SUBJECT: Proposed discharge of fill material into waters of the United States to facilitate the construction of a relocated segment of SR-115 (US-129/Alcoa Highway) from a proposed interchange at Tyson Boulevard to the existing SR-115 at South Singleton Station Road in Blount County, Tennessee. TDOT Project No. 05005-1233-14. TDOT PIN 101651.02 and PIN 101651.03.
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 5.5-mile roadway project begins near a new interchange at Tyson Boulevard and ends near the existing intersection of SR-115 and South Singleton Station Road. Coordinates of the project beginning and ending are approximately N. 35.7995°, W. 83.9898° and N. 35.8540°, W. 83.9616°, respectively. Waters of the U.S. proposed for impact include Russell Branch, unnamed tributaries of Russell Branch and Little River, unnamed open water features, and unnamed wetlands. The project is located within the city of Alcoa, in Blount County, Tennessee, within the Little River watershed (HUC-8: 06010201-Watts Bar Lake).
PROJECT DESCRIPTION: The Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT), in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), is proposing to construct a new transportation corridor at the above-described location in Blount County, Tennessee. The project involves construction of a segment of limited access highway along new alignment east of the existing SR-115/Alcoa Highway to address safety and capacity issues on the current roadway. The new bypass alignment cross section includes four through lanes (two in each direction) plus two outside acceleration/deceleration lanes (one in each direction) extending between interchanges. To facilitate the bypass alignment and achieve the purpose and need, the project includes the construction of four new interchanges – at Alcoa Highway and Airport Road, at Cusick Road and Wright Road, at SR-162/Pellissippi Parkway, and at Singleton Station Road. As part of the bypass alignment and proposed interchange improvements, intersecting and connecting roads will be modified at Terminal Loop Road, McGhee Place, Airport Road, Cusick Road, Airport Plaza Drive, Regal Drive, Wright Road, Payne Avenue, Northpark Boulevard, Pine Lakes Lane, Vista Road, and Singleton Station Road. The project scope includes all associated drainage improvements. The estimated time for completing this project is eight years.
In order to facilitate the project, the discharge of fill material is proposed within eight (8) perennial or intermittent streams, six (6) ephemeral streams, three (3) wetlands, and two (2) open water features. A total of approximately 14,446 linear feet of streams (3.288 acre), 2.977 acres of wetlands, and 3.119 acres of open water features would be permanently impacted by the proposed discharge of fill material related to the roadway improvements and activities related to the proposed replacement/restoration of five (5) on-site streams. Additionally, the applicant anticipates approximately 1.038 acres of temporary wetland impacts related to, and that will be restored following, implementation of the proposed on-site stream mitigation activities. An estimated total of 125 linear feet of streams (0.029 acre) would be temporarily impacted by 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 provide a balanced solution for the safety and capacity issues related to the existing SR-115/Alcoa Highway. The existing highway currently provides multiple functions; it provides local business access, carries traffic to and from McGhee Tyson Airport, and is a primary commuting route for the City of Knoxville. These contrasting priorities for the roadway have resulted in negative safety and capacity issues. The proposed multi-lane facility will provide an efficient and safe transportation route, minimize long-term impacts to local businesses, and be compatible with local and regional goals and objectives. The project will improve safety and efficiency by separating local business traffic from other traffic, including through traffic, daily commuter traffic, and airport traffic. The new facility would mainly serve commuter traffic to and from Knoxville and traffic to and from McGhee Tyson Airport, while the existing SR-115 facility would continue to provide access to local businesses.
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, an on-site Build Alternative involving widening of the existing SR-115/Alcoa Highway, and multiple minor variations or conceptual layouts of the off-site Build Alternative along new alignment. According to the applicant, following a public hearing and several meetings and workshops held in 2000, it was determined that widening of the existing facility along the current alignment would have too many adverse impacts to local businesses and residences, an adjacent cemetery, and municipally owned and private utilities. Consequently, a concept to provide a bypass route was developed, endorsed in resolutions by the cities of Alcoa and Maryville, Blount County, and McGhee Tyson Airport, and supported by an Alternate Route Study completed in 2001. According to the applicant, the selected alternative satisfies the project purpose and need, and was selected based on support from local officials, public input, and a comparison of potential environmental impacts.
