«DRAFT ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT FOR THE COLUMBIA STOCK RANCH SECTION 536 ECOSYSTEM RESTORATION PROJECT The environmental ...»
April 22, 2016 Page 39 While a targeted water quality assessment for the CSR project site has not been conducted, information from studies on nearby streams and off-channel habitats can be used to describe potential water quality concerns in Tide Creek and other aquatic habitats on the project site. In 2009, USFWS contributed habitat restoration efforts in the lower Columbia River and estuary by monitoring biological and physical attributes of Deer Island Slough and Tide Creek (the constructed channel flowing into Deer Island Slough before emptying into the Columbia River south of the CSR project site) (USFWS 2009). Temperature, depth, dissolved oxygen (DO) and conductivity, as well as pH, turbidity, depth, and percent shade were recorded to evaluate water quality conditions in the waterways. Summer stream temperature is a primary water quality concern, when many stream reaches designated as critical habitat for salmonids exceed water quality standards for temperature. As temperatures increase, DO concentrations decrease, creating environments that are stressful and at times lethal for fish and aquatic organisms. For juvenile salmonids, 16.8° celcius (C) is the upper threshold above which individuals experience sub-lethal effects from elevated water temperatures.
USFWS monitoring results documented that temperatures in Deer Island Slough remained below the upper threshold until mid-May, at which time temperatures rose to and exceeded
16.8°C by mid-May and early summer, indicating off-channel habitats in the project area may become water quality limited for juvenile salmonids during the summer months. Water quality on the project site has degraded following the loss of connectivity and lack of circulation resulting from of disconnection from the Columbia River and stagnation of wetlands and offchannel waterways, resulting in low DO concentrations and higher instantaneous water temperatures.
Environmental Consequences No Action Alternative The No Action Alternative would not alter the existing surface water hydrology or drainage patterns of water in Tide Creek or wetlands in the CSR project site. Other areas within the site would remain disconnected from riverine or tidal flows and therefore continue to experience degraded water quality. Under this alternative, the existing degraded water quality levels would persist on the CSR project site, providing poor habitat quality for fish and aquatic wildlife.
Proposed Action While the Proposed Action is not intended to improve water quality or expected to exceed State water quality standards in the project area, implementing the Proposed Action would likely influence water quality parameters in off-channel habitats in the CSR project site, but not influence water quality in the Columbia River, including the TMDL for dioxin. Floodplain wetlands provide water quality benefits by filtering potentially harmful nutrients and pesticides from stormwater runoff. Therefore, restoring the natural estuarine wetland functions at CSR would have long-term, positive impacts on water quality by increasing the pollutant filtration component of the floodplain. Reconnecting the proposed project area to direct surface water connection with the Columbia River would improve overall water quality in the project area by increasing tidal flushing and improving circulation and groundwater exchange, resulting in increased water exchange to improve DO concentrations and lower water temperatures (USFWS 2009). Indirect effects from improving circulation and overall water quality include moderation of temperature during the summer, when temperatures often exceed thresholds tolerable to sensitive aquatic fish and wildlife, thereby supporting improved habitat conditions for fish and wildlife during stressful seasonal events.
April 22, 2016 Page 40 In addition to the beneficial effects of implementing the Proposed Action, there could be some temporary, localized adverse effects to water quality on the CSR project site during construction. Short-term impacts include increased turbidity and erosional processes resulting from construction activities and temporary loss of vegetation. These effects would be minimized through the use of proper BMPs and erosion control methods.
4.6. Air Quality and Noise Pollution The Oregon DEQ and EPA regulate air quality in the project area. Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA has established the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for six criteria air pollutants: carbon monoxide (CO), ozone, particulate matter, lead, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide. Oregon DEQ, which is responsible for maintaining compliance with the NAAQS in Oregon, has established State Ambient Air Quality Standards (SAAQS) that are at least as stringent as the NAAQS.
For each of the six criteria pollutants, the NAAQS and SAAQS are defined as a maximum concentration above which adverse effects on human health may occur. Geographic areas in which the ambient concentrations of a criteria pollutant exceed the NAAQS are classified as nonattainment areas. Federal regulations require states to prepare statewide air quality planning documents called State Implementation Plans (SIPs) that establish methods to bring air quality in nonattainment areas into compliance with the NAAQS and to maintain compliance. Nonattainment areas that return to compliance are called maintenance areas. No part of the project area is a designated as a nonattainment or maintenance area for criteria pollutants (DEQ 2013).
The lower Columbia River climate is characterized by wet winters, relatively dry summers, and mild temperatures throughout the year. Along the lower elevations of the immediate coast, normal annual precipitation is between 65 to 90 inches. Occasional strong winds strike the Oregon Coast, usually in advance of winter storms. Wind speeds can exceed hurricane force, and in rare cases have caused damage to structures or vegetation. Damage is most likely at exposed coastal locations, but it may extend into inland valleys as well. Such events are typically short-lived, lasting less than one day. The prevailing winds along the Lower Columbia River comes from the east out of the Columbia Gorge during the fall and winter months (October to March), and from the west off of the ocean during the spring and summer months (April to September).
Noise is generally defined as unwanted sound and is a fluctuating pressure wave. It is measured in terms of the sound pressure level expressed in decibels (dB). Existing sources of noise in the project area originate from vessel traffic in the Columbia River and traffic associated with Hwy 30. Receptors of this noise include landowners and fish and wildlife in the vicinity of the area. The CSR project site is not classified by Columbia County as a “noise sensitive” property.
