SUBJECT: Proposed discharge of fill material into waters of the United States to facilitate widening and improvements on a segment of SR-33 from the Knox County line to just south of SR-144, located in Union County, Tennessee and the Pistol Creek Dam Removal compensatory mitigation site located within the City of Alcoa, in Blount County, Tennessee. TDOT Project Nos. 87001-1251-04(A) and 05946-0614-14. TDOT PINs 101416.00 and 104027.48.
TO ALL CONCERNED: The application described below has been submitted for a Department of the Army (DA) Permit pursuant to Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (CWA) for the discharge of fill material into waters of the United States (U.S.). Before a permit can be issued, certification must be provided by the State of Tennessee, pursuant to Section 401(a)(1) of the CWA, that applicable water quality standards will not be violated. The applicant has applied for the required certification.
APPLICANT: Tennessee Department of Transportation
505 Deaderick Street, Suite 900, J.K. Polk Building
Nashville, Tennessee 37243
LOCATION: The 5.1-mile roadway project begins near the Knox County/Union County line and ends just south of SR-144 (Hickory Star Road). Coordinates of the project beginning and ending are approximately N. 36.1703°, W. 83.9055° and N. 36.2240°, W. 83.8481°, respectively. Waters of the U.S. proposed for impact include Bullrun Creek, Raccoon Creek, Suckstone Creek, unnamed tributaries to Raccoon Creek and Suckstone Creek, and unnamed wetlands. The roadway project is located within Union County, Tennessee, within the Clinch River watershed (HUC-8: 06010207-Lower Clinch). The proposed off-site permittee-responsible compensatory mitigation project, at the Pistol Creek Dam Removal site, is centered at approximate coordinates N. 35.8151°, W. 83.9422°. The dam removal project is located in the City of Alcoa, Blount County, Tennessee, within the Little River watershed (HUC8: 06010201-Ft. Loudoun/Watts Bar).
PROJECT DESCRIPTION: The Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT), in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), is proposing to widen SR-33 (Maynardville Highway) at the above described location in Union County, Tennessee. The project involves widening the roadway from an existing two-lane highway to a five-lane facility along the existing alignment. The typical roadway cross section includes four 12-foot travel lanes (two in each direction), a continuous 12-foot center turn lane, and 12-foot shoulders on both sides. The project scope includes all associated drainage improvements. The estimated time for completing this project is four years.
In order to facilitate the project, the discharge of fill material is proposed within twenty (20) perennial or intermittent streams, and fifteen (15) wetlands. A total of 3,815 linear feet of streams (0.776 acre) and 0.978 acre of wetlands would be impacted by the proposed discharge of fill material related to the roadway improvements. As part of the project, TDOT proposes to construct a new 3-span bridge over Bull Run Creek. Additionally, the applicant anticipates temporary impacts to wetlands and streams due to the proposed discharge of fill material related to the relocation of various utilities, required as part of the roadway project. Additionally, the proposal includes the discharge of temporary fill material associated with the installation and maintenance of erosion prevention and sediment control (EPSC) measures. A complete set of project drawings for this public notice is located at: https://www.lrn.usace.army.mil/Media/Public-Notices/
PURPOSE AND NEED: According to the permit application, the purpose of the proposed project is to upgrade this section of SR-33 to improve the traffic flow, correct route deficiencies, and improve the safety of the highway. This highway is an important route that serves the communities of Knoxville, Maynardville, Tazewell, and Sneedville. The proposed project is included in the Knoxville Urban Area Metropolitan Organization’s Long-Range Transportation Plan Update as well as their 2000-2004 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP).
AVOIDANCE AND MINIMIZATION OF IMPACTS TO WATERS OF THE U.S.: According to the applicant, efforts were made during the planning and design phases of this project to avoid impacts to waters of the U.S. to the extent practicable, and to minimize impacts that were not avoidable. The applicant examined multiple alternatives to the proposed project, including the No-Build Alternative, two (2) off-site Build Alternatives along new alignments, and one (1) on-site Build Alternative along the existing alignment (the selected alternative). According to the applicant, the selected alternative satisfies the project purpose and need, and was selected as it was found to be the least environmentally damaging practicable alternative.
