|Permit Attached RE: US Salt Water Withdrawal Permit Application for its Watkins Glen Refinery
For those of you that commented on the US Salt Watkins Glen Refinery Water Withdrawal Permit application, enclosed herewith is the responsiveness summary and the permit. Please direct any additional questions to Mr. Kent Sanders, Mr. Erik Schmitt, or Mr. Scott Sheeley (whose emails are above).
From: Merchant, Kimberly (DEC)
Sent: Tuesday, September 02, 2014 3:00 PM
Subject: RE: US Salt Water Withdrawal Permit Application for its Watkins Glen Refinery,
For those of you that have requested a 60 day extension to the public comment period, I am hereby responding to your email. I received eight requests to extend the completeness deadline for the US Salt Water Withdrawal Application. I have been assigned as the project manager for this permit application. The application for a Water Withdrawal Permit application for an Initial permit includes a 15 day public comment period under the Uniform Procedures Act. We hereby agree to offer a second 15 day public comment period for this application. Therefore the new public comment deadline is September 25th. We have granted this second public comment period of 15 days to other facilities in New York State therefore, we think it is reasonable to do so in this case. Please email me your comments on or before September 25, 2014. The comment period will be reposted in the Environmental Notice Bulletin next week. Please note: a 60 day extension is not consistent with the Uniform Procedures Act and it would not allow the Department to meet out Final Decision due date for this application. Please let me know if you have any questions. Thanks. Kim
DEC preliminary comments on “Project Seneca Regional WWTP – Site Selection”, and Additional Guidance Pertaining to SEQR, Article 24 Freshwater Wetlands Permitting, and Other Issues
Siting study comments:
During Pre-application, we have further reviewed the “Project Seneca Regional WWTP- Site Selection” document, last revised 1/24/2014, and submitted to the Department on November 7, 2014. The evaluation of project alternatives is an important component of applications for both Incidental Take and Freshwater Wetlands permits pursuant to 6 NYCRR Parts 182 and 663, respectively. Both of these permits are required for the currently-proposed WWTP alternative, and we anticipate that some version of the alternatives analysis provided in the Site Selection document will be submitted as part of the application packages. Given the importance of this analysis to addressing the relevant permit issuance standards, we have reviewed the analysis and believe that certain elements of it will require further revision, clarification, or elaboration.,
Specifically, there appear to be some potential inaccuracies in the scoring document that could affect the final scores. And we have questions pertaining to the basis for some of the scoring categories which may be able to be clarified by clearer or more detailed wording in the document or table. We suggest the items enumerated below be addressed further. In addressing these items, the latest proposed WWTP Site Plan available at the time of permit application should be used. As of the date of these preliminary comments, the latest site plan provided was emailed by Johanna Duffy of B&L to the Department on 11/25/2014, which includes better screening from the proposed plant to the eagle nest than the prior version of the plan. The first comment below pertains to the written sections and the remainder relate to the Site Selection Matrix tables.
1. Siting Analysis write-up text: This write-up is dated January 27, 2014. A lot of information has been identified since that time, therefore, the document should be updated. Section 3.0, “Site Alternatives Analysis”, paragraph on Site NO. 5, the historic UDS does not include any information on the eagle issue; it only talks about potential impacts to the CEA. It then goes on to state that, “the opportunity exists at the site to incorporate environmental benefit projects to provide public access to the Canal for public recreation (i.e., Canoes and Kayaks) and walking trails and benches for bird watching out on the wildlife management area.” We recommend that the presence of the eagle and the proposed incidental taking permit for the eagle be discussed in this section. The Department is also not aware of a public access project component to this project. Please clarify.
Also, the access to the area for hunting (with firearms) will actually be diminished by a 500 foot buffer, which should also be discussed.
Also in Section 4.0, “Recommended WWTP Site,” it is stated that, “while it is located near the Catherine Queen Marsh area, it provide a potential opportunity for an environmental benefit/public access project to impact access to this important natural community.” Again, this section should be updated to reflect the eagle and other endangered bird species issues and the environmental/public access project must be clarified.
2. Wetland Impacts: This criteria is weighted by a factor of 9. The low score of 1 is awarded if the project will result in impacts to NYS and Federal wetlands requiring mitigation and/or wetland creation required with individual permit. The high score of 5 is awarded if the there are no NY or Federal wetlands within the project footprint or buffer zone, requiring no permits.
The table states that there are no wetlands within the proposed site (Site #5) and that there are potential permanent impacts to wetlands along the access roadway. The project has been further defined since the siting study was completed. As proposed, the project will include permanent impacts to wetlands and adjacent area along the access roadway. If this impact cannot be avoided, or minimized to the greatest extent practicable, through roadway relocation or further design, this impact will require mitigation and wetland creation. It appears that this impact assessment for this site criteria should be updated accordingly.
Please also note that with respect to wetland impacts, the permit issuance standards contained in 6 NYCRR § 663.5 will have to be met, including the weighing standards for a P(X) activity in 6 NYCRR § 663.5(e)(2), before a permit can be granted.
Should the applicant be able to demonstrate that there are no practicable alternatives to a proposal, on a site that is not freshwater wetland or adjacent area, and that any adverse impacts have been reduced to the greatest extent practicable, the project sponsor will be required to provide compensatory mitigation for unavoidable impacts to wetland acreage, function, and benefits (as enumerated in the Act). To the extent there are any remaining wetland or adjacent area impacts, further measures to reduce or mitigate impacts from noise, odors, aesthetics, etc., to existing wildlife habitat and public recreational uses will need to be addressed.
