Finding of No Significant Impact
Adoption of Federal Highway Administration Environmental Assessment
Carolina Department of Transportation
NCDOT has submitted an application to TVA for Section 26a approval of stream obstructions associated with four- and five-lane construction of NC 191 between the Blue Ridge Parkway and NC 112 in Buncombe County, North Carolina, a distance of 3 km. The following stream obstructions require approval under Section 26a of the TVA Act:
The project was announced to the public and agencies during 1997. A Citizens Informational Workshop was held on February 26, 1997. An EA was published in February 1999. Comments were received from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, North Carolina Division of Water Quality, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, U.S. Forest Service, NC State Historic Preservation Officer, TVA (as a cooperating agency), Land of Sky Regional Council, and the Asheville Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.
In addition, coordination and consultations occurred during the project with the National Park Service related to the Blue Ridge Parkway. By concurrence form dated December 22, 1997, the SHPO agreed that there would be no adverse effects on National Register properties with the commitment that the landscaping plan, signage and signalization at the Blue Ridge Parkway ramp be verified for minimization of impacts by the SHPO prior to construction. After considering all comments, FHWA issued a FONSI on June 30, 2000. By letter of November 19, 2001, the North Carolina Division of Water Quality granted the Water Quality Certification required under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act (CWA).
The proposed road improvement involving two stream crossings had the potential to impact wetlands and two National Register Properties, the Blue Ridge Parkway and Bent Creek Experimental Forest. As a result of these considerations, the preparation of an EA was considered necessary to allow a better understanding of the impacts of the proposal. TVA served as a cooperating agency in the preparation of the FHWA EA. TVA has determined that the impacts of its Section 26a approvals for stream obstructions associated with widening of NC 191, and obstructions associated with construction of a new lane on the NC 191 access ramp to the Blue Ridge Parkway are adequately assessed in the FHWA February 18, 1999, EA and the associated June 30, 2000 FONSI. TVA adopts these documents as its own, based upon independent review of the project.
The EA prepared by the FHWA evaluates the environmental consequences of two action alternatives, along with Alternate Modes of Transportation, Do Nothing (No Action), and Postponement. Alternatives involving alternate modes of transportation and postponement of the project were initially considered but were not discussed in detail due to continuing level of service impacts and safety concerns that would result from no action or a postponement. At the request of the Asheville MPO, bicycle lanes were incorporated into the design of the action alternatives.
Under No Action, the highway would not likely be constructed, and congestion would continue to get worse.
Under Alternative 1, NC 191 would be widened to a four-lane divided section between the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Bent Creek Forest entrance road. Widening would occur on the east side of the existing highway to avoid the Bent Creek Forest property. From the Bent Creek Forest entrance road to NC 112, NC 191 would be widened to a five-lane undivided section. Widening would be symmetrical.
Under Alternative 2 (preferred), NC 191 would be widened as in Alternative 1, but west side widening of the five-lane section would occur between McIlwain Road and Fore Road to minimize impacts to existing residential and commercial properties. There would be no effects to endangered or threatened species from the project. Impacts to wetlands of 0.14 ha would occur under either action alternative. Wetland mitigation for the project would be provided through payment into the North Carolina Wetlands Restoration Program. The mitigation would take place within the French Broad River basin of North Carolina. A minor acreage of terrestrial habitat, including only 1.5 ha of forested habitat, would be affected. Both alternatives would avoid impacts to the National Register-listed Bent Creek Forest Research Station, but would affect the Blue Ridge Parkway. In the EA, NCDOT committed to landscape design and special signing and decorative signal poles to ensure that there would be no adverse effects to the parkway.
TVA independently reviewed the impacts assessed in the FHWA EA and confirmed its findings. As a cooperating agency, TVA provided scoping comments and commented on the FHWA EA prior to completion.
TVA determined that impacts to floodplains and aquatic resources would be minimized through the use of standard Best Management Practices for water quality protection. TVA has determined that there is no practicable alternative to routing the highway across the floodplains of Bent Creek and Boring Mill Branch because routes on new location to the east would likely involve fill in the floodplain of the French Broad River and routing to the west would also affect the floodplain of these two streams. It would significantly increase costs to move the highway to a new location in the upland, and the purpose of the project, which is to improve traffic flow in south Asheville, would not be met. Further, Buncombe County participates in the National Flood Insurance Program, and, in accordance with the minimum standards of this program, the applicant will ensure that development will not significantly increase 100-year flood elevations, and will not involve placement of fill or other flow obstructions in the floodway portion of the floodplain unless compensatory adjustments are also included.
TVA has critically and independently reviewed the USACE EA and determined that the scope, alternatives considered, and content of the EA is adequate and that the impacts on the environment have been adequately addressed. TVA has decided to adopt the FHWA EA and FONSI (see Note). The project would have no effect on the Bent Creek Experimental Forest and would not have an adverse effect on the Blue Ridge Parkway, both properties on the National Register of Historic Places.
Based on the EA, we conclude that the Section 26a approvals for the crossings of Bent Creek and Boring Mill Branch would not be a major Federal action significantly affecting the environment. Accordingly, an environmental impact statement is not required. This FONSI is contingent upon successful implementation of Best Management Practices for erosion and sediment control, adherence to the conditions in the Water Quality Certification of November 19, 2001, wetlands restoration in the French Broad River basin, and implementation of the project commitments in the FONSI of June 30, 2000.
Original signed by:
Date: May 1, 2002
Section 26a approvals for crossings of Bent Creek and Boring Mill Branch associated with widening of State Route (SR) 191 (Brevard Road) and the SR 191 entrance ramp to the Blue Ridge Parkway Buncombe County, North Carolina
Harold M. Draper,