[Federal Register: April 4, 2002 (Volume 67, Number 65)]
[Notices]
[Page 16093-16096]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr04ap02-43]

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DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

Department of the Army; Corps of Engineers


Intent To Prepare a Programmatic Supplemental Environmental
Impact Statement for the Louisiana Coastal Area, Louisiana--
Comprehensive Coastwide Ecosystem Restoration Feasibility Study

AGENCY: Department of the Army, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, DoD.

[[Page 16094]]


ACTION: Notice of intent.

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SUMMARY: Pursuant to section 102(2)(C) of the National Environmental
Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969, as amended, the U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers, New Orleans District (Corps) intends to prepare a draft
programmatic supplemental environmental impact statement (PSEIS) for
the Louisiana Coastal Area, Louisiana--Comprehensive Coastwide
Ecosystem Restoration Feasibility Study (hereinafter LCA Comprehensive
Study). The LCA Comprehensive Study will build on the restoration
strategies presented in the Coast 2050 Plan and the May 1999, 905(b)
Reconnaissance Report ``Section 905(b) (WRDA 86) Analysis Louisiana
Coastal Area, Louisiana--Ecosystem Restoration.'' The expected outcome
of the LCA Comprehensive Study is the identification of restoration
projects that would result in sustaining a coastal ecosystem that
supports and protects the environment, economy and culture of southern
Louisiana and that contributes greatly to the economy and well being of
the nation. More than a million acres of Louisiana coastal wetlands
have been lost within the last 60 years with current estimates of the
Louisiana coastal land loss rate ranging between 25 and 30 square miles
per annually (16,000 to 19,000 acres), or about one football field
every 25 minutes. Louisiana contains about 40 percent of the wetlands
in the United States; yet, nearly 80 percent of all coastal land loss
in the lower 48 states today is occurring within Louisiana. Even with
current restoration efforts, Louisiana is projected to lose nearly
400,000 acres of marsh and 232,000 acres of swamp by the year 2050, an
area the size of Rhode Island.
The LCA Comprehensive Study will supplement previous NEPA-
compliance studies, combining the ``lessons learned'' from previous
Louisiana coastal wetlands restoration efforts, and determine the
feasibility of developing the existing Coast 2050 restoration
strategies into projects for the creation of a programmatic, coast-
wide, ecosystem restoration plan. The LCA Comprehensive Study is
envisioned as the next step in the natural progression and evolution in
our efforts to address the problems and determine opportunities for the
adaptive environmental assessment and restoration of the coastal
wetlands of Louisiana.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Questions regarding the PSEIS may be
directed to Dr. William P. Klein, Jr., CEMVN-PM-RS, P.O. Box 60267, New
Orleans, Louisiana 70160-0267, telephone (504) 862-2540 or fax (504)
862-2572. Questions regarding the proposed action should be directed to
the study manager, Mr. Troy Constance, CEMVN-PM-W, P.O. Box 60267, New
Orleans, Louisiana 70160-0267, telephone (504) 862-2742 or fax: (504)
862-1892.

SUPPLEMENTAL INFORMATION:

1. Authority

This study is authorized through Resolutions of the U.S. House of
Representatives and Senate Committees on Public Works, October 19, 1967
and April 19, 1967.

