Guidelines for water resources projects
Including Public Utilities and Transportation and Recreational Facilities
Facilities providing transportation, energy resources, communications, water supply, waste disposal, education and recreation are critical public services provided to citizens living and working in or visiting the White Clay Creek watershed. However, if improperly located, designed, constructed or maintained, such facilities have the potential of destroying or severely damaging natural and cultural resource values and adversely affecting the quality of life within the watershed. The cumulative impact of multiple corridors and stream crossings can magnify these problems.
Section 7 Provisions
For these reasons, the United States Congress, in Section 7 of the Federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (P.L. 90-542, as amended), directed that within the boundaries of designated National Wild and Scenic Rivers, the proposed location, design and construction of water-resource projects, where any kind of federal assistance is provided, should be reviewed to determine if there is the potential of affecting the free-flowing character of wild, scenic or recreational rivers. The key terms are defined below:
Water Resources Project
Any dam, water conduit, reservoir, powerhouse, transmission line or other project works under the Federal Power Act (FPA), or other construction of developments which would affect the free-flowing characteristics of a wild and scenic or congressionally authorized study river. In addition to projects licensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), water-resource projects may also include dams; water diversion projects; fisheries habitat and watershed restoration or enhancement projects; bridges and other roadway construction; bank stabilization projects; channelization projects; levee construction; recreation facilities, such as boat ramps and fishing piers, and activities that require a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE), pursuant to the Rivers and Harbors Act or Section 404 of the Clean Water Act.
Any assistance by an authorizing agency before, during or after construction. Such assistance may include, but is not limited to: a license, permit, preliminary permit, or other authorization granted by FERC; or a license, permit or other authorization granted by the Army Corps of Engineers. Assistance also includes federal funding of projects such as highways, roads and bridges; environmental and recreational facilities; and community development activities.
Defined in the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act in Section 16(b) as "existing or flowing in natural condition without impoundment, diversion, straightening, rip-rapping, or other modification of the waterway.
The vast majority of these activities are subject also to review and approval by other federal, state and local agencies. No new permits are required under Section 7. However, the section does require that the federal agency assisting with the project consult with the National Park Service before a project is actually begun. Project proponents are encouraged to consult very early in the siting and project-design process to avoid delays and costs associated with projects that cannot be approved under Section 7. Section 7 states, in part, that no department or agency of the United States shall assist by loan, grant, license or otherwise in the construction of any water-resource project that either:
- would have a direct and adverse impact on the values for which the river was established (for projects located on a designated river); in the case of White Clay Creek and its tributaries, this includes hydrogeology, water quality and quantity, certain botanical, fish and wildlife resources, and historic and cultural values; or
- invade the area or unreasonably diminish the scenic, recreational, fish and wildlife values present in the area at the time of designation (for projects above or below designated rivers or on a non-designated tributary).
It is the intent of this section to provide the National Park Service, the White Clay Creek Watershed Management Committee, landowners and public service providers with better guidance on how to plan, review and provide such needed facilities in the future. The National Park Service should conduct its Section 7 reviews in consultation with affected federal, state and local agencies, as well as the White Clay Creek Watershed Management Committee, and other appropriate citizens and organizations. Such review also will be conducted following the assessment procedures outlined in "Appendix C: Evaluation Procedure Under 'Direct and Adverse' of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Reference Guide and the guidance which follows.
Transportation, recreation and utility corridors and facilities, and other water resource projects, should be designed to protect the free-flowing character and outstandingly remarkable values of the White Clay Creek watershed through application of the following:
I. Assessment of:
- Impacts on the outstandingly remarkable values of the White Clay Creek watershed for which the area was designated as a component of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.
- Effect on related environmental factors and ecological systems involved, including adjacent lands, waters, aesthetics, fisheries, recreational, floodplain, wildlife, vegetation and historic and archeological values.
- Cumulative impacts.
- Alternatives available to the applicant.
- Secondary effects likely to be caused or encouraged by the project.
- Economic factors, including the need for resource protection measures in the approximate area in the future.
- Other relevant factors.
II. In addition to the general assessments described above, the following specific items need to be considered:
A. For all projects:
- The facility should be located to take advantage of existing topography and vegetation.
- The facility should be located, constructed and maintained so that it does not lead to accelerated bank erosion or degradation of streams and related resources.
- Removal of trees, shrubs and other vegetation should be kept to a minimum for the protection of water quality, fish and wildlife habitat, visual quality and related values.