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, the steepest allowable roadway side slopes are used while maintaining road safety. Multiple proposed culverts on STR-1, STR-2, STR-3, STR-4, STR-5, and STR-6 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 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 approximately 4,729 linear feet of streams, the applicant proposes on-site permittee-responsible compensatory mitigation (PRM) located along five (5) streams within and adjacent to the limits of the highway project. The proposed on-site compensatory mitigation plan includes the in-kind relocation/replacement of a segment of STR-1 (Russell Branch) and a segment of STR-6 (unnamed tributary of Russell Branch) totaling approximately 1,594 linear feet of constructed replacement stream channel, and the restoration of four (4) additional segments of STR-1, an additional segment of STR-6, and segments of STR-4, WWC-3/EPH-3a, and WWC-4/EPH-3, totaling approximately 6,293 linear feet of restored stream channel. The existing streams have been historically altered by agricultural and urban land use, prior roadway construction, and management of the roadway rights-of-way, which has left the streams in a degraded state. The mitigation project proposes to address these impairments while providing in-kind replacement and restoration to offset the proposed project-related stream impacts. The proposed stream channels have been designed to mimic natural channel functions by utilizing conditions substantiated by Natural Channel Stream Design (NCSD) methodologies for channel size, shape, meander pattern, riffle/pool sequences, etc. The mitigation project, including vegetated stream buffers, would be protected within the highway right-of-way, and marked with appropriate “Do Not Mow” signage. No excess mitigation credits for use outside of these projects are proposed to be generated through this stream PRM; the relocation/replacement and restoration stream channels would be considered as compensation only for the unavoidable stream impacts resulting from the subject roadway construction. The USACE is currently reviewing all of the applicant’s permittee-responsible compensatory mitigation plans for use with this proposed roadway project.
To compensate for unavoidable permanent impacts to 2.977 acres of wetlands, the applicant proposes debiting, at a 2:1 ratio and with an additional 12% temporal loss, 6.67 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 project area in January 2001 and a subsequent assessment update in May 2019. These assessments were submitted to the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO). By letter dated July 31, 2001, the SHPO stated “Considering the information provided, we find that the area of potential effect contains no architectural resources eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places affected by this undertaking.” And by letter dated June 5, 2019, the SHPO stated “Considering the information provided, we concur that no architectural resources eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places will be affected by this undertaking.”
A Phase I archaeological survey was completed in 2001 covering most of the roadway project area, with the remainder surveyed in August 2005. A report was submitted to the SHPO and, by letter dated October 11, 2005, 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.” In consideration of the time elapsed and changes to the project design, by letter to the SHPO dated February 19, 2020, TDOT provided a draft Phase I archaeological survey report of the portion of the project from the proposed interchange at Tyson Boulevard to SR-162/Pellissippi Parkway (PIN 101651.02). By letter dated February 24, 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.” As a result of design revisions, by letter to the SHPO dated November 4, 2019, TDOT provided an archaeological assessment addendum for the portion of the project from SR-162/Pellissippi Parkway to the existing SR-115 at South Singleton Station Road (PIN 101651.03). By letter dated November 12, 2019, 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 by searching the TDEC Division of Natural Areas, Endangered Species Database, on multiple dates, most recently on December 7, 2021. Additionally, the applicant conducted ESA field reviews in 2016 and 2017. 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. According to the records review, federally listed species potentially located within a four-mile radius of the project site include:
The above-described ESA documentation was provided to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for consultation. By letters dated August 9, 2017, the USFWS concurred with TDOT’s determination of “not likely to adversely affect” for the Indiana bat and northern long-eared bat based on a lack of suitable habitat within the project area as demonstrated by bat habitat suitability assessments completed by TDOT. Due to the proximity of occurrence records in the Little River approximately 1.2 miles downstream of the nearest proposed crossing of Russell Branch, TDOT prepared and FHWA provided to the USFWS Biological Assessments (BAs) for the fine-rayed pigtoe, snail darter, marbled darter [currently recognized as duskytail darter (Etheostoma percnurum)], and eastern hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis, then petitioned), indicating their determination that the roadway project is “not likely to adversely affect” these four species based on the lack of records of the listed and petitioned species within the tributary streams that would be impacted by the project, and the proposed installation and maintenance of effective erosion prevention and sediment control measures throughout project construction. By letters dated September 7, 2017 (PIN 101651.03), and December 13, 2017 (PIN 101651.02), the USFWS indicated “In light of … the commitment to stringent water quality measures, we concur with the FHWA’s determinations of “not likely to adversely affect” for the marbled/duskytail darter, fine-rayed pigtoe, snail darter, and eastern hellbender. Also, our August 9, 2017, concurrences of “not likely to adversely affect” for the federally endangered Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis) and threatened northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis) are still in effect. 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. The Public Notice serves as the notification to the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pursuant to section 401(a)(2) of the Clean Water Act. 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. Note that the attachments to this email represent only a subset of the full project plans. If you would like to receive the full set of plans, or have a response to this notice, please contact 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
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers