Kelley Stand Road Flood Repairs Project

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1 United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service Eastern Region November 2012 Kelley Stand Road Flood Repairs Project Decision Memo Green Mountain National Forest Manchester Ranger District Town of Sunderland Bennington County, Vermont For Information Contact John Kamb Civil Engineer Green Mountain National Forest 231 N. Main Street Rutland, VT (802) Fax: (802) Kelley Stand Road Flood Damage Responsible Official Colleen Pelles Madrid Forest Supervisor Green Mountain & Finger Lakes National Forests 231 N. Main Street, Rutland, VT (802) Fax: (802)

2 The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits discrimination in all its programs and activities on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, or marital or family status. (Not all prohibited bases apply to all programs.) Persons with disabilities who require alternative means for communication of program information (Braille, large print, audiotape, etc.) should contact USDA s TARGET Center at (202) (voice and TDD). To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, Room 326-W, Whitten Building, 14th and Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC or call (202) (voice and TDD). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. This document can be made available in large print. Contact Jay Strand at (802) x522; or at

3 Kelley Stand Road Flood Repairs Project Decision Memo USDA Forest Service, Eastern Region, Green Mountain National Forest Manchester Ranger District Town of Sunderland, Bennington County, Vermont I. SUMMARY As Forest Supervisor for the Green Mountain & Finger Lakes National Forests, I am approving the implementation of the Kelley Stand Road Flood Repairs Project. The project includes activities to address road damage caused by tropical storm Irene such as timber and other vegetation removal, road and bridge repairs, rock excavation, and stream restoration on National Forest System (NFS), town and private lands within the Town of Sunderland road rightof-way and adjacent Roaring Branch. Given that the project is to be funded with federal monies, activities on NFS, town and private lands have been analyzed per the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and are included in this decision document. The Kelley Stand Road subject to this project is a town road under Town of Sunderland jurisdiction, thus my decision includes the issuance of a special use permit and/or federal easement to the Town of Sunderland only if needed to authorize the realignment of heavily damaged road segments away from the Roaring Branch onto NFS lands. A temporary special use permit may also be needed for the use of NFS lands in association with project implementation (such as landing areas and storage of construction materials). Final design of road repair work within the existing road right-of-way will be the decision of the Town of Sunderland in coordination with the Forest Service. II. DECISION TO BE IMPLEMENTED A. Background and Project Area The project area is located on NFS lands in the Town of Sunderland, Bennington County, Vermont on the Manchester Ranger District of the Green Mountain National Forest (GMNF) on and adjacent to Town Highway 3 (also identified as Forest Highway 6) and known locally as the Kelley Stand Road (see project map). Kelley Stand Road is an unpaved road under the jurisdiction of the Towns of Sunderland and Stratton that connects US-7 to VT Route 100 across the spine of the Green Mountains. The narrow road corridor follows the route of the historic turnpike which was one of Vermont s earliest roads, and is a popular local and visitor destination to view the natural beauty of the surrounding area. The road is closed to vehicle traffic during the winter months where it enters NFS land, but remains open for snowmobile and other winter recreation uses. Kelley Stand Road suffered severe damage during the tropical storm Irene event on August 28, 2011 along 8.94 miles of the road from the junction of the North Road near US-7 to the Sunderland-Stratton town line. The Town of Sunderland incurred significant financial expense to repair the western 2.3 miles of road for year-round resident access immediately following the flood in the fall of The eastern 4.2 miles of road received comparatively minor damage and was repaired with routine maintenance work by the town during the summer of In the fall of 2012, there was additional stream restoration work implemented along a segment of Decision Memo Kelley Stand Road Flood Repairs Project Page 3

4 Roaring Branch (at mile post 2.1 see project map) to address unstable in-stream conditions that threatened damage to the road and other infrastructure downstream from the site. The portion of the road between the western and eastern sections addressed by the town has not been repaired and remains closed to the public. A detailed damage inspection and assessment of repairs needed to open the road to public access has been completed by the Forest Service in coordination with the Town of Sunderland, regional planners, State, and other Federal officials. The project area on NFS lands is located within the Green Mountain Escarpment, Diverse Forest Use, Diverse Backcountry, and Eligible Recreational River - Roaring Brook Management Areas (MAs) as designated by the 2006 GMNF Land and Resource Management Plan (Forest Plan). B. Purpose and Need The primary management goal associated with this project is to repair and open the Kelley Stand Road (FH6) which serves as an important access route for local residents and Forest visitors. The road is the only east-west route through the mountains between VT Route 11/30 in Manchester and VT Route 9 in Bennington. It connects US-7 in Sunderland-Arlington to VT Route 100 in Stratton-Wardsboro providing important recreation access to the trailhead parking area for the Appalachian Trail/Long Trail on the road in Stratton and snowmobile access to the Vermont Association of Snow Travelers (VAST) north-south Corridor 7 trail (via VAST C7F; Forest Trail FT 373) in winter months. The project meets the intent of the Forest Plan Goal 14 which is to Provide a safe, efficient, and effective Forest transportation system that meets both the needs of the Forest Service and the public (Forest Plan, p. 16). Additionally this project would help maintain or enhance additional Forest Plan Goals including: Goal 4 - Maintain or restore aquatic, fisheries, riparian, and wetland habitats (Forest Plan, p. 13). This project will seek to improve road-stream crossings for aquatic passage and restore and improve fisheries habitat using principals of stream geomorphology during road design and restoration. Goal 6 - Maintain or restore ecological processes and systems on the GMNF within desired ranges of variability, including a variety of native vegetation and stream channel types, and their patterns and structural components (Forest Plan, p. 14). This project would seek to restore and enhance stream ecosystem processes using knowledge of riparian/floodplain functions and large woody debris (LWD) dynamics for the purpose of improving and connecting aquatic habitats and promoting stream stability and sediment and organic matter storage. Goal 12 - Provide a diverse range of high-quality sustainable recreation opportunities that complement those provided off NFS lands (Forest Plan, p. 15). By repairing and maintaining Kelley Stand Road the Forest Service and Town of Sunderland will maintain a significant transportation link for local and recreational use between communities and for public recreational opportunities and enjoyment. It will also allow the reopening of an important snowmobile trail (VAST C7F; FT 373) which provides access to a major northsouth trail corridor (VAST C7) within the VAST snowmobile trail system. Goal 18 - Maintain and enhance partnerships with communities and organizations (Forest Plan, p. 17). This project will continue a history of coordination and cooperation Decision Memo Kelley Stand Road Flood Repairs Project Page 4