Environmental Consequences No Action Alternative If no action were taken, there would be no impact to air quality and no construction noise would be generated. Consequently, there would be no changes to existing conditions under the No Action Alternative.
April 22, 2016 Page 41 Proposed Action Project construction may result in short term increase of regulated air pollutants from construction equipment; however, these emissions would not exceed the air quality standards and SAAQS. There also would be temporary and localized increases in noise levels from construction equipment; however, these impacts would be minor and temporary in nature (construction is scheduled to occur during the spring, summer and fall months of 2017 and 2018). Construction-related noise would cease following implementation of the Proposed Action Alternative, after the levee is fully breached, and material is disposed.
4.7. Cultural Resources Cultural resources include things and places that demonstrate evidence of human occupation or activity related to history, architecture, archeology, engineering, and culture. The Oregon State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) cultural resources database and archives were examined by Corps archaeologists in March 2012 for information regarding the presence of documented archaeological sites, historic sites and structures, historic properties, and other relevant cultural features within the CSR project site. At that time, there were no records of documented archaeological sites within the project area and no record of previous archaeological surveys having been conducted within the area proper. The nearest documented archaeological surveys consisted of three overlapping linear surveys of a fiber optics line and two pipeline projects located west of the project area.
Initial reviews of historic General Land Office and Donation Land Claim (DLC) maps, historic aerial photographs and historic background research into the area's history, coupled with reconnaissance-level pedestrian surveys conducted by Corps archaeologists in July 2015, revealed that an undetermined number of the standing, "above ground" structures (i.e. house, barn, various outbuildings) in the existing farm complex located immediately west of Tide Creek are likely more than 50 years old. Similarly, an undetermined number of historic linear features (i.e. levees and berms, constructed drainages, irrigation channels, diversion canals with associated tide gates, fence lines, railroad grades, roads) are likely present in selected locations throughout the project area. These structures and features, if constructed more than 50 years ago, are considered "historic" and may be eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP).
All "historic" structures, historic era sites, prehistoric archaeological sites and culturallysignificant properties located within the project area would need to be formally assessed and evaluated for NRHP eligibility. To be determined eligible, each identified historic structure, historic site, archaeological site, and all other significant cultural resources must be evaluated for their characteristics, integrity and historic significance to determine if they meet the NRHP's criteria for eligibility. Intensive archaeological survey and cultural resource assessments of the project area and its cultural resources began in February 2016 and are expected to continue through June 2016. The Corps is currently completing historic background research, conducting systematic pedestrian surveys and subsurface testing throughout the project area, documenting all identified above ground and below ground cultural resources within the project area, and evaluating all documented cultural resources for historic significance and eligibility for inclusion on the NRHP.
Preliminary findings suggest that at least four cultural resources are located within the project area which may be considered potentially eligible for inclusion on the NRHP. These include the existing levee, which was constructed in 1942; the Peacher DLC farmstead, a farm complex of early-20th Century buildings and structures located immediately west of Tide Creek in the April 22, 2016 Page 42 west-central portion of the project area; the John H. Jones DLC, a subsurface assemblage of early-20th Century homestead remains and debris located near the north-central portion of the project area; and an early-20th Century railroad grade stretching north-south along the project area's westside boundary (the Portland & Western Railroad). While each of the four historic site areas meet the 50-year-old 'rule of thumb' for eligibility to the NRHP, all require further evaluation and assessment to determine whether any retain significant historic qualities and meet any of the necessary criteria for NRHP eligibility. Those evaluations are expected to be completed by June 2016. An undetermined number of additional historic features and structures may also be present within the project area and require further assessment. Those assessments and evaluations are expected to be completed by June 2016.
To date, no evidence of Native American villages, archaeological sites, or traditional use areas has been uncovered along Tide Creek or within the broader project area. However, ethnographic-era Native American settlements are known to have existed along this reach of the Columbia River and in the vicinity of Deer Island. Consultations with the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon (Grand Ronde), Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians (Siletz) and Cowlitz Indian Tribe (Cowlitz) indicate that the project area lies within a broader area of traditional cultural significance. For this reason, much of the project area's southern and eastern portions are considered to have a relatively high probability for prehistoric site occurrence. Although much of the project area's topography has been heavilyreconfigured and transformed by numerous factors including multiple and repeated flood events, early-to-mid 20th Century settlement, land clearing, levee and irrigation channel construction, decades of mixed agricultural uses and livestock grazing, the Corps is continuing to work with the Tribes and Oregon SHPO to develop and implement appropriate cultural investigation strategies to ensure no undetected prehistoric cultural resources would be impacted within the project area.
Environmental Consequences No Action Alternative Under the No Action Alternative, no ground distrubing activites would occur to adversely impact cultural or historic resources. Cattle grazing would be maintained as a mechanism to suppress weed growth, but these actions would not result in new or different impacts from those that occur under current conditions.
Proposed Action The Corps has reviewed the Proposed Action under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) and has determined that implementing the Proposed Action would have the potential to affect historic properties and cultural resources within the CSR project site. Potential effects from the Proposed Action are currently being inventoried for archaeological and historic resources. To date, the inventory has identified seven historic properties and one Traditional Cultural Property within the project boundary: several historic properties, including the levee, railroad grade, homesites, and remnants of a small incorporated community (of hunters). Evaluating the eligibility and a determination of significance is underway and expected to continue for several months.