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MVK 2021-00270

CESWL-RD
Published April 5, 2021
Expiration date: 5/5/2021

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:  Comments are invited on the work described below.  Please see the Public Involvement section for details on submitting comments.

Point of Contact.  If additional information is desired, please contact the regulator, Johnny McLean, telephone number:  (501) 340-1382, mailing address:  Little Rock District Corps of Engineers, Regulatory Division, PO Box 867, Little Rock, Arkansas  72203-0867, email address:  Johnny.L.McLean@usace.army.mil.  An electronic copy of the Arkansas Department of Transportation-Moro Creek Mitigation Bank prospectus and wetland delineation can be viewed on the Little Rock District, Regulatory Division webpage at http://www.swl.usace. army.mil/Missions/Regulatory/PublicNotices.aspx or a hard copy can be obtained from the Corps of Engineers through the contact information listed above.

Project Information.  Pursuant to Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (33 U.S. Code 1344), notice is hereby given that

Arkansas Department of Transportation
PO Box 2261
Little Rock, Arkansas 72203-2261

proposes the establishment of a wetland and stream mitigation bank in Cleveland and Dallas Counties, Arkansas, and has submitted their Moro Creek Mitigation Bank prospectus.  The proposed 944.7-acre site is located approximately five miles southeast of the community of Carthage and just east of Highway 229 and west of Highway 167.  The prospectus outlines the proposal for developing and operating the bank, which is known as the banking instrument.  After public comments are received and any issues are resolved on the prospectus, Arkansas Department of Transportation (ArDOT) will submit a draft banking instrument to the District Engineer.  The District Engineer will then distribute the draft banking instrument to the Interagency Review Team (IRT), which is made up of the Corps and the pertinent state and Federal resource agencies.  The IRT will review the banking instrument and coordinate with Arkansas Department of Transportation on any issues until a final banking instrument is completed.  Finally, the District Engineer will review the final instrument and make a decision to approve or not approve.

The primary purpose of this bank is to mitigate for unavoidable impacts to streams and wetlands for highway construction and maintenance authorized under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and located within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Vicksburg District.  The management goal for the mitigation bank is the restoration and preservation of wetlands and streams, and riparian areas along with associated uplands.  Objectives include the preservation of existing forested wetlands and riparian areas and the restoration of wetlands and riparian areas through reforestation of clear-cut land with bottomland hardwood tree species.  Stream function would be restored by the removal of several crossings that were constructed during the logging of the property.  The site has been burned and treated with herbicide once in order to remove logging debris and control vegetation.  There is a total of approximately 532.4 acres of wetlands (preservation and restoration) located on the property and ArDOT is proposing 30.1 acres of wetland preservation and 502.3 acres of wetland restoration.  There is a total of approximately 299.2 acres of riparian stream buffer located on the property and ArDOT is proposing 235.2 acres of riparian restoration and 64 acres of riparian preservation.  

The primary considerations for site selection were watershed needs, baseline conditions, and habitat connectivity.  The proposed mitigation bank includes Moro Creek, Lawrence Moro Creek, Fite Creek, Pickett Creek, Spy Branch and the wetlands/riparian areas associated with the creek channels.  The Arkansas Department of Natural Heritage records indicate historic occurrences of the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker (Leuconotopicus borealis) located just north and south of the proposed mitigation bank site.

Much of the property lies within the 100-year floodplain of the Moro Creek.  A 1956 aerial image illustrates that the areas identified for riparian and wetland restoration were historically forested.  These areas were clear cut during standard silviculture operations.  Upland areas of the property will function as a buffer and wildlife sanctuary for terrestrial wildlife and migratory birds in times of flooding.  The proposed Moro Creek Mitigation Bank is in the Tertiary Uplands (Level IV Ecoregion, 35a) of the South Central Plains (Level III Ecoregion, 35).  Potential natural vegetation is oak-hickory-pine forest.  Mixed shortleaf pine-loblolly pine forest and upland deciduous forest is native.  In riparian areas, potential natural vegetation is bottomland forest.  Native vegetation in the clear-cut areas; e.g. warty panicgrass (Panicum verrucosum) (FACW), fowl mannagrass (Glyceria striata) (OBL), clammy hedgehyssop (Gratiola neglecta) (OBL), false nettle (Boehmeria cylindrica) (FACW), bearded beggarticks (Bidens aristosa) (FACW), cypress panicgrass (Dichanthelium dichotomum) (FAC), and variable panicgrass (Dichanthelium commutatum) (FAC).  Native woody vegetation on the natural levees and forested preservation areas; e.g. red maple (Acer rubrum) (FAC), ironwood (Carpinus caroliniana) (FAC), sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) (FAC), deciduous holly (Ilex decidua) (FACW), blackgum (Nyssa sylvatica) (FAC), persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) (FAC), water oak (Quercus nigra) (FAC), cherrybark oak (Quercus pagoda) (FACW), American holly (Ilex opaca) (FAC), willow oak (Quercus phellos) (FACW), water oak (Quercus nigra) (FAC), swamp chestnut oak (Quercus michauxii) (FACW), and Nuttall’s oak (Quercus texana) (FACW).