The proposed project’s roadway alignment has been selected in order to avoid existing environmental features to the greatest extent practicable. Where environmental features are unavoidable, the proposed project has been designed to ensure that impacts to these features have been minimized as much as possible. To minimize impacts to streams and wetlands, roadway side slopes were reduced, while maintaining road safety. Where practicable, span bridges or bottomless culverts have been proposed instead of box culverts; implementing these structure types minimizes the amount of stream channel impact, allows the existing natural channel to flow under the proposed roadway system, and minimizes impacts to fish and aquatic species passage. The proposed replacement span bridge over Bull Run Creek (STR-6) has been designed to minimize impacts within the channel of Bull Run Creek by keeping the piers out of the channel and by limiting the placement of riprap stabilization to part of one bank. The proposed structures at Suckstone Creek (STR-5) and Raccoon Creek (STR-7, Station 589+10) will be extensions of existing bottomless slab bridge culverts, which retain natural substrate stream beds within the structures. The proposed replacement structures at STR-19 and STR-20 are to be embedded within the stream channel and backfilled with natural channel materials to allow for fish and aquatic species passage. Any riprap channel protection placed within the stream channels at the inlet or outlet of culverts would be placed to mimic the existing contours of the stream channel to prevent stream loss within riprap areas.
To minimize erosion and avoid sediment release into waters of U.S., three phases of construction are designed and included in the construction plans. Only 50 acres of land disturbance are proposed at any time, and all in-channel construction activities would be completed in the dry and separated from flowing water by using temporary cofferdams, cribs, or stream diversions as appropriate. Erosion Prevention and Sediment Control (EPSC) best management practices (BMPs) are to be installed and maintained during roadway construction to reduce the likelihood of erosion and migration of sediment from the project site into adjacent environmental features. High visibility fencing would be installed during construction to ensure that only authorized impacts to waters of the U.S. occur.
COMPENSATORY MITIGATION: To compensate for unavoidable permanent impacts to 3,059 linear feet of streams, the applicant proposes to offset 1,214.9 stream functional feet via a combination of on-site permittee-responsible compensatory mitigation and off-site permittee-responsible compensatory mitigation. The proposed on-site permittee-responsible compensatory mitigation is located on STR-1 and STR-7, located within the limits of the highway project. The proposed “SR-33 Compensatory Mitigation Plan” includes the in-kind replacement of an unnamed tributary to Suckstone Creek (STR-1) and of Raccoon Creek (STR-7), totaling 853 linear feet of constructed stream channel, projected to generate a total of 68.2 stream functional feet of lift. The total protected area associated with the mitigation project, including vegetative stream buffers, would total approximately 0.7 acre, and would be protected into perpetuity. The existing streams have been historically altered by agricultural land use, prior highway construction, and management of the highway right-of-way, which have left the streams in a degraded state. The mitigation project goals and objectives propose to address the impairments to the project streams, restoring streams to a more natural and sustainable condition. Restoration activities would include channel realignment and reshaping, placement of in-channel log and boulder structures, corrective floodplain design, streambank stabilization, and native vegetation plantings.
The proposed off-site permittee-responsible compensatory mitigation is located on Pistol Creek in the City of Alcoa, in Blount County. The proposed “Stream Mitigation Plan, PIN 104027.48, Pistol Creek Dam Removal” includes the removal of an existing low-head dam and restoration of a natural flow regime to the approximately 1.8-mile backwater area. The circa 1900 concrete gravity dam is located on Pistol Creek approximately 2,000 feet upstream of its confluence with the Little River, and near the intersection of Williams Mill Road and Alcoa Trail. The proposed activities include removal of the concrete dam structure in four stages, as well as construction of bed and bank grade control structures to minimize erosion and in-stream scour. The dam removal will result in enhanced sediment and nutrient transportation and cycling processes, improvement in floodplain connectivity, and removal of a barrier to the upstream and downstream movements of fish and other aquatic life. The restoration efforts are expected to improve stream functional conditions, water quality, and aquatic species habitat. The USACE is currently reviewing both of the applicant’s permittee-responsible compensatory mitigation plans.
