MDOT State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA)
- Wetland Delineation
- Water Quality Data Analysis
- NEPA, Natural Resource Technical Report (NRTR)
- Impact Analysis
Coastal Resources, Inc. (CRI) assisted the prime engineering and NEPA planning consultant with natural resource field assessments, research, data analysis, and document preparation for the NRTR for the I 495 & I-270 Managed Lanes Study, which will be summarized for inclusion in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). The purpose of the I-495 & I-270 Managed Lanes Study is to develop a travel demand management solution that addresses congestion, improves trip reliability on I 495 and I 270, and enhances existing and planned multimodal mobility and connectivity within the corridor study boundary (CSB), which extends on I 495 (the Washington Beltway) from south of the American Legion Bridge in Fairfax County, Virginia, to east of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, and on I-270 from I-495 to I 370 including the east and west I 270 spurs.
A detailed wetland delineation was conducted as part of the I 495 & I 270 Managed Lanes Study in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties. CRI was responsible for identifying all Waters of the U.S., including wetlands in the eastern portion of the project study area, along an approximately 16 mile long by 600 foot wide corridor. All waters of the U.S., including wetlands, were identified using the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Coastal Plain supplement and functional assessments were completed for each wetland using the New England Method. A formal functions and values analysis was conducted for all wetlands greater than ½ acre in size and function and value suitability was noted for smaller wetland systems using best professional judgement. Over 40 acres of wetlands and over 15 miles of stream were delineated by CRI. Wetland boundaries were surveyed using GPS or verified from data previously collected in 2015-2016 for other projects along the corridor. GIS mapping layers were created of wetlands as well as other natural resources for use by the project team. CRI coordinated with natural resource agencies and regulators and led agency field reviews of representative, questionable, and high-quality wetlands/waterways. All mapping, data sheets, and wetland/waters descriptions for identified waters of the U.S., including wetlands, were prepared in accordance with the technical field and data management protocols provided by the prime consultant and submitted for their use in preparing a delineation report to be included as an appendix to and summarized in the NRTR.
As part of the NRTR process, regulatory agencies were solicited for information on the presence of rare, threatened, or endangered (RTE) species within the CSB. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources Wildlife and Heritage Service (DNR-WHS) and National Park Service (NPS) identified the potential presence of several RTE plant species within suitable habitat within the CSB on NPS lands near the Potomac River. During late summer of 2019, CRI assisted the project team by conducting habitat assessments and targeted species surveys to search for several of the RTE plants growing during that season. Mapping was first prepared of the area for use in the field. Surveys identified areas of suitable habitat for several of the RTE plant species, but none of the late summer plant species were observed. A report was prepared that identified areas of suitable habitat and summarized the results of the targeted species survey. For other RTE plant species whose flowering season occurs during spring, follow up targeted species surveys will be conducted within suitable habitat in 2020.
The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) identified federally listed RTE bat species potentially occurring within the CSB, including the endangered Indiana bat and threatened northern long-eared bat. Initial coordination with the USFWS resulted in a request for the project team to conduct visual surveys of bridges proposed to be expanded or replaced, which could serve as suitable roosting habitat for bats. CRI conducted the surveys on 14 bridges and associated ramps within the active bat season during summer 2019. The undersurfaces of all bridges were visually inspected for the presence of bats or bat guano. CRI found five big brown bats individually roosting within crevices of separate piers on a single bridge. None of the federally listed bats were observed. CRI also conducted evening emergence surveys at the American Legion Bridge and Northwest Branch Bridge. These two bridges were too tall to effectively survey crevices under the superstructure so CRI’s biologists positioned themselves beneath the bridges on both shorelines to look for bats departing roosts on the bridges at dusk. No bats were conclusively observed flying from the bridge structures, but several flying near the bridges may have been roosting beneath the structures. Bat guano was also found beneath piers of the American Legion Bridge on the Maryland shoreline. Following all bat surveys, CRI completed a report that was submitted to the USFWS that summarized the results of the visual bridge surveys and emergence surveys.
CRI assisted with the production of the NRTR document and drafted the water resources, terrestrial and aquatic habitats and wildlife, and rare, threatened and endangered species sections. CRI researched, gathered, and summarized existing data for these natural resources within the project corridor to establish existing conditions, as well as to evaluate potential impacts and environmental consequences of the proposed improvements. CRI coordinated with the prime consultant regarding supporting graphics and figures and provided GIS data as necessary. CRI will be responsible for addressing team and regulatory agency comments on these sections as needed and will assist in summarizing the NRTR for the DEIS.
CRI is also assisting the study team in developing a mitigation strategy with the MDOT SHA P3 Project Team and the resource agencies to offset potential impacts to aquatic resources associated with the I-495 & I-270 Managed Lanes Study. Both a traditional mitigation approach and a “full-delivery mitigation RFP” approach are being pursued as options for this study. CRI is assisting with the traditional mitigation site search and technical evaluation to identify viable mitigation opportunities that are conceptually suitable for mitigating unavoidable impacts to waters of the U.S., including wetlands from the Preferred Alternative, once it is selected.
During phase 1 of the site search process, CRI conducted a thorough desktop review to identify potential wetland and stream mitigation opportunities within the impacted MDE 8-digit hydrologic unit code (HUC) watersheds. CRI reviewed watershed reports from the last 5 years for the impacted HUC 8-digit watersheds, including the Middle Potomac-Catoctin, Middle Potomac-Anacostia-Occoquan, and Patuxent, to identify potential stream mitigation sites. Additionally, CRI identified stream and wetland sites within the MDOT SHA Site Selection geodatabase and geodatabase of sites dropped from consideration on other projects that might warrant further consideration for this study. Hydric soils, topography, aerial imagery and other relevant GIS layers were referenced to further refine the identified sites and develop a final site list. CRI also reviewed the Chesapeake Fish Passage Prioritization (CFPP) database and North Atlantic Aquatic Connectivity Collaborative (NAACC) database to compile a shapefile of potential fish blockage sites within the target watersheds. CRI assisted the prime contractor in conducting a non-invasive windshield survey of potential mitigation sites visible from public right-of way (ROWs). CRI was responsible for updating the SHA Site Selection geodatabase with the results of the desktop and windshield reviews for check-in and submittal to MDOT SHA at site search milestones. Once property access was granted, CRI conducted on-site field investigations and ranking of potential stream mitigation sites on publicly owned land, and conducted field assessments and ranking of potential fish passage sites within MDOT SHA ROW. CRI will be responsible for assisting with agency review of sites that are determined to be potentially suitable following on-site reviews and with developing conceptual plans for inclusion in the permit package for agency approval.