Soils on the site are mapped into five soil units by the USDA (Soil Survey of Calhoun and Dallas Counties, Arkansas 1980; Soil Survey of Cleveland County, Arkansas 1968).  Guyton soils consist of very deep, poorly drained to very poorly drained, slowly permeable soils that formed in thick loamy sediments.  Guyton soils are typically found on Coastal Plain local stream floodplains and in depressional areas on late Pleistocene age terraces; slopes range from 0 to 1 percent (Guyton OSD 2019).  Amy silt loam is described as very deep, poorly drained, slowly permeable soils that formed in alluvium high in silt.  Amy soils are found on Pleistocene terraces in the Western and Southern Coastal Plains; slopes range from 0 to 3 percent (Amy OSD 2019).  Wehadkee soils are described as very deep, poorly to very poorly drained that formed in loamy sediments.  Wehadkee soils are typical soils on floodplains along streams that drain from the mountains and piedmont; slopes range from 0 to 2 percent (Wehadkee OSD 2019).  Ouachita soils consist of deep, well drained, moderately slowly permeable soils that formed in loamy alluvium.  These level to nearly level soils—slopes range from 0 to 3 percent—are on floodplains and natural levees along streams in the Western Coastal Plains (Ouachita OSD 2019).  Pheba soils are described as deep, nearly level to very gently sloping somewhat poorly drained soils with moderately slowly permeability that formed in loamy sediments.  Pheba soils are typical in broad uplands and terraces in the Southern Coastal Plains Major Land Resource Area; slopes range from 0 to 3 percent (Pheba OSD 2019).  Savannah soils consist of very deep, moderately well drained, moderately slowly permeable soils that formed in loamy marine or fluvial terrace deposits.  Savannah soils are typically found on uplands and terraces in the Southern Coastal Plain, where slopes range from 0 to 15 percent (Savannah OSD 2019). See Figure 6.

The bank site is located in the Lower Ouachita-Smackover 8-digit (08040201) sub-basin.  The primary service and secondary service areas would include the sub-basins, 8-digit hydrologic unit codes (HUCs), in the South-Central Plains Ecoregion from Interstate 30 to the Arkansas/Louisiana state line.  The primary service area would include all portions of Bayou D’Arbonne (08040206), Lower Ouachita-Bayou DeLoutre (08040202) and Lower Ouachita-Smackover (08040201).  The secondary service area would include all portions of Upper Ouachita (08040102), Lower Saline (08040204) and Bayou Bartholomew (08040205).  These sub-basins all are included in the Lower Red-Ouachita sub-region (0804).

The 2002 Charleston Method with the Little Rock Addendum and the 2011 Little Rock Stream Method would be used as the functional assessments and credit generation mechanisms for this bank.

The location and general plan for the proposed work are shown on the enclosed sheets 1 through 5 of 5.

Cultural Resources.  ArDOT staff archeologists will review topographic maps, the National Register of Historic Places, and other data on reported sites in the area.  The FHWA will be the lead agency for coordination with all associated Native American Nations and tribal governments.  The District Engineer invites responses to this public notice from Native American Nations or tribal governments; Federal, State, and local agencies; historical and archeological societies; and other parties likely to have knowledge of or concerns with historic properties in the area.

Endangered Species.  Our preliminary determination is that the proposed activity will not affect listed Endangered Species or their critical habitat.  A copy of this notice is being furnished to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and appropriate state agencies and constitutes a request to those agencies for information on whether any listed or proposed‑to‑be‑listed endangered or threatened species may be present in the area which would be affected by the proposed activity.

Floodplain.  We are providing copies of this notice to appropriate floodplain officials in accordance with 44 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 60 (Floodplain Management Regulations Criteria for Land Management and Use) and Executive Order 11988 on Floodplain Management.

Regulatory Authority.  Implementation of the proposed mitigation bank will require Department of the Army Authorization under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act.  Based on preliminary evaluation by the USACE, it appears the proposed bank may be authorized by Nationwide Permit 27 for Aquatic Habitat Restoration, Establishment, and Enhancement Activities.

Public Involvement.  Any interested party is invited to submit to the above-listed POC written comments or objections relative to the proposed work on or before May 5, 2021.  Substantive comments, both favorable and unfavorable, will be accepted and made a part of the record and will receive full consideration in determining whether this work would be in the public interest.  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.  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 proposal, 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, considerations of property ownership and, in general, the needs and welfare of the people.

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 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.

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.  The District Engineer will determine if the issues raised are substantial and whether a hearing is needed for making a decision.

NOTE:  The mailing list for this Public Notice is arranged by state and county(s) where the project is located, and includes any addressees who have asked to receive copies of all public notices.  Please discard notices that are not of interest to you.  If you have no need for any of these notices, please advise us so that your name can be removed from the mailing list.

Enclosures

Approximate Coordinates of Project Center

Latitude:  34.013086     Longitude:  -92.476476

UTM Zone:  15N        North:  3763082     East:  548262