«DRAFT ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT FOR THE COLUMBIA STOCK RANCH SECTION 536 ECOSYSTEM RESTORATION PROJECT The environmental ...»
Implementing the Proposed Action would have varying effects to the identified resources which are currently under evaluation, however, adverse impacts may include inundation, destruction or increased disturbance. Where excavation would occur, there is a potential for direct effects to cultural resources or artifacts via disturbance or destruction using heavy equipment. Following construction of the setback levee and modifications to the existing levee, April 22, 2016 Page 43 the CSR project site would experience increased inundation, fluctuating flows, currents, and water levels from the Columbia River, which may increase wave action, exposure, and repeated inundation indirectly impacting archeological sites present in the project area. Additional types of impacts that could occur include wind and water deflation of archeological deposits as changing underwater currents due to surface water level fluctuation can cause displacement of archeological material or slumping. Exposure of archeological sites may increase instances of looting and vandalism. The Corps plans to mitigate these potential impacts and is coordinating with the Oregon SHPO and affected Tribes pursuant to 36 C.F.R. § 800.12(b)(2).
4.8. Land Use and Utilities The area in front of the levee is exposed to Columbia River flow on a regular basis. Reviewing aerial photography dating back to 1929 showed that this area has remained relatively stable over the past 80 years. Based on the historic aerial photography, there is no apparent erosion or accretion of sediment in this area. It is therefore expected that this area will remain stable into the foreseeable future. Land use prior to the acquisition of the CSR property principally consisted of managed agriculture and cattle grazing. As the current landowner, CLT granted a grazing lease on the property in April 2012 as an interim management strategy to manage invasive species on the project site. BPA reviewed and approved the grazing lease per the terms of the conservation easement, which can be amended or shortened as necessary to accommodate restoration activities.
Several utility lines currently exist within the CSR project site, including the railroad, two underground natural gas lines, an overhead BPA transmission line and an assortment of other utilities associated with private property including a fiber optic cable and power lines. One of the natural gas lines extends east-west through the project site; the other extends through the western portion of the site along a north-south alignment adjacent to Hwy 30. The BPA transmission line extends through the western portion of the site.
Environmental Consequences No Action Alternative Under the No Action Alternative, there would be no changes to current activities at the CSR project site and current land use practices would not change. Current cattle grazing and mowing practices are expected to be maintained to control non-native grasses on the property.
Maintenance of the existing levee is expected to continue to be performed by the Deer Island Drainage Improvement Company into the foreseeable future. Aside from the seasonal clearing of vegetation, flood control degradation is not expected to occur. As such, there is not expected to be any significant change in the drainage network or the location of the low-lying, groundwater fed areas behind the levee. Access to the CSR project site and utility usage would not change under the No Action Alternative.
Proposed Action Following implementation of the Proposed Action, cattle grazing would cease and non-native vegetation would be managed via mechanical and chemical methods. Maintenance of the setback levee constructed as a part of the Proposed Action would be transferred to the Deer Island Drainage Improvement Company for long-term maintenance and operations.
The CSR project site would be accessible via the current access road from Hwy 30 during the dry season. An additional access road would be provided from Hwy 30 on the setback levee, April 22, 2016 Page 44 providing access to the landowner, diking district, and utility companies for accessing the entire project site.
4.9. Socio-Economics As communities grow and change, the challenge to balance fiscal, social, economic, and environmental goals is continually in question. Deciding how much and what types of development or changes can be accommodated without compromising the quality of life for residents is an important aspect to maintaining the human environment. A socio-economic impact assessment is designed to assist the decision making processes in promoting long-term sustainability, economic prosperity, community health, and social well-being by evaluating potential changes in demographics, housing, public services, recreational opporturnities and even the aesthetic quality of the community that could result from implementation of a proposed project. Assessing these effects requires both quantitative and qualitative measurements of the impact of the proposed project. The opportunity for public comment on this draft EA helps to ensure the Action Agencies decisions are consistent with community values and ensures the decision making process addresses concerns about potential impacts.
The indicators used to measure the potential socio-economic impacts of the proposed
ecosystem restoration project include:
Changes in community demographics;
Results of retail and housing market analyses;
Demand for public services and recreational opportunities;
Changes in employment and income levels; and Changes in the aesthetic quality of the community.
Deer Island is one of the few remaining large islands in the lower Columbia River that has remained largely undeveloped. The island contains sloughs and lakes interspersed with grassy marshes and pasture, and is regularly used by wintering waterfowl as well as bald eagles, purple martins, and a variety of other wildlife. Deer Island's population is 269 people, which has grown by approximately 10.25 percent since 2000. Deer Island is an unincorporated community and census-designated place in Columbia County and consists of 50.1 percent males and 49.9 percent females. Although the unemployment rate on Deer Island is 7.40 percent (the average U.S. unemployment rate is 6.30 percent), recent job growth is positive and Deer Island jobs have increased by 1.59 percent. The estimated median household income in 2013 was $54,992, compared to $50,251 for the state of Oregon. Compared to the rest of the country, Deer Island's cost of living is 9.20 percent higher than the U.S. average. The median home cost in Deer Island is $196,000 and home appreciation in the last year has been 12.20 percent and median gross rent in 2013 was $724.
