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Finding of No Significant Impact

Town of Grant, Alabama
Request for 26a approval and permanent easement for 1.37 acres of TVA land (Tract No. XTGR-173P) on Guntersville Reservoir to construct a municipal wastewater outfall and diffuser as part of a proposed sanitary sewer system
Marshall County, Alabama

Proposed Action and Need
Alternatives
Impacts Assessment
Mitigation
Public and Intergovernmental Review
Conclusion and Findings

Proposed Action and Need

The town of Grant, Alabama, proposes to construct a wastewater treatment plant designed to handle 0.25 million gallons per day (mgd) with a sewer outfall and diffuser in Guntersville Reservoir at Tennessee River Mile 370.2 on the right descending bank. A 6-inch diameter force line would be constructed along County Road 613 from the plant to a discharge point in the river. The 20-foot-long diffuser would be located approximately 2,288 feet from the shoreline, with a top elevation of 570-feet mean sea level. The discharge pipeline would be fully sunk below the existing soft lake bottom with a minimum of 6-inches bury, and approximately 50 feet of disturbed shoreline would be stabilized with riprap.

The wastewater treatment facility would be a small diameter, low-pressure collection system and a three-cell lagoon. The purpose of the proposed project is to provide a reliable wastewater system to the existing residences and businesses that depend on individual on-site disposal systems. These on-site systems, which consist of septic tanks and field lines, are failing in the densely populated areas due to poor soils, shallow rock, and overloading. Grant also wishes to attract new business and industry, which rely on a wastewater system.

In April 2003, Ladd Environmental Consultants, Inc. prepared an Environmental Information Document for the town of Grant, which the United States Department of Agriculture, Rural Utilities Service (RUS), issued as its Environmental Assessment (EA). Subsequently, RUS approved a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) on April 28, 2003, for the proposed sanitary sewer system. The United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) used this information to prepare an EA and issue a FONSI on July 16, 2003.

Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) proposes to approve the outfall and diffuser under Section 26a of the TVA Act and grant a permanent easement over 1.37 acres of TVA public land (see attached exhibit map). This TVA public land is allocated for Residential Access in the Guntersville Reservoir Land Management Plan, 2001. Access corridors for public works/utility projects proposed on any TVA public land that do not affect the allocated land use or sensitive resources would not require an allocation change so long as such uses would not be inconsistent with the use of the allocated zone. The proposed sewer outfall and associated piping would not affect residential use of the land. Therefore, a land use allocation change is not necessary.

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Alternatives

The EA issued by RUS included four alternatives to the proposed action. Three of these alternatives were determined not viable. A traditional gravity collection system utilizing 8-inch PVC collection lines, concrete manholes, and lift stations was cost prohibitive. The construction and operation of an oxidation ditch treatment plant with influent screening and chlorination/dechlorination facilities was also considered cost prohibitive. Additionally, there are no streams of sufficient size in the Grant area to accept the discharge from the plant other than discharging into the Tennessee River. Under the RUS No Action Alternative, the town of Grant would not install a sewer system, and individual residences and businesses would continue to use on-site systems.

Under TVA’s No Action Alternative, the sewer outfall and diffuser would not be approved and the town of Grant could not construct the sanitary sewer system as proposed. Under the preferred alternative, TVA would grant a permit under Section 26a of the TVA Act for the sewer outfall and diffuser and would approve a permanent easement over 1.37 acres of TVA land.

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Impacts Assessment

TVA has independently reviewed the EAs issued by RUS and the USACE. TVA concurs that the No Action Alternative would continue to have a potential effect on the environment because of the failing on-site septic systems. Under the proposed action, there would be no impacts to navigation because the proposed outfall would be below the minimum elevations identified for obstructions in primary and secondary navigational channels. The proposed action does not involve any stream crossings, wetlands, or cultural resources listed or eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. Based on correspondence between the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the applicant, and USACE, TVA concurs with the determination that no listed threatened or endangered species would be affected.

The RUS EA limited construction activities within two miles of the Tennessee River to the period between June and October to avoid any potential impacts to bald eagles. To reduce any potential impacts to the spawning season of aquatic habitat, TVA would limit dredging to the period spanning August through October.

There would be virtually no noise associated with operation of the treatment plant. It would be an aerated lagoon with no mechanical parts. There would be an underground effluent pump station that would not be heard more than 10 feet away. The only potential noise source would be an auxiliary generator used to run the pump station during power outages. The generator would produce an estimated 60-70 decibels of noise. The nearest structure to the plant is a house located approximately 800 feet north of the proposed generator location, and there would be some attenuation of noise over that distance.

For analysis purposes, if the noise level for the generator is 70 decibels (dB) at a distance of 50 feet from the generator, the noise level at the nearest residence is calculated to be approximately 46 dB. This level is probably loud enough to be heard over background noise levels, especially at night, but it is not loud enough to be considered a problem. If the noise (70 dB) was measured closer to the generator, the noise level at the residence would be even lower. Given the relatively low level of noise from the generator, the distance to the nearest residence, and the infrequent use of the generator, there would not be an adverse impact on the noise environment. Noise due to construction activities would be temporary and would be insignificant, since the activities would be limited to daytime.