Also, are there appear to be alternative roadway locations that can be proposed, including the use of existing paved access routes adjacent to (west of) the proposed access road. It appears that use of existing paved areas would reduce impacts to state-regulated wetlands areas as currently shown on the site plan. If these areas are not a practicable alternative, please explain in the application.
3. Critical Environmental Area: This criteria is weighted by a factor of 9. The low score of 1 is awarded if the project will result in impacts to the Critical Environmental Area (CEA)/Wildlife Management Area (WMA) or other areas of environmental significance. The high score of 5 is awarded if the project will not impact a CEA/WMA or other areas of Environmental Significance. It is unclear whether the designated score of 2 fully reflects the potential adverse impacts to the bald eagle nest adjacent to the proposed project, and potential adverse impacts to additional state threatened species, including pied-billed grebe and least bittern. Potential impacts on these species has a direct relationship to the characteristics for which the CEA was designated and objectives for which the WMA is managed.. Site #5 (UDS) has also been designated a Bird Conservation Area (BCA) by New York State as well as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by Audubon New York. The score for impacts to the CEA and WMA should also reflect the loss of this area for hunting, and the impact on WMA users. In light of these factors, please evaluate whether a low score of 1 may be more appropriate for the UDS site 5.
4. Receiving Waterbody—Effluent SPDES Limits: This criteria is weighted by a factor of 8. The low score of 1 is awarded if the project will be subject to stringent effluent limits which require high level of treatment or closer proximity to Seneca Lake. The high score of 5 is awarded if the project is subject to the lowest water quality standards, requiring standard level of treatment, and the outfall discharge is further from Seneca Lake. Site #5 (UDS) received a score of 3 while Site #6 (Lusk Property) received a score of 3. Scoring both sites equally does not seem consistent with the criteria as described. Please clarify.
5. Land Use Compatibility: This criteria is weighted by a factor of 8. The low score of 1 is awarded if the project is incompatible with surrounding land use and will limit or eliminate future development plans. The high score of 5 is awarded if the project is compatible with surrounding land use and the site has no plans for future development.
The scoring of this criterion does not appear to reflect the existing uses of the WMA, or the intent of the CEA and the BCA, which are important beyond the conventional meaning of “development”. For instance, it will result in approximately 18 acres that have been managed as part of the WMA no longer being available to the people of New York State for hunting (with firearms). It appears that the UDS site should not qualify to receive the highest score for land use compatibility. Please clarify and readjust.
6. Noise Impacts: This criteria is weighted by a factor of 6. The low score of 1 is awarded if the project will have significant noise impacts to the surrounding properties and mitigation will be required. The high score of 5 is awarded if the project will have no measurable noise impacts to surrounding land use.
The impact assessment for this scoring criteria scores multiple sites low because they are adjacent to an active community areas and that noise mitigation/ perimeter berms would be required on three sides of the project. The assessment for Site #5 states that the UDS site is isolated with no immediate neighbors or downwind receptors. It does not appear that the current scoring addresses noise impacts to surrounding land uses that are not residential or commercial, for instance, a natural recreational area.
A noise evaluation should be conducted to evaluate whether the noise associated with the plant could have the potential to have an impact on adjacent land uses and wildlife.. A noise evaluation would also be necessary to determine if the noise can be reduced or the plant designed in such a way as to minimize noise impacts.
7. Visual Impacts: This criteria is weighted by a factor of 6. The low score of 1 is awarded if the project will be visible to surrounding land uses and screening will be required. The high score of 5 is awarded if the project will not be visible to surrounding land uses and no screening will be required. Site #5 (UDS) received a score of 4.
It does not appear that the scoring of this criteria takes into account the potential visual impacts to the natural recreational area (WMA). You have indicated that the canal is a visually significant resource due to boater and recreation in the area and subsequently screening along the canal is proposed. There appears to be potential for visual impacts to the to the observation tower on the WMA (across the marsh), as well as from use areas on the WMA itself, and from the viewing tower on Rock Cabin Road.
Additional SEQR issued not raised in the document entitled, “Project Seneca, DEC preliminary comments on SEQR Draft Supplemental EAF (DSEAF))”
Potential Impacts to Recreation and Open Space - The UDS site is State-owned and currently managed as part of the Catherine Creek WMA, as well as being located within a Bird Conservation Area (BCA) and Critical Environmental Area (CEA). The SEQR analysis should also take into account the construction and operation of the WWTP its operation at this location will reduce the physical area presently available to hunters, birders, hikers, photographers, and perhaps other recreational users. Besides the actual acreage of the proposed facility, hunters will be further limited by restrictions against the discharge of firearms within up to 500 feet from the facility, an area of potentially 18 acres for some types of hunting. The reduction of breeding bird habitats and the noise and possibly odors associated with the plant’s operation has the potential to reduce recreational birding opportunity, aesthetics, and other recreational use. For instance, the opportunity to view eagles and an active eagle nest will be diminished if the nest is no longer active.
Potential Visual Impacts – The SEQR analysis pertaining to Visual Impacts should evaluate whether wildlife viewing from Rock Cabin Road and the observation tower across the marsh may be adversely affected by the construction and operation of the WWTP. Also, as mentioned above, the visual impact of the WWTP from the viewsheds within the WMA, from the canal, and from other locations should be considered in the SEQR review.