National Environmental Policy Act: Implementing Procedures; Revision to Categorical Exclusions for U.S. Geological Survey (516 DM 9), 49799-49801 [2014-19953]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 163 / Friday, August 22, 2014 / Notices Building #7147 Glenn Research Center Sandusky OH 44870 Landholding Agency: NASA Property Number: 71201430023 Status: Unutilized Comments: public access denied and no alternative without compromising national security. Reasons: Secured Area K Site Test Building Glenn Research Center Sandusky OH 44870 Landholding Agency: NASA Property Number: 71201430024 Status: Unutilized Comments: public access denied and no alternative without compromising national security. Reasons: Secured Area Oregon Antelope Lookout Garage 1509 (1253.004801) 07660 00 Prairie City Drewsy OR 97904 Landholding Agency: Agriculture Property Number: 15201430016 Status: Excess Comments: documented deficiencies; bldg. is collapsing; unstable foundation; structurally unsound. 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Reasons: Within airport runway clear zone [FR Doc. 2014–19646 Filed 8–21–14; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4210–67–P VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:23 Aug 21, 2014 Jkt 232001 49799 DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Proposed Categorical Exclusion Revision for Trenching Office of the Secretary The Department of the Interior (DOI) proposes to revise an existing categorical exclusion in the Departmental Manual at 516 DM 9, from ‘‘Digging of exploratory trenches requiring less than 20 cubic yards of excavation’’ to ‘‘Digging and subsequent site restoration of exploratory trenches not to exceed one acre of surface disturbance.’’ The categorical exclusion would be limited to trenching and associated activities resulting in a total land disturbance of one acre or less, and which do not adversely affect any biological, cultural, or archeological resources. As with any USGS categorical exclusion, each proposed trench excavation must be reviewed for extraordinary circumstances that would preclude use of this categorical exclusion. This requirement is found in DOI regulations at 43 CFR 46.205(c)(1). The DOI’s list of extraordinary circumstances, under which a normally excluded action would require further analysis and documentation in an EA or EIS, is found at 43 CFR 46.215. [GX14AE3800C2000] National Environmental Policy Act: Implementing Procedures; Revision to Categorical Exclusions for U.S. Geological Survey (516 DM 9) Department of the Interior. Notice. AGENCY: ACTION: This notice announces proposed revisions to two existing categorical exclusions included in the Department of the Interior’s Departmental Manual 516 DM 9. The proposed revisions to the categorical exclusions pertain to two types of activities conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS): the excavation of trenches across potentially active faults to assess the history of earthquakes along those faults; and the removal of hydrologic and water-quality monitoring structures and equipment and restoration of the sites. USGS experience with these activities indicates that they do not have the potential for significant environmental impacts. The intent of the revisions is to improve the efficiency of the environmental review process. DATES: Comments are due by September 22, 2014. ADDRESSES: Send comments to Esther Eng, Chief, Environmental Management Branch, USGS, MS–207, 12201 Sunrise Valley Dr., Reston, VA 20192–0002; email: eeng@usgs.gov. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Esther Eng, Chief, Environmental Management Branch, USGS, (703) 648– 7550, eeng@usgs.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: SUMMARY: Background The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires Federal agencies to consider the potential environmental consequences of their proposed actions before deciding whether and how to proceed. The Council on Environmental Quality encourages Federal agencies to use categorical exclusions to protect the environment more efficiently by (a) reducing the resources spent analyzing proposals that generally do not have potentially significant environmental impacts and, (b) focusing resources on proposals that may have significant environmental impacts. The appropriate use of categorical exclusions allows the NEPA review to be concluded without preparing either an environmental assessment (EA) or an environmental impact statement (EIS) (40 CFR 1500.4(p) and 40 CFR 1508.4). PO 00000 Frm 00046 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Analysis for the Trenching Category The USGS excavates trenches across potentially active faults to assess the history of earthquakes along those faults. The study of ancient earthquakes and their rates of occurrence are known as paleoseismology. Paleoseismic data obtained from trenching studies is a fundamental input for USGS National Seismic Hazard Maps. The USGS National Seismic Hazard Maps, in turn, are used to inform emergency response and to guide building codes. The USGS and its State and academic