The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Rock Island District is soliciting comments from the public, federal, state, and local agencies and officials, Indian Tribes, and other interested parties about a proposed modification to Categorical Permission #5 described herein and in the Programmatic Environmental Assessment for Categorical Permissions for Requests to Alter U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works Projects, dated April 2018. Comments will be accepted through Sept. 22, 2023.
The USACE Rock Island District receives numerous requests annually from private, public, tribal, or other federal entities to alter or modify civil works projects. As part of the request's evaluation, the District must determines if the alteration would impair the usefulness of the federal project or be otherwise injurious to the public interest. The District must also ensure its granting approval for the alteration is in full compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
LOCATION: The Rock Island District’s area of responsibility includes parts of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin (as seen in the map above).
REQUESTER’S PROPOSED ACTION: To fulfill the NEPA requirements, the District prepared a programmatic environmental assessment (PEA) titled Programmatic Environmental Assessment for Categorical Permissions for Requests to Alter U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works Projects, dated April 2018. The engineering circular (EC) 1165-2-216 Policy and Procedural Guidance for Processing Requests to Alter U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works Projects Pursuant To 33 USC 408, states the District should develop a process to periodically conduct a review or audit of the categorical permissions (CP) itself to ensure its use continues to meet its intended purpose. The District determined a 5-year evaluation is warranted for the 2018 PEA; therefore, the District is currently evaluating the 2018 categorical permissions and is proposing a modification to Categorical Permission #5 as noted in red below.
- Categorical Permission 5 - Ground Surface and Overhead Alterations in Undeveloped Areas, Including Recreational Trails, Access Roads, Boat Ramps, Erosion Protection Construction Staging Areas, Minor Grade Changes, Drainage Ditches, Overhead Utilities and Bridges, Borrow Areas, Erosion Control Measures, and Environmental Enhancement.
would result in a CP that includes, or is similar in nature to, the construction, improvement, maintenance, removal, and abandonment of recreation trails, roads, boat ramps, erosion protection, and constructing staging areas in undeveloped areas within the geographic and institutional scope of this PEA. Minor grade changes and drainage ditches, overhead utilities, and bridges (not including supports and foundations), use of existing borrow areas, and environmental enhancement activities, including, but not limited to wetland construction, are also covered in this CP. Utilities used to transport and store oil and gas are excluded from this CP because of increased environmental risks from these products should an accident occur. Grade changes permanently affecting a project's authorized grade are excluded from these CP. Similar alterations in developed areas were not included as part of this CP because they are categorically excluded in 33 CFR Part 230.9 (b); therefore, meeting the NEPA requirements to be included as a CP if no extraordinary circumstances exist.
This public notice is not a paid advertisement and is for public information only. Issuance of this notice does not imply District endorsement of any Section 408 project.
REGULATORY AUTHORITY: The authority to grant permission for temporary or permanent alterations to federally authorized civil works projects is contained in the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899, Section 14, (33 U.S. Code § 408, titled Taking possession of, use of, or injury to harbor or river improvements).
Specific USACE guidance for implementing 33 U.S. Code § 408 (Section 408) is provided in EC 1165-2-216. The EC 1165-2-216 only applies to alterations proposed within the lands and real property interests of USACE projects. The EC 1165-2-216 defines the use of the terms “alteration” and “alter” as any action by an entity other than the USACE that builds upon, alters, improves, moves, occupies, or otherwise affects the usefulness, or the structural or ecological integrity, of a USACE project. The present document utilizes this exact definition. The entity or individual requesting permission to alter the Corps project, hereafter referred to as the Project proponent, is responsible for acquiring all other needed permissions, authorizations, permits, and real estate interests. This includes any required permits from the District’s Regulatory Branch, specifically Clean Water Act, Section 10 and 408 permits.
EVALUATION: The decision whether to grant the requested permission for project modification under Section 408 is based on several factors which are outlined in Engineering Circular (EC) 1165-2-220, Policy and Procedural Guidance for Processing Requests to Alter U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works Projects Pursuant to Section 408. The decision will reflect the national concern for protecting and utilizing essential resources. The benefit expected to accrue from the proposal must be balanced against its reasonably foreseeable detriments. Review of the requests for modification will be reviewed by a District technical review team considering the following factors:
- Impair the Usefulness of the Project Determination. The review team will determine if the proposed alteration would limit the ability of the federally authorized project to function as authorized or would compromise or change any authorized project conditions, purposes, or outputs. The decision to approve a request for modification would be based on a determination of no impairments.
- Injurious to the Public Interest Determination. The review team will review the proposed alterations to determine the probable impacts on the public interest, including cumulative impacts. The team’s evaluation of the proposed alteration’s probable impacts to the District project on the public interest requires carefully weighing of all those factors relevant in each case. Factors relevant to the public interest depend upon the type of District project being altered and may include, but are not limited to, such things as conservation, economic development, historic properties, cultural resources, environmental impacts, water supply, water quality, flood hazards, floodplains, residual risk, induced damages, navigation, shore erosion or accretion, and recreation. Whether to approve an alteration will be determined by considering whether benefits are commensurate with risks. If the potential detriments are found to outweigh the potential benefits, then the District may determine the proposed alteration is injurious to the public interest.
- Environmental Compliance. A decision on a Section 408 request is a Federal action subject to the NEPA and other environmental compliance requirements. While the District ensures environmental compliance, the Section 408 requestor must provide all information the District identifies as necessary to satisfy all applicable federal laws, executive orders, regulations, policies, and ordinances.
Any Section 408 requestor or Project proponent must demonstrate how their project complies with one or more CP and demonstrate the project would have little to no environmental impact. Additional environmental criteria needed to meet the conditions of a CP are detailed in the programmatic environmental assessment.
- Technical Analysis. The District works closely with the Section 408 requestor to ensure all required technical plans, maps, drawings, and specifications are provided and complete. A District-led Agency Technical Review (ATR) team is determining any potential adverse impacts to the District-authorized flood protection system.
SOLICITATION OF COMMENTS: The USACE Rock Island District is soliciting comments from the public, federal, state, and local agencies and officials, Indian Tribes, and other interested parties to consider and evaluate the impacts of the proposed activity. The District will consider any comments to determine whether to modify CP #5 described herein and in the 2018 PEA. To make this decision, comments are used to assess impacts on endangered species, historic properties, water quality, general environmental effects, and other public interest factors listed above. The District will use the comments to determine the need for a public hearing and the overall public interest in the proposed activity.
The materials submitted as part of this action become part of the public record and are thus available to the general public under the procedures of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Individuals may submit a written request to obtain materials under FOIA or make an appointment to view the project file at the Rock Island District Corps of Engineers, Office of Counsel, Rock Island Arsenal, Rock Island, Illinois.
The District presumes all parties receiving this notice will wish to respond to this public notice; therefore, a lack of response will mean no objection to the project as described.
COMMENT SUBMISSION AND ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Written comments on the described work should reference "CP#5 Modification in the title heading. Comments must reach this office by close of business Sept. 22, 2023 to become part of the record and be considered in the decision. Comments or requests for additional information should be mailed or emailed to the following address:
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Rock Island District
Attn: Leo Keller (PM-M)
Clock Tower Building
P. O. Box 2004
Rock Island IL 61204-2004