US Army Corps of Engineers
Walla Walla District

Public Notices

NWW-2018-00113

Published July 31, 2018
Expiration date: 8/14/2018

Interested parties are hereby notified that the Walla Walla District has received an application for a Department of the Army permit for certain work in Waters of the United States, including wetlands, as described below:

APPLICANT: Mr. Donald G. Smith, P.O. Box 144, Riggins, Idaho 83549

U.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS PROJECT MANAGER: Mr. Duane Mitchell, Telephone: (509) 527-7156, duane.e.mitchell@usace.army.mil

PURPOSE: To obtain gold from the river sediments.

WATERWAY: Salmon River

LOCATION: The proposed project would be located on the Salmon River within Section 10, Township 24 North, Range 1 East, near latitude 45.439049º N and longitude –116.314284º W, in Idaho County, near Riggins, Idaho.

DRIVING DIRECTIONS: Approximately 1 mile north of Riggins on US 95, between mile markers 196 and 198, approximately 0.5 miles upstream of the Goff (Time Zone) Bridge.

WORK: The activity to be evaluated includes the use of a floating suction dredge to obtain gold from the river sediments and temporary rock gabion baskets used to anchor the floating dredge.

a. The dredge uses two engines with combined power totaling not more than 15 horsepower and an intake of not more than 5 inches in diameter to comply with State requirements. The dredge platform is 8 foot by 12 foot with an onboard sluice and a discharge design that directs the tailings straight down to the river bottom and into the dredged area. The dredge platform will remain in the river 24 hours/day until the dredging is complete.

b. The platform will be anchored to the bottom by the use of 4 triangular wire baskets, which are approximately 4 feet long by 3 feet on each of the three sides. These baskets are placed on the bottom and rocks are hand placed in them. When they need to be moved or when the dredging is complete, the rock is removed and the baskets removed from the river or moved to the new location. Chains are used, which hang straight down, to tie the platform to the baskets.

c. The proposed work area for each of the two years is 12 feet wide by 120 feet long to a depth of up to 8 foot to bedrock. The work area is located approximately 35 feet from the left descending bank of the river, and approximately 0.5 miles upstream of the U.S. 95, Goff Bridge (Time Zone).

d. The staging area will be the pullout off of US 95 adjacent to the site.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: In addition, the applicant proposes to use an electric floating winch to move large boulders to the side of the work area:

a. The electric winch platform is 6 foot by 6 foot and will only be used when necessary to move boulders a short distance outside of the work area for safety. The winch platform will be removed from the river when not in use.

b. The anchoring system for the winch will be the same as the dredge.

AUTHORITY: A Letter of Permission (LOP) will be issued or denied under the authority of Section 10 of the Rivers & Harbors Act of 1899 (33 U.S.C. 403). A Department of the Army permit is required for work or structures waterward of the ordinary high water mark located in or over navigable waters of the United States, including the excavation, dredging or deposition of material in navigable waters, or any alteration obstructing or affecting the course, location, condition, or capacity of the navigable waterway.

CONSTRUCTION PERIOD: The activity would occur each year between July 15 and November 30. The permit would authorize work for a period of 2 years.

OTHER ENVIRONMENTAL DOCUMENTS AND DA PERMITS ISSUED TO APPLICANT: None

DISCHARGE OF POINT SOURCE MATERIAL: The discharge of processed sediments from this project will require a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit (Idaho Small Suction Dredge Mining General Permit) under Section 402 of the Clean Water Act (40 CFR 122) from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or an individual NPDES permit if the action does not qualify for the general permit.

AQUATIC RESOURCE DESCRIPTION: The action area falls within a section of the Salmon River that has had relatively little human alteration. The largest alteration was the construction of U.S. 95 highway which narrowed the river corridor somewhat. This section is naturally a narrow, steep-sided, rocky canyon with little woody riparian vegetation. Some changes to the channel were made approximately 20 years ago, when the Idaho Transportation Department replaced the bridge approximately 0.5 mile downstream of the project area. The bridge work was outside of the action area for this project.
Additional human influence to this area include seasonal rafting, boating, fishing and other recreational activities that have occurred for many years and continue to occur each year within this reach of the river. The town of Riggins, just upstream of the site, supports several businesses providing fishing and rafting services.

