US Army Corps of Engineers
Albuquerque District Website

JOINT PUBLIC NOTICE - SPA-2016-00139-ABQ: White Mesa Gypsum Mine Phase III Expansion Project

Published March 23, 2018

                                       JOINT PUBLIC NOTICE

 Application Number:   SPA-2016-00139-ABQ

Date:                              March 23, 2018

Comments Due:            April 23, 2018

 

SUBJECT: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Albuquerque District (Corps) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are evaluating a permit application from American Gypsum LLC (American Gypsum) to expand its existing operation and continue to extract gypsum from the White Mesa deposit on Pueblo of Zia land.  The proposed project would result in impacts to approximately 0.7 acres of waters of the United States and/or navigable waters of the United States (WoUS).  This notice is to inform interested parties of the proposed activity and to solicit comments. 

AUTHORITY: This permit and water quality certification application is being evaluated under Sections 404 and 401 of the Clean Water Act for the discharge of dredged or fill material in WoUS and for compliance with applicable water quality standards. 

APPLICANT:         Mr. Ray Dabria

                              American Gypsum Company

                              4600 Paseo Del Norte

                              Albuquerque, New Mexico  87113

                              Email: ray.dabria@americangypsum.com    

AGENT:                 Mr. Richard Frechette

                              Knight Piesold and Company

                              1999 Broadway, Suite 600

                              Denver, CO  80202

                              Phone: (303) 629-8788

                              Email: rfrechette@knightpiesold.com  

LOCATION: The Phase III Expansion lies within the 1040-acre Pueblo of Zia Mining Lease held by American Gypsum Company LLC. The lease lies on White Mesa, 2.5 miles southwest of the village of San Ysidro and near the junction of U.S. Highway 550 and State Hwy 4, Sandoval County, New Mexico (latitude 35.529646, longitude -106.804522). 

PROJECT PURPOSE: Based on the available information, the basic project purpose is mineral resource extraction.  The overall project purpose is to continue to extract gypsum from the White Mesa deposit on Pueblo of Zia land.  The applicant’s stated project purpose is to expand the existing mine to provide gypsum to meet the current local and regional needs for both residential and commercial markets.  

PROJECT DESCRIPTION:  The proposed expansion is contiguous to the current mining operation and would be operated using the existing mining infrastructure. The rate of mining would depend upon demand for gypsum ore, equipment, weather, and other variables. Approximately 1,000 to 3,000 tons per day would be mined from the entire site. No new facilities or equipment are proposed.  

Expanded mining operations will progress to the south from existing facilities and utilize a Wirtgen Surface Miner (Model 2200SM).  The gypsum formation has a natural slope of 3 to 4 percent in the southerly direction; and the actual mine slope will be about 5 to 6 percent.  The surface miner has a 7.2 foot-long (2.2-meter) cutting-drum that creates a 6-inch-deep cut on each pass. A front-end loader is then used to push the gypsum into long rows 6 to 7 feet high.  The stockpiled gypsum is loaded into haul trucks for transport to either of American Gypsum’s two wallboard-manufacturing plants, one in Albuquerque and one in Bernalillo, New Mexico. The trucks haul approximately 30 tons per trip.  Water is used for dust control on haul roads and for pre-wetting the mining surface.

As the mining surface advances south the upper reaches of four unnamed arroyos will be intersected and filled. These four drainages have been designated as Waterway 1, Waterway 2a, Waterway 2b, and Waterway 3 (see attached maps). Waterway 1 extends approximately 564 linear feet (lf) across the project area, for a total of 0.075 acres (ac) below the ordinary high water mark (OHWM). Waterway 2a flows into Waterway 2b in the southeast quadrant of the proposed project area. Waterway 2a extends 1,259 lf within the project area before its confluence with Waterway 2b, and the latter extends approximately 1,836 lf prior to their confluence. Waterway 2a encompasses 0.154 ac below the OHWM and Waterway 2b consists of 0.211 ac below the OHWM upstream of their confluence. Downstream of their confluence the channel extends another 425 lf prior to exiting the project area, which includes another 0.049 ac below the OWHM. Waterway 3 extends for 1,752 ac within the mine expansion area, for a total of 0.221 ac below the OHWM.  The impact to these arroyos is the subject of the proposed Clean Water Act 404/401 action. The extraction of gypsum will occur into and below the bottoms of these arroyos. Once the gypseous soil and sand (overburden) have been removed, gypsum, either mined or ripped, will be used to backfill the arroyos so as to provide a relatively level surface for the mining machine. Eventually, the gypsum will be mined within the arroyos to redirect flows to the north and into a collection area. The mining plan of operations is designed to contain all flows within the lease area.

ALTERNATIVES: The applicant is required to provide information concerning project alternatives. The Corps will consider all reasonable project alternatives, in particular those which may be less damaging to the aquatic environment.  The applicant has considered three onsite alternatives and one off-site alternative, which will be evaluated in addition to the no action alternative. 

