge habitat for federally threatened and endangered runs of salmon and trout.
(2) Public health and safety: There will be no adverse impacts to public health and safety from implementation of the project. There are a number of naturally occurring safety hazards in the Sandy River ranging from unstable sandy sediments, high water, floating logs, etc. People that may decide to cross the West or East Channels to Sundial Island will have to exercise their own judgment when leaving established trails.
(3) Unique characteristics of geographical area: No unique geographical characteristics of the area were identified for the proposed project. There will be no impacts or changes to the geographical characteristics of the area with this project.
(4) Are effects on quality of the human environment controversial? Based on public review, there is controversy from a portion of the recreationalists that use the Sandy River Delta, those that prefer more solitude when recreating and enjoy Sundial Island.
(5) Are the risks uncertain or unique? The area will be returned to a state of more natural hydrology.
(6) Future precedents: The action is not likely to establish a precedent for future actions with significant effects because this action is not unusual in and of itself, nor does it lead to any further actions that are unique.
(7) Cumulative impacts: The effects of the proposed project have been considered along with other reasonably foreseeable future actions within and adjacent to the project area. The proposed project is not expected to have any indirect effects beyond the benefits expected from reduction of the threat of catastrophic fire and from improved forest health. Only minor construction impacts are expected from project implementation.
(8) National Register of Historic Places and other historical and culturally significant places: The proposed project has been coordinated by the Corps’ Cultural Resources Team and the State Historical Preservation Office. No adverse impacts to cultural resources will result.
(9) Endangered Species Act: Determinations of no effect were made for all listed species and designated critical habitats under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
(10) Other legal requirements: There are no known violations of any federal, state, or local laws in the proposed action.
Based upon the EA prepared for this project, I have determined that implementation of the preferred alternative will not significantly affect the quality of the human environment and that an Environmental Impact Statement is not required.
John W. Eisenhauer, P.E.
Colonel, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Commander and District Engineer