partners were involved in approximately 10 fault-trenching activities per year during the last 5 years. A fault trench involves an excavation or series of closely spaced excavations across the surface expression of an active fault to expose deformed soils and deposits. Field geologists map the exposed trench walls and date deformed strata to infer the earthquake history at the site. Land disturbance in trenching studies is minimized by choosing sites near established roads or previously disturbed sites. Scientists involved in USGS fault-trenching activities were queried about the largest area of trenching disturbance they have encountered in the last 5 years with no significant environmental impacts. Respondents reported a range of upper limits of surface disturbance from .02 to 5 acres, with an average of 1.5 acres and a median of 1 acre. The USGS believes E:\FR\FM\22AUN1.SGM 22AUN1 tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES 49800 Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 163 / Friday, August 22, 2014 / Notices that environmental impacts are more likely to arise from the extent of surface disturbance than from the depth of a trench. Accordingly, the USGS chose acreage as a more indicative measure of disturbance than volume excavated. Relying upon the last 5 years of experience with fault-trenching, the USGS chose the 1-acre median upper limit of surface disturbance to limit the proposed categorical exclusion. Prior to trenching activities, external consultations are conducted with appropriate Federal, State, Tribal, and local agencies. When on Federal, State, or Tribal lands, the agency with jurisdiction over the study area is consulted to complete required biological, cultural and archeological evaluations and to obtain any required permits. When trenching on private lands, the landowner is consulted and a written contract or statement is negotiated. USGS research personnel and their contractors work with landowners and responsible agencies to ensure that their expectations for access, duration of the project, and reclamation are clearly followed. Mitigation measures during trenching activities include avoiding wetland and riparian areas. This not only minimizes impacts, but also prevents groundwater from filling the research trenches. Existing roads are used for access. Other mitigation measures include taking machinery in and out of each trenching site on the same path, minimizing the volume of the excavation, installing silt fences where needed, and following Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards for safety, which include trench dimensions and heights, fencing, and warning signs (to keep out livestock and the public). Trenches are left open on average for 3 weeks before being backfilled. Site restoration activities include backfilling to existing grade and compacting the fill, seeding the area with non-invasive species, installing biodegradable wattles and erosioncontrol blankets if slopes were disturbed, and returning the site to preexcavation condition. While it has always been assumed that site restoration was a part of the trenching activity, ‘‘subsequent site restoration’’ is proposed to be added to the category’s description to clarify that it is an integral part of the project. Sites are revisited in the years following investigations to ensure there is no degradation to the trenching site. Observed degradation has been limited to continued noxious weed growth at sites where weeds were already present at the time of excavation. VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:23 Aug 21, 2014 Jkt 232001 The USGS environmental staff reviewed past activities to determine if any unanticipated impacts had occurred as a result of trenching. The staff concluded that a sufficient administrative record exists to demonstrate that fault-trenching activities normally would not have a significant impact on the human environment, with the following limitations: the land surface area disturbed by the trenching and associated activities must be one acre or less; and each trenching site must be reviewed for extraordinary circumstances, including potential impacts to biological, cultural and archeological resources. The review for extraordinary circumstances, which the USGS conducts for all categorical exclusions, ensures that measures would continue to be taken to identify and reduce any significant impacts. Proposed Revision to the Categorical Exclusion for Water Monitoring Equipment The DOI proposes to revise another existing categorical exclusion in the Departmental Manual at 516 DM 9 by adding the activity of removing monitoring structures and equipment and site restoration, and by clarifying the purpose of the identified water monitoring equipment. The current category, ‘‘Operation, construction and installation of: (a) Water-level or water quality recording devices in wells; (b) pumps in wells; (c) surface-water flow measuring equipment such as weirs and streamgaging stations, and (d) telemetry systems, including contracts therefore.’’ would be changed to ‘‘Operation, construction, installation, and removal—including restoration of sites to the pre-structure condition or equivalent of the surrounding environment—of hydrologic and waterquality monitoring structures and equipment including but not limited to weirs, cableways, streamgaging stations, groundwater wells, and meteorologic structures.’’ As with any USGS categorical exclusion, each proposed monitoring structure and equipment removal must also be reviewed for extraordinary circumstances that would preclude use of this categorical exclusion. This requirement is found in DOI regulations at 43 CFR 46.205(c)(1). The DOI’s list of extraordinary circumstances under which a normally excluded action would require further analysis and documentation in an EA or EIS is found at 43 CFR 46.215. PO 00000 Frm 00047 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Analysis for the Monitoring Equipment Category One of the seven science mission areas of the USGS, the Water Mission Area, is tasked with collecting and disseminating reliable, impartial, and timely information is needed to understand the Nation’s water resources. The Water Mission Area actively promotes the use of this information by decision makers to: (1) Minimize loss of life and property as a result of water-related natural hazards, such as floods, droughts, and land movement; (2) effectively manage groundwater and surface-water resources for domestic, agricultural, commercial, industrial, recreational, and ecological uses; (3) protect and enhance water resources for human health, aquatic health, and environmental quality; and (4) contribute to the wise physical and economic development of our nation’s resources for the benefit of present and future generations. To achieve this science mission, the USGS constructs and operates a variety of hydrologic and water-quality monitoring structures and equipment at streams, rivers, springs, wellheads, and other sites across the Nation. After these structures are no longer needed for scientific data collection, they are removed and the site is restored. A limited number of hydrologic monitoring structures were removed by the USGS before passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 due to budgetary constraints. Removal of a large number of hydrologic monitoring structures (commonly, abandoned stilling wells and platform gages) and a small number of cableways was completed with the one-time funding made available under the ARRA to the USGS Deferred Maintenance Program. All equipment inside each structure was retrieved before a stilling well or platform structure was removed. Water intakes to the monitoring structures were completely removed or cut off and then backfilled with sediment so nothing was left above grade. Platforms, walkways, and cableway structures were also removed. A majority of the USGS hydrologic and water-quality monitoring structures across the nation are installed and operated in cooperation with Federal, State, Tribal, or local agencies that contribute funding for the data collection at the site. Therefore, prior to removal activities, external consultations are conducted with all cofunding agencies. If the monitoring site is located on Federal, State, Tribal, or E:\FR\FM\22AUN1.SGM 22AUN1 tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 163 / Friday, August 22, 2014 / Notices local agency property, the agency administering the land is consulted. When the structure is on private land, the landowner is likewise consulted about proposed removal activities. Biological and cultural assessments are conducted when the site is in a sensitive environmental setting or when required by the government agency or private landowner. Site restoration activities include removal of demolition debris from the site, backfilling holes or depressions to existing grade and compacting the fill, stabilizing any disturbed areas, seeding the area with non-invasive species, and returning the site to pre-structure condition or equivalent to the surrounding environment. The USGS environmental staff reviewed past activities to determine if any unanticipated impacts had occurred as a result of removing hydrologic and water-quality monitoring equipment at streams, rivers, springs, wellheads, and other sites. The staff concluded that a sufficient administrative record exists to demonstrate that hydrologic and waterquality monitoring structure and equipment removal, including site restoration, normally would not have a significant impact on the quality of the human environment. The USGS proposes to clarify the current category by re-characterizing the current list of structures as ‘‘hydrologic and water-quality monitoring structures and equipment’’ and by providing examples of typical structures being installed, maintained, and removed. The revised text is intended to more accurately reflect how the category has been interpreted and used by USGS personnel by describing the actions taking place, in lieu of describing current technologies, which may change over time. Over the past two decades the types of monitoring structures have changed substantially. Advances in technology have