Permit Application Public Notices

The United States Congress authorizes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to regulate activities that may impact wetlands and waters of the United States. This authority is granted and defined under Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 and Section 404 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972, also known as the Clean Water Act.

Public involvement is a key element of the Corps’ permit review process. During an application review, the Corps considers the views of other federal, state and local agencies, Native American tribes, interest groups, and the general public. The results of this careful public interest review are fair and equitable decisions that allow reasonable use of private property, infrastructure development, and growth of the economy, while offsetting the authorized impacts to the waters of the United States.

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NWP-2014-411

Published June 17, 2020
Expiration date: 7/16/2020

PUBLIC NOTICE
Application for Permit

Issue Date: June 19, 2020
Expiration Date: July 20, 2020
US Army Corps of Engineers No: NWP-2014-411
Oregon Department of State Lands No: APP0060019

30-Day Notice

Interested parties are hereby notified the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Portland District (Corps) has received a request to modify a Department of the Army permit for certain work in waters of the United States, as described below and shown on the attached plans. The Corps is soliciting comments on the proposed work.

Applicant: Rare Earth Resources, LLC
Attention: Mr. Dan Johnson
PO Box 875
Halfway, Oregon 97834
Email: danj@bonnanza.us
Telephone: (503) 510-3281

Applicant’s Agent: Snow Peak Consultants, LLC
Attention: Mr. E. Frank Schnitzer
43062 Shingle Mill Road
Lebanon, Oregon 97355
Email: hammondcamp@hughes.net
Telephone: (503) 779-9384

Location: The project site is located in Pine Creek, between river mile 26 and 27, in Halfway, Baker County, Oregon. The site is in Section 15, Township 7 South, Range 45 East. Latitude and Longitude: 44.954351 North, 117.188621 West

Waterway: The project area includes Wetlands 1-14, Curry Ditch, Moore Ditch, Side-Channels to Pine Creek and Pine Creek. The wetland boundaries and location of the ordinary high water mark (OHWM) shown on the project drawings have not yet been verified by the Corps. If the Corps determines the boundaries of the wetland/waters are substantially inaccurate a new public notice may be published.

Project Purpose: The applicant’s stated purpose is to recover gold through placer mining techniques.

Project Description: The proposed project is a request to modify a previously authorized Department of the Army permit to develop a placer mining operation at Pine Creek called the Bonnanza Mine project (Corps Permit No. NWP-2014-411). On April 24, 2019, the Corps issued a permit to Rare Earth Resources, LLC to conduct mining activities in waters of the U.S. The following is a description of the project as authorized, the current status of the project, and the proposed modification.

Project as Authorized: The project as authorized would place up to 386 cubic yards of fill material into approximately 0.05 acre below the OHWM of Pine Creek. The project would excavate and redeposit sediments in 1.49 acres of wetlands and below the OHWM of 0.96 acre of side channels of Pine Creek and Moore Ditch. The mining operation would include six mine cells. Excavated sediments would be processed on-site. The mining operation would start at the south end of the project area and proceed to the north. Mine Cells 1 through 4 are located on the east side of Pine Creek. Mine Cells 5 and 6 are on the west side of Pine Creek. It is anticipated that the mining operation would require six years to complete and then up to two additional years to complete the reclamation.

Pine Creek Channel Relocation: To have adequate space for pit development, 560 linear feet of the existing Pine Creek channel would be relocated toward the west valley wall into a previously active braided channel of Pine Creek. The new channel would be aligned to leave the Curry Ditch headgate structure and fish screen in place. The channel relocation would serve as a permanent diversion, and channel features would be established immediately as part of the diversion effort. The existing braid has an established vegetated area (setback), including overstory and woody debris. The project would enhance these areas for geomorphic stability and habitat improvements.

Current Status:
Mining activities began on May 16, 2019. Mining has occurred in Cell 1, which was excavated and backfilled to approximate original contours. Nearly half of Cell 2 has also been excavated. To date, mining activities have occurred in 0.41 acre of wetlands. The channel plugs were placed within 0.05 acre of Pine Creek below the OHWM and Pine Creek has been relocated. Mining and processing ceased in late November 2019. The seasonal mine shutdown included establishment of 100-year flood berms to ensure a flooding creek would not enter the mine pit. Best management practices for vegetation removal, stream buffers, and groundwater control were followed in order to minimize impacts to aquatic resources.

Proposed Modification:
The applicant proposes to modify the mining plan to add additional mine cells to the project. The proposed modification would place up to 203 cubic yards of excavated or fill material below the OHWM into approximately 0.04 acre of Pine Creek to install channel plugs. The project would excavate and redeposit sediments in 0.15 acre of wetlands. The mining operation would include eight mine cells. Excavated sediments would be processed on-site. The mining operation would start at the south end of the project area and proceed to the north. Mine Cells 1 through 3 are located on the east side of Pine Creek. Mine Cells 3a, 4a and 4b would be located west of and within the existing Pine Creek channel. Mine Cells 5 and 6 are on the west side of Pine Creek.