5 between the Forest Service and the Town of Sunderland as well as with the Bennington County Regional Planning Commission (BCRC), and the State Agency of Transportation (AOT) and VT Agency of Natural Resources (ANR). The project is to be funded through the Federal Highway Administration s (FHWA) Emergency Relief for Federally Owned Roads (ERFO) program and using Road Cooperative Project Agreements between the Town and Forest Service. The project proposal is also in keeping with the Regional Plan prepared by the Bennington County Regional Commission dated May 2007 (Regional Plan), and the Sunderland Town Plan dated June 2010 (Town Plan), specifically: Wherever possible, scenic roadways such as Kelley Stand Road should be preserved in its present state; and care should be taken to maintain its existing dimensions, surface, and roadside vegetation (Regional Plan, p. 73). Recreational use of the GMNF, and access to this vast resource, should reflect the rugged and backland nature of these lands (Town Plan goal, p. 5). The Kelley Stand Road corridor should not become a high quality convenient access to major recreation resorts east of Sunderland (Town Plan, p. 11). Protect the historic Kelley Stand Road and Roaring Branch Scenic Corridor and prevent any adverse impacts or unnecessary road or utility improvements (Town Plan, p. 23). Safety and service improvements along the Kelley Stand Road may be necessary, but not to upgrade the road as an all season road linking Sunderland and Stratton (Town Plan, p. 25). Scenic roads should be maintained for their scenic value while providing for safe access for residents. Road construction and maintenance should be consistent with scenic values (Town Plan, p. 26). C. Description of Decision My decision is to repair Kelley Stand Road (Town Highway 3/Forest Highway 6) in coordination with the Town of Sunderland, Bennington County Regional Planning Commission, and State of Vermont agencies. Repair activities authorized include associated in-stream and stream-bank work in and along Roaring Brook in the Town of Sunderland from the North Road (Town Highway 4) intersection to the bridge location (B17) at approximately mile 4.72 (see project map). The final design for this work is scheduled to be completed by March Actual project implementation would likely occur during the summer and fall months of Jurisdiction: It is important to note that the jurisdiction of Kelley Stand Road subject to repairs is under the authority of the Town of Sunderland and thus town officials in coordination with the Forest Service will make the final decision on activities that will be implemented. The Town s decision must be within the range of activities and associated environmental effects disclosed in this Forest Service Decision Memo, associated reports, and ERFO requirements in order to be eligible for federal funding. Project work authorized within heavily damaged road segments may consist of either moving the road alignment away from Roaring Branch onto NFS lands and/or increasing the elevation of the roadbed in its original location. If the road alignment is moved, it will consist of shifting the road away from Roaring Branch, further into the hillside approximately 10 to 20 feet, to place the entire roadbed up on the bedrock. This would give the stream a wider channel, require less Decision Memo Kelley Stand Road Flood Repairs Project Page 5

6 disturbance of the stream, and better protect the road from future floods. Should this approach not work in some areas, the road will be rebuilt along its original alignment with materials trucked-in from outside sources. Final repair activities within these segments will be in specific locations (moved or original alignment) pending Town direction and final project design to confirm the competency of the bedrock, nature of the new streambed, and other factors. Special Use Permit and/or Federal Road Easement: My decision includes the issuance of a special use permit and/or federal easement to the Town of Sunderland only if needed to authorize the realignment of heavily damaged road segments away from the Roaring Branch onto NFS lands. The following process will be used in the event any segment of Kelley Stand Road is moved onto NFS lands from its existing right-of-way which is assumed as 3 rods (49.5 feet) wide unless otherwise documented: The Kelley Stand Road is part of the Federal aid system and thus, the US Department of Transportation (USDT) has the primary jurisdiction for issuing a federal easement to the Town of Sunderland for any realignment outside of the existing road right-of-way. I consent to the granting of the easement subject to the inclusion as terms and conditions any pertinent mitigation measures identified in Appendix A of this Decision Memo. In the event the USDT does not issue a federal easement, I would issue a federal easement to the Town of Sunderland per the Forest Roads and Trails Act subject to the inclusion as terms and conditions any pertinent mitigation measures identified in Appendix A of this Decision Memo. If the federal easement, whether issued by the USDT or Forest Service, is not in place prior to the initiation of repair activities, I will issue a temporary special use permit to the Town of Sunderland to authorize any repair work needed outside of the existing road right-of-way until an easement has been executed. My decision also includes the issuance of a temporary special use permit to the Town of Sunderland if the use of NFS lands is needed in association with project implementation (such as landing areas and storage of construction materials) until repair activities are completed. Road Repair and Stream Restoration Activities: A detailed description of authorized repair and restoration activities is included below. Road Segment Measured from Mile Post (MP) 0.0 to MP 2.3 Work within the first approximately 2.3 miles of road from the North Road will be to perform permanent road repairs to initial emergency repairs completed by the Town of Sunderland immediately following the flood in the fall of 2011, and also to perform in-stream and streambank work to stabilize the streambed and banks. This work will be within the Town right-of-way or on NFS lands and generally include ditching and culvert improvements and road template shaping and surface work. Repair work will also include rock excavation or blasting to shift the road to the north away from Roaring Branch in some sections onto NFS lands and/or increase the elevation of the roadbed in its original location from approximately mile post 1.8 to 2.2. The total miles of road that will be affected as a result of this alignment shift and/or elevation increase includes about 0.17 miles and could impact up to 2.1 acres within and adjacent to the road right-of-way. Decision Memo Kelley Stand Road Flood Repairs Project Page 6

7 Activities along the first 2.3 miles of Kelley Stand Road also include fisheries habitat restoration and enhancement activities in Roaring Branch. With landowner approval, and in collaboration with existing partners such as Trout Unlimited and the Batten Kill Watershed Alliance, the Forest Service will restore habitat along this stretch of the river in conjunction with road repair activities. Work may include activities such as pool development, and/or large wood debris or boulder placement. Road Segment Measured from MP 2.3 to MP 4.72 Work beyond mile 2.2 to approximately mile post 4.72 at the third road bridge (B17) will be more intensive in nature due to the large quantities of materials to be excavated or trucked in to rebuild the road, stream work needed, and the rebuilding of the bridge at mile post 3.65 (B16) and repairs needed to the bridge at mile post 4.72 (B17). The middle bridge (B15) at mile post 4.16 does not need any repair work. There are seven (7) sections of roadway between mile posts 2.3 and 4.72 that suffered complete failure during the flooding of Roaring Branch leaving little roadbed remaining and exposing underlying bedrock which is now forming the northerly bank of the stream: 1) MP 2.33 to MP ) MP 2.51 to MP ) MP 2.75 to MP ) MP 3.05 to MP ) MP 3.48 to MP ) MP 3.75 to MP ) MP 4.50 to MP 4.65 Repair work within these sections will include rock excavation or blasting to shift the road alignment away from Roaring Branch onto NFS lands and/or increase the elevation of the roadbed in its original location. The work within these sections total approximately 1.48 miles of road and could impact up to approximately 17.9 acres within and adjacent to the road right-ofway. Summary of Overall Repair Activities Construction activities to complete the overall repairs will include placing large riprap on road banks and at bridge or culvert structures; construction of in-stream LWD and grade control structures (weirs); tree and vegetation removal for road construction; rock and soil excavation; blasting; on-site crushing of rock, moving and re-building of stream channel and related stream structures; removal of in-stream debris dams; trucking of road-building materials such as rock, gravel, and culverts; installation of culverts and ditch-line; re-building of road template; application, grading and compaction of surface gravel; and erosion control measures including seeding and mulching. Work will be completed using traditional and customary road and bridge building techniques and machinery such as blasting equipment, portable rock crusher, excavators, cranes, dump trucks, loaders, and graders. My decision also includes implementation of mitigation measures identified in Appendix A of this Decision Memo. All permits needed from other agencies with resource jurisdiction such as the US Army Corps of Engineers and the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources will be obtained prior to project implementation. This decision is based upon an environmental analysis conducted by an interdisciplinary team of Forest Service specialists, and responses to public scoping. This information is filed in the project planning record located in the Manchester Ranger District office. Decision Memo Kelley Stand Road Flood Repairs Project Page 7

8 III. REASONS FOR CATEGORICALLY EXCLUDING THE DECISION Decisions may be categorically excluded from documentation in an environmental assessment (EA) or environmental impact statement (EIS) when they are within one of the categories of actions found at 36 CFR 220.6(d) or (e), and there are no extraordinary circumstances related to the decision that may result in a significant individual or cumulative environmental effect. A. Category of Exclusion Based on the environmental analysis included in the project planning record and on experience with similar activities on the GMNF, I have concluded that this decision can be appropriately categorically excluded from further analysis and documentation in an EA or EIS. I have determined that the selected action is a routine activity within the following category of exclusion found at 36 CFR 220.6(d)(4), (e)(3), and (e)(7): Repair and maintenance of roads, trails, and landline boundaries ; Approval, modification, or continuation of minor special uses of NFS lands that require less than five contiguous acres of land; and Modification or maintenance of stream or lake aquatic habitat improvement structures using native materials or normal practice, respectively. B. Relationship to Extraordinary Circumstances Resource conditions that should be considered in determining whether extraordinary circumstances related to the proposed action warrant further analysis and documentation in an EA or EIS may be found at 36 CFR 220.6(b)(1). The degree of any potential effect from the proposed action associated with these resource conditions determines whether extraordinary conditions exist. The mere presence of one or more of these resource conditions does not preclude use of a categorical exclusion. I have considered the potential effects from the project associated with the resource conditions listed at 36 CFR 220.6(b)(1), and conclude that there are no extraordinary circumstances related to the decision that may result in a significant individual or cumulative effect on the quality of the human environment. My conclusion is based on information presented in this document and the entirety of the project planning record. A summary of the project s potential effects on each resource condition is as follows: 1. Federally Listed Threatened or Endangered Species or Designated Critical Habitat, Species Proposed for Federal Listing or Proposed Critical Habitat, or Forest Service Sensitive Species Threatened or Endangered Species Animals: The likelihood of occurrence for any federally-listed threatened or endangered species in the project area is negligible. The GMNF has only historic occurrence records for three threatened or endangered species: gray wolf (Canis lupis), eastern cougar (Puma concolor couguar), and Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis). These species are not known to occur on the GMNF, and their presence on the GMNF as viable populations at any time in the near future is unlikely. Indiana bats (Myotis sodalis) do occur on and near the GMNF, although the likelihood of Indiana bats occurring in any of the project area is negligible, due to it s elevation ( 1,000 feet) and distances from known Indiana bat hibernacula (>7 miles). The project area does not include potential or critical habitat for any threatened or endangered Decision Memo Kelley Stand Road Flood Repairs Project Page 8

