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Tennessee State Route 61 Improvements

Finding of no significant impact and adoption of environmental assessments prepared by Federal Highway Administration

Tennessee Department of Transportation, Section 26a approvals on Flat Creek tributaries for proposed construction on State Route 61 from Maynardville to Blaine in Union, Knox, and Grainger Counties, Tennessee

Proposed action and need
Public and intergovernmental review
Impacts assessment
Conclusion and findings

Proposed action and need

Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) has completed an environmental assessment for the improvement and realignment of State Route 61 from SR 33 in Maynardville, Tennessee, to west of SR 1 in Blaine, Tennessee, a distance of 10.1 miles. The need for the action is based on providing adequate roadway capacity and safety to meet future traffic demands. The proposed project has been divided into four sections.

  • Section I, 3.3 miles: From SR 33 in Maynardville along existing route to the north Luttrell city limits
  • Section II, 3.2 miles: From the north Luttrell city limits to the south Luttrell city limits realigned to new route west of Luttrell
  • Section III, 1.6 miles: From the south Luttrell city limits along the existing route to the Union-Knox County line
  • Section IV, 1.9 miles: From the Union-Knox County line realigned to the north of the existing route to SR 1 (US-11W) in Blaine, Tennessee.

On August 23, 2003, TDOT submitted a joint application to Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and the United States Army Corps of Engineers for a 3.5-mile section of the project in Union and Knox Counties, Tennessee (identified as Sections III and IV in the Federal Highway Administration [FHWA] Environmental Assessment [EA]).

Improvements to SR 61 within these sections consist of channel relocations, culvert extensions, and wetland fill affecting tributaries of Flat Creek. Section 26a of the TVA Act approvals would be needed for the following actions, listed from north to south:

  • Sta. 21+603±Rt. to 21+633±Rt. _ Culvert, temporary wetland fill (0.027 acre), permanent wetland fill (0.005 acre) on unnamed tributary of Dyer Branch
  • Sta. 21+890± to 21+940± _ Culvert on unnamed tributary of Dyer Branch with man-made pond
  • Sta. 23+520± to 23+620± _ Channel relocation (151 feet) and wetland fill (0.222 acre)
  • Sta. 24+605± to 24+630± _ Channel relocation (85 feet) on unnamed tributary to Frost Branch
  • Sta. 22+548.218 _ Culvert and stream bank stabilization at unnamed tributary to Dyer Branch
  • Sta. 22+779.075 _ Culvert and stream bank stabilization at unnamed tributary to Dyer Branch
  • Sta. 23+873.197 _ Culvert and stream bank stabilization at unnamed tributary to Frost Branch
  • Sta. 25+361.184 _ Culvert and stream bank stabilization at unnamed tributary to Frost Branch
  • Sta. 26+304.556 _ Culvert and stream bank stabilization at unnamed tributary to Frost Branch.

TVA proposes to approve construction of improvements for SR 61 for Sections III and IV, south of Luttrell to west of Blaine. These sections are largely on new location, and there are stream and wetland mitigation requirements. In addition, there is potential future federal involvement in the entire 10-mile project. Additional Section 26a approvals for the remaining sections (Sections I and II) are anticipated in the future. These anticipated Section 26a requests for approvals would involve the assessment and potential mitigation of site-specific stream and wetland impacts that were not identified in the FHWA EA. Therefore, TVA agrees that an EA level of review was appropriate.

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The FHWA EA evaluates the environmental consequences of two alternatives, No Action and the Applicant’s Build Alternative. Under No Action, no improvement to the existing highway would be made other than routine maintenance activities. Under the Applicant’s Build Alternative, the highway would be improved. Typical cross section consists of two 12-foot traffic lanes with 10-foot shoulders. A reduced cross section of two 11-foot traffic lanes with 6-foot shoulders will be used in three areas to avoid two historical properties and lessen the impacts to Crooked Run Creek.

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Public and Intergovernmental Review

TDOT held a public meeting on November 22, 1994, on the proposed project. On January 31, 1995, TDOT sent out initial coordination packages to appropriate federal, state, and local agencies and officials. A public hearing was held on August 5, 1997, in the cafeteria of Luttrell Elementary School in Luttrell, Tennessee, and 95 people attended the meeting. The major comment at this hearing was that the expansion is necessary to the area to solve the trucking problems and heavy traffic along this route.

