[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 143 (Wednesday, July 25, 2012)]
[Notices]
[Pages 43575-43577]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-18166]


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DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

Department of the Army, Corps of Engineers


Intent To Prepare a Draft Environmental Impact Statement/
Environmental Impact Report for the Proposed Ballona Wetlands 
Restoration Project at Ballona Creek Within the City and County of Los 
Angeles, CA

AGENCY: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Department of the Army, DoD.

ACTION: Notice of intent.

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SUMMARY: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and the California 
Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) intend to jointly prepare a Draft 
Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report (DEIS/EIR) 
for the proposed Ballona Wetlands Restoration Project. The proposed 
project is intended to return the daily ebb and flow of tidal waters, 
maintain freshwater circulation, and augment the physical and 
biological functions and services in the project area. Restoring the 
wetland functions and services would allow native wetland vegetation to 
be reestablished, providing important habitat for a variety of wildlife 
species. As a restored site, the Ballona Wetlands would play an 
important role to provide seasonal habitat for migratory birds. A 
restored, optimally functioning wetland would also benefit the adjacent 
marine environment and enhance the quality of tidal waters.

DATES: Submit comments on or before September 10, 2012.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dr. Daniel P. Swenson at (213) 452-
3414 (daniel.p.swenson@usace.army.mil), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 
Los Angeles District, P.O. Box 532711, Los Angeles, CA 90053-2325.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Corps intends to prepare a joint EIS/EIR 
to assess the environmental effects associated with the proposed 
project. CDFG is the state lead agency for the EIR pursuant to the 
California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
    1. Background. The 600-acre Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve is 
located in the western portion of the City of Los Angeles (partially 
within unincorporated Los Angeles County), south of Marina Del Rey and 
north of Playa Del Rey. The project site is situated approximately 1.5 
miles west of Interstate 405 and approximately \1/4\-mile east of Santa 
Monica Bay. The project site is owned by the State of California, and 
is bisected by and includes a channelized span of Ballona Creek, a 
component feature of a federal flood risk management project.
    2. Project Purpose and Need. A substantial portion of California's 
historic coastal wetlands have been lost. Restoration of coastal 
wetlands is needed in order to increase available nursery and foraging 
habitat for wildlife and to provide recreational and educational 
opportunities to the public. The Ballona Wetlands ecosystem is one of 
the last remaining major coastal wetlands in Los Angeles County. It is 
estimated that historically the wetlands ecosystem spanned more than 
2,000

[[Page 43576]]