OTHER AUTHORIZATIONS: The following is a list that includes, but is not limited to additional authorizations required for the proposed action:

     - NPDES permit under Section 402 of the Clean Water Act (40 CFR 122) from the EPA.

      - State of Idaho Recreational Mining Authorization from the Idaho Department of Water Resources.

      - State of Idaho Mineral Lease from the Idaho Department of Lands (already obtained).

CULTURAL RESOURCES: Coordination is currently being conducted with the office of the Idaho State Historic Preservation Officer to determine if this activity will affect a site that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, or a site that may be eligible for listing on the Register. We are also coordinating with the Tribal Historic Preservation Office for the Nez Perce Tribe, to determine if there are any tribal historic or cultural interests within the project area.

TRIBAL TREATY RIGHTS and INTERESTS: Federal agencies acknowledge the federal trust responsibility arising from treaties, statues, executive orders and the historical relations between the United States and American Indian Tribes. The federal government has a unique trust relationship with federally recognized American Indian Tribes, including the Nez Perce Tribe. The Corps has a responsibility and obligation to consider and consult on potential effects to Tribal rights, uses and interests. The Corps further recognizes there may be a need for additional and on-going consultation.

ENDANGERED SPECIES: The project is within the known or historic range of Snake River spring/summer and fall Chinook salmon, Snake River sockeye salmon, Snake River Basin steelhead, Columbia River bull trout, and the western Yellow-billed cuckoo. Coordination is currently being conducted with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to determine if the activity will have any effect on species designated as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act, or their critical habitat, under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (16 U.S.C. §1531 et. seq.).

ESSENTIAL FISH HABITAT: The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, as amended by the Sustainable Fisheries Act of 1996, requires all Federal agencies to consult with the NMFS on all actions or proposed actions, permitted, funded or undertaken by the agency that may adversely affect Essential Fish Habitat (EFH). EFH species are known to use the project area. Preliminarily, we have determined the described activity would have an effect on EFH.

ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT: Preliminary review indicates the proposed activities will not require preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement. Comments provided will be considered in preparation of an Environmental Assessment.

EVALUATION: The decision whether to issue a permit will be based on an evaluation of the probable effect, including cumulative effects, of the proposed activity on the public interest. This decision will reflect the national concern for both protection and utilization of important resources. The benefit which reasonably may be expected to accrue from the proposal must be balanced against its reasonably foreseeable detriments. All factors which may be relevant to the proposal will be considered, including the cumulative effects thereof; among those are conservation, economics, aesthetics, general environmental concerns, wetlands, historic properties, fish and wildlife values, flood hazards, floodplain values, land use, navigation, shoreline erosion and accretion, recreation, water supply and conservation, water quality, energy needs, safety, food and fiber production, mineral needs, consideration of property ownership and in general, the needs and welfare of the people.

CONSIDERATION OF PUBLIC COMMENTS: The Corps of Engineers is soliciting comments from the general public; Federal, State and local agencies and officials, Tribal entities and other interested parties in order to consider and evaluate the effects of this proposed activity. Any comments received will be considered by the Corps of Engineers to determine whether to issue, modify, condition or deny a permit for this proposal. To make this decision, comments are used to assess effects on endangered species, historic properties, water quality, general environmental effects and the other public interest factors listed above. Comments are used in the preparation of an Environmental Assessment pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act. Comments are also used to determine the need for a public hearing and to determine the overall public interest of the proposed activity.

PUBLIC HEARING: Any person may request in writing, within the comment period specified in this notice, that a public hearing be held to consider this proposed activity. Requests for a public hearing shall state specific reasons for holding a public hearing. A request may be denied if substantive reasons for holding a hearing are not provided or if there is otherwise no valid interest to be served.

COMMENT & REVIEW PERIOD: Interested parties are invited to provide comments on the proposed activity, which will become a part of the record and will be considered in the final decision.
Please mail all comments to:

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Walla Walla District
Duane Mitchell
Walla Walla Regulatory Office
201 North Third Avenue
Walla Walla, WA 99362-1876

or email: nww_dsmith_salmon@usace.army.mil

Comments should be received no later than the comment due date of August 14, 2018, as indicated on this notice, to receive consideration. 

       Kelly Urbanek
       Chief, Regulatory Division
       Walla Walla District

If interested parties wish to view plans, drawings, and/or maps associated with the proposed project and Public Notice, please email the Project Manager with your request.


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