produced water monitoring equipment with smaller environmental footprints. For example, the current generation of surface-water monitoring structures commonly being installed consists of an aluminum box with a nominal size of 3 feet by 3 feet by 1 foot mounted to or near a bridge structure. Inside the enclosure are a variety of electronic instruments used to measure and record water levels and waterquality conditions. In contrast, legacy surface-water monitoring equipment consists of concrete or metal stilling wells with mechanical floats located along stream banks or at bridge sites; these wells measure up to 5 ft. in diameter. Installation and removal of the new generation of surface-water VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:23 Aug 21, 2014 Jkt 232001 monitoring stations has less potential for environmental impacts. Public Comments Text of Proposed Revisions to 516 DM 9, Section 9.5 Categorical Exclusions E. Operation, construction, installation, and removal—including restoration of sites to the pre-structure condition or equivalent of the surrounding environment—of hydrologic and water-quality monitoring structures and equipment including but not limited to weirs, cableways, streamgaging stations, groundwater wells, and meteorologic structures. I. Digging and subsequent site restoration of exploratory trenches not to exceed one acre of surface disturbance. Dated: July 24, 2014. Willie R. Taylor, Director, Office of Environmental Policy and Compliance. [FR Doc. 2014–19953 Filed 8–21–14; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4310–AM–P Frm 00048 Fmt 4703 DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Bureau of Indian Affairs [K00621 1314 R3B30] To be considered, any comments on these proposed revisions to the list of categorical exclusions in the Departmental Manual must be received by the date listed in the DATES section of this notice at the location listed in the ADDRESSES section. Comments received after that date will be considered only to the extent feasible. Comments, including names and addresses of respondents, will be part of the public record and available for public review at the USGS address shown in the ADDRESSES section, during business hours, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, except holidays. Before including your address, telephone number, email address, or other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be aware that your entire comment—including your personal identifying information—may be made publicly available at any time. While you can ask us in your comment to withhold your personal identifying information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so. PO 00000 49801 Sfmt 4703 Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Samish Indian Nation Trust Acquisition and Casino Project, City of Anacortes, Skagit County, Washington Bureau of Indian Affairs, Interior. ACTION: Notice of availability. AGENCY: This notice advises the public that the Bureau of Indian Affairs as lead agency, with the Samish Indian Nation and the City of Anacortes, serving as cooperating agencies, intends to file a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the Samish Indian Nation Trust Acquisition and Casino Project, City of Anacortes, Skagit County, Washington. The DEIS is now available for public review and a public hearing will be held to receive comments. DATES: The date of the public hearing will be announced at least 15 days in advance through notices in the following newspapers: Anacortes American and the Skagit Valley Herald and on the following Web site: www.samisheis.com. Written comments on the DEIS must arrive 45 days after EPA publishes its Notice of Availability in the Federal Register. ADDRESSES: You may mail or deliver written comments to Mr. Stanley Speaks, Northwest Regional Director, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Northwest Region, 911 Northeast 11th Avenue, Portland, Oregon 97232. The public hearing will be held at the Fidalgo Bay Resort Community Center, 4701 Fidalgo Bay Road, Anacortes, Washington, 98221. See the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section of this notice for addresses where the DEIS is available for review. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dr. B.J. Howerton, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Northwest Region, 911 Northeast 11th Avenue, Portland, Oregon 97232; fax (503) 231–2275; phone (503) 231–6749. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and in this situation public review of the DEIS, is part of the administrative process for the evaluation of tribal applications pursuant to section 5 of Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) (25 U.S.C. 465). Pursuant to Council on Environmental Quality National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations (40 CFR 1506.10), the SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\22AUN1.SGM 22AUN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 163 (Friday, August 22, 2014)]
[Notices]
[Pages 49799-49801]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-19953]