PROPOSED MITIGATION:  The Corps requires that applicants consider and use all reasonable and practical measures to avoid and minimize impacts to aquatic resources. If the applicant is unable to avoid or minimize impacts, the Corps may require compensatory mitigation.  Compensatory mitigation projects provided to offset losses of aquatic resources must comply with the applicable provisions of 33 CFR Part 332.  

The applicant has provided a proposal to compensate for direct adverse impacts to WoUS. This compensatory mitigation plan is currently being reviewed by the Corps and the Pueblo of Zia.  

EVALUATION FACTORS: Regarding the overall Phase III Expansion project, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) – Southern Pueblo Agency is the administrator for the surface and leasing of the mineral trust estate for the Pueblo of Zia.  The Bureau of Land Management – Rio Puerco Field Office (BLM-RPFO) has oversight for the mining operations. As such, the BIA, BLM, and the Pueblo of Zia will determine if there are any significant environmental impacts associated with the proposed action.  It should also be noted that approval for trust minerals are subject to BLM New Mexico State Director Review and the BLM’s appeal procedures. 

The decision whether to issue a 404 permit and 401 certification will be based on an evaluation of the probable environmental impacts, including cumulative impacts, of the described activity on the public interest. That decision will reflect the national concern for both protection and utilization of important resourcesThe benefit, which reasonably may be expected to accrue from the described activity, must be balanced against its reasonably foreseeable detriments. All factors which may be relevant to the described activity 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 peopleThe activity's impact on the public interest will include application of the Clean Water Act Section 404(b) (1) guidelines (40 CFR Part 230). 

HISTORIC PROPERTIES:  The project area has been inventoried for cultural resources toward compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA). The findings of this investigation are currently being reviewed by the BIA, BLM, Corps, and the Pueblo of Zia’s Tribal Historic Preservation Office.

ENDANGERED SPECIES: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lists six Threatened, Endangered or Candidate Species with the potential to occur within the project area.  However, based on field surveys recently conducted, the project area does not contain potential habitat or Designated Critical Habitat for federally-listed species.  FLOODPLAIN MANAGEMENT: The Corps is sending a copy of this public notice to the local floodplain administrator.  In accordance with 44 CFR part 60 (Flood Plain Management Regulations Criteria for Land Management and Use), the floodplain administrators of participating communities are required to review all proposed development to determine if a floodplain development permit is required and maintain records of such review. 

WATER QUALITY CERTIFICATION:  The applicant is required to obtain water quality certification, under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act, from the EPA Region 6, Dallas, Texas. Section 401 requires that any applicant for an individual Section 404 permit provide proof of water quality certification to the Corps prior to permit issuance.  For any proposed activity on Tribal land that is subject to Section 404 jurisdiction, where the tribe does not have water quality certifying authority, the applicant will be required to obtain water quality certification from the EPA. 

COMMENT SUBMITTAL AND DEADLINES: The Corps and the EPA are soliciting comments from the public, Federal, State, and local agencies and officials and other interested parties in order to consider and evaluate the impacts of this proposed activity. Any comments received will be considered to determine whether to issue, modify, condition, or deny a permit for this proposal.  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.   

Submittal of Section 404 Permit Comments: All comments regarding the 404 permit for the above-described project must be received on or before April 23, 2018, which is the close of the comment period.  Extensions of the comment period may be granted for valid reasons provided a written request is received before the date the public comment period ends.  If no comments are received by that date, it will be considered that there are no objections.  Anyone may request, in writing, that a public hearing be held to consider this application.  Requests shall specifically state, with particularity, the reason(s) for holding a public hearing.  If the Corps determines that the information received in response to this notice is inadequate for thorough evaluation, a public hearing may be warranted.  If a public hearing is warranted, interested parties will be notified of the time, date, and location. Comments on the 404 permit and hearing requests should be submitted to

Chris Parrish

Regulatory Project Manager

US Army Corps of Engineers, Albuquerque District

4101 Jefferson Plaza NE Albuquerque, NM  87109

505-342-3374

E-mail:  christopher.m.parrish@usace.army.mil

Submittal of Section 401 Water Quality Certification CommentsThis document serves to notify the public that EPA will consider issuing a certification under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act. EPA will accept and consider written comments regarding the certification received during the public comment period.  Comments may be submitted electronically or by hard copy to

Tom Nystrom

Wetlands Enforcement Coordinator

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Region 6

1445 Ross Avenue, Ste 1200

Dallas, TX 75202-5469

214-665-8331

E-mail:  Nystrom.Thomas@epa.gov  

Please note that names and addresses of those who submit comments in response to this public notice may be made publicly available through the Freedom of Information Act.

                                                                                                DISTRICT ENGINEER

ALBUQUERQUE DISTRICT CORPS OF ENGINEER

DIRECTOR

WATER QUALITY PROTECTION DIVISION

U.S. EPA REGION 6