SUBJECT: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Albuquerque District, (Corps) is evaluating a permit application for the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), City of Colorado Springs, and Copper Ridge Metropolitan District (CRMD) to construct an extension of Powers Boulevard (State Highway 21 [SH 21]) from I-25 eastward to Voyager Parkway.
The project includes extending Powers Boulevard from I-25 to Voyager Parkway and connecting Powers Boulevard to new highway ramps on I-25 south of North Gate Boulevard, as well as new highway ramps on North Gate Boulevard along I-25 between North Gate Boulevard and Interquest Parkway in northern Colorado Springs, El Paso County, Colorado. The United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) is located to the west of the project area and the project area includes the connections of I-25 and North Gate Boulevard and portions of Voyager Parkway, and Northbound/Southbound (NB/SB) I-25. Waters of the United States within the project area include Smith Creek, Monument Branch, and an unnamed tributary to Monument Branch.
Details of the project are provided below and in the attached maps and drawings. The purpose of this public notice is to inform interested parties of the project and to solicit comments.
APPLICANT: Tim Mitros, Copper Ridge Metropolitan District, 13540 Meadowgrass Drive, Suite 200 Colorado Springs, CO 80921-3009.
AGENT: Tamara Keefe, Felsburg Holt and Ullevig, 6300 South Syracuse Way, Suite 600, Centennial, CO 80111.
LOCATION: The project is located in Sections 1 and 12, Township 12 South, Range 67 West and Sections 7 and 18, Township 12 South, Range 66 West of the 6th Principal Meridian. The central coordinates of the project area are 39.019519 latitude and -104.827421 longitude (decimal degrees).
BACKGROUND: This location is covered by two overlapping Environmental Assessments (EA): Powers Boulevard Extension North, Woodmen Road to I-25 EA (CDOT 1997); and I-25 Improvements through the Colorado Springs Urbanized Area EA (CDOT 2004). In addition, a Reevaluation of the 2004 EA was conducted for a new connection with Powers Boulevard following SH 21 eastward to just past the Powers Boulevard/Voyager Boulevard interchange in 2012 (CDOT 2012). Currently, a Reevaluation is being prepared given the length of time that has passed since the approval of the two EAs and the 2012 Reevaluation. This project will use the same Preferred Alternative alignment from the 2012 Reevaluation for Powers Boulevard from I-25 to Voyager Parkway. The Preferred Alternative at this location was designed below grade to minimize visual and noise impacts to the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA). The reevaluation will address slight modifications to the design and will determine and document impacts and mitigation measures.
DESCRIPTION OF WORK: The applicant proposes constructing a new fully-directional interchange at I-25, Powers Boulevard and North Gate Boulevard. The project will include proposed Powers Boulevard with two lanes in each direction from Voyager Parkway to I-25 for approximately 0.6 miles; proposed ramps connecting Powers Boulevard to I-25, Powers Boulevard to North Gate Boulevard, Powers Boulevard to Voyager Parkway, and I-25 to North Gate Boulevard for an approximate length of 4 miles; and widening I-25 at the Powers interchange to better accommodate the ramps for approximately 2 miles. Ultimately, Powers Blvd will include 12-foot lanes, a 12-foot inside shoulder, and a 10-foot outside shoulder. I-25 will include ramp connections and variable width shoulders. All ramps will include 15-foot lanes, a 4-foot inside shoulder and a 6-foot outside shoulder. In addition to these transportation elements, the proposed project would include restoring a section of Smith Creek on the east side of NB I-25 for more natural sinuosity and installing permanent roadway stormwater drainage with water quality features for roadway runoff and to accommodate offsite stormwater flows. The project will include two water quality and detention ponds that will reduce the peak flow rates and enhance water quality within the watershed for Monument Branch and storm sewers and open channels to convey runoff to Smith Creek and Monument Branch.
PURPOSE AND NEED: The applicant’s stated purpose and need for the project is to improve connections from nearby neighborhoods to other areas and attractions in Colorado Springs, reduce out-of-direction travel, enhance local mobility, and reduce traffic congestion on North Gate Boulevard and at the US Air Force Academy (USAFA), minimize visual impacts on historic USAFA property, and improve air quality. The purpose of the project is to create a new connection with Powers Boulevard following State Highway 21 eastward to just past the Powers Boulevard/Voyager Parkway interchange while keeping the North Gate Boulevard/Powers Boulevard Interchange at or below the existing centerline grade. Major users in this area include USAFA, Colorado Springs Airport, and the City of Colorado Springs residents and businesses in the North Gate, Voyager, and Gleneagle neighborhoods. The extension of Powers Boulevard will improve connections from these neighborhoods to other areas and attractions in Colorado Springs, reduce out-of-direction travel, enhance local mobility, and improve air quality. The connection will help ease traffic congestion at the USAFA, since there are currently recurring backups on westbound North Gate Boulevard toward USAFA during the AM peak hour and, more significantly, special events. These backups prevent people who live in the North Gate and Voyager neighborhoods from accessing southbound I-25 at the North Gate Interchange. The proposed connection will provide an effective alternate for these drivers to access I-25 and reduce congestion on North Gate Boulevard.
