Issue Date: November15, 2018
Comment Deadline: December 15, 2018
Corps Action ID Number: SAW-2015-02235
The Wilmington District, Corps of Engineers (Corps) received an application from the North Carolina State Ports Authority (NCSPA) seeking Department of the Army authorization to modify an existing authorization in order to conduct new dredging within the existing turning basin as a part of a master terminal modernization investment, associated with the Port of Wilmington, in New Hanover County, North Carolina.
Specific plans and location information are described below and shown on the attached plans. This Public Notice and all attached plans are also available on the Wilmington District Web Site at: http://www.saw.usace.army.mil/Missions/RegulatoryPermitProgram.aspx
North Carolina State Ports Authority (NCSPA)
Executive Director, Mr. Paul Cozza
2202 Burnett Blvd.
Wilmington, NC 28401
Dial Cordy and Associates, Inc.
President, R. Steve Dial
201 N. Front Street, Suite 307
Wilmington, NC 28401
The Corps evaluates this application and decides whether to issue, conditionally issue, or deny the proposed work pursuant to applicable procedures of the following Statutory Authorities:
Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (33 U.S.C. 1344)
Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 (33 U.S.C. 403)
Directions to Site: The project site is located at 1 Shipyard Boulevard, within and adjacent to the existing turning basin, in the Cape Fear River, at the Port of Wilmington, in Wilmington, New Hanover County, North Carolina.
Project Area (acres): ~20 acres
Nearest Town: Wilmington
Nearest Waterway: Cape Fear River
River Basin: Cape Fear
Latitude and Longitude: 34.210443 N, -77.954578 W
Existing Site Conditions
The project site is located within and adjacent to the existing turning basin, on the Cape Fear River, at the Port of Wilmington. The project site contains coastal and freshwater wetlands, and upland vegetation along the western project boundary adjacent to Eagle Island. Structures along the eastern project boundary include a derelict pier. Adjacent properties are industrial facilities which provide support for international commodities, specifically Kinder Morgan and Apex Marine terminal.
Applicant’s Stated Purpose
The applicant proposes to expand the existing turning basin to service larger vessels in response to the increased vessel size of the international shipping fleet calling on the port in the late third quarter of 2019. Specifically, the NCSPA proposes to expand the turning basin to accommodate neo-panamax ships which can accommodate 14,000 Twenty-foot Equivalent Units (TEU) with an overall length of 1,200 feet and 159 feet wide.
The applicant proposes to expand the turning basin by dredging the eastern and western sides of the present basin, deepening approximately 17.76 acres of shallow and deep soft bottom habitat to -45 feet (ft) Mean Low Low Water (MLLW) and installing a vertical submerged sheet pile toe wall along the eastern extent of the basin. While the turning basin is vacant, the dredge contractor plans to use a mechanical dredge to dredge the project area in stages. Prior to initiating dredging, turbidity curtains would be used around the proposed dredge area. Removal of soil and sediments is proposed by using either a barge-mounted crane equipped with a bucket or a long reach excavator boom and bucket if rock or heavy debris is encountered. The dredged material would then be loaded into watertight barges or scows and transported across the Wilmington River where the dredging contractor will re-fluidize the sediments and hydraulically pump the dredged material to the Eagle Island confined disposal facility. Dredges will be brought in on barges and staged along the river depending on the phase of the project. A total of 560,000 cubic yards of material is proposed to be removed. Approximately 1.4 acres of vegetated wetlands and 1.68 acres of shallow bottom habitat would be permanently lost as a result of the proposed expansion.
Construction of the proposed 1,416 linear ft toe wall consists of interlocking steel sheet piles with protective coatings that are 70-ft long and driven into the marl layer (see permit drawings). The proposed wall will be completely submerged at -10-ft MLLW and additional H-piles will be installed in the recess of the sheet piles with solar powered navigation lights installed on top of the pile at EL+10-ft MLLW. The proposed toe wall would consist of either 310 sheet piles, and 15 H-piles or 160 King-sheet piles and 160 pipe piles. Construction is proposed to be conducted from a working barge with piling driving equipment standard to the industry.
Work is proposed to take place prior to May 2019 in order for the NSCPA Port of Wilmington to continue to service the European and Asian fleets as they continue to increase vessel size.
Avoidance and Minimization
The applicant provided the following information in support of efforts to avoid and/or minimize impacts to the aquatic environment: The applicant considered alternative sites during the design feasibility process and concluded that there was no logical alternative location for the expanded turning basin that would result in fewer impacts to the aquatic environment. The Port of Wilmington has been operating for 70 years using the present turning basin north of the port berths. Operationally, turning basins need to be upriver of the berths to facilitate safe operations. Construction of a new turning basin south of the berths would not be economically feasible and would adversely impact vessel operations for large vessels.