=======================================================================
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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Office of the Secretary

[GX14AE3800C2000]


National Environmental Policy Act: Implementing Procedures; 
Revision to Categorical Exclusions for U.S. Geological Survey (516 DM 
9)

AGENCY: Department of the Interior.

ACTION: Notice.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: This notice announces proposed revisions to two existing 
categorical exclusions included in the Department of the Interior's 
Departmental Manual 516 DM 9. The proposed revisions to the categorical 
exclusions pertain to two types of activities conducted by the U.S. 
Geological Survey (USGS): the excavation of trenches across potentially 
active faults to assess the history of earthquakes along those faults; 
and the removal of hydrologic and water-quality monitoring structures 
and equipment and restoration of the sites. USGS experience with these 
activities indicates that they do not have the potential for 
significant environmental impacts. The intent of the revisions is to 
improve the efficiency of the environmental review process.

DATES: Comments are due by September 22, 2014.

ADDRESSES: Send comments to Esther Eng, Chief, Environmental Management 
Branch, USGS, MS-207, 12201 Sunrise Valley Dr., Reston, VA 20192-0002; 
email: eeng@usgs.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Esther Eng, Chief, Environmental 
Management Branch, USGS, (703) 648-7550, eeng@usgs.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background

    The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires Federal 
agencies to consider the potential environmental consequences of their 
proposed actions before deciding whether and how to proceed. The 
Council on Environmental Quality encourages Federal agencies to use 
categorical exclusions to protect the environment more efficiently by 
(a) reducing the resources spent analyzing proposals that generally do 
not have potentially significant environmental impacts and, (b) 
focusing resources on proposals that may have significant environmental 
impacts. The appropriate use of categorical exclusions allows the NEPA 
review to be concluded without preparing either an environmental 
assessment (EA) or an environmental impact statement (EIS) (40 CFR 
1500.4(p) and 40 CFR 1508.4).

Proposed Categorical Exclusion Revision for Trenching

    The Department of the Interior (DOI) proposes to revise an existing 
categorical exclusion in the Departmental Manual at 516 DM 9, from 
``Digging of exploratory trenches requiring less than 20 cubic yards of 
excavation'' to ``Digging and subsequent site restoration of 
exploratory trenches not to exceed one acre of surface disturbance.'' 
The categorical exclusion would be limited to trenching and associated 
activities resulting in a total land disturbance of one acre or less, 
and which do not adversely affect any biological, cultural, or 
archeological resources. As with any USGS categorical exclusion, each 
proposed trench excavation must be reviewed for extraordinary 
circumstances that would preclude use of this categorical exclusion. 
This requirement is found in DOI regulations at 43 CFR 46.205(c)(1). 
The DOI's list of extraordinary circumstances, under which a normally 
excluded action would require further analysis and documentation in an 
EA or EIS, is found at 43 CFR 46.215.

Analysis for the Trenching Category

    The USGS excavates trenches across potentially active faults to 
assess the history of earthquakes along those faults. The study of 
ancient earthquakes and their rates of occurrence are known as 
paleoseismology. Paleoseismic data obtained from trenching studies is a 
fundamental input for USGS National Seismic Hazard Maps. The USGS 
National Seismic Hazard Maps, in turn, are used to inform emergency 
response and to guide building codes.
    The USGS and its State and academic partners were involved in 
approximately 10 fault-trenching activities per year during the last 5 
years. A fault trench involves an excavation or series of closely 
spaced excavations across the surface expression of an active fault to 
expose deformed soils and deposits. Field geologists map the exposed 
trench walls and date deformed strata to infer the earthquake history 
at the site.
    Land disturbance in trenching studies is minimized by choosing 
sites near established roads or previously disturbed sites. Scientists 
involved in USGS fault-trenching activities were queried about the 
largest area of trenching disturbance they have encountered in the last 
5 years with no significant environmental impacts. Respondents reported 
a range of upper limits of surface disturbance from .02 to 5 acres, 
with an average of 1.5 acres and a median of 1 acre. The USGS believes

[[Page 49800]]