9 species. Consequently, the project will have no effect on federally-listed threatened or endangered species (Wildlife Biological Evaluation, August 2012). Plants: There are no federally listed threatened or endangered plant species on the GMNF (Plant Biological Evaluation, September 2012). Regional Forester s Sensitive Species Forest Service Manual (FSM) 2670 direction requires analysis of potential effects to sensitive species, those species for which the Regional Forester has identified population viability is a concern. These species are listed as Regional Forester s Sensitive Species (RFSS). Animals: The immediate project area has not been surveyed for animal RFSS, but it is not likely to include the specialized types of habitats suitable for or required by several RFSS animals: common loon (Gavia immer); bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus); American peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus anatum; rusty blackbird (Euphagus carolinus; sedge wren (Cistothorus platensis), and two dragonflies: southern pygmy clubtail (Lanthus vernalis), and forcipate emerald (Somatochlora forcipata). Individuals of these species may occur in the vicinity (e.g., common loons on Branch or Beebe ponds), but they are unlikely to occur in the immediate project area or be disturbed by project activities. There is one recorded occurrence of Bicknell s thrush (Catharus bicknelli) in the area during the 1983 breeding season, 1 mile west of Beebe Pond, just north of Kelly Stand Road. However, suitable habitat for Bicknell s thrush in Vermont typically is dense spruce-fir Krummholz at elevations of about 3,000 feet and higher. Such habitat is not available within the project area, thus Bicknell s thrush is unlikely to occur there. Consequently, the Kelley Stand Road Flood Repairs Project will have no impact on these species. Four species of woodland bats are RFSS that occur on and near the GMNF: little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus), northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis), eastern small-footed bat (Myotis leibii) and tri-colored bat (Perimyotis subflavus). The project area provides sufficient suitable habitat that these species could occur there. All four of these species are affected by white-nose syndrome (WNS), and during recent years they have suffered unprecedented population declines, ranging from 78% to 99%. Abundance and distribution of these bat species in Vermont in the wake of WNS is not known, although if any of these species occurs within the project area, it is unlikely they do so in large numbers. Impacts from project activities would be disturbance or injury to bats roosting in trees that are felled (primarily little brown, northern long-eared, or tri-colored bats) or in rocks and talus that are disturbed (primarily eastern small-footed bat). Although likelihood of such impacts is low, they cannot be dismissed entirely. The likelihood of occurrence for Jefferson (Ambystoma jeffersonianum), blue-spotted (Ambystoma laterale), and four-toed (Hemidactylium scutatum) salamanders and wood turtle (Glyptemys insculpta) is low, due to the elevation of the project area and general lack of vernal pools and other suitable wetlands in the areas affected by construction. However, these species could occur in the forested lands along the Kelly Stand Road, but there is limited likelihood that individuals might be affected by project activities. In Vermont, the West Virginia white butterfly (Pieris virginiensis) is dependent on two species of toothwort (Cardamine diphylla and C. concatenata) as larval host plants. The Decision Memo Kelley Stand Road Flood Repairs Project Page 9

10 West Virginia white primarily occurs in rich, intact, deciduous mesic forests, but also in mixed woods, hardwood swamps, and riparian woodlands. The species does not occur in open habitats; un-shaded roads, water bodies, or power lines can be sufficient barriers to block movements. The West Virginia white is known to occur in towns adjacent to the project area. The Forest Service uses site index of 60 or greater as an indicator that habitat for the West Virginia white might exist in a particular forest stand. Such stands occur in the project area, although the substantial open canopy caused by flood damage greatly reduces the likelihood of West Virginia whites occurring in the immediate construction area. The boulder beech tiger beetle (Cicindela ancocisconensis) occurs in the margins of clear, clean streams and mid-sized rivers. Adults prefer sandy areas near the water, occasionally strewn with cobbles, but always lacking in vegetation. Flooding and ice scouring likely keep these areas free from vegetative encroachment. In Vermont, it is known only from Windsor and Windham Counties. Although unlikely, it could occur in the Roaring Branch in the project area and could be affected by stream-bank activities. Two RFSS dragonflies could occur within the project area. The gray petaltail (Tachopteryx thoreyi) occurs in a variety of small forested wetlands surrounded by deciduous forests, including hillside seeps, fens, bogs, and swamps. Adults frequent sunny openings, perching on tree trunks or on vegetation, while larvae live in the mud and vegetation of their mucky, mossy, seep habitats. Seeps may lack standing water, making the gray petaltail the only northeastern dragonfly whose nymphal stage may not be truly aquatic. In Vermont, there is a single report of this dragonfly in Windham County. The harpoon clubtail (Gomphus descriptus) requires fast moving streams and rivers with rocky or sandy substrates. Adults forage in fields, forest openings, and along forest edges. There have been unconfirmed reports of this species in Windham County and verified reports in Rutland County. Although not known from the vicinity, the possibility of these species occurring in the project area and affected by project activities cannot be dismissed entirely. Two RFSS are freshwater mussels. The brook floater (Alasmidonta varicosa) occurs among rocks in gravel substrates and sandy shoals of main stem rivers, typically in riffle/pool/run sections with a stable stream bed. It is known in Vermont only from the lower reaches of the West River in Windham County. The creek heelsplitter (Lasmigona compressa) typically is found in the headwaters of small to medium rivers with rocky, fine gravel, or sandy substrates. In Vermont, documented occurrences are from Rutland County and further north, therefore it is unlikely to occur within the Roaring Branch. Although not known to occur in the project area or vicinity, the possibility of these species occurring in the project area and affected by project activities cannot be dismissed entirely. It is important to consider that impacts from project activities to animals listed as RFSS, or to wildlife and wildlife habitats in general, are unlikely to be significantly greater than those caused by the long-term existence of the road in the first place, or greater than impacts caused by the flooding from tropical storm Irene. Thus, considering all the above, there is a limited likelihood that the Kelley Stand Road Flood Repairs Project may impact individual RFSS animals due to construction activities, especially in sections where storm damage and reconstruction activities are greatest. However, the project is not likely to cause a trend towards federal listing or loss of viability within the project area or on the GMNF for any animal on the RFSS list (Wildlife Biological Evaluation, August 2012). Plants: Although some plant species on the RFSS list are known to occur along Kelley Stand Road, or in Beebe Pond, which is nearby (approximately 1.9 miles to the east of mile post 4.72 Decision Memo Kelley Stand Road Flood Repairs Project Page 10

11 see project map), none of the work proposed is anywhere near these locations. The road edge, plus a few forested stands, have potential rare plant habitat, as described below. 1. Two stands have possible habitat for summer sedge (Carex aestivalis), butternut (Juglans cinerea), and ginseng (Panax quinquefolius). Other RFSS associated with rich northern hardwoods generally require an additional environmental variable not thought to occur at this site. 2. Four stands may have potential habitat for round-leaved orchis (Platanthera orbiculata). This species tends to occur as single plants that are difficult to locate, since they occur in such a tiny spot on the landscape. 3. Gravelly or sandy wet road edges could have potential habitat for fall dropseed muhly (Muehlenbergia uniflora), which is known to occur along the more eastern sections of the Kelley Stand Road. None of the species with potential habitat in the project area have ever been reported from this vicinity; however, botanical surveys may never have occurred there. Although the likelihood of any of them occurring within the project area is not high, if they did occur there, despite the disturbance caused by the flood, they could potentially be harmed by project implementation. Given that all five of them are known from several other sites on the Forest, none of which are nearby or will be affected, a trend toward loss of viability on the Forest or federal listing would not be expected. If the road alignment is moved from the existing rightof-way, as is being considered in some sections, the impact to potential habitat would be greater, but loss of viability on the Forest or a trend toward federal listing would still not be expected (Plant Biological Evaluation, September 2012). 2. Floodplains, Wetlands, or Municipal Watersheds This section will discuss potential effects associated with soil, floodplains, stream channel, fisheries, wetlands, and municipal watersheds given their close relationship as resources within the project area - Roaring Branch watershed (Fisheries and Water Report, October 2012; Soil and Wetland Report, September 2012). Soil: The project area is characterized by steep side slopes, shallow soils, areas of stream-side erosion, and lack of wetlands. Side slopes typically range from 45 to 65% grade. Most soils are loamy, well drained, less than 25 deep to bedrock, and have a high erosion potential due to the steep slopes. Tunbridge and Lyman are the dominant soil series. Bedrock typically consists of quartzite, gneiss and schist. These soils and underlying bedrock are not generally prone to landslides, as evident by the lack of slides along the road following tropical storm Irene. In contrast, there are short stretches on the road where soils are much deeper. These deeper soils are underlain by a hardpan (dense soil layer) several feet thick, that is wet from late fall through early summer. These soils are prone to landslides. Fortunately this soil/bedrock combination is not common; and estimates show that it occurs along less than 5% of the damaged road sections, in need of repair and/or realignment. A few of these areas did slide during the storm event - an example is just west of the destroyed bridge at mile post 3.65, where a 100 by 300 foot area slid. This is by far the largest slide along the road, and it could move again in response to a heavy rainstorm. Decision Memo Kelley Stand Road Flood Repairs Project Page 11

12 Areas of bare and/or eroding soils exist along several sections of damaged road and stream bank. These sections damaged by the storm, are a source of continuing sediment to Roaring Branch especially at high flows. It is anticipated that the effects associated with the soil resource from project work will be minor because: Forest Plan Standards and Guidelines (S&Gs) for soil, water, and riparian areas protection and restoration will be followed (Forest Plan, pp ). The most important S&Gs for erosion control, water quality protection, and re-vegetation of disturbed soils are Standards S-2, 3 and 4, and Guidelines G6 and G7. Two additional mitigation measures will be required to minimize effects to acceptable levels: 1. Develop a Sediment, Erosion, and Hazardous Materials Control Plan. This plan may consist of additional soil and water and protections, specific to this project. 2. Develop a Blasting Plan designed to protect a nearby well (see below), and prevent soil slides due to blasting. Floodplain, Stream Channel, and Fisheries: The Kelley Stand Road follows the Roaring Branch, a major tributary to the Batten Kill, from the North Road to the height of land. The Roaring Branch valley is very narrow with steep valley walls (approximately 50%) and very little floodplain. Roaring Branch upstream of North Road drains approximately 20 square miles with an average gradient of The stream channel is a Rosgen type B3 characterized by a moderate flood prone width, a high width to depth ratio and a cobble and boulder. Due to its steepness and size, the Roaring Branch has tremendous erosive power and carries a very high bed load of coarse substrate. Though the stream banks are generally characterized as very stable due to course material (boulders) and mature riparian forests, the steep side slopes are susceptible to mass failure resulting from erosion at the toe of the slope. During tropical storm Irene six mass failures occurred within the project area resulting in large influxes of woody material (trees) and coarse sediment that caused debris jams, subsequent channel aggradation and severe erosion including several sections of Kelley Stand Road. As a tributary to the Batten Kill, Roaring Branch is an important fishery resource both for the habitat for resident fish and as a spawning tributary for mainstem Brown trout. Resident fish populations are primarily Brook trout, Dace and Scuplin. Sections of the stream habitat were degraded during flood recovery efforts when large rock was removed from the channel to rebuild and armor washed out roads. Removal of channel roughness will increase erosive power of the stream and reduce habitat quality by reducing pool areas used by adult trout for holding and over-winter areas. The sections of degraded habitat are at mile posts 1.3, 1.65 and 1.8 (see project map). It is anticipated that the effects associated with floodplain, water and fisheries resources from project work will be minor because: Forest Plan S&G s and mitigation measures described for soil resource protection will be in place. In addition, Guideline G-8 for soil, water, and riparian areas protection and restoration will be applied to maintain all existing large woody material in the channel (Forest Plan, p. 21). Additional mitigations measures will be required to minimize water and fisheries effects to acceptable levels: Decision Memo Kelley Stand Road Flood Repairs Project Page 12

13 1. In order to maintain natural channel roughness and instream habitat, channel material (gravel, cobble, boulders) should not be removed from the channel. 2. If the stream channel is manipulated in any way it should be restored to a slope, width and depth similar to the natural channel dimensions. 3. To protect stream temperature, trees should be maintained or re-established along the banks where ever feasible. 4. Work within the wetted channel of Roaring Branch should be performed only within time limits specified by VT Agency of Natural Resource, Department of Environmental Conservation (VT DEC) stream alteration and US Army Corps of Engineers 404 permits in order to protect fishery resources. Water and fisheries effects from instream restoration at mile posts 1.3, 1.65 and 1.8 will be positive as a result of stabilizing the channel bed with large rock structures and formation of deep pools for trout habitat. Wetlands: There are no wetlands associated with the damaged road sections needing repair, other than a few small, hillside or stream-side seeps. There are no State Class I or II wetlands, and the amount of potential wetland impact is well below the 3,000 square foot threshold for needing U.S. Corps of Engineers review. Wetland resource effects will be minor since there are a few, very small wetlands. No state or federal wetland permits are needed although agencies (VT DEC and US Army Corps of Engineers) should be informed of final design plans and implementation schedules as soon as they are known. Municipal Watersheds: There are no municipal watersheds within the project area although there are two camps located on private land close to the planned road repairs. This is important because blasting of rock and extensive soil/bedrock excavation associated with road repairs, have the potential to damage wells in the immediate area. One camp is located just east of the damaged bridge at milepost This camp does not have a well. The second camp does has a drilled well between the camp and the road. The Forest Service will require an approved Blasting Plan to be in place prior to blasting activities which is expected to essentially eliminate potential adverse effects to this well. This plan will be designed to protect the well and property by modifying the location, intensity, and frequency of blasts. Effects from No Action If no action is taken to repair the road and associated infrastructure, it is anticipated that erosion and stream sedimentation would continue indefinitely along damaged road sections. In addition, sections of road currently along Roaring Branch would continue to be vulnerable to erosion and sedimentation during high stream-flow periods. The stream channel would eventually reach a level of stability on its own and aquatic habitat function would recover to pre-irene conditions. Recovery, however, may take decades due to the mass failures that will be unstable until they naturally recline and re-vegetate. Although some of the mass failures will be addressed by road reconstruction, several will be left to recover on their own. In the downstream sections where large rock structures are planned, no-action may result in channel instability that could affect the existing road by incising the channel and undercutting bank stabilization. Decision Memo Kelley Stand Road Flood Repairs Project Page 13

14 3. Congressionally Designated Areas, such as Wilderness, Wilderness Study Areas, or National Recreation Area Wilderness: This decision includes activity within one and one-quarter (1.25) miles of the Lye Brook Wilderness Area and is in compliance with direction provided in the Forest Plan for Wilderness Management Area (MA) designation (Forest Plan, pp. 49 to 53). There are no effects associated with the Wilderness resources as a result of this project since the project is the reconstruction of an existing road well outside of the wilderness boundary (Recreation and Wilderness Report, September 2012). Wilderness Study Areas: There are no Congressionally designated Wilderness Study Areas on the GMNF. National Recreation Areas: The GMNF contains two National Recreation Areas: the Moosalamoo National Recreation Area and the Robert T. Stafford White Rocks National Recreation Area. The project is not located within or near these areas as validated by map and site-review. As a result, there will be no effects associated with the National Recreation Area resource expected from this project (Recreation and Wilderness Report, September 2012). Appalachian National Scenic Trail: The Appalachian National Scenic Trail (AT) traverses across the GMNF and is designated and managed as a special area because of its uncommon and outstanding values (Forest Plan, pp. 66 to 72). The AT is approximately 2 miles from the project area. As a result, no effects associated with the AT are expected (Recreation and Wilderness Report, September 2012). Wild and Scenic Rivers: Although the GMNF does not contain any Congressionally designated Wild and Scenic Rivers, there are many river segments that are eligible to be further considered for addition to the National Wild and Scenic River System. These river segments and their associated corridors are within the Eligible Wild, Scenic, and Recreational Rivers Management Area. The project includes activity within the eligible Roaring Branch Recreational River corridor. There are no effects associated with the outstandingly remarkable values identified for this river as a result of this project. The activity within this area is consistent with Forest Plan direction for management of this resource (Forest Plan, pp. 105 to 109). As a result, the effects from the project associated with the outstandingly remarkable values identified for this river are not expected to be adverse, and thus will not preclude it from future consideration for addition to the National Wild and Scenic River System (Recreation and Wilderness Report, September 2012). 4. Inventoried Roadless Areas or Potential Wilderness Areas The project area is directly adjacent to the Glastenbury 2006 Forest Plan inventoried roadless area. This inventoried roadless area is located directly to the south of the Kelley Stand Road approximately from mile post 1.8 and continuing along the south side of the Kelley Stand Road through the project area. There are no effects associated with the inventoried roadless area resource as a result of this project since any road alignment relocation will be to the north of the existing Kelley Stand Road right-of-way (Recreation and Wilderness Report, September 2012). Decision Memo Kelley Stand Road Flood Repairs Project Page 14

15 5. Existing and Candidate Research Natural Areas There are no existing or candidate Research Natural Areas (Forest Plan, pp. 90 to 93) within or directly adjacent to the project area. This project, with effects limited to the immediate area of activity, will have no effects associated with any existing or candidate Research Natural Area resource (Ecology Report, December 2011; Ecologist confirmation, September 2012). 6. American Indian and Alaska Native Religious or Cultural Sites See Item 7 below. 7. Archeological Sites, or Historic Properties or Areas This project complies with the National Historic Preservation Act, the Archeological Resources Protection Act, and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. During the 19th century there were several mills and associated homes along the Kelley Stand Road within or near the projects Area of Potential Effect (APE). Hight s field survey identified a handful of these locations, only one of which (FS site #Sdd ) was actually within the APE and was apparently washed away by the effects of tropical storm Irene. Field examination of the western portion of the project (December 6, 2011) led to the conclusion at the time that While there certainly are (were) historic mills, homes and associated features along [the project s] western length, the location and scale of the destruction caused by Irene has either obliterated those remains or has occurred in areas where they were not known to be present. (Lacy dated December 7, 2011). Subsequent and more comprehensive field examination of the entire length of the project area (on September 7 and 18, 2012) confirmed that these observations were true for the whole APE. In addition, there are no undisturbed areas with prehistoric potential within the APE. In summary, the repair, reconstruction and in some cases slight re location of the road will not cause impacts to any known historic period sites nor areas with potential for the presence of yet to be discovered prehistoric sites. Based on this information, the project will have no effect associated with any historic properties or any sites significant to Native Americans (Archeology Report, October 2012). C. Other Resources In addition to resource conditions that could lead to extraordinary circumstances, I have also considered the direct, indirect, and cumulative effects to other resources such as visuals, recreation, and vegetation. The project is not expected to result in any adverse effects associated with these resources, particularly because all applicable Forest Plan standards and guidelines will be implemented and additional mitigation measures required as identified below. Non-Native Invasive Plants: Kelley Stand Road was surveyed for Non-Native Invasive Plants (NNIP) in 2006, five years prior to tropical storm Irene. Morrow honeysuckle was recorded in several locations along this road, and Japanese barberry and purple loosestrife were each recorded from at least two locations. Any of these infestations may have spread since then, and additional NNIP may have gotten established. In addition, the storm event undoubtedly dispersed a lot of seed and other propagules from NNIP, and it would be difficult to know what species are now present, what their locations are, and how extensive the new infestations will be. Decision Memo Kelley Stand Road Flood Repairs Project Page 15