PROPOSED MITIGATION: The applicant has prepared a Mitigation Work Plan that will follow CDOT Standards Specifications for Road and Bridge Construction. Refinement of the mitigation work plan will occur during final design, such as a detailed planting plan, elevation resolution, and soil conditioning. Furthermore, all work in the Smith Creek, unnamed tributary to Monument Branch, and Monument Branch areas have been coordinated with the USFWS to ensure that timing of the work and planned activities are in compliance with the Endangered Species Act and the USFWS issued Biological Opinion. Conceptual mitigation plans have been developed for the project and include data collection and a combination of on-site wetland creation, restoration, and enhancement. Monitoring of the mitigation site would begin with a pre-construction meeting between the contractors and the restoration consultant before construction of the mitigation sites starts. An annual visit to the mitigation sites would be conducted with the Corps during the monitoring period prior to the submittal of the Mitigation Monitoring Report. The permittee would be required to submit annual monitoring reports to the Corps for a period of five years. Areas failing to meet success standards would require additional work and remediation measures.
PLANS AND DATA: Drawings showing the location of the work site and other data are enclosed with this notice. If additional information is desired, it may be obtained from the applicant, the agent or from the Regulatory Project Manager assigned to this project.
CULTURAL RESOURCES: The Corps consulted district files and records, the latest version of the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP), and state records of NRHP-eligible and potentially eligible historic properties to determine if there are any historic properties that may be affected by the proposed undertaking. The file search identified 11 historic resources within the area of potential effect (APE) boundary. Six of the identified properties, which included two concrete bridges, three culverts, and the Denver to Colorado Springs Stage Road, were determined to be officially not eligible, and another culvert was recommended not eligible. The Florence and Cripple Creek Railroad Combination Car #60 (5EP3319/5CN.65.2) is no longer in the APE. The other three historic properties within the APE were previously determined to be officially eligible for listing in the NRHP, including the U.S. Air Force Academy (5EP.595), Santa Fe Railroad Grade (5EP.1003), and Reynolds Ranch (5EP.2223). The Santa Fe Railroad Grade and Reynolds Ranch were determined to have a finding of no adverse effect. The project was determined to have an adverse effect on the U.S. Air Force Academy. Based on information contained in the application the State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) has been coordinated with and a concurrence letter dated April 19, 2019 was received for the project area.
ENDANGERED SPECIES: The Corps has reviewed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's latest published version of federally-listed endangered and threatened species located in El Paso County, Colorado. The Corps has reviewed the Biological Assessment that was prepared and submitted to the USFWS and the USFWS’ Biological Opinion received on April 11, 2019 stating the project May Affect, Likely to Adversely Affect Preble’s meadow jumping mouse, a federally-listed endangered or threatened species and/or their critical habitat that are protected by the Endangered Species Act. In addition, a Programmatic BA prepared in 2003 for the 2004 I-25 EA was reviewed indicating that the only threatened or endangered species affected by the I-25 Proposed Action would be the federally threatened Preble’s meadow jumping mouse. In addition to Preble’s, the BA prepared for the 2012 Reevaluation, addressed project impacts to Gunnison’s prairie dog (Cynomys gunnisoni) as well, which was designated as a federal candidate species by the USFWS in 2008. In November 2013, it was determined that protecting the Gunnison’s prairie dog under the Endangered Species Act was not warranted. The Corps has made a preliminary determination concurring with the USFWS’ opinion that the proposed Powers Boulevard: I-25 to Voyager Parkway Project May Affect, Likely to Adversely Affect Preble’s.
State Water Quality Certification. The applicant has applied to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Water Quality Control Division (CDPHE, WQCD) for certification that this work is in compliance with applicable State water quality standards. The applicant is responsible for obtaining all other required federal, state, and local authorizations for this work. CDPHE has received the application and information for the State Water Quality Certification under Section 401 and it will go to Public Notice in October of this year.
Flood Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The FEMA comment period is in progress, with a Certification Letter of Map Revision (CLOMR) approval anticipated to be issued by February 2020.
Environmental Setting. The project area is located within the Fountain Creek Watershed with Hydrologic Unit Code (HUC) 11020003. Surface Water Resources within the project area include Smith Creek (an intermittent drainage), Monument Branch (a perennial stream), and one unnamed intermittent drainage that is a tributary to Monument Branch. All drainages drain into Monument Creek outside the project area, which drains into Fountain Creek and then into the Arkansas River downstream. The project area encompasses 1,716 linear feet of Smith Creek which is located in the north section of the project area, south of the North Gate Boulevard interchange, and 1,972 linear feet of an unnamed tributary to Monument Branch and 662 linear feet of Monument Branch which are both located in the southern half of the project area.
Alternatives. The applicant has provided project alternatives review. Additional information concerning project alternatives may be available from the applicant or their agent. All reasonable project alternatives, in particular those which may be less damaging to the aquatic environment, will be considered.
EVALUATION FACTORS: The decision whether to issue a permit will be based on an evaluation of the probable 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 resources. The 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 people. The activity's impact on the public interest will include application of the Section 404(b)(1) guidelines promulgated by the Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency (40 CFR Part 230).
The Corps is soliciting comments from the public, federal, state, and local agencies and officials, Indian tribes, and other interested parties in order to consider and evaluate the impacts of this proposed activity. Any comments received will be considered by the Corps 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. Comments are used in the preparation of an Environmental Assessment and/or an Environmental Impact Statement 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.
If the District Engineer (DE) determines that the project complies with the 404(b)(1) guidelines, the DE will grant the permit unless issuance would be contrary to the public interest.
CLOSE OF COMMENTS PERIOD: All comments pertaining to this Public Notice must reach this office on or before September 27, 2019, 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 by the limiting date. 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. Any person may request a public hearing. The request must be submitted, in writing, to the District Engineer within 21 days of the date of this notice and must clearly set forth the reasons for holding a public hearing. Comments and requests for additional information should be submitted to:
Tony Martinez, R.E.M., Regulatory Project Manager
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Southern Colorado Regulatory Office
201 W. 8th Street, Suite 350
Pueblo, Colorado 81003-4270
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.