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Finding of No Significant Impact

Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT)
Section 26a approval for crossings of Left Fork Rock Creek, Decatur Branch, and unnamed tributaries to Left Fork Rock Creek and Decatur Creek associated with four-lane construction of State Route (SR) 30, McMinn and Meigs Counties, Tennessee

Proposed Action and Need for Project
Alternatives
Public and Agency Review
Impact Assessment and Mitigation
Conclusion and Findings

Proposed Action and Need for Project

TDOT has submitted an application to TVA for stream relocations and culverts associated with the widening, relocation, and four-lane construction of an SR 30 bypass around Decatur and between Decatur and Duckett Hollow Road, a distance of 5.3 miles. TVA previously issued a FONSI for Section 26a approval of stream crossings between Duckett Hollow Road and I-75 in McMinn County. As part of this previously issued FONSI, TVA adopted a Federal Highway Administration EA and FONSI dated June 24, 1998. This FHWA EA and FONSI assessed the impacts of the additional 5-mile section for which Section 26a approval is now requested. However, the 1998 EA did not address the mitigation of stream impacts from the proposed construction of the 5.3-mile section. TVA prepared a Supplemental EA to document its consideration of impacts and mitigation measures associated with 3,851 feet of stream culverting and relocations in the Decatur Creek and Rock Creek watersheds associated with construction of this additional section of highway.

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Alternatives

TVA considered two alternative actions:
Under the No Action Alternative, a Section 26a approval would not be granted, and TVA would not approve construction culverts and stream relocations associated with SR 30 east and south of Decatur. No additional impacts to environmental resources would be expected.

Under the Action Alternative, TVA would issue a permit in accordance with Section 26a of the TVA Act for 15 culverts and channel relocations on Decatur Branch, Left Fork Rock Creek, and tributaries to these streams. TVA has chosen the Action Alternative as the preferred Alternative.

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Public and Agency Review

The proposed highway improvement project was coordinated with environmental and local government agencies, including TVA, in 1995. An EA was approved by FHWA on March 13, 1996 for highway improvements between Decatur and Athens, a distance of about 10 miles. After considering all comments, the EA was supplemented February 6, 1998 to include a bypass of Decatur. FHWA completed a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) on June 24, 1998. TVA adopted this EA and FONSI on January 4, 2001.

On July 31, 2001, TDOT submitted a permit request for a five-mile section of the highway between Decatur and Duckett Hollow Road. This was followed by an off-site mitigation plan for lengthy culvert stream impacts on September 13, 2001. On September 18, 2001, USACE, TVA, and the State of Tennessee issued Joint Public Notice 01-73. Responses were received from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and Tennessee Historical Commission (THC). THC indicated that there were no National Register of Historic Places listed or eligible properties adversely affected by the undertaking. FWS expressed concerns about the amount of stream mitigation being proposed (2,672 feet) in relation to the impacts (3,559 feet from culverting and 1194 feet from stream relocations). In response, TDOT corrected the amount of stream impact caused by the project to 3,851 feet. Of this, 863 feet would be mitigated on-site, leaving a balance of 2988 feet to be mitigated in the in-lieu fee program.

After considering the public notice and mitigation plans, TDEC issued a Water Quality Certification under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act on November 26, 2001. USACE determined that the project would qualify for Nationwide Permit 14 and issued the verification with special conditions on May 31, 2002. TDEC issued a revised WQC on June 24, 2002.

The proposed road improvement involved more than 15 stream crossings requiring approval under Section 26a of the TVA, and required extensive stream mitigation. As a result of these considerations, TVA decided that preparation of a supplemental EA would allow a better understanding of the impacts of the proposal. TVA has determined that the proposed mitigation plan would adequately compensate for the impacts of its additional Section 26a approvals related to SR 30.

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Impact Assessment and Mitigation

As indicated in the attached EA, impacts to threatened and endangered species, wetlands, floodplains, noise, and terrestrial ecology would be insignificant; for these resources, no mitigation measures other than standard applicable laws, regulations, and Best Management Practices were determined to be necessary to avoid adverse effects. Stream impacts would be mitigated through tree planting at the channel relocation sites and through payment into the Tennessee in-lieu fee program for stream mitigation. TVA concludes that these measures would adequately compensate for the stream impacts of the project. The requirements of the TDEC water quality certification would reduce impacts to aquatic resources to insignificant levels, and no additional measures are proposed by TVA.

The project would have the potential to visually affect the setting of Decatur Methodist Church. A landscaping plan would screen the church from the highway and avoid adverse effects to this National Register property. TVA’s approval would include the following commitment:
Cultural Resources—Plant trees and carry out other measures in the Historic Preservation Mitigation Plan of August 29, 1997.

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Conclusion and Findings

Based on consultation with the THC, TVA has determined that there would be no adverse effect to historic properties from the SR 30 project between Decatur and Duckett Hollow Road. The September 24, 2001 letter from the State Historic Preservation Officer certified that the requirements of Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act had been met.

Based on the TVA Supplemental EA and 1998 FHWA EA and the commitments listed herein, we conclude that the Section 26a approvals for the crossings of Decatur Creek and tributaries and Left Fork and tributaries would not be a major Federal action significantly affecting the environment. Accordingly, an environmental impact statement is not required.

Original signed by:
Jon M. Loney
Manager, NEPA Administration
Environmental Policy and Planning
Tennessee Valley Authority

Date: September 24, 2002

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