16 Because of these unknowns, the following mitigation measures are required during project implementation (Plant Biological Evaluation, September 2012): 1. All equipment associated with project work should arrive clean, so that no new NNIP are introduced, and all equipment should leave the site clean prior to working elsewhere. Cleaning equipment both before it arrives and leaves the site can be by whatever method is most feasible, e.g. sweeping away mud and debris with a stiff broom, compressed air, or pressurized water. 2. Any seed mixes used should be of native plant species suitable to the site, and any erosion control materials should be inert. 3. The Forest Service and Town of Sunderland should collaborate in an attempt to secure funding for NNIP monitoring once/year for at least three years following completion of construction activities, and for treatment of infestations if they are found. 4. For sections of road that are moved onto NFS lands, the permit/easement should include required NNIP monitoring once/year for at least three years following completion of construction activities, and treatment of infestations under the direction of the Forest Service botanist. Dispersed Camping: Most of the dispersed camping sites along Kelley Stand Road and Roaring Branch were destroyed in the flood caused by tropical storm Irene. These camp sites are within the river corridor. Forest Service recreation staff is concerned about the safety of campers due to the potential for flash floods and the impact to the water resource that would occur if the dispersed camp sites are re-established through public use. In order to prevent the campsites from being re-established, the following mitigation measures are required (Recreation and Wilderness Report, September 2012): 1. Areas that provide enough space for dispersed camping between the Kelley Stand Road and Roaring Branch will be blocked off with boulders, planted with native vegetation, and signed in cooperation with Forest Service recreation staff. 2. Areas that provide pull-offs for access to the Roaring Branch will be designed to allow for car pull-off only and adjacent areas blocked off with boulders to prevent dispersed camping. Trails: The east-west snowmobile trail corridor (VAST C7F; FT 373) following the Kelley Stand Road is an important winter access to the GMNF. Reconstruction of the Kelley Stand Road will restore this access as long as it remains closed to wheeled vehicles during the winter months (Recreation and Wilderness Report, September 2012). Visual Quality: The Kelley Stand Road is one of a limited number of graveled surface roads crossing through the Green Mountains that before the effects of tropical storm Irene was used primarily by people driving for pleasure and seeking recreation access to the GMNF. The road corridor has high viewer sensitivity due to the scenic characteristics of the road layout, the surrounding landscape, and recreation access to trails, Wilderness and developed recreation sites. The Kelley Stand Road follows the drainage of the Roaring Brook Eligible Recreational River throughout this project area, adding to the visual quality. The road conforms to the landscape s contours rather than cutting across the natural terrain. It is this curvilinear alignment that strongly characterizes the Kelley Stand Road. Before the storm the road was characterized by a leaf tunnel effect where the tree crowns met overhead of the road adding to the traveler s experience along this scenic road. Decision Memo Kelley Stand Road Flood Repairs Project Page 16

17 Currently, where portions of the road and adjacent river bank have washed out, trees were lost that have reduced the closed canopy over the road in some sections. Some pullouts have also washed out, thus limiting opportunities to view scenery. Post-reconstruction activities will afford the public to once again have the opportunity to drive through this scenic setting. Where blasting must occur, the visual effects will be most harsh in the short-term and will reduce over time as vegetation grows to soften and color the harsh edges. To reduce effects associated with the visual resource the following mitigation measures should be considered for implementation (Visual Resource Report, October 2012): 1. Retain the curvilinear alignment of the road where feasible. 2. Minimize blasting where feasible. Where there is a choice to fill in the road or blast, consider scenery as a criteria as part of the decision-making process. 3. Design road turnouts to take advantage of scenery, orienting them toward river views when practical. 4. Plant native vegetation, including deciduous trees known for their fall color mixed with some contrasting colors of evergreen species along the road edges where vegetation has been lost. This may involve the need to add pockets of soil rather than all stone to allow for tree survival. 5. Where feasible, in locations where stone is brought in from off site and not covered by soil, use stone that blends with the existing surrounding stone in color and shape to limit harsh contrast to the native surroundings. 6. To maintain the natural appearing road edge and allow for vegetation adjacent to the road and stream bank, add top soil to disturbed areas. Timber: The affected timber stands generally consist of well stocked sawtimber of northern hardwood between 100 and 150 years in age. The affected portions of these stands (along the road) are steep and shallow to bedrock in many areas. As a result, the site quality and the quality of standing timber are variable, however overall sawtimber quality is low. These areas are comprised mostly of yellow birch, sugar maple, red maple and hemlock. Beech, white ash and red spruce are also present. It is estimated that the road work will result in the cutting of roughly up to 170 CCF of timber (50 thousand board feet of sawtimber and 100 cords of pulpwood). This volume estimate assumes a range of 0-10 acres of vegetation clearing at an estimated average of 17 CCF/acre. It is likely that the developments required for removing and marketing the timber, and timelines associated with project implementation will make commercial sale impractical prior to project development. The size, species composition and accessibility of the wood make it desirable for personal use firewood collection, however it is recommended that if the project results in larger areas of clearing (>1 to 2 acres) that timber be sold through commercial timber sale. Total decked timber volumes in excess of 20 cords would likely be impractical to dispose of through firewood permits and could create hazards to vehicle traffic on the road. Offering larger quantities of timber through commercial sale would allow more control of timber removal, increased safety and better utilization. Commercial timber sale would require estimation of volume, which would be accomplished by a timber cruise after clearing limits are established and before cutting. To facilitate the proper designation and disposal of timber to be cut as a result of project implementation, the following mitigation measures will be required (Timber Report, September 2012): Decision Memo Kelley Stand Road Flood Repairs Project Page 17