During the course of the evaluation of design alternatives, a 12,400 TEU Container Ship was selected as the design which is comparable to the vessel size characteristic of the 14,000 TEU vessel class scheduled for calling on the port next fall. Two turning basin configurations were developed for consideration (Alternatives A and B). These were selected because they both could provide the potential navigation improvements which accommodate the design vessel under the desired operating conditions. Alternative A would permanently impact wetlands on both the east and west side of the Cape Fear River and would have impacts to the Eagle Island Confined Disposal Area (CDF). Alternative B (proposed action) would permanently impact wetlands along the east side of the Cape Fear River, with no impacts to the Eagle Island CDF or adjacent wetlands.
The applicant offered the following compensatory mitigation plan to offset unavoidable functional loss to the aquatic environment: The selected option for mitigating wetland loss is the creation of tidal marsh in the lower Cape Fear River on a large intertidal flat adjacent to Shellbed Island, in association with the Audubon’s ongoing oyster restoration project funded by the USFWS. To compensate for the unavoidable loss of 1.4 acres of tidal wetlands on the Kinder Morgan property the applicant proposes to create 3 acres of marsh adjacent to Shellbed Island in the lower Cape Fear River. This site was selected due to the high probability of success and as additional augmentation to ongoing oyster restoration in the same location by Audubon (funded by USFWS and NFWF). In addition, the NCSPA plans to donate funds to complete construction of the Lock and Dam #1 Fish Passage Modification project.
Essential Fish Habitat
Pursuant to the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, this Public Notice initiates the Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) consultation requirements. The Corps’ initial determination is that the proposed project EFH or associated fisheries managed by the South Atlantic or Mid Atlantic Fishery Management Councils or the National Marine Fisheries Service.
Pursuant to Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, Appendix C of 33 CFR Part 325, and the 2005 Revised Interim Guidance for Implementing Appendix C, the District Engineer consulted district files and records and the latest published version of the National Register of Historic Places and initially determines that:
No historic properties, nor properties eligible for inclusion in the National Register, are present within the Corps’ permit area; therefore, there will be no historic properties affected. The Corps subsequently requests concurrence from the SHPO (or THPO).
The District Engineer’s final eligibility and effect determination will be based upon coordination with the SHPO and/or THPO, as appropriate and required, and with full consideration given to the proposed undertaking’s potential direct and indirect effects on historic properties within the Corps-indentified permit area.
Pursuant to the Endangered Species Act of 1973, the Corps reviewed the project area, examined all information provided by the applicant and consulted the latest North Carolina Natural Heritage Database. Based on available information:
The Corps determines that the proposed project federally listed endangered or threatened species or their formally designated critical habitat. The Corps initiates consultation under Section 7 of the ESA and will not make a permit decision until the consultation process is complete.
Interested parties are hereby notified that an application has been received for Department of the Army Section 408 (Section 14 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899; 33 U.S.C. 408) approval to conduct proposed work at the federally constructed Wilmington Harbor navigation project and the associated federal upland confined disposal site at Eagle Island, as described above and shown on the attached maps. Written comments are being solicited from anyone having an interest in the requested alteration. Comments received will become part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) administrative record and will be considered in determining whether to approve the request. Comments supporting, opposing, or identifying concerns that should be considered by the USACE in its decision process are welcome. Comments providing substantive information and/or a rationale for the commenter’s position are the most helpful.
This public notice is not a paid advertisement and is for public information only. Issuance of this notice does not imply USACE endorsement of the project as described.
The decision whether to grant the requested permission for federal project modification under Section 408 will be based on several factors and 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. Review of the request for modification will be reviewed by a USACE technical review team and will consider, but not necessarily be limited to, the following factors:
Impair the Usefulness of the Project Determination. The review team will determine if the proposed alteration would limit the ability of the project to function as authorized, or would compromise or change any authorized project conditions, purposes, or outputs. The decision whether to approve a request for modification would be based on a determination of no impairments.