that environmental impacts are more likely to arise from the extent of 
surface disturbance than from the depth of a trench. Accordingly, the 
USGS chose acreage as a more indicative measure of disturbance than 
volume excavated. Relying upon the last 5 years of experience with 
fault-trenching, the USGS chose the 1-acre median upper limit of 
surface disturbance to limit the proposed categorical exclusion.
    Prior to trenching activities, external consultations are conducted 
with appropriate Federal, State, Tribal, and local agencies. When on 
Federal, State, or Tribal lands, the agency with jurisdiction over the 
study area is consulted to complete required biological, cultural and 
archeological evaluations and to obtain any required permits. When 
trenching on private lands, the landowner is consulted and a written 
contract or statement is negotiated. USGS research personnel and their 
contractors work with landowners and responsible agencies to ensure 
that their expectations for access, duration of the project, and 
reclamation are clearly followed.
    Mitigation measures during trenching activities include avoiding 
wetland and riparian areas. This not only minimizes impacts, but also 
prevents groundwater from filling the research trenches. Existing roads 
are used for access. Other mitigation measures include taking machinery 
in and out of each trenching site on the same path, minimizing the 
volume of the excavation, installing silt fences where needed, and 
following Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards for 
safety, which include trench dimensions and heights, fencing, and 
warning signs (to keep out livestock and the public). Trenches are left 
open on average for 3 weeks before being backfilled.
    Site restoration activities include backfilling to existing grade 
and compacting the fill, seeding the area with non-invasive species, 
installing biodegradable wattles and erosion-control blankets if slopes 
were disturbed, and returning the site to pre-excavation condition. 
While it has always been assumed that site restoration was a part of 
the trenching activity, ``subsequent site restoration'' is proposed to 
be added to the category's description to clarify that it is an 
integral part of the project.
    Sites are revisited in the years following investigations to ensure 
there is no degradation to the trenching site. Observed degradation has 
been limited to continued noxious weed growth at sites where weeds were 
already present at the time of excavation.
    The USGS environmental staff reviewed past activities to determine 
if any unanticipated impacts had occurred as a result of trenching. The 
staff concluded that a sufficient administrative record exists to 
demonstrate that fault-trenching activities normally would not have a 
significant impact on the human environment, with the following 
limitations: the land surface area disturbed by the trenching and 
associated activities must be one acre or less; and each trenching site 
must be reviewed for extraordinary circumstances, including potential 
impacts to biological, cultural and archeological resources. The review 
for extraordinary circumstances, which the USGS conducts for all 
categorical exclusions, ensures that measures would continue to be 
taken to identify and reduce any significant impacts.

Proposed Revision to the Categorical Exclusion for Water Monitoring 
Equipment

    The DOI proposes to revise another existing categorical exclusion 
in the Departmental Manual at 516 DM 9 by adding the activity of 
removing monitoring structures and equipment and site restoration, and 
by clarifying the purpose of the identified water monitoring equipment. 
The current category, ``Operation, construction and installation of: 
(a) Water-level or water quality recording devices in wells; (b) pumps 
in wells; (c) surface-water flow measuring equipment such as weirs and 
streamgaging stations, and (d) telemetry systems, including contracts 
therefore.'' would be changed to ``Operation, construction, 
installation, and removal--including restoration of sites to the pre-
structure condition or equivalent of the surrounding environment--of 
hydrologic and water-quality monitoring structures and equipment 
including but not limited to weirs, cableways, streamgaging stations, 
groundwater wells, and meteorologic structures.'' As with any USGS 
categorical exclusion, each proposed monitoring structure and equipment 
removal must also be reviewed for extraordinary circumstances that 
would preclude use of this categorical exclusion. This requirement is 
found in DOI regulations at 43 CFR 46.205(c)(1). The DOI's list of 
extraordinary circumstances under which a normally excluded action 
would require further analysis and documentation in an EA or EIS is 
found at 43 CFR 46.215.

Analysis for the Monitoring Equipment Category

    One of the seven science mission areas of the USGS, the Water 
Mission Area, is tasked with collecting and disseminating reliable, 
impartial, and timely information is needed to understand the Nation's 
water resources. The Water Mission Area actively promotes the use of 
this information by decision makers to: (1) Minimize loss of life and 
property as a result of water-related natural hazards, such as floods, 
droughts, and land movement; (2) effectively manage groundwater and 
surface-water resources for domestic, agricultural, commercial, 
industrial, recreational, and ecological uses; (3) protect and enhance 
water resources for human health, aquatic health, and environmental 
quality; and (4) contribute to the wise physical and economic 
development of our nation's resources for the benefit of present and 
future generations. To achieve this science mission, the USGS 
constructs and operates a variety of hydrologic and water-quality 
monitoring structures and equipment at streams, rivers, springs, 
wellheads, and other sites across the Nation. After these structures 
are no longer needed for scientific data collection, they are removed 
and the site is restored.
    A limited number of hydrologic monitoring structures were removed 
by the USGS before passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment 
Act (ARRA) of 2009 due to budgetary constraints. Removal of a large 
number of hydrologic monitoring structures (commonly, abandoned 
stilling wells and platform gages) and a small number of cableways was 
completed with the one-time funding made available under the ARRA to 
the USGS Deferred Maintenance Program. All equipment inside each 
structure was retrieved before a stilling well or platform structure 
was removed. Water intakes to the monitoring structures were completely 
removed or cut off and then backfilled with sediment so nothing was 
left above grade. Platforms, walkways, and cableway structures were 
also removed.
    A majority of the USGS hydrologic and water-quality monitoring 
structures across the nation are installed and operated in cooperation 
with Federal, State, Tribal, or local agencies that contribute funding 
for the data collection at the site. Therefore, prior to removal 
activities, external consultations are conducted with all co-funding 
agencies. If the monitoring site is located on Federal, State, Tribal, 
or