Pine Creek Channel Relocation: The project would install two plugs within the existing Pine Creek channel which would divert flows to a new cannel. To have adequate space for pit development, the project proposes to realign 950 linear feet of Pine Creek into a 1,005 linear feet channel. The new alignment of Pine Creek would flow in its pre-2010 channel location through Cell 4A for 675 feet, through cell 3A within a reconstructed channel on backfill for 207 feet, and through an excavated channel within the Pine Creek buffer for 123 feet. The applicant would place large woody debris and boulders within the new channel in the dry for habitat improvements.

Dredged Material Testing: Project sediments were evaluated in accordance with the Sediment Evaluation Framework for the Pacific Northwest (SEF). The interagency Portland Sediment Evaluation Team (PSET) implements the SEF for the Corps Portland District. The PSET determines the need for sediment testing based on the physical properties of dredged material, historical sediment quality data from the project and adjacent areas, current and historical land uses in and adjacent to the project area, and proximity of the project area to contaminant sources. The PSET has determined that no further testing or evaluation of the project sediments is necessary and that the project sediments are suitable for unconfined, aquatic disposal and exposure.

Mitigation: The applicant proposes to avoid and minimize impacts from the project by intercepting groundwater before it mixes with mining operations, diverting surface water prior to entrance into disturbed areas, not using a process pond, recycling water for placer mine operations so that no continuous groundwater pumping would occur, and utilizing proper best management practices for erosion control and mine pit excavation. The applicant has provided a proposed compensatory wetland mitigation plan to offset losses of waters of the U.S. that may result from the proposed project. The following is a description of the authorized mitigation plan and the proposed mitigation plan:

Authorized Mitigation Plan:
The authorized compensatory mitigation included the creation of 2.22 acres of wetlands, 1.2 acres of side channel habitat, and the relocated channel of Pine Creek.

Proposed Mitigation Plan:
The proposed compensatory mitigation would include the creation of 2.22 acres of wetlands and an additional 0.23 acre of created wetlands for the proposed 0.15 acre of wetland impact, the authorized 1.2 acre of side channel habitat, the authorized relocation of Pine Creek, and the proposed relocated portion of Pine Creek. Therefore a total of 2.45 acres of wetlands and 1.2 acres of side channel habitat would be created to offset impacts to aquatic resources.

Drawings: Twenty (20) drawings are attached and labeled Corps No. NWP-2014-411. Copies of this public notice, which have been mailed or otherwise physically distributed, feature project drawings in black and white. The electronic version features those drawings in color, which we think more accurately illustrates the proposed project. To access the electronic version of this public notice, go to the Portland District Regulatory website at http://www.nwp.usace.army.mil/Missions/Regulatory and select Regulatory Public Notices from the list of Regulatory pages.

Additional Information:The time limit to complete the work under the current permit expires on April 24, 2027. The requested permit modification would have the same expiration date.

Authority: The proposed project will be evaluated under the following:

Section 404, Clean Water Act (33 U.S.C. 1344), for discharge of dredged or fill material into waters of the United States.

Clean Water Act Section 404(b)(1) Guidelines: The described discharge will be evaluated for compliance with guidelines promulgated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under authority of Section 404(b)(1) of the Clean Water Act. The 404(b)(1) Guidelines are the substantive criteria used in evaluating discharges of dredged or fill material into waters of the United States. The source of the fill material would be borrowed from on-site. The Corps will evaluate the fill material source (i.e., borrow site) prior to finalizing a permit decision.

Water Quality Certification: Section 401 of the Clean Water Act (33 U.S.C. 1341) requires applicants to obtain a water quality certification for proposed discharges into waters of the United States. The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) issued a 401 Water Quality Certification dated April 1, 2019 for the authorized project. A permit for the described proposed modification would not be issued until new certification has been issued or is waived from the certifying state. Attached is the state's notice for a water quality certification.

Endangered Species: Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) (16 U.S.C. 1536) requires federal agencies to consult with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and/or U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) on all actions that may affect a species listed (or proposed for listing) under the ESA as threatened or endangered or that may adversely modify designated critical habitat. The Corps completed formal consultation for the previously authorized project; USFWS issued a Biological Opinion dated February 14, 2019. The Corps’ preliminary review indicates the proposed modification may affect an endangered or threatened species or designated critical habitat. The Corps will reinitiate consultation under Section 7 of the ESA for the proposed modification. The Corps will complete the required consultation prior to finalizing a permit decision.

Essential Fish Habitat: Section 305(b)(2) of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) as amended (16 U.S.C. 1855), requires Federal agencies to consult with the NMFS on all actions, or proposed actions, permitted, funded, or undertaken by the agency, that may adversely affect Essential Fish Habitat (EFH). The Corps’ preliminary review indicates the described activity would not adversely affect EFH at the project location or in its vicinity. The Corps will make a final determination on the need to consult on EFH after receipt of comments from this public notice including any comments provided by the NMFS.

Historic Properties/Cultural Resources: Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, as amended (54 U.S.C. 306108), requires Federal agencies to consult with the appropriate State and/or Tribal Historic Preservation Officer to take into account the effects of actions they undertake or permit on historic properties listed in or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. The Corps’ preliminary review indicates that a historic properties investigation has been conducted within the permit area. No sites determined eligible for or listed on the National Register of Historic Places were found to exist within the permit area.