18 1. The contractor should be required to deck timber in merchantable lengths within the clearing limits of the road, along accessible portions of the old road grade or within a parking area/ pullout on NFS land. 2. Decked timber should be sold through a commercial sale and/or through firewood permits depending on total volume and value of the material, marketability and species composition. Field review and coordination will be needed to determine which option is most viable and will meet the objectives of the project. IV. PUBLIC INVOLVEMENT This project was listed in the quarterly Green Mountain National Forest Schedule of Proposed Actions (SOPA) beginning in January 2012, and will remain in the SOPA until the project is authorized for implementation. Public involvement included the following efforts: Initial Public Contact The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires that interested and/or affected members of the public be contacted to identify any issues of concern related to federal actions prior to implementation. The Forest Service first invited individuals, organizations and agencies to comment on the proposal to repair Kelley Stand Road via a public mailing in late December In addition, an information sharing meeting co-hosted by the Forest Service, Town of Sunderland, Bennington County Regional Planning Commission, and the VT Agency of Natural Resources Fish & Wildlife Department was held in the nearby Town of Arlington on February 9, At this meeting the public was able to better understand the proposal and seek clarification regarding the activities considered for repair work, the environmental analysis required to disclose effects, and the timing of project design and implementation. A total of 15 s and letters were received during this initial phase of public involvement. In addition, comments were provided and recorded during the February public meeting. Sequoia Forest Keeper Court Order In April 2012, a Federal Court Order (Sequoia ForestKeeper v. Tidwell, 11-cv LJO-DLB (E.D. Cal.)) resulted in all federal actions proposed for documentation in a Decision Memo to have a mandatory 30-day notice, comment, and opportunity for appeal similar to that required for Environmental Assessments and Environmental Impact Statements. For this reason, the Kelley Stand Road Flood Repairs project proposal was publicly distributed for an additional 30- day comment period (August 4 to September 4, 2012) triggered by the publication of a legal notice in the Rutland Herald on August 3, No additional public comments were received during the 30-day comment period. Response to Comments All public and agency comments were considered to identify issues, and help guide the completion of the environmental analysis including any mitigations needed to address concerns. Comments received have been tracked in detail in a separate document that includes a brief response that show how comments were addressed in the environmental analysis process. The Kelley Stand Road Repairs Project Comments Content Analysis and Response to Comments document dated November 2012 is located in the project planning record. Town of Sunderland Public Involvement Prior to Final Design and Construction The Town of Sunderland in coordination with the Forest Service will make the final decision on the specific design and location of road repairs to be included in the construction contract prior Decision Memo Kelley Stand Road Flood Repairs Project Page 18

19 to the final design and construction phase for the project. Town residents will be able to provide their feedback to town officials prior to that decision through the town public involvement process. V. FINDINGS REQUIRED BY OR RELATED TO OTHER LAWS AND REGULATIONS My decision will comply with all applicable laws and regulations. I have summarized some pertinent laws and regulations in this section. National Environmental Policy Act The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires public involvement and consideration of environmental effects. The entirety of documentation for this decision supports compliance with this Act. Forest Consistency (National Forest Management Act) The National Forest Management Act (NFMA) requires development of long-range land and resource management plans, and that all site-specific project activities to be consistent with direction in the plans. The GMNF Land and Resource Management Plan (Forest Plan) was completed and approved in 2006 as required by the NFMA and provides direction for all management activities on the Forest. The Kelley Stand Road Flood Repairs Project implements the Forest Plan, and its consideration is guided by direction for the Diverse Forest Use, Diverse Backcountry, Green Mountain Escarpment, and Eligible Recreational River - Roaring Brook Management Areas (MAs) as designated by the 2006 GMNF Land and Resource Management Plan (Forest Plan, pp , 58-59, 86-89, and , respectively). My decision is based on the best available science, including a review of the record that shows a thorough review of relevant scientific information, a consideration of responsible opposing views, and the acknowledgement of incomplete or unavailable information, scientific uncertainty, and risk. As required by the NFMA Section 1604(i), I find this project to be consistent with the Forest Plan including goals, objectives, desired future conditions, and Forest-wide and Management Area standards and guidelines. Federal Land Policy and Management Act The Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) allows the granting of easements across NFS lands. The regulations at 36 CFR 251 guide the issuance of permits, leases, and easements under the FLPMA. Permits, leases, and easements are granted across NFS lands when the need for such is consistent with planned uses and Forest Service policy and regulations. This decision is consistent with this Act. Endangered Species Act The Endangered Species Act requires that federal activities do not jeopardize the continued existence of any species federally listed or proposed as threatened or endangered, or result in adverse modification to such species designated critical habitat. In accordance with Section 7(c) of this Act, a report of the listed and proposed, threatened or endangered species that may be present in the project area was reviewed. See Section III, Item B.1 of this decision document. Decision Memo Kelley Stand Road Flood Repairs Project Page 19

20 Clean Water Act The intent of the Clean Water Act is to restore and maintain the integrity of waters. The Forest Service complies with this Act through Forest Plan standards and guidelines, specific project design criteria, and mitigation measures to ensure protection of soil and water resources. Wetlands (Executive Order 11990) Executive Order directs the agency to avoid to the extent possible the adverse impacts associated with the destruction or modification of wetlands, and to avoid support of new construction in wetlands wherever there is a practical alternative. See Section III, Item B.2 of this decision document. Floodplains (Executive Order 11988) Executive Order directs the agency to avoid to the extent possible the adverse impacts associated with the occupancy and modification of floodplains, and to avoid support of floodplain development wherever there is a practical alternative. See Section III, Item B.2 of this decision document. Wilderness Act The Wilderness Act established a National Wilderness Preservation System to be composed of federally owned land designated by Congress as wilderness areas. These areas are administered for the use and enjoyment of the American people in such manner as will leave them unimpaired for future use and enjoyment as wilderness. The Act provides for the protection of these areas, the preservation of their wilderness character, and for gathering and dissemination of information regarding their use and enjoyment as wilderness. See Section III, Item B.3 of this decision document. National Trails System Act The purpose of the National Trails System Act includes the designation of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail to help institute a national system of trails for the ever-increasing outdoor recreation needs of an expanding population. It also promotes the preservation of, public access to, travel within, and enjoyment and appreciation of outdoor areas and historic resources of the Nation. See Section III, Item B.3 of this decision document. Wild and Scenic Rivers Act The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act institutes a national wild and scenic rivers system that includes selected rivers which, with their immediate environments, possess outstandingly remarkable scenic, recreational, geologic, fish and wildlife, historic, cultural, or other similar values. It provides for them to be preserved in a free-flowing condition, and that they and their immediate environments will be protected for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations. See Section III, Item B.3 of this decision document. Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act addresses the discovery and protection of Native American human remains and objects that are excavated or discovered on federal lands. The Act encourages avoidance of archaeological sites that contain burials or portions of sites that contain graves through in situ preservation, but may encompass other actions to preserve these remains and items. See Section III, Item B.6 of this decision document. Decision Memo Kelley Stand Road Flood Repairs Project Page 20

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