The primary land use of the project area is agricultural, predominantly pasture lands for cattle grazing. The CSR project area is designated as “Agricultural Land” comprised predominately of Class I-IV soils as classified by the NRCS. Lands which are suitable for farm use take into consideration soil fertility, suitability for grazing, climatic conditions, existing and future availability of water for irrigation purposes, existing land use patterns, technological and energy inputs, and accepted farming practices. Recreational opportunities on the CSR project site are limited to radio-controlled aircraft, and fishing and boating on the Columbia River adjacent to the project area.
April 22, 2016 Page 45 Environmental Consequences No Action Alternative Operation and maintenance of the dike and levee system components would not change in response to the No Action Alternative. Furthermore, it is anticipated that growth rates, community demographics, retail services and housing markets, the demand for public services and changes in employement and income levels would remain virtually unchanged from current conditions. Current land use practices would continue and county taxes generated by the diking district would increase according to inflation. Limited recreational opportunities would continue under the No Action Alternative, including radio-controlled airplanes, recreational fishing and boating on the Columbia River near the project site. Commercial fisheries would not be impacted by the No Action Alternative.
Proposed Action High value farmlands and special-interest agriculture (nursery stock, berries, fruit, Christmas trees, etc.) would not be adversely impacted from implementing the Proposed Action. The Proposed Action constitutes a change in the type and intensity of use on a portion of Deer Island that would convert lands currently used for agricultural purposes to non-agricultural uses. As the land-owner for the CSR project site, CLT would be responsible for paying property state and Federal taxes associated with the property. Due to the acquisition of the conservation easement by BPA, agricultural practices would discontinue and no longer contribute to the area's existing agricultural economy. The diking district levies an annual fee to all land owners in the project area according to the acreage of lands they own that are protected by the Deer Island Levee. The dues collected as part of the annual fee are used to perform regularly maintenance of the levees and operation of the Deer Island pump station. Because the CSR property would be removed from the total acreage of lands protected by the levee, the property would not be subject to the diking district fees resulting in increased costs to individual land owners responsible for maintaining the levee and pump station.
Many of the ecological benefits resulting from ecosystem restoration projects are not traded on economic markets, and therefore do not cary price tags that could alert society to changes in supply or deterioration of underlying ecological systems that generate them. Clean air and water, security and public safety provided by close relationships with neighbords and an independent lifestyle tend to be highly valued by community residents and implementing the Proposed Action is not expected to substantially alter these parameters. Additionally, the Proposed Action is not anticipated to result in changes in the aesthetic quality of community life or a sense of cohesion among residents. Furthermore, the focal point or “common meeting place” for residents is not expected to shift to a new location due to implementation of the project features.
With regards to the socio-economic structure of Deer Island, implementing the Proposed Action would not substantively alter long-term demographics, public services, recreational opportunities, markets, employment and income or the aesthetic quality of Columbia County.
Recreational fishing and boating on the Columbia River would continue and would not be impacted by construction of the Proposed Action. Similarly, commercial fishing interests would not be adversely impacted by active construction associated with implementing the Proposed Action. Fishing interests would benefit from the long-term benefits achieved from implementing the project, as habitat restoration is intended to support growth and survival of juvenile salmonidis contributing to increased adults returning to spawn in upstream tributaries. Work within waters of the U.S. would be restricted to the immediate CSR project site, reducing potential impacts to the Columbia River and recreational and commercial user
4.10. Climate Change Climate is governed by incoming solar radiation and the associated greenhouse effects which influence short-term, seasonal, and long-term weather patterns. Greenhouse gases include (in the order of importance to the greenhouse effect): water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and ozone. Anthropogenic activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels and the clearing of forests, adds additional greenhouse gases to the atmosphere and create a natural sink for carbon dioxide, intensifying natural greenhouse effects, and ultimately causing changes to global, regional, and local climates.
Executive Order 13514 and subsequent guidance from the CEQ (2011a and 2011b) led to development of Corps policy and planning documents: the Climate Change Adaptation Policy Statement and the Climate Change Adaptation Plan and Report (Corps 2011b, 2012, and 2013, respectively). The policy states, “mainstreaming climate change adaptation means that it will be considered at every step in the project lifecycle for all [Corps] projects, both existing and planned... to reduce vulnerabilities and to enhance the resilience of our water resource infrastructure.” In its 2013 Climate Change Adaptation Plan, the Corps identified four categories of climate change effects which have the potential to impact its national missions
and operations (Corps 2013). These four categories include:
1. increasing air temperatures,
2. changing precipitation,
3. increases in extreme events, and
4. sea level change and associated tides, waves, and surges.
The potential impacts of climate change are expected to play an increasingly important role in determining the fate of wildlife species and the conservation value of habitats in the Columbia River. It is anticipated that climate change would exacerbate existing temperature, stream flow, habitat access, predation, and marine productivity issues (CIG 2004, ISAB 2007).
According to the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), average regional air temperatures have increased by an average of 1.5°F over the last century (up to 4°F in some areas), with warming trends expected to continue into the next century (2009). Warming is likely to continue during the next century as average temperatures increase another 3 to 10°F (USGCRP 2009).