To compensate for unavoidable permanent impacts to 0.978 acre of wetlands, the applicant proposes debiting, at a 2:1 ratio, 1.96 advanced wetland mitigation credits from the Tennessee Wildlife Federation’s Tennessee Mitigation Fund (TMF) in-lieu fee (ILF) Program. The proposed wetland mitigation credits would be obtained from the program’s Upper Tennessee River Service Area.
PUBLIC INTEREST REVIEW/CUMULATIVE EFFECTS: The decision whether to issue a permit will be based on an evaluation of the probable impacts including cumulative impacts of the 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 work, must be balanced against its reasonably foreseeable detriments. All factors, which may be relevant to the work, will be considered including the cumulative effects thereof; among those are conservation, economics, aesthetics, general environmental concerns, wetlands, cultural values, fish and wildlife values, flood hazards, floodplain values, land use, navigation, shore 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. In addition, the evaluation of the impact of the activity on the public interest will include application of the guidelines promulgated by the Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency, under authority of Section 404(b)(1) of the CWA (40 CFR Part 230).
SOLICITATION OF COMMENTS: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) 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 road improvement and widening project. Any comments received will be considered by the USACE 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 (EA) and/or an Environmental Impact Statement pursuant to NEPA. Comments are also used to determine the need for a public hearing and to determine the overall public interest of the proposed activity. An EA will be prepared by this office prior to a final decision concerning issuance or denial of the requested DA Permit.
HISTORIC AND CULTURAL RESOURCES: TDOT, acting on behalf of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), has been identified as the lead agency for complying with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA).
TDOT completed a historical/architectural assessment for the roadway improvements project (PIN 101416.00) in December 1999 and a subsequent assessment update in December 2015. These assessments were submitted to the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO). By letters dated January 18, 2000 and December 30, 2015, the SHPO stated “Considering the information provided, we find that the area of potential effects contains no architectural resources eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places affected by this undertaking.”
A Phase I archaeological survey of the roadway improvements project (PIN 101416.00) was completed in 1999 and the draft report was submitted to the SHPO via letter dated August 25, 1999. By letter dated August 30, 1999, the SHPO stated “Based on the information provided, we find that the project area contains no archaeological resources eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.” After reviewing the updated Right-of-Way plans, on October 7, 2020, the TDOT Archaeologist indicated “Based on the information provided, the SHPO clearance letter for archaeology dated 8/30/1999 remains valid for this project.”
Historic/architectural assessments and subsequent addendums were completed by TDOT for the Pistol Creek dam removal project (PIN 104027.48) and submitted to the SHPO via letters dated May 13, 2019, November 5, 2019, and September 1, 2020. By letter dated September 3, 2020, the SHPO stated “Considering the information provided, we find that no architectural resources eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places will be affected by this undertaking.” The SHPO provided concurrence with the earlier coordination via letters dated May 17, 2019 and November 13, 2019.
A Phase I archaeological assessment and subsequent addendums were completed for the Pistol Creek dam removal project (PIN 104027.48) and transmitted to the SHPO by letters dated June 7, 2019, January 8, 2020, and November 9, 2020. By letters dated June 12, 2019, January 10, 2020, and November 9, 2020, the SHPO stated “Considering the information provided, we find that no archaeological resources eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places will be affected by this undertaking.”
USACE invites responses to this public notice from Native American Tribes or tribal governments; federal, state, and local agencies; historical and archeological societies; and other parties likely to have knowledge of or concerns regarding historic properties and sites of religious and cultural significance at or near the project area. Any substantive comments from this public notice will be provided to TDOT, for consideration of potential effects to historic and cultural resources for Section 106 compliance. If USACE/TDOT determines that consultation is required, USACE/TDOT would consult with the Tennessee Historic Commission (SHPO) and Native American Tribes in accordance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, as appropriate. TDOT is required to submit all applicable Section 106 documentation to USACE prior to final permit decision.