2. Proposed Action

Building on the Coast 2050 Plan and the May 1999, 905(b)
Reconnaissance Report, the Corps proposes to prepare a PSEIS for the
LCA Comprehensive Study. The proposed action would assess, at a
feasibility programmatic-level, coastal restoration projects that would
sustain a coastal ecosystem that supports and protects the environment,
economy and culture of Southern Louisiana and that contributes greatly
to the economy and well being of the nation. The LCA Comprehensive
Study will supplement previous NEPA documents, combining the ``lessons
learned'' from previous Louisiana coastal wetlands restoration efforts,
and develop the existing Coast 2050 restoration strategies into
projects for the creation of a programmatic, coast-wide, ecosystem
restoration plan.
In December 1998 the Louisiana Coastal Wetlands Conservation and
Restoration Task Force and the Wetlands Conservation Authority
(constituted under Act 6 R.S. 49:213.1 et seq.) prepared and adopted
the Coast 2050 Plan as their official restoration plan. The December
1998 report ``Coast 2050: Toward a Sustainable Coastal Louisiana'',
also known as the ``Coast 2050 Plan'', was developed in recognition of
the need for a single comprehensive plan for restoration and
sustainability of the Louisiana coastal area. The Coast 2050 Plan,
which has been recognized by the state of Louisiana, five Federal
agencies, and the local coastal parish governments of Louisiana, serves
as the joint coastal restoration plan of the Coastal Wetlands Planning,
Protection, and Restoration Act (CWPPRA) and the Louisiana State
Wetlands Authority (November 1990, Pub. L. 101-646, Title III).
The LCA Comprehensive Study will assess, at a programmatic
feasibility-level, the Coast 2050 Plan. Specifically, the LCA
Comprehensive Study will evaluate the restoration strategies identified
in the Coast 2050 Plan for each of the four major hydrologic regions of
the state, developing those strategies, and selecting plans that best
address the ecosystem restoration needs for the entire Louisiana
coastal area, while complying with applicable rules, regulations and
administration policy.
The purpose of the LCA Comprehensive Study is to determine the
feasibility of sustaining a coastal ecosystem that supports and
protects the environment, economy and culture of southern Louisiana and
that contributes greatly to the economy and well being of the nation.
Specifically, the LCA Comprehensive Study will determine the
feasibility of achieving the following restoration goals:
1. Sustaining a coastal ecosystem with the essential functions and
values of the natural ecosystem;
2. Restoring the ecosystem to the highest practicable acreage of
productive and diverse wetlands; and
3. Accomplishing this restoration through an integrated program
that has multiple use benefits, benefits not solely for wetlands, but
for all the communities, industries and resources of the coast.
4. Developing a comprehensive plan that is coordinated and
consistent with other major land use and infrastructure features,
particularly with respect to navigation, hurricane protection/flood
control, and oil and gas production.
The LCA Comprehensive Study, in addition to conducting a
programmatic environmental impact assessment, will supplement the
findings from the following NEPA documents:
1. The draft EIS ``Land Loss and Marsh Creation, St. Bernard,
Plaquemines and Jefferson Parishes, Louisiana'' (USACE 1990);
2. The EIS titled ``Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and
Restoration Act Louisiana Coastal Wetlands Restoration Plan'' (La
Coastal Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Task Force, 1993); and
3. The ``Programmatic Hydrologic Management Environmental Impact
Statement and Appendixes'' (USACE 1996).
Additionally, the LCA Comprehensive Study will utilize and
compliment the findings from the following reports and studies:
1. The ``Mississippi and Louisiana Estuarine Areas Reconnaissance
Report'' (USACE 1981);
2. The ``Louisiana Coastal Area, Louisiana, Shore and Barrier
Island Erosion'' Initial Evaluation Study (USACE 1984);

[[Page 16095]]