This notice has been provided to the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), interested Native American Indian Tribes, and other interested parties. If you have information pertaining to cultural resources within the permit area, please provide this information to the Corps’ project manager identified at the end of this notice to assist in a complete evaluation of potential effects.

State and Local Authorizations: The Applicant will coordinate with other state agencies such as the Department of State Lands for a Removal-Fill Permit, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality for a 401 Water Quality Certification and National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit, and State of Oregon Department of
Geological and Mineral Industries for mining and reclamation.

Public Hearing: Any person may request in writing within the comment period specified in this notice that a public hearing be held to consider this application. Requests for public hearings shall state with particularity the reasons for holding a public hearing.

Evaluation: The decision whether to issue a permit will be based on an evaluation of the probable impact, including cumulative impacts, of the described activity on the public interest. That decision will reflect the national concern for both protection and utilization of important resources. The benefit, which reasonably may be expected to accrue from the described activity, must be balanced against its reasonably foreseeable detriments. All factors, which may be relevant to the proposal will be considered including the cumulative effects thereof; among those are conservation, economics, aesthetics, general environmental concerns, wetlands, historic properties, fish and wildlife values, flood hazards, floodplain values, land use, 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 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 impacts of the 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, 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.

Submitting Comments: Interested parties are invited to provide comments on the proposed project. Comments may be submitted by conventional mail or email. All comments received will be considered in determining whether authorizing the work would be contrary to the public interest.

Either conventional mail or e-mail comments must include the Corps reference number as shown on page 1 and include the commenter’s name and address. In order to be accepted, e-mail comments must originate from the author’s e-mail account and must include on the subject line of the e-mail message the Corps reference number. All comments received will become part of the administrative record and are subject to public release under the Freedom of Information Act including any personally identifiable information such as names, phone numbers, and addresses.

Additional information about the proposed project may be obtained from the Corps Project Manager listed below. All comments, whether by conventional mail or email, must be received no later than the expiration date of this public notice to ensure consideration. Comments should be submitted to the following mailing address or email address:

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Regulatory Branch
Brad Johnson
P.O. Box 2946
Portland, Oregon 97208-2946
Email: Brad.A.Johnson2@usace.army.mil
Telephone: (503) 808-4383

 

PUBLIC NOTICE
Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ)
Water Quality 401 Certification

Notice Issued: June 19, 2020
Written Comments Due: July 20, 2020

Corps of Engineers No: NWP-2014-411
Oregon Department of State Lands No: APP0060019

WHO IS THE APPLICANT: Rare Earth Resources, LLC

LOCATION OF CERTIFICATION ACTIVITY: See attached U.S. Army Corps of Engineers public notice.

WHAT IS PROPOSED: See attached U.S. Army Corps of Engineers public notice on the proposed project.

NEED FOR CERTIFICATION: Section 401 of the Federal Clean Water Act requires applicants for Federal permits or licenses to provide the Federal agency a water quality certification from the State of Oregon if the proposed activity may result in a discharge to waters of the state.

DESCRIPTION OF DISCHARGES: See attached U.S. Army Corps of Engineers public notice on the proposed project.

WHERE TO FIND DOCUMENTS: Documents and materials related to water quality issues as a result of the proposal are available for examination and copying at Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, 401 Water Quality Permit Coordinator, Northwest Region, 700 NE Multnomah Street, Suite 600, Portland, Oregon 97232. Other project materials are available by contacting the Corps per the attached public notice.

Scheduling an appointment will ensure that water quality documents are readily accessible during your visit. To schedule an appointment please call DEQ Water Quality at Northwest Region at (503) 229-5623.

Any questions on the water quality certification process may be addressed to the 401 Permit Coordinator at (503) 229-5623 or toll free within Oregon at (800) 452-4011. People with hearing impairments may call the Oregon Telecommunications Relay Service at (800) 735-2900.

PUBLIC PARTICIPATION:
Public Hearing: Oregon Administrative Rule (OAR) 340-48-0032 (2) states that “The Corps provides public notice of and opportunity to comment on the applications, including the application for certification, provided that the department (DEQ), in its discretion, may provide additional opportunity for public comment, including public hearing.”

Written comments:  Written comments on project elements related to water quality must be received at the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality by 5 p.m. on the date specified in the upper right section on page one of this notice. Written comments may be emailed or mailed as described below:

Email - 401publiccomments@deq.state.or.us

Mail - Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, Northwest Region
700 NE Multnomah Street, Suite 600
Portland, Oregon 97232
Attn: 401 Water Quality Permit Coordinator

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT: DEQ will review and consider all comments received during the public comment period. Following this review, certification of the proposal may be issued as proposed, issued with conditions, or denied. You will be notified of DEQ's final decision if you submit comments during the comment period. Otherwise, if you wish to receive notification, please call or write DEQ at the above address.

ACCESSIBILITY INFORMATION: DEQ can provide documents in an alternate format or in a language other than English upon request. Call DEQ at (800) 452-4011 or email deqinfo@deq.state.or.us.