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 project manager, Mr. Johnny McLean, telephone number: (501) 324-5295, 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
Project Information. Pursuant to Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (33 U.S. Code 1344), notice is hereby given that
Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department (AHTD)
PO Box 2261
Little Rock, Arkansas 72203-2261
has requested authorization for the placement of dredged and fill material in waters of the United States associated with widening 17.8 miles of U.S. Highway 70 and constructing four replacement bridges. This project was originally planned as two AHTD jobs, CA0606 and 061377, but has now been combined into one job CA0610. The proposed project begins on the east side of Hot Springs and extends eastward to Interstate 30. The project is located in section 5, T. 3 S., R. 18 W., sections 23, 24, 26, 27, 33, 34, 35, T. 2 S., R. 18 W., sections 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 and 19, T. 2 S., R. 17 W., and sections 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23 and 24, T. 2. S, R. 16 W., Garland and Saline Counties, Arkansas.
The overall purpose of the project is to construct a wider roadway and replace four structurally deficient bridges between Hot Springs and Interstate 30. The basic purpose of the project is to enhance safety and relieve congestion on U.S. Highway 70. The project is not water dependent.
The entire project would be built on existing alignment and would add two travel lanes and a median. The upgraded roadway would consist of four 12-foot-wide travel lanes with 8-foot-wide shoulders and an 11-foot-wide median or left turn lane. The average right-of-way width for the project is 300 feet and the total length for the project is 17.8 miles. The Federal Highway Administration approved Job CA0606 as a categorical exclusion (CE) on April 15, 2016, and Job 061377 as a CE on December 28, 2015. A copy of these documents is available for viewing at the AHTD Central Office in Little Rock.
The project would cross fifty-six stream segments impacting approximately 6,749 linear feet and nine wetland areas impacting approximately 1.28 acres. Named streams include Tenmile Creek, Caney Creek and East Branch of Gulpha Creek which are perennial. The remaining streams are intermittent and ephemeral unnamed tributaries that range from functionally impaired to fully functional. The primary impact to streams would be extending box or pipe culverts. Approximately 4,189 linear feet of stream impacts would consist of crossing the streams perpendicularly and extending box or pipe culverts where total impacts at each crossing would be less than 300 linear feet. Approximately 2,560 linear feet of stream impacts would consist of filling and realigning or relocating streams for embankment widening and culvert construction. Temporary work roads for bridge construction would be built at Tenmile Creek and Caney Creek. The substrate for all of the streams is generally a mix of sand and gravel and the overall water quality for each stream is generally good. Tenmile Creek flows into the South Fork of the Saline River approximately 0.5 miles south of the project and is designated as an Ecologically Sensitive Waterbody by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality. Wetlands within the project area are primarily herbaceous and scrub/shrub vegetated depressions associated with stream channels. These wetlands have been previously impacted and have low functions and values. Dominant vegetation in the wetlands consists of black willow (Salix nigra), button bush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), bushy bluestem (Andropogon glomeratus), narrowleaf cattail (Typha angustifolia), soft rush (Juncus effusus) and yellow nutsedge (Cyperus esculentes).
The project is located in the Central Mountain Ranges and Central Hills, Ridges and Valley subdivisions of the Ouachita Mountains Ecoregion. The project lies within the Ouachita Headwaters (hydrologic unit code 08040101) and Upper Saline River (hydrologic unit code 08040203) watersheds. Lands adjacent to the project are primarily forested and sparsely populated with residential homes and a few businesses. The majority of the project would be constructed within the existing 300-foot-wide highway right-of-way which has been previously impacted by roadway and utility construction.
The AHTD consulted with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USF&WS) regarding potential impacts to the Federally endangered Arkansas Fatmucket (Lampsilis powelli) and Federally threatened Northern Long-eared Bat (Myotis septentrionalis). The AHTD determined that, although the habitat and flow regime are not suitable for the Arkansas Fatmucket within the project area, it is possible that fish hosts of this mussel may utilize these tributaries for breeding or foraging. Special Provisions will be included in the contract that outline the use of best management practices to reduce the likelihood that sediments or hazardous chemicals will enter any tributary of the South Fork of the Saline River. For the Northern Long-eared Bat, the AHTD consulted with the USF&WS in accordance with the 4(d) Rule and determined that a Special Provision would be included in the contract to address compliance of all off-site areas. Approximately 0.2 acres of prime farmland would be converted to highway right-of-way for highway construction. The State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) recommended Phase II testing on three archeological sites to determine if they are eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). The SHPO also recommended Phase II testing on an additional site to determine if deeply-buried deposits exist and, if necessary, to determine NRHP eligibility. The Phase II work is within the existing right-of-way and will be completed by the AHTD. There are no environmental justice issues associated with the project. The project would not relocate any residences or businesses. Saline and Garland Counties participate in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Some segments of the project lie within Zone A which is the designation for a Special Flood Hazard Area. The AHTD has determined that the project will not support incompatible use and development of the floodplain and adjacent properties should not be impacted nor have a greater flood risk than existed before construction of the project, and none of the encroachments will constitute a significant floodplain encroachment or a significant risk to property or life.
The AHTD attempted to cross the streams perpendicular to their paths and the alignment was shifted to the north or south at various locations in order to avoid or minimize impacts, however, complete avoidance was not possible. Temporary and permanent erosion control measures will minimize adverse impacts to streams and adjacent wetlands. The AHTD proposes to mitigate for the unavoidable impacts to 2,560 linear feet of stream and 1.28 acres of wetlands at their Upper Saline River Mitigation Bank. Stream credit requirements were calculated utilizing the Little Rock District Stream Method and wetland credit requirements were calculated utilizing the Charleston Method. Copies of the stream credit and wetland credit worksheets are attached. The location and general plan for the proposed work are shown on the enclosed sheets 1 through 50 of 50.
Water Quality Certification. By copy of this public notice, the applicant is requesting water quality certification from the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) in accordance with Section 401(a)(1) of the Clean Water Act. Upon completion of the comment period and a public hearing, if held, a determination relative to water quality certification will be made. Evidence of this water quality certification or waiver of the right to certify must be submitted prior to the issuance of a Corps of Engineers permit.
Cultural Resources. The AHTD staff archeologists have reviewed topographic maps, the National Register of Historic Places, and other data on reported sites in the area. The FHWA has completed coordination with all associated Native American Nations and tribal governments. The District Engineer invites responses to this public notice from 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 other 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 CFR Part 60 (Floodplain Management Regulations Criteria for Land Management and Use) and Executive Order 11988 on Floodplain Management.
Section 404(b)(1) Guidelines. The evaluation of activities to be authorized under this permit which involves the discharge of dredged or fill material will include application of guidelines promulgated by the Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency, under authority of Section 404(b) of the Clean Water Act. These guidelines are contained in 40 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 230.
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 November 28, 2016. 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 also 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.
Approximate Coordinates of Project Center
Latitude: 34.55136 Longitude: -92.79193
UTM Zone: 15 North: 3823311 East: 519089