3. MRC/MVD Task Group Report (USACE 1985);
4. Louisiana Coastal Area-Mississippi River Delta Study Recon
(USACE 1990);
5. Louisiana Coastal Area--Ecosystem Restoration, Louisiana
reconnaissance report approved May 1999; and
6. Mississippi River Sediment, Nutrient, and Freshwater
Redistribution (MRSNFR) Study (USACE 2000).
In the 1970s, studies and plans by state, Federal and other
interested parties recognized the coastal land loss problem in
Louisiana (e.g. Gagliano et al. 1972 report ``Environmental Atlas and
Multi-use Management Plan for South-Central Louisiana''). Public
recognition of not only the environmental importance, but also the
economic importance of the rapidly disappearing coastal wetlands in
Louisiana prompted an amendment to the Louisiana constitution in 1989:
Act 6, LA. R.S. 49:213 et seq. Known also known as the Louisiana
Coastal Wetlands Conservation, Restoration and Management Act, Act 6
established the Governor's Office of Coastal Activities, the Office of
Coastal Restoration Management within the Department of Natural
Resources, as well as providing for a dedicated trust fund for coastal
wetlands restoration. Act 6 also directs the production of the annual
Coastal Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Plan, which provides
site-specific project authorization.
Continuing in the evolution of Louisiana coastal restoration
efforts, the November 1990, CWPPRA provided the first national mandate
addressing the need for restoration of Louisiana's coastal wetlands.
The CWPPRA required preparation of a comprehensive restoration plan
that would coordinate and integrate coastal wetlands restoration
projects to ensure the long-term conservation of coastal wetlands of
Louisiana. In addition to development of the restoration plan, the
CWPPRA authorizes the construction of wetland protection and
restoration projects, via Project Priority Lists, preparation of a
wetland conservation plan, and implementation of a feasibility study to
consider flow distribution between the Atchafalaya and Mississippi
rivers.
Section 303(b) of the CWPPRA requires preparation of a
comprehensive restoration plan. The CWPPRA Main Report and EIS entitled
``Louisiana Coastal Wetlands Restoration Plan'' was prepared by the
CWPPRA Task Force and completed in November 1993. Implementation of the
November 1990 CWPPRA has provided the primary experiential basis for
coastal restoration experiences across the Louisiana coast.
The CWPPRA provides an annual $5 million (approximately) for
planning and $33 million (approximately) for the construction of
restoration projects that are typically small in scale and site-
specific rather than ecosystem level restoration efforts. Over the past
10 years the CWPPRA, with the completion of the 11th Priority Project
List in 2001, has authorized a total of 125 projects. When constructed,
all of the projects, to date, would create, restore, protect, or
enhance approximately 105,000 acres at a cost of approximately $496
million dollars. Despite the acres gained by implementation of the
CWPPRA-funded projects, these acres and those preserved by the existing
freshwater diversions from the Mississippi River would prevent only
about 25-30 percent of the predicted future marsh loss in Louisiana.
There continues to be a need for an adaptive assessment and restoration
effort of coastal Louisiana at the ecosystem level which will require
significantly greater funding than was conceptualized and is authorized
for the CWPPRA because the state continues to suffer a net loss of
ranging between approximately 25 to 30 square miles of coastal wetlands
per year.
In recognition of the need for a single, coast-wide restoration
plan, the Coast 2050 Plan was developed and is described in the
December 1998 ``Coast 2050: Towards a Sustainable Coastal Louisiana.''
The Coast 2050 Plan developed as an outgrowth of lessons learned during
implementation of restoration projects under the CWPPRA. The Louisiana
Coastal Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Task Force and the
Wetlands Conservation Authority prepared and adopted the Coast 2050
Plan as their official restoration plan. The Coast 2050 Plan was
provided to the U.S. Department of Commerce by the State of Louisiana
to incorporate it into the Louisiana Coastal Resources Program
Guidelines. In addition, the Coast 2050 Plan was affirmed by
resolutions of support from the local coastal parish governments. The
Coast 2050 Plan was used as a basis to produce the May 1999,
Reconnaissance Report ``Section 905(b) (WRDA 86) Analysis Louisiana
Coastal Area, Louisiana--Ecosystem Restoration,'' recommending that the
strategies contained within the Coast 2050 Plan proceed to feasibility
level analysis.
The LCA Comprehensive Study will supplement previous NEPA documents
and utilize and compliment previous reports and studies (as described
above), combining the ``lessons learned'' from these efforts and
developing the existing restoration strategies into projects for the
creation of a programmatic, coast-wide, ecosystem restoration plan. The
LCA Comprehensive Study is the next step in the natural progression and
evolution in our understanding and efforts to address the problems and
determine opportunities for the adaptive environmental assessment and
restoration of the coastal wetlands of Louisiana.

3. Need for the Study

The 905(b) Reconnaissance Report recommended that the Coast 2050
plan proceed to the feasibility phase, contingent upon the execution of
a Feasibility Cost Sharing Agreement (FCSA) with a non-Federal Sponsor.
An FCSA was executed with the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources
on February 17, 2000 and amended on March 14, 2002.
The 905(b) Reconnaissance Report estimates that more than a million
acres of Louisiana coastal wetlands have been lost within the last 60
years and the current land loss rate ranges between 25 and 30 square
miles per annually (16,000 to 19,000 acres), or about one football
field every 25 minutes. This accounts for nearly 80 percent of all
coastal land loss in the lower 48 states today. The 905(b)
Reconnaissance Report concludes that even with current restoration
efforts, Louisiana is projected to lose nearly 400,000 acres of marsh
and 232,000 acres of swamp by the year 2050, an area the size of Rhode
Island.
In February 2002, the Governor's Committee on the Future of Coastal
Louisiana (COFCL) prepared a report, ``Saving Coastal Louisiana:
Recommendations for Implementing an Expanded Coastal Restoration
Program,'' which provided recommendations as a starting point for a
renewed and expanded coastal restoration effort. The COFCL report
characterizes Louisiana's land loss crisis as an emergency of untold
cost to the state of Louisiana and the nation that must be confronted
now, with all available resources. The devastation of the coastal land
loss will, according to the COFCL report, directly affect our nation's
security, navigation, energy consumption, and food supply. The COFCL
report further elaborates that the potential loss of lives,
infrastructure, industry, ecosystems and culture cannot be overstated.