Injurious to the Public Interest Determination. Proposed alterations will be reviewed to determine the probable impacts, including cumulative impacts, on the public interest. Evaluation of the probable public interest impacts of the proposed alteration to the USACE requires a careful weighing of all relevant factors in each particular case. Factors that may be relevant to the public interest depend upon the type of USACE project being altered and may include, but are not limited to, conservation, economic development, historic properties/cultural resources, environmental impacts, water supply, water quality, flood hazards, floodplains, residual risk, induced damages, navigation, shore erosion or accretion, and recreation. The decision whether or not to approve an alteration to a federal project will be determined by the consideration of whether benefits are commensurate with risks. If the potential detriments are found to outweigh the potential benefits, then it may be determined that the proposed alteration is injurious to the public interest.
Environmental Compliance. A decision on a Section 408 request is a federal action, and therefore subject to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and other environmental compliance requirements. While ensuring compliance is the responsibility of the USACE, the requester provides all information necessary to satisfy applicable federal laws, executive orders, regulations, policies, ordinances, and any other environmental requirements. The NEPA and other analyses completed to comply with environmental statutes, such as the Endangered Species Act, should be commensurate with the scale and potential effects of the activity that would alter the federal project. The scope of analyses for the NEPA and environmental compliance evaluations pursuant to Section 408 are limited to the area of alteration and adjacent areas that may be directly or indirectly affected by the alteration. A preliminary determination has been made that an environmental impact statement is not required for the proposed action.
Technical Analysis. The USACE will ensure that the requester provides all technical plans, maps, drawings, and specifications to facilitate a thorough review of the proposal. A USACE-led Agency Technical Review (ATR) is being conducted to determine any potential adverse impacts to the federal project.
Any comments received will be considered by the USACE in determining whether to issue, modify, condition or deny a permission for this proposal if received before the comment period expiration date. To make its decision, the USACE will review comments received to supplement and inform its assessment of impacts on endangered species, historic properties, water quality, general environmental effects, and other public interest factors listed above. Comments will be taken into consideration in the preparation of an appropriate document pursuant to the NEPA (e.g. Environmental Assessment). Comments will also be used to determine the need for a public hearing and to determine overall public interest in the proposed action.
It should be noted that materials submitted as part of Section 408 requests become part of the public record and will be available to the general public under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Individuals may submit a written request to obtain materials under the FOIA or make an appointment to view the project file at the USACE Wilmington District’s Office of Counsel.
Other Required Authorizations
The Corps forwards this notice and all applicable application materials to the appropriate State agencies for review.
North Carolina Division of Water Resources (NCDWR): The Corps will generally not make a final permit decision until the NCDWR issues, denies, or waives the state Certification as required by Section 401 of the Clean Water Act (PL 92-500). The receipt of the application and this public notice, combined with the appropriate application fee, at the NCDWR Central Office in Raleigh constitutes initial receipt of an application for a 401 Certification. A waiver will be deemed to occur if the NCDWR fails to act on this request for certification within sixty days of receipt of a complete application. Additional information regarding the 401 Certification may be reviewed at the NCDWR Central Office, Permitting Unit, 512 North Salisbury Street, Raleigh, North Carolina 27604-2260. All persons desiring to make comments regarding the application for a 401 Certification should do so, in writing, by December 15, 2018 to:
NCDWR Central Office
(USPS mailing address): 1617 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1617
North Carolina Division of Coastal Management (NCDCM):
The application a certification that the proposed work complies with and would be conducted in a manner that is consistent with the approved North Carolina Coastal Zone Management Program. Pursuant to 33 CFR 325.2 (b)(2) the Corps cannot issue a Department of Army (DA) permit for the proposed work until the applicant submits such a certification to the Corps and the NCDCM, and the NCDCM notifies the Corps that it concurs with the applicant’s consistency certification. As the application the consistency certification, the Corps , concurrence or objection from the NCDCM.
The decision whether to issue a permit will be based on an evaluation of the probable impacts 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, flood plain values (in accordance with Executive Order 11988), 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. For activities involving the discharge of dredged or fill materials in waters of the United States, the evaluation of the impact of the activity on the public interest will include application of the Environmental Protection Agency’s 404(b)(1) guidelines.
The Corps of Engineers is soliciting comments from the public; Federal, State and local agencies and officials, including any consolidated State Viewpoint or written position of the Governor; 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 (EA) and/or an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). 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 the application. Requests for public hearings shall state, with particularity, the reasons for holding a public hearing. Requests for a public hearing shall be granted, unless the District Engineer determines that the issues raised are insubstantial or there is otherwise no valid interest to be served by a hearing.
The Corps of Engineers, Wilmington District will receive written comments pertinent to the proposed work, as outlined above, until 5pm, December 15, 2018. Comments should be submitted to Ms. Liz Hairat email address: firstname.lastname@example.org or at (910) 251-4049.