Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA)
- Wetland Delineation Data Collection
- Water Quality Data Analysis
- Forest Stand Characterization
- Specimen Tree Survey
- NEPA, Natural Resource Technical Report (NRTR) & Categorical Exclusion (CE)
- Impact Analysis
- Mitigation Site Search
Coastal Resources, Inc. (CRI) is currently providing natural resource field assessments, research, data analysis, and document preparation for the Natural Resources Technical Report (NRTR) for the US 15 Project Planning Study. The purpose of the Project Planning Study is to improve safety concerns by reducing rear end collisions, and improve mainline operations on US 15 through the alleviation of weaving, merging, and diverging movements of vehicles entering and exiting the project study area, which extends on US 15 from the I-270 interchange to the MD 26 Liberty Road interchange.
CRI was responsible for the initial natural environmental inventory, including but not limited to wetlands, streams and other waters, floodplains, endangered species, forests, and other sensitive habitats, as well as the socio-economic inventory, including desktop review of demographic data, environmental justice populations, land use, and protected lands. This data collection included geospatial analysis of existing data sources, windshield surveys, and coordination with state, county, and local officials. Initial findings were detailed in an Environmental Assessment Form (EAF) to support the Purpose and Need development. CRI developed mapping to support the EAF, utilizing existing data sources.
Following the development of Alternatives, CRI conducted more detailed field surveys. 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 5 mile long corridor using the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Eastern Mountains and Piedmont supplement. Forest stand communities were characterized in the field for age, species composition, structure, and overall health. Specimen trees (greater than 30 inches diameter) were identified and surveyed using GPS. Wetland boundaries were surveyed using GPS, and GIS mapping layers were created of wetlands, forests, and specimen trees, 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 to get preliminary agency feedback on representative, questionable, and high quality wetlands/waterways. All mapping, data sheets, forest stand descriptions, specimen tree information, and wetland/waters descriptions for identified waters of the U.S., including wetlands were compiled into the NRTR.
CRI was responsible for the production of the NRTR document, including sections on topography, geology, soils, surface and groundwater, wetland resources, terrestrial and aquatic habitats and wildlife, rare, threatened and endangered species, floodplains, and unique and sensitive areas. 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 calculated impacts to all resources for each proposed alternative, developed supporting graphics and figures, and provided GIS data as necessary. CRI addressed team comments on these sections as needed.
CRI conducted a mitigation site search to identify viable mitigation opportunities that are conceptually suitable for mitigating unavoidable impacts to wetlands and waterways from the Preferred Alternative, once it is selected. CRI conducted a thorough desktop review to identify potential wetland and stream mitigation opportunities within the impacted Monocacy (02070009) hydrologic unit code (HUC) 8 watershed. CRI reviewed the Mitigation Site Search Report for the Interstate 270 (I 270) Corridor Improvements Project (From I-495 to I-70), as well as county and state watershed studies and reports for the impacted HUC-8 digit watershed to identify and prioritize potential stream mitigation sites. Additionally, CRI identified potentially suitable stream and wetland sites within the MDOT SHA Site Selection geodatabase, which includes highly ranked sites identified in the Watershed Resources Registry (WRR) and 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 conducted a non-invasive windshield survey of potential mitigation sites visible from public ROWs to confirm current land use and collect preliminary information on site conditions, suitability, and restoration opportunities. CRI was responsible for updating the SHA Site Selection geodatabase with the results of the windshield reviews for check-in and submittal to MDOT SHA at site search milestones. CRI developed a final list of sites recommended for further consideration to mitigate for potential impacts associated with the US 15 Project Planning Study, including sites deemed viable following the windshield survey, and those sites recommended in the Mitigation Site Search Report for the I-270 Corridor Improvements Project.
Due to a recent change in the proposed project Limits-of Disturbance (LOD), CRI will conduct additional field assessments to update and extend natural resource information, including wetland delineations, and will update the draft NRTR to reflect the revised LOD. CRI will summarize the updated NRTR in the CE document and will be responsible for responding to any agency comments on natural resources. CRI will coordinate as necessary with resource and regulatory agencies on the updated wetland delineations and proposed mitigation opportunities as needed to finalize the NEPA process.