ENDANGERED/THREATENED SPECIES REVIEW: TDOT, acting on behalf of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), has been identified as the lead agency for conducting environmental review under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). TDOT completed an ESA records review of the roadway improvements project (PIN 101416.00) and the Pistol Creek dam removal project (PIN 104027.48), by searching the TDEC Division of Natural Areas, Endangered Species Database, on multiple dates, most recently on May 4, 2021. Additionally, the applicant conducted ESA field reviews in May 2019 and January 2020. Accordingly, effects determinations were made by the applicant for each species. The field review, records review, and accompanying effects determinations provide documentation of the potential effects of the project on endangered and threatened federally listed species within the action area. There is no critical habitat designated within the project area. Listed species potentially located within a four-mile radius of the project sites include:
|Snail darter (Percina tanasi)
|Marbled darter (Etheostoma marmorpinnum) 1
|Finerayed pigtoe (Fusconaia cuneolus)
|Gray bat (Myotis grisescens)
|Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis)
|Northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis)
1 implied status based on the Duskytail darter (E. percnurum) 5-Year Review (USFWS 2012)
The above described ESA documentation was provided to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for consultation. In order to determine the presence of bats, a mist netting survey was performed between June 28 and July 30, 2018, at seven sites along the roadway project corridor. Efforts resulted in the capture of 12 bats, including three federally endangered gray bats, and the survey information was provided to the USFWS. On October 26, 2018, the USFWS concurred with TDOT’s determination of “not likely to adversely affect” for the Indiana bat and northern long-eared bat based on the negative survey results. Due to the distance from occurrence records and no known caves within the project area, the USFWS further indicated that best management practices should be sufficient to minimize potential for harm to the gray bat. Due to the time that had passed, by letter to the USFWS dated November 1, 2019, TDOT requested re-coordination of the project. By letter dated November 22, 2019, the USFWS restated their concurrences stated above and indicated that the 2018 bat survey will be valid until April 1, 2024. The USFWS also wrote “We are not aware of any other federally listed or proposed species that could be impacted by the project. Therefore, based on the best information available at this time, we believe that the requirements of section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (Act) of 1973, as amended, are fulfilled for all species that currently receive protection under the Act.” Based on the 2018 Range-Wide Indiana Bat Survey Guidelines, TDOT re-coordinated with the USFWS on multiple projects via a letter on February 26, 2019. On February 27, 2019, the UFWS responded “In light of the fact that each of the surveys were negative for the presence of Indiana bat and northern long-eared bat, we concurred with TDOT’s determinations of “not likely to adversely affect” at that time and provided our project section 7 clearance. As per the 2018 referenced guidance, each of these bat surveys is now valid until April 1, 2022, and our corresponding project section 7 clearances are still in effect.”
Due to the proximity of occurrence records in the Little River approximately 0.37 mile downstream of the proposed Pistol Creek dam removal project, TDOT prepared a Biological Assessment (BA) for the marbled darter, finerayed pigtoe, and snail darter. On September 10, 2019, TDOT transmitted a copy of the BA to the USFWS and indicated their determination that the removal of the dam “may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect” these three species based on unsuitable habitat conditions and negative survey results in Pistol Creek. By letter dated September 27, 2019, the USFWS indicated “Due to negative mussel survey results in Pistol Creek and the impounded conditions throughout the project area, we concur with TDOT’s findings of “may affect, is not likely to adversely affect” for the marbled darter, fine-rayed pigtoe, and snail darter. We are unaware of any federally listed or proposed species that would be impacted by the project. Therefore, based on the best information available at this time, we believe that the requirements of section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (Act) of 1973, as amended, are fulfilled for all species that currently receive protection under the Act.”
OTHER APPROVALS: Before a permit may be issued, water quality certification must be provided by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) pursuant to Section 401(a)(1) of the CWA (33 U.S.C. 1341), that applicable water quality standards will not be violated. Other federal, state, and/or local approvals may be required for the proposed work.
REQUEST FOR PUBLIC HEARING: Any person may request a public hearing. The request must be submitted in writing to the District Engineer within the designated comment period of the notice and must state the specific reasons for requesting the public hearing.
COMMENT PERIOD: Written statements received in this office within 30 days from the date of this notice will become a part of the administrative record and will be considered in the determination. Any response to this notice should be directed to John Price, Nashville District Corps of Engineers, Regulatory Division, at the above address, at 865-356-6599, or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joshua W. Frost
Chief, Technical Services Branch
Nashville District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers