RTC Responds to Engineers Regarding SouthEast Connector Public Comments


UPDATE, 2/25/2014:
The Regional Transportation Commission reports it has submitted its response to Public Comments to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) for its permit application for the Clean Water Act. The USACE has permit decision authority with regard to impacts to the Waters of the U.S. from construction of Phase 2 of the SouthEast Connector project (SEC).

The USACE will continue its evaluation and analysis of RTC’s application with additional information provided in its submittal. The response provides additional information requested from the USACE which addresses comments it received during the extended public comment period last fall.

RTC says it should also be noted the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the USACE 50-Year Flood Protection Project contains outdated information. The information contained within the FEIS does not include the work the USACE did in actually modeling the SEC in the USACE flood model. The results of the USACE flood modeling effort demonstrate that any rise attributed to the SEC was less than 2.5 inches and occurred along the south bank of the Truckee River on the eastern side of the UNR Main Station Farms, well away from any occupied structures or homes.

RTC says the SEC actually reduced flood water elevations near structures and homes in the USACE’s flood model, and notes this flood modeling analysis was done in combination with the USACE 50-year Flood Protection Project. RTC says all local flood ordinances as it pertains to the SEC have been met and the SEC does not have any negative net impact to water surface elevations when compared to existing conditions. The USACE flood modeling results are available on the RTC websites.

A decision from the USACE is anticipated within the next 60 to 90 days.

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RENO, NV -- The Regional Transportation Commission says a plan to connect Sparks Boulevard to Veterans Parkway will continue, despite some recent negative feedback from the Environmental Protection Agency. In fact, RTC says the issues the EPA mentioned in its letter are already being addressed and likely won't delay the project.

RTC is still awaiting approval for phase II of the Southeast Connector project, but says despite the EPA's concerns, construction on phase II should start as planned this summer.

The Southeast Connector will weave its way through wetlands, which are a protected area, so plans must be approved by the Army Corps of Engineers.

"It's kinda a balancing act that we do between the public interest and the needs of the applicant," Christine Hansen with the Army Corps of Engineers says.

The EPA Is one of the groups that is giving public comment on the project. In a letter dated October 28th, the EPA said it "objects to the project as proposed and recommends denial of the permit."

RTC says the letter is not as ominous as it seems.

"It just gave us indication of some additional information that they are looking for to make their determination whether we can proceed forward with constructing this summer," said Garth Oksol, Project Manager for RTC.

Specifically, the EPA wanted to know how RTC chose the path for the road and how it has the least impact possible on the environment. RTC says it's already working on getting EPA this info and the project is not in jeopardy.

"We were not only responsive to those but sensitive to the concerns that were raised so we went back and redid a number of things with the project to address those and be able to advance phase two," said Oksol.

The EPA said it objects "unless these issues are resolved." That's exactly what RTC is trying to do.

The final permit decision will be made by the Army Corps of Engineers, which says everything is going according to plan.

"We're still in the evaluation process and we're not going to be making a permit decision very soon but we are working to balance public concerns with the applicant's need," said Hansen.

If all goes according to plan, crews will break ground on Phase II of the connector this summer and it should be completed in 2016. If it's decided that a full environmental impact report is needed, that could delay the project by about two years.


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