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Impacts assessment

The EA prepared by the FHWA assessed the impacts of proposed highway improvements for a 10.1-mile stretch of SR 61 in Union, Knox, and Grainger Counties, Tennessee. TVA independently reviewed the impacts assessed in the FHWA EA and confirmed its findings. There would be temporary and insignificant impacts on water quality, aquatic habitat, and minor increases in noise levels associated with the project and its construction.

The Federal Highway Noise Prediction Model was used to predict the 2016 peak-hour levels at six representative sensitive receptors within the project area. None of the sensitive receptors would experience noise levels approaching or exceeding the noise abatement criteria of 70 dBA with the project. This project would have little effect on the audible environment of the area. Several streams would be affected by this project but impacts would be insignificant if TVA Standard Conditions 5a-e and 6a-i in its Section 26a permit are followed.

No unique aquatic habitats were identified within the project area. Impacts to recreation, aesthetics, and from project noise would be minimal. For compliance with Executive Order 11988, culverts are considered to be repetitive actions in the floodplain. The project would comply with the requirements of the National Flood Insurance Program and be consistent with Executive Order 11988. TVA verified the unincorporated areas of Union and Knox Counties and the towns of Blaine (Grainger County) and Luttrell (Union County) participate in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and that construction would be consistent with NFIP requirements. There would be no effect on the gray bat and Indiana bat, or on any other threatened and endangered species.

A Phase I historic properties survey was conducted along the proposed right-of-way. Eight archaeological sites were identified. Sites 40UN90, 40UN91, 40UN93, 40UN94, and 40UN96 were determined ineligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). Site 40UN95 (co-located with the Mynatt house) and Site 40UN97 (DeVault Cemetery) would not be affected by the project. Site 40UN92 (co-located with Needham Cemetery) was recommended for further testing if the area were to be impacted. A Phase II site evaluation of 40UN92 was conducted, and the site was determined eligible for the NRHP. Currently, TDOT does not have plans to build the section that would impact 40UN92. The State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO), TDOT, and the Advisory Council on Historic Properties (ACHP) agreed that no adverse effects would occur to historic properties during the implementation of the project, if data recovery were conducted to avoid adverse effects if the route could not be altered.

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This FONSI is contingent upon successful implementation of Best Management Practices for erosion and sediment control (TVA Standard Conditions 5a-e and 6a-i). As required in the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) Aquatic Resource Alteration Permit (ARAP) for these two sections of the project, 515 feet of on-site stream replacement and 12 feet of stream encapsulations and length losses would be mitigated by payment of $2,400 to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Foundation stream mitigation program. Also, 0.25 acre of wetlands would be filled and mitigated at a 2:1 ratio from wetland credits at the Shady Valley wetland mitigation bank.

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Conclusion and Findings

TVA has concluded that the FHWA-prepared EA is adequate; the impacts on the environment and agency comments have been adequately addressed. TVA has decided to adopt the FHWA EA. It is incorporated by reference.

TVA has independently reviewed the proposed actions in the FHWA EA and the stream and wetland mitigation plans for Sections III and IV of the project. TVA believes that the general provisions, 515 feet of on-site stream replacement, and the use of the in-lieu fee program for 12 feet of culverting included in the ARAP are adequate mitigation for the potential impacts to streams and aquatic habitat. TVA has determined that no threatened and endangered species would be affected by the SR 61 project.

TVA has also evaluated the project for compliance with Executive Order 11988 on Floodplain Management. TVA has determined that no practicable alternative to widening the highway along the existing interstate route is available due to the associated cost with relocating a highway. TVA has determined that its Section 26a approval actions would result in no adverse effect to historic properties.

Based on the EA, we conclude that the Section 26a approvals under the TVA Act 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 TVA General and Standard Conditions (5a-e and 6a-i) and the mitigation measures previously identified in the FHWA EA and in the TDEC ARAP.

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

Date: November 12, 2003

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