SUBJECT: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Albuquerque District, (Corps) and the New Mexico Environment Department’s Surface Water Quality Bureau (SWQB) are evaluating an application for the Lomas Encantadas Subdivision located in Rio Rancho, Sandoval County, New Mexico, which would result in impacts to approximately 27,960.67 linear feet (9.67 acres) of waters of the United States (unnamed tributaries to the Rio Grande). This notice is to inform interested parties of the proposed activity and to solicit comments.
AUTHORITY: This application is being evaluated under Sections 404 and 401 of the Clean Water Act (CWA) for the discharge of dredged or fill material in waters of the United States (U.S.). State water quality certification is provided under the authority of 20.6.2 New Mexico Administrative Code.
APPLICANT: Mr. Jarrod Likar
Amrep Southwest, Incorporated
333 Rio Rancho Drive, NE, Suite 202
Rio Rancho, New Mexico 87124
AGENT: Mr. Robert Demeule, III,
333 Rio Rancho Drive, NE, Suite 101
Rio Rancho, New Mexico 87124
LOCATION: The proposed project is located in unnamed tributaries to the Rio Grande; Sections 22, 23, 26, and 27; Township 13N; Range 03E; Latitude 35.3325°; Longitude -106.5994°; off of Lomas Encantadas Boulevard in the City of Rio Rancho; Sandoval County; New Mexico.
PROJECT DESCRIPTION: The applicant proposes to continue construction of a Master-Planned residential subdivision. As a note, on November 10, 2004, the Corps issued a Standard Individual Permit (SIP) to the applicant for the discharge of fill material into approximately 16.29 acres of waters of the United States for the construction of the residential subdivision, identified as the Enchanted Hills South Subdivision. Due to a market downturn, only a portion of the Master-Planned residential development was constructed, which resulted in the discharge of fill material into approximately 6.18 acres of waters of the United States. The SIP expired on December 31, 2014. The applicant now proposes to continue the construction of the Master-Planned residential subdivision, identified as the Lomas Encantadas residential subdivision. The proposed project would include the installation of roadways, utilities, parks, and infrastructure typically associated with residential development. Construction methods of earthmoving, grading, compaction, placement of subgrade base materials, paved roads with sidewalks, wet and dry utility installation, overall drainage management plan and storm drain system for stormwater management, and residential house/lot construction are proposed. The project would result in the permanent discharge of fill material into approximately 27,960.67 linear feet (9.67 acres) of waters of the United States identified as unnamed ephemeral tributaries to the Rio Grande, a traditional navigable waterway. The enclosed drawings provide additional project details.
PURPOSE AND NEED: Based on the available information, the basic project purpose is residential development. The overall project purpose is to continue construction of a Master-Planned, medium-sized, single-family residential development with associated support facilities in the northeastern area of the City of Rio Rancho, New Mexico. The applicant believes there is a need to continue construction of the Master-Planned residential subdivision in order to meet local housing market demand.
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 (Mitigation Rule). The applicant provided a mitigation statement with their permit application in accordance with the Mitigation Rule. The applicant stated that, during the alternatives/design phase, avoidance of impacts were evaluated, and the proposed project would avoid impacts to waters of the United States by designing a layout which avoids placing fill material into approximately 4,276 linear feet (0.98 acre) of waters of the United States. This includes avoidance of fill material into approximately 2,792 linear feet (0.40 acre) of waters of the United States by the redesign of internal streets so as not to require offsite roadways, and defining the project to avoid these upper reach areas. The upper reaches which would be avoided would flow into proposed onsite micro park water quality features. Additionally, the applicant stated that impacts were minimized during the alternatives/design phase by designing/locating storm water quality features where existing arroyos could remain resulting in minimization of impact to approximately 1,484 linear feet (0.58 acre) of waters of the United States. In order to compensate for proposed unavoidable adverse impacts to waters of the United States, the applicant would provide compensatory mitigation through a Bosque restoration/riparian improvement project within the same 10-Digit HUC Watershed identified as Arroyo de Las Calabacillas-Rio Grande (1302020301). To expand on the proposed mitigation options, the applicant has held informal consultations with both the City of Rio Rancho and with the Pueblo of Sandia to identify potential water quality improvement bosque/riverine restoration projects in which to participate. Both the Pueblo of Sandia and the City of Rio Rancho have (informally) identified that the applicant could potentially participate in an established project. Potential established projects include: 1) Pueblo of Sandia Bosque Terrestrial Wildlife Habitat Restoration; 2) Pueblo of Sandia Bosque Area Invasive Species Removal; and/or 3) City of Rio Rancho MS4 Outfalls - A Structural BMP improvement Capital Improvement Project that removes floatables, trash, and sediments from seven (7) storm system outfalls to the Rio Grande in the same HUC watershed. The applicant is also currently identifying Soil and Water Conservation District projects for potential involvement. A Mitigation Plan, prepared in compliance with the Mitigation Rule, would be provided by the applicant to the Corps for review and approval prior to making a permit decision.
Environmental Setting. According to the information provided by the applicant, the overall proposed development encompasses approximately 53.26 acres. There are approximately 29,445.70 linear feet (10.25 acres) of ephemeral streams, identified as waters of the United States, located within the proposed project area. The waters of the United States consist of large tributary reaches with multiple smaller tributaries flowing into each, which then flow into the Arroyo Venada, which flows to the Rio Grande. The tributaries flow from an approximate northwesterly to southeasterly direction. Flows within the tributaries occur as a result of moderate to high precipitation events, and are characterized as infrequent and flashy in nature. During high precipitation events, water flow within the tributaries is swift given the landscape and collects and transports nutrients, organic matter, sediment, seeds, and debris from the adjacent uplands, with the quantity of water and materials being dependent on the intensity and duration of the precipitation events. Channel banks are generally steep. The tributaries contain cobbles, gravels, and sandy substrates along the reaches. The land area within the proposed project area is characterized by raw/open land with flat land area, as well as rolling, somewhat steep hills throughout. Soils consist of Sheppard loamy fine sand and Grieta-Sheppard loamy fine sand soils. The existing roadway, identified as Paseo Del Volcan, runs through the property boundary in an approximate northerly/southerly direction. According to the information provided by the applicant, wildlife in the vicinity of the project area includes various small mammals, diverse avifauna, reptiles, amphibians, and big game species. The wildlife species identified as being typical to the general area include coyotes (Canis latrans), desert cottontails (Sylvilagus audubonii), kangaroo rats (Dipodomys spp.), mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), common ravens (Corvus corax), turkey vultures (Cathartes aura), swallows (Hirundo spp.), mourning doves (Zenaida macroura), western kingbirds (Tyrannus verticalus), red-tailed hawks (Buteo jamaicensis), bull snakes (Pituophis catenifer sayi), and whiptail lizards (Cnemidophorus spp.). The vegetative community composition includes a mix of juniper woodland and savanna vegetative species. Dominant species are identified as being one seed juniper (Juniperus monosperma), four-wing saltbush (Atriplex canescens), sand sage (Artemesia filifolia) and Russian thistle (Salsola kali). Additional species include broom dalea (Psorothamnus scoparius), broom snakeweed (Gutierrezia sarothrae), yucca (Yucca spp.), Indian ricegrass (Oryzopsis hymenoides), sand dropseed (Sporobolus cryptandrum), purple three awn (Aristida purpurea), and tansy mustard (Descurainia pinnata). The proposed project area is surrounded by residential developments (Enchanted Hills Subdivision) directly to the north/northeast, open/raw land and residential properties to the south, residential properties to the east, and open/raw land to the west. Some surrounding residential properties located to the approximate south and east of the proposed project area are included within the original overall Master-Planned residential development project authorized by the Corps under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act in 2004. The proposed project would continue the construction of the overall Master-Planned residential development project.
Alternatives. The applicant has provided information concerning project alternatives. Alternatives considered by the applicant include: (1) no action alternative; (2) alternate location within reasonable access and ownership; (3) original project layout authorized by the Corps under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act in 2004 which included large estate lots with open space drainage areas; (4) project layout with preferred density and without placing fill material into segments of the upper unnamed tributaries and erosional rills; (5) project layout with preferred density and construction of stormwater quality micro ponds throughout the development and gravity sewer and stormwater collection systems to manage stormwater from off-sites in lieu of open, unfilled erosional rills and unnamed tributaries; and (6) project layout with preferred density and without placing fill material in segments of the upper unnamed tributaries and erosional rills, and realignment of the proposed main roadway, identified as Camino Encantadas. The applicant’s “preferred density” is identified as approximately 1,746 lots and approximately 53.26 acres of combined open space, parks, and micro parks (ponds or water quality areas). As a note, the total ultimate number of lots may change depending on final frontage widths and homebuilder company. Other alternatives may develop during the review process for this permit application. Additional information concerning project proposed 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).
HISTORIC PROPERTIES: The Corps reviewed existing 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 project area was surveyed for historic properties during evaluation of prior development phases authorized by the SIP issued in 2004. The prior surveys resulted in the identification of NRHP-eligible properties existing in the proposed project permit area, whereby the proposed development would have resulted in an adverse effect to historic properties. The applicant and the State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) entered into Memorandums of Understanding (MOU) in 1992, 1994, and 1996 to mitigate the effects of the development on any eligible historic properties, through data recovery, before commencing construction. The Corps re-initiated consultation with the SHPO in March of 2018 because the stipulations of the MOUs had not all been met, including the applicant’s submittal of required information to the SHPO. The March 2018 consultation included the submittal of documents required by the SHPO for compliance with the MOUs. The SHPO responded in April of 2018 that they had received the required data recovery reports from the applicant and requested the report be registered into the NMCRIS database with all associated site activity numbers listed. Based on the SHPO’s April 2018 response, the proposed project is in compliance with the MOUs. Therefore, the Corps has determined that the Section 106 process is complete.
ENDANGERED SPECIES: The Corps has reviewed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's latest published version of endangered and threatened species listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) located in Sandoval County, New Mexico, to determine if any listed species or their designated critical habitats may occur in the proposed project area. According to a query of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service IPaC System, the following federally-listed species were identified as having a potential to be affected by the construction of the proposed project: Threatened New Mexico jumping mouse (Zapus hudsonius luteus), Threatened Mexican spotted owl (Strix occidentalis lucida), Endangered Southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus), Threatened yellow-billed cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus), Endangered Jemez Mountains salamander (Plethodon neomexicanus), and Endangered Rio Grande silvery minnow (Hybognathus amarus). No designated critical habitats for these species are identified as being present within the action area. The Corps has evaluated the preferred habitats of the federally-listed species and compared the preferred habitats to the existing conditions within the proposed project area. The Corps has made a preliminary determination that the proposed project will not affect any federally-listed endangered or threatened species or their critical habitats.
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.
COMMENT SUBMITTAL AND DEADLINES: The Corps and SWQB are soliciting comments from all interested parties to consider and evaluate the impacts of this proposed activity. Any comments received will be considered by the Corps to determine whether to issue, issue with special conditions, or deny a permit for this proposal.
Submittal of Corps Permit Application Comments: All comments regarding the Corps permit application for the above-described project must be received on or before December 9, 2019, which is the close of the comment period. Comments on state Section 401 certification must be submitted as described below under “Water Quality Certification Comments”. 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 the particular 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 and requests for additional information on the Corps permitting action should be submitted to:
Tarrie Ostrofsky, Project Manager
US Army Corps of Engineers, Albuquerque District
4101 Jefferson Plaza NE
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87109-3435
Phone: (505) 342-3111
Submittal of Water Quality Certification Comments: 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 the above described project, the applicant is required to obtain water quality certification, under Section 401 of the CWA, from the SWQB.
This notice serves to notify the public that the SWQB will consider issuing a certification under Section 401 of the CWA. The purpose of such certification is to reasonably ensure that the permitted activities will be conducted in a manner compliant with applicable New Mexico water quality standards, including the antidegradation policy, and the statewide water quality management plan. This Notice, including notice of the 30-day public comment period, is also posted on the SWQB website at: https://www.env.nm.gov/surface-water-quality/public-notices/
SWQB will accept and consider written comments regarding the state certification received during the public comment period. Comments may be submitted electronically or by hard copy to:
New Mexico Environment Department SWQB
P.O. Box 5469
Santa Fe, NM 87502-5469
Phone: (505) 827-0388
FAX: (505) 827-0160
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, the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act, or both.
CORPS OF ENGINEERS
SURFACE WATER QUALITY BUREAU
NEW MEXICO ENVIRONMENT DEPT