4. Study Alternatives

During the Coast 2050 public meetings conducted in 1998, 83
regional ecosystem restoration strategies were developed. In January
2001, these strategies were revised into 88 regional ecosystem
restoration strategies. The

[[Page 16096]]

LCA Comprehensive Study will develop these strategies into features
that will be developed further into an array of alternatives that
consist of projects. Other restoration alternatives that will be
considered include the No Action Alternative, as well as strategies
suggested during the scoping process. Alternatives will be evaluated to
ensure compliance with current Federal and state laws and regulations.
Potential adverse effects of strategies will be identified and
recommendations for mitigation measures, if appropriate, will be
suggested. A programmatic supplemental EIS is being prepared because of
the potential for significant direct and indirect, secondary and
cumulative impacts on the human and natural environment.

5. Scoping Process

The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) regulations implementing
the NEPA direct federal agencies which have made a decision to prepare
an environmental impact statement to engage in a public scoping
process. The scoping process is designed to provide an early and open
means of determining the scope of issues (problems, needs, and
opportunities) to be identified and addressed in the draft
environmental impact assessment, which in this case is a PSEIS. Scoping
is the process used to: (a) Identify the affected public and agency
concerns; (b) facilitate an efficient PSEIS preparation process; (c)
define the issues and alternatives that will be examined in detail in
the PSEIS; and (d) save time in the overall process by helping to
ensure that the draft statements adequately address relevant issues.
Scoping is a process, not an event or a meeting. It continues
throughout the planning for a PSEIS and may involve meetings, telephone
conversations, and/or written comments. (Counsel on Environmental
Quality, Memorandum for General Counsel, April 30, 1981).

6. Public Scoping Meetings

In the early spring of 2002, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will
hold initial public scoping meetings throughout the coastal Louisiana
study area. Notices will be mailed to the affected and interested
public once the dates and locations of the scoping meetings have been
established. The USACE and the local sponsor--the Louisiana Department
of Natural Resources, invite NEPA input in writing or in person
concerning the scope of the PSEIS, resources to be evaluated, and
alternatives to be considered. Federal, state, and local agencies,
Indian tribes, and other interested parties can write comments to the
Corps using Dr. Klein's mailing address shown above. Comments received
as a result of the scoping meetings will be compiled and analyzed; a
Scoping Document, summarizing the comments, will be made available to
all scoping participants. Additional public meetings will be held and
comments accepted throughout the scoping process.

7. Public Involvement

Scoping is a critical component of the overall public involvement
program. An intensive public involvement program will be initiated and
maintained throughout the study to solicit input from affected Federal,
state, and local agencies, Indian tribes, and other interested parties.

8. Interagency Coordination

The Department of the Interior, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Interagency
Coordination. The Department of Interior, U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service (USFWS), will provide a Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act
Report. Coordination will be maintained with the USFWS and the National
Marine Fisheries Service regarding threatened and endangered species
under their respective jurisdictional responsibilities. Coordination
will be maintained with the Natural Resources Conservation Service
regarding prime and unique farmlands. The U.S. Department of
Agriculture will be consulted regarding the ``Swampbuster'' provisions
of the Food Security Act. Coordination will be maintained with the
Advisory Counsel on Historic Preservation and the State Historic
Preservation Officer. The Louisiana Department of Natural Resources
will be consulted regarding consistency with the Coastal Zone
Management Act. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries will
be contacted concerning potential impacts to Natural and Scenic
Streams.

9. Availability of Draft PSEIS

It is anticipated that the Draft PSEIS will be available for public
review during the late summer of 2003. A 45-day review period will be
allowed so that all interested agencies, groups and individuals will
have an opportunity to comment on the draft feasibility report and
PSEIS. In addition, a public meeting will be held during the review
period to receive comments and address questions concerning the draft
PSEIS.

Dated: March 20, 2002.
Michel R. Burt,
Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Army, Acting District Engineer.
[FR Doc. 02-8175 Filed 4-3-02; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3710-84-P