Notice of Intent To Prepare a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for the Maintenance and Creation of Emergent Sandbar Habitat on the Upper Missouri River
Pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), DoD, Omaha District will prepare a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The EIS will evaluate potential effects to the natural, physical, and human environment that may result from implementation of a program for the mechanical maintenance and creation of emergent sandbar nesting habitat within the free-flowing reaches of the upper Missouri River from Fort Peck, MT downstream to near Sioux City, IA. The emergent sandbar habitat maintenance and creation program proceeds from a defined regulatory process wherein the Corps formally consulted with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), which provided a Biological Opinion (BiOp) on how the Corps may avoid placing populations of federally-listed shorebirds, the interior least tern (Sterna antillarum) and piping plover (Charadrius melodus), in jeopardy of extinction. Scientific opinion asserts that the areal extent of emergent sandbar habitat directly controls the nesting opportunities and thus the reproductive success for the Missouri River populations of these species. The implementation of this programmatic habitat management action is the Corps' response to, and demonstration of, compliance with the findings of