[[Page 49801]]

local agency property, the agency administering the land is consulted. 
When the structure is on private land, the landowner is likewise 
consulted about proposed removal activities. Biological and cultural 
assessments are conducted when the site is in a sensitive environmental 
setting or when required by the government agency or private landowner.
    Site restoration activities include removal of demolition debris 
from the site, backfilling holes or depressions to existing grade and 
compacting the fill, stabilizing any disturbed areas, seeding the area 
with non-invasive species, and returning the site to pre-structure 
condition or equivalent to the surrounding environment.
    The USGS environmental staff reviewed past activities to determine 
if any unanticipated impacts had occurred as a result of removing 
hydrologic and water-quality monitoring equipment at streams, rivers, 
springs, wellheads, and other sites. The staff concluded that a 
sufficient administrative record exists to demonstrate that hydrologic 
and water-quality monitoring structure and equipment removal, including 
site restoration, normally would not have a significant impact on the 
quality of the human environment.
    The USGS proposes to clarify the current category by re-
characterizing the current list of structures as ``hydrologic and 
water-quality monitoring structures and equipment'' and by providing 
examples of typical structures being installed, maintained, and 
removed. The revised text is intended to more accurately reflect how 
the category has been interpreted and used by USGS personnel by 
describing the actions taking place, in lieu of describing current 
technologies, which may change over time.
    Over the past two decades the types of monitoring structures have 
changed substantially. Advances in technology have produced water 
monitoring equipment with smaller environmental footprints. For 
example, the current generation of surface-water monitoring structures 
commonly being installed consists of an aluminum box with a nominal 
size of 3 feet by 3 feet by 1 foot mounted to or near a bridge 
structure. Inside the enclosure are a variety of electronic instruments 
used to measure and record water levels and water-quality conditions. 
In contrast, legacy surface-water monitoring equipment consists of 
concrete or metal stilling wells with mechanical floats located along 
stream banks or at bridge sites; these wells measure up to 5 ft. in 
diameter. Installation and removal of the new generation of surface-
water monitoring stations has less potential for environmental impacts.

Public Comments

    To be considered, any comments on these proposed revisions to the 
list of categorical exclusions in the Departmental Manual must be 
received by the date listed in the DATES section of this notice at the 
location listed in the ADDRESSES section. Comments received after that 
date will be considered only to the extent feasible. Comments, 
including names and addresses of respondents, will be part of the 
public record and available for public review at the USGS address shown 
in the ADDRESSES section, during business hours, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., 
Monday through Friday, except holidays. Before including your address, 
telephone number, email address, or other personal identifying 
information in your comment, you should be aware that your entire 
comment--including your personal identifying information--may be made 
publicly available at any time. While you can ask us in your comment to 
withhold your personal identifying information from public review, we 
cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.

Text of Proposed Revisions to 516 DM 9, Section 9.5 Categorical 
Exclusions

    E. Operation, construction, installation, and removal--including 
restoration of sites to the pre-structure condition or equivalent of 
the surrounding environment--of hydrologic and water-quality monitoring 
structures and equipment including but not limited to weirs, cableways, 
streamgaging stations, groundwater wells, and meteorologic structures.
    I. Digging and subsequent site restoration of exploratory trenches 
not to exceed one acre of surface disturbance.

    Dated: July 24, 2014.
Willie R. Taylor,
Director, Office of Environmental Policy and Compliance.
[FR Doc. 2014-19953 Filed 8-21-14; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-AM-P