- Only minimal filling of wetlands and floodplains should occur.
- Construction should incorporate the use of materials that blend with the natural setting.
- During construction, strict erosion-control measures should be taken to prevent sediment from reaching the river. Only minimal clearing of existing vegetation, clearing, grubbing and grading should be performed.
- The construction area should be restored to as natural a condition as possible immediately following construction.
- Following construction, special measures may be needed to restore the natural appearance of the area, stabilize riverbanks, discourage damaging off-road vehicle or other recreational use or enhance fish and wildlife habitat.
- Materials used for bank stabilization following construction should maintain and enhance the natural and aesthetic qualities of the Wild and Scenic River area.
- Biodegradable materials such as burlap, jute netting or blankets made from coconut fiber should be used to hold vegetative plantings in conjunction with slope stabilization and other erosion and sedimentation control measures.
- Specifications regarding stabilization efforts and revegetation should be consistent with the goals of maintaining stream width as near as possible to the original width and to provide early revegetation of the area.
- If revegetation is required within the riparian forest buffer, native plant materials commonly found in that area should be used.
- The time and method of planting native vegetation should occur in a manner that ensures maximum survival and growth of plant species.
- Work should be performed at the time of year when the stream is experiencing low flow conditions to minimize impacts to fish and macroinvertebrate populations.
i. For corridors and rights-of-way:
- Planning for new rights-of-way should identify existing nearby rights-of-way which the proposed facility might share or be located adjacent to.
- Establishment of new corridors should anticipate future needs in that area and attempt to accommodate those needs so that additional future intrusions into designated areas will be minimized.
- The narrowest width right-of-way necessary to facilitate construction and maintenance of the facility should be used.
- The low points of approach on the corridor should be far enough landward of the water's edge to direct runoff to a vegetated area away from any stream.
- Upon reaching the riparian forest buffer during clearing operations for overhead transmission or communication lines, tall-growing tree species may selectively be removed. Shrubs, low-growing tree species with a mature height of less than 20 feet and other vegetation should be left as natural as possible.
- Management of trees, shrubs and other vegetation for maintenance of all rights-of-way should be done manually in the riparian forest buffer. However, appropriate herbicides may be applied by hand to stumps of selectively cut trees, where establishing and maintaining a low-growing shrub community in this zone will further the objectives of the Wild and Scenic River designation. Selective hand application of certain pesticides to control insect or disease infestations is acceptable.
C. Stream Crossings:
Bridge and culvert structures. In order to safeguard the free-flowing character of designated streams and protect scenic, recreational and fish and wildlife values bridges should be:
- Clear-span structures (means spanning the entire width of the waterway and having no piers, piles, abutments or other structures located below the ordinary high-water mark).
- Low profile and constructed of materials which blend with the natural surroundings as much as feasible.
- Where watercraft and/or fisherman passage is required, a vertical clearance of 5 feet between the ordinary high watermark and the bottom of the bridge is desired.
- Culverts should provide for a natural streambed under the structure, either by using a bottomless structure or by recessing the culvert bottom a minimum of 12 inches below the stream bottom.
- There should be no reduction of the total waterway area passing through the bridge or culvert.
- The stream should be crossed by a method which minimizes disruption to the streambed. Streams should be crossed at the point and time least damaging to fishery resources and aquatic organisms and generally at right angles.
- If aerial crossings are used, they should be designed to accommodate safe recreational use of the river in addition to protection of the streambanks.
- A single-span stream crossing is preferred wherever possible, maintaining proper vertical clearance over the waterway and proper structure height for minimal adverse visual impact.
- Underground installation is preferred for all new utility lines except: power lines of greater than 35 KV; where new lines are to be placed on existing poles, towers or bridges; or where burying is proven to be infeasible because of geologic constraints.
- Directional boring will be the preferred method of crossing stream channels. Open-cut construction across the stream is discouraged, except for large-diameter installations such as a sewer or water main.
- Towers and p oles should be removed when elimination of existing above-ground facilities occurs.
- The width of the streambed should not be altered.
D. Other Structures:
Except as provided for in B and C above, and in the section on Watershed Restoration, structures associated with water-resource projects should be located in such a manner as to protect and enhance the outstandingly remarkable values of the White Clay Creek watershed. Generally, the following should be observed:
- Follow all general provisions outlined in A above.
- Meet setback and other siting guidelines described in Chapter IV, Local Land-Use Management program.