News: Army Corps continues to protect Texas water
Story by Clayton Church
FORT WORTH, Texas - Most people are familiar with the shapes and surfaces of our country. There is even a TV show that delves into the history of those shapes. But underneath those surfaces are many other types of formations.
There is a large coal-bearing formation that runs diagonally across Texas from the north east counties of Bowie, Cass, Marion and Harrison down to the south west counties of Maverick, Zapata, Dimmit and Webb on or near the southern border. The impact of surface mining that coal formation has the potential to affect Texas water.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Fort Worth District is currently in the process of developing a Regional Environmental Impact Statement for surface coal and lignite mining in Texas.
“Surface coal and lignite mining projects typically conduct work that results in impacts to waters of the U.S.,” said Darvin Messer, USACE project manager. “Such work requires permitting under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, and for projects affecting navigable waters, permitting under Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899.”
These programs are administered by USACE as part of the permit evaluation process associated with Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act; the USACE, like all Federal Agenices, is also required to comply with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act in evaluating the potential impacts of these actions.
“Historically, permit evaluations associated with surface coal and lignite mine expansions have required substantial time periods for review,” Messer said. “These time frames can be influenced by data gathering efforts and interagency coordination and reviews. USACE seeks to ensure it can adapt and efficiently respond to multiple concurrent requests for permits that could occur in the future.”
Many of the federal and state agency regulatory requirements are similar. The REIS being prepared by the Fort Worth District seeks to analyze the direct, indirect, and cumulative effects associated with surface mining operations on waters of the United States, within the EIS study area. These mining activities may eventually require authorization or permits from federal and state agencies, as well as USACE.
As part of the NEPA process three public scoping meetings were held in December of 2013 in Uvalde, Temple and Tyler attended by more than 100 people allowing them the opportunity to comment. These comments will help the project deliver team as it goes forward. More information is available at http://www.swf.usace.army.mil/Missions/Regulatory/Permitting/REISforLigniteMininginTexas.aspx.
USACE’s Goals for the Regional EIS
• Provide a NEPA-compliant, scientifically-based regional environmental analysis, including an interdisciplinary cumulative impact assessment, of all relevant resources within the defined geographic regions;
• Develop data-sets to assist with the formulation of a categorized permit process;
• Facilitate future NEPA tiering or supplementation for the evaluation of future project-specific Section 404/10 permit applications for surface coal and lignite mines;
• Establish a cohesive framework for stream mitigation, establish sound performance metrics, and enhance monitoring efforts;
• Assist in streamlining the NEPA aspect of USACE Section 404/10 permitting so that the process is more consistent, predictable, and efficient; and
• Address, as feasible, other agency issues related to resource mitigation.
What the REIS Will Not Do
• Not render a decision on any specific mine project;
• Not provide complete NEPA compliance for future proposed surface coal or lignite mine expansions; and
• Not provide NEPA documentation for any new power plants.