Based on the restrictions in the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, the proposed discharge is not expected to measurably affect the water quality of Guntersville Reservoir for several reasons. First, the discharge is small (0.25 mgd) relative to the volume of water in Guntersville Reservoir and to the flow which averages almost 27,000 mgd. Second, the discharge would be mixed and dispersed in a short distance because it includes a diffuser, which extends to the main channel where there is more flow, and is submerged over 20 feet throughout the year. Third, any upset or bypass (discharge of untreated sewage) is expected to be infrequent and short term, resulting in temporary minor effects with no cumulative impact. Fourth, in the event of threat of violation of water quality standards or the NPDES permit conditions (routine monitoring and reporting are required under the permit), the Alabama Department of Environmental Management would implement corrective actions.

Because there would only be a potential for temporary, minor effects to water quality with no cumulative impact, there would be no measurable impacts to aquatic macrophyte (weed) growth, aquatic-listed species, swimming, or fishing and, also, no need to relocate the outfall below Guntersville Dam.

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Mitigation

TVA concurs with the mitigation identified in the RUS and USACE prepared EAs. TVA believes that the recommended special permit conditions in the USACE permit and mitigation in the RUS EA are adequate mitigation for the potential impacts to the floodplain and bald eagles. To reduce any potential impacts to bald eagles, construction activities within two miles of the Tennessee River will be limited to June through October. To reduce impacts to floodplains, the town of Grant will adopt an ordinance to restrict service connections in the 100-year floodplain as identified by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. No future connections will be allowed in these areas.

TVA’s Section 26a (of the TVA Act) approval is contingent upon successful implementation of Best Management Practices for erosion and sediment control including the TVA General Conditions 1, 9, 10, and Standard Conditions 6a - i. Special commitments identified by TVA in addition to RUS and USACE commitments include:

  • To reduce any potential impacts to aquatic habitat and bald eagles, dredging will be limited to August through October.

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Public and Intergovernmental Review

On February 1, 2003, a Notice of Availability appeared in the Guntersville, Alabama, newspaper The Advertiser-Gleam announcing the availability of the RUS EA for public review. Any person interested was requested to provide comments by March 3, 2003.

One comment was received from a couple expressing concern that the proposed discharge would affect water quality for swimming, fishing, and increase aquatic weed growth. On April 17, 2003, the USACE issued a joint public notice with TVA, describing the proposed project and requested comments by May 16, 2003. Three comments were received in response to this public notice. Issues identified by the commenters are addressed in the Impacts Assessment Section of this FONSI. Additionally, on June 25 and 28, 2003, a public notice announcing the RUS FONSI was published in The Advertiser-Gleam with a 15-day comment period.

The Alabama Historical Commission (AHC) did not comment on the joint USACE/TVA public notice. However, previous coordination between AHC and the applicant’s consultant occurred in 2002 regarding this project and is included in the RUS EA. AHC requested the project area to be surveyed by a professional archaeologist. By letter of July 30, 2002, AHC concurred with the results of the assessment that there are no cultural resources within the project boundaries listed on or eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

The USFWS responded to the USACE/TVA joint public notice in a June 12, 2003, letter. Previous coordination between USFWS and the applicant’s consultant occurred in April 2002 regarding this project. USFWS requested surveys for the green pitcher plant, Price’s potato bean, Eggert’s sunflower, bald eagles, and habitat for bald eagles, red-cockaded woodpecker, Indiana bat, and karst formations or caves. No federally listed species were found within the proposed project areas, and USFWS concurred with the survey results.

To avoid any potential impacts to bald eagles, the applicant stated that all proposed construction activities within two miles of the Tennessee River will be limited to the months of June through October only. USFWS was concerned about increasing the nutrient loading in the Tennessee River and the potential effect to cause the loss of listed species as a result of degraded water quality. TVA believes that compliance with the NPDES permit would preserve the physical, chemical, and biological integrity of the waters of the Tennessee River.

Also, in response to the joint USACE/TVA public notice, a public comment was received from an individual opposing the proposed action to be located near his subdivision. The commenter stated that while the wastewater would be treated, it would contain untreated sewage on some occasions, and both the treated and untreated effluent would serve as food for plant life in the lake. The commenter stated that the proposed site for the discharge is just upstream of one of the worst places where the lake’s plant life is out of control, the submerged Pine Island, and is being sprayed and cut on a regular basis by TVA. The commenter proposed that the sewage discharge be released just downstream of Guntersville Dam in an area that has significantly less problems with plant life that would be better mixed into the river by the more rapidly running current.

Additionally, RUS received a public comment during the 15-day review period of the FONSI also opposing the proposed action because the commenter believes this discharge would affect water for swimming and fishing, and the weed infestation would grow. TVA believes that the restrictions in the NPDES permit would preserve the designated uses of the affected streams. Although plant bypass and upsets could occur occasionally, this infrequent bypass of untreated sewage would be closely regulated under the NPDES permit and is unlikely to cumulatively cause weed infestation.

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Conclusion and Findings

TVA has critically and independently reviewed the RUS and USACE prepared EAs and determined that the scope and alternatives considered in the EAs are adequate. TVA has decided to adopt the RUS and USACE prepared EAs. These are attached and incorporated by reference.

TVA has determined that no historic properties, wetlands, or threatened and endangered species would be affected by the project. For compliance with Executive Order 11988, the sewer outfall and diffuser are considered to be repetitive actions in the floodplain. TVA has determined there would be a potential for temporary, minor effects to water quality with no cumulative impact, there would be no indirect impacts to aquatic weed growth, aquatic listed species, swimming, or fishing. There would be temporary, minor impacts to noise during construction and operation of the plant.

Based on the EAs and TVA’s review, we conclude that the approval of a Section 26a permit and a permanent easement for the proposed wastewater treatment facility, sewer outfall, and diffuser 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: Aug. 25, 2003

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