acres in the vicinity of the site. Development occurring over the last 
century greatly reduced the Ballona wetland area, now estimated at 
approximately 600 acres. In addition, the wetland habitat and natural 
hydrological functions in the area have been substantially degraded. 
The project site provides habitat for a diversity of plant and wildlife 
species, but most on-site habitat exhibits relatively low physical and 
biological functions and services.
    The proposed project is intended to return the daily ebb and flow 
of tidal waters, maintain freshwater circulation, and augment the 
physical and biological functions and services in the project area. 
Restoring the wetland functions and services would allow native wetland 
vegetation to be reestablished, providing important habitat for a 
variety of wildlife species. As a restored site, the Ballona Wetlands 
would play an important role to provide seasonal habitat for migratory 
birds. A restored, optimally functioning wetland would also benefit the 
adjacent marine environment and enhance the quality of tidal waters. 
The proposed project would provide the community with a valuable 
educational resource and access to a large wetland area.
    The purpose of the project is to restore ecological functions of 
the site, in part, by enhancing tidal flow.
    3. Proposed Action. CDFG is proposing a large-scale restoration of 
the Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve. The proposed project entails 
restoring, enhancing, and establishing native coastal wetland and 
upland habitats in the approximately 600-acre Ballona Wetlands 
Ecological Reserve. The reserve currently supports large expanses of 
previously filled and dredged coastal wetland and upland habitat that 
would be restored by increasing tidal flow throughout the project area, 
removing invasive species, and planting native vegetation.
    The main components of the proposed project are:
     Habitat restoration of estuarine wetland and upland 
habitats connected to a realigned Ballona Creek.
     Removal of existing Ballona Creek levees and realignment 
of Ballona Creak to restore a more meandering channel.
     Construction of levees along the perimeter of the project 
area to allow restoration of tidally influenced wetlands in the project 
area while providing flood risk management for Culver Boulevard and 
surrounding developed areas.
     Installation of water control structures, including 
culverts with self-regulating tide gates or similar structures, to 
provide a full range of tides up to an elevation acceptable for flood 
risk management and storm drainage, while reducing the risk of damage 
from storm events.
     Maintenance of existing levels of flood risk management 
for areas surrounding the Ballona Wetlands site.
     Provision of erosion protection as an integral part of the 
restoration design.
     Modification of infrastructure and utilities as necessary 
to implement the restoration project.
     Improving public access by realigning existing trails, 
creating new trails, repairing existing fences, constructing overlook 
platforms, and providing other visitor-oriented facilities.
     Long-term operations and management activities including 
inspections, repairs, clean-up, vegetation maintenance, and related 
activities.
    The proposed project requires a permit under section 404 of the 
Clean Water Act (CWA) and section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act to 
conduct dredge and fill activities in waters of the United States and 
for work and (or) structures in or affecting navigable waters of the 
United States associated with restoring wetlands and associated habitat 
within the project site. Dredge and fill activities in waters of the 
United States are proposed to construct new levees, form new tidal 
channels, modify existing tidal channels, re-contour areas to enhance 
tidal flow, and to create elevations conducive to establishing wetland 
habitat. Preliminary conservative estimates indicate the project would 
result in a balanced total of 1,782,000 cubic yards of excavation and 
1,782,000 cubic yards of fill placement, not all of which would affect 
jurisdictional areas. Based on these preliminary estimates, the volumes 
and areas of fill are estimated as follows: Permanent discharge of fill 
within 43.5 acres of non-wetland waters of the U.S. (435,000 cubic 
yards) and within 65 acres of wetland waters of the U.S. (600,000 cubic 
yards), as well as temporary discharge of fill within 3.5 acres of non-
wetland waters of the U.S. (30,000 cubic yards) and within 0.3 acres of 
wetland waters of the U.S. (structural fill).
    The project will also require a permit from the Corps to the Los 
Angeles County Department of Public Works, as the non-Federal sponsor 
of the Los Angeles County Drainage Area (LACDA) project, pursuant to 33 
U.S.C. section 408 (408 permit). A section 408 permit is required to 
alter/modify a completed Corps project. The Ballona Creek levees were 
constructed by the Corps in the 1930s as part of LACDA. This project 
proposes to remove levees, construct a larger levee reach around the 
perimeter of the proposed side, reconfigure the existing concrete-lined 
Ballona Creek flood-control channel and realign the creek. A permit for 
modification/alteration of this magnitude would require Corps 
Headquarters approval.
    4. Alternatives Considered. The feasibility of several alternatives 
is being considered and will be addressed in the DEIS/EIR. The No 
Federal Action/No Project Alternative, as required by NEPA and CEQA, 
would maintain the status quo and would include no improvements or 
discharges of fill material in waters of the United States or work or 
structures in or affecting navigable waters of the United States. Other 
alternatives that may be considered include restoring smaller portions 
of the 600-acre site, alternative designs that would provide differing 
amounts of various habitats types, and alternative designs for 
enhancing tidal flow. Additional alternatives may be developed during 
scoping and will also be considered in the DEIS/EIR.
    5. Scoping Process.
    a. Affected federal, state and local resource agencies, Native 
American groups and concerned interest groups/individuals are 
encouraged to participate in the scoping process. Public participation 
is critical in defining the scope of analysis in the DEIS/EIR, 
identifying significant environmental issues in the DEIS/EIR, providing 
useful information such as published and unpublished data, and 
knowledge of relevant issues and recommending mitigation measures to 
offset potential impacts from proposed actions.
    b. Potential impacts associated with the proposed project will be 
fully evaluated. Potential significant issues to be addressed in the 
DEIS/EIR include aesthetics, air quality and greenhouse gas emissions, 
biological resources, cultural resources, geology and soils, hazards 
and hazardous materials, hydrology and water quality, land use and 
planning, noise, public services, recreation, sea-level rise, traffic, 
flood control, and utilities. Additional issues may be identified 
during the scoping process.
    c. Individuals and agencies may offer information or data relevant 
to the environmental or socioeconomic impacts of the proposed project 
by submitting comments, suggestions, and requests to be placed on the 
mailing list for announcements to (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT) 
or the following email address: Daniel.p.swenson@usace.army.mil.

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    d. The Corps anticipates formally consulting with the U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act, the 
National Marine Fisheries Service under Section 305(b)(2) of the 
Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA), and 
with the State Historic Preservation Officer under Section 106 of the 
National Historic Preservation Act. The CDFG, as the project proponent, 
will need to obtain a CWA section 401 water quality certification or 
waiver and a consistency certification from the California Coastal 
Commission in accordance with the Coastal Zone Management Act.
    6. Scoping Meeting Date, Time, and Location. A public scoping 
meeting to receive input on the scope of the DEIS/EIR will be conducted 
on August 16, 2012, from 4:00-7:00 p.m. at the Fiji Gateway entrance to 
the Ballona Wetlands (13720 Fiji Way, Marina del Rey, CA 90292, across 
from Fisherman's Village and Los Angeles County Department of Beaches 
and Harbors).
    7. Availability of the DEIS/EIR. The DEIS/EIR is expected to be 
published and circulated in late 2012. A public hearing will be held 
after its publication to field comments on the document.

David J. Castanon,
Chief, Regulatory Division, Corps of Engineers.
[FR Doc. 2012-18166 Filed 7-24-12; 8:45 am]
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