Finding of No Significant Impact
Fee-Simon Wetland Restoration Project, Clatsop County, OR
I find the proposed action described as the Preferred Alternative in the Fee-Simon Wetland Restoration Project Environmental Assessment ([Project]; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Portland District, April 2014) will not significantly impact the quality of the human environment.
Project purpose and need
The Natural Resources Conservation Service, in cooperation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers under National Environmental Policy Act prepared the EA to evaluate the effects ofthe Project. The purpose of the Project is to restore ecological process and tidal influence to the floodplain and to provide habitat for juvenile salmonids while also ensuring flood risk reduction to an adjacent leveed 44-acre parcel. The Project is needed to increase access to juvenile salmonid rearing and refugia habitat, which has been reduced in the Columbia River Basin due to landscape alterations. The levee breach will also address drainage issues inside the Federal Flood Control Works while ensuring flood risk reduction behind the cross levee at the proposed project site. The NRCS is the lead agency under the NEPA, and the Corps is a cooperating agency.
The Project consists of two main components. The first is to breach the Sarajarvi Dike No. 32, a federally-authorized levee. This is proposed to restore the existing 46 acres of wetlands behind it to their natural condition, to restore ecological process and tidal influence to the floodplain, and to provide habitat for juvenile salmonids. The Dike also functions as flood control for 44 upland acres of agricultural, wetlands, and grazing lands that are located behind the Dike and immediately adjacent to the 46 wetland acres. The second component of the Project consists of completing construction of, or ensuring that the cross levee intersecting the Dike, comports with Corps design and construction standards as constructed in order that it may be formally integrated into the federal levee system and perform as the functional equivalent of the breached portion of the Dike. If so incorporated, the cross levee will be operated and maintained by Clatsop Diking Improvement Company No. 9.
Details of the preferred alternative include:
1) A Corps determination that the new cross levee was built to current Corps-levee-standards and that it can serve as a substitute Federal Flood Control Works for the portion of the levee proposed for breaching;
2) Breaching five sections of the levee (3 channel breaches and 2 floodplain breaches) totaling about 1,005 linear feet (about 0.19 mile). These will result in reconnection of approximately 46 acres of an abandoned hayfield and isolated wetland property to the Klaskanine River;
3) Excavating and grading of channels along with breaching the levee totaling approximately 9,667 cubic yards of material and utilization of7,174 CY of excavated material for topographic diversity and to provide topsoil as part of the planting plan for the Project site;
4) Implementing the project to allow ebb tide flow through the floodplain/wetland down river;
5) Placing hummocks adjacent to the excavated areas that range in elevation from 13 feet (ft) to 19ft '"Leveed" area, acre, or parcel refers to the location behind a levee.
6) Installation of large woody debris at the base of the terraces, hummocks and along the inside
slope of the channels;
7) Revegetating about 3 acres (not including the permanent, existing access road) with native wetland, riparian and upland species on disturbed areas;
8) Discontinuing with current pumping practices that provide interior drainage.
The Corps has authorization under 33 U.S. Code§ 408 to approve, with or without conditions or not approve requests to modify sections of the Federal levee system. Because part of proposed action includes requests to modify sections ofthe federal levee system, the Corp has evaluated the pertinent Section 408 permit application. Permit approval will allow CDIC 9 to request Corps' acceptance of the cross levee constructed in 2012 and if accepted, subsequent breaching on portions of the existing levee. In order to obtain a Section 408 permit, an applicant (in this case, CDIC 9) must first conclusively demonstrate to the Corps that the proposed modification will not be injurious to the public interest and that it will not impair the usefulness of the Federal works to be modified. Columbia River Estuary Task Force, as agent for the CDIC 9, constructed the cross levee in 2012, prepared the application materials for the Section 408 application, and will implement the restoration project upon approval. In fulfilling the authorization, the Corps is required by the National Environmental Policy Act to detennine if the impacts ofthe project are significant. Following are the tests of significance from (1) to (10) as specified in 40 C.F .R. 1508.27:
1. Significant Effects Even Though the Overall Effect Is Beneficial: The proposed actions will benefit fish and wildlife species, including Endangered Species Act-listed fish, waterfowl and other native aquatic and terrestrial species. In order to better mimic the natural
conditions that were historically present before hydraulic modifications from construction of the FCW, the proposed actions will provide habitat enhancement at the Project site by restoring floodplain and tidal features and natural processes to areas disconnected by the levee. The analysis in the EA is not biased by the beneficial effects of the action.
2. The Degree to which the Action Affects Public Health and Safety: The construction effects will be short-term, localized, and temporary. As such, they will have no adverse effects on public health and safety. The applicant will delineate the work area to protect nonconstruction workers from construction zones. The post-Project flood risk to the remaining 44 acres of upland agricultural and grazing land will be maintained because of the newly constructed cross levee, while the 46 wetland acres on the riverward side ofthe cross levee, by virtue of the Sarajarvi Dike No. 32 breaches, will be allowed to revert to more natural and valuable floodplain and ecosystem conditions. This modification will decrease the leveed (or protected) area- behind Sarajarvi Dike No. 32 from about 90 acres to
44 acres. The Corps evaluated the effects of modification to the rest of the leveed portion of the District and found that the proposed modifications will not be injurious to the public interest and will not impair the usefulness of the Federal works to be modified.
3. Unique Characteristics of Geographical Area: The Project site lies within the 1 00-year floodplain on the north bank of the Klaskanine River approximately 2,400-ft. upstream of its confluence with the Young's River. The site is a combination of abandoned hayfield, floodplain, and wooded estuarine intertidal wetlands. The Corps will require the Applicant to protect historic and cultural resources during construction and avoid construction near the wildlife rehabilitation center. The Applicant will enhance the estuarine floodplain, wetland, and riparian areas by restoring tidal and floodplain processes through levee breaches, channel improvements, and native plantings. Wild and scenic rivers, wilderness, or other unique natural features are not present in the Project area. The Project will avoid negative impacts to wetlands. The Project will not result in conversion of existing uses or zoning designations, including Exclusive Farm Use land and high-value, prime, and unique farmlands. No effects will occur to unique geographical characteristics.
4. Highly Controversial Effects on the Quality of the Human Environment: The Project will have no measurable negative effects on the quality of the human environment. The effects on the quality of the human environment are well-known and were analyzed using standard scientific principles. The Corps evaluated and concurs with the Applicant's documentation demonstrating that the proposed modification will not be injurious to the public interest and that it will not impair the usefulness of the Federal works to be modified.
5. Highly Uncertain, Unique, or Unknown Risks: The Corps has evaluated Project risks as they are presented in the EA and 408 application package. Through the EA analyses, the Corps has not identified unique or uncertain risks to the human environment.
6. Future Precedents: Ecosystem restoration is a beneficial effect and does not constitute an irrevocable or irretrievable step toward future changes in the scope, scale, orientation, or design of the current levee system, or in the current and historic method or approach to maintaining the CDIC 9 Diking District. For these reasons, the action will not establish a precedent for future actions in the Klaskanine River or CDIC 9.
7. Significant Cumulative Impacts: The EA considered the effects of implementing the proposed action in association with past, present, and reasonably foreseeable actions in and near the Project site and has reviewed the direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts of the action to modify the federal levee. Significant cumulative adverse effects were not identified, and the Project will incrementally reverse some of the adverse environmental effects of past actions.
8. National Register of Historic Places and Other Historical and Culturally Significant Places: A cultural resource overview and on-site survey were conducted for the project by the NRCS State Cultural Resource Specialist. There are no buildings or structures of any kind other than the dike and levee system on the proposed project site. NRCS determined there were no historic properties eligible to the National Register of Historic Places in the Project area. The NRCS determined there will be no historic properties affected as a result of the project. Oregon State Historic Preservation Office concurred that there no historic properties affected from the actions proposed. This determination is documented by the Oregon SHPO in two letters of concurrence. The first concurrence letter indicates that the dike on the property is not eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historical Places. The second concurrence letter indicates that there no known cultural resources recorded in the area, but caution should be taken during construction. The second letter, clarified by subsequent phone conversations, indicates that any inadvertent discovery of cultural materials will cause the suspension of work while the discovery is investigated by a professional archeologist.
9. Endangered or Threatened Species or Habitat: The Project will temporarily adversely affect aquatic endangered and threatened species and habitat as a result of short-term construction activities. Adverse effects will be minimized by incorporating standard best management practices. The Applicant will design and construct the Project in accordance with the terms and conditions of the Endangered Species Act Section 7 Programmatic Conference and Biological Opinion and Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act Essential Fish Habitat Consultation for Revisions to Standard Local Operating Procedures for Endangered Species to Administer Stream Restoration and Fish Passage Improvement Actions Authorized or Carried Out by the US. Army Corps of Engineers in Oregon (9/3/2013, National Marine Fisheries Service) ( otherwise known as SLOPES Restoration). This SLOPES is a NMFS Biological Opinion for aquatic species under their jurisdiction for predictable restoration activities. The project will not affect ESA-listed species which are overseen by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Applicant developed a "no-effect" memo for the USFWS-managed species, which the Corps and NRCS adopted. Both NMFS and USFWS, along with Oregon Department ofFish and Wildlife are informed ofthe project and are supportive of restoration efforts.
10. Other Legal Requirements: Discussion of compliance with applicable environmental laws or requirements is identified in the EA. The Corps will require the Applicant to design and implement the Project to comply with all app licable environmental laws and regulations.
All applicable laws, executive orders, regulations and guidelines were considered in the evaluation of alternatives, including the Preferred Alternative. Based on the review of these evaluations, I have detennined these impacts both individually and cumulatively, are not
"significant" as defined by the NEPA legal statute, regulations, and case law. Based upon the EA, I have determined that the selected action will not significantly affect the quality of the human environment and that an environmental impact statement is not warranted.
Date: September, 2014
Jose L. Aguilar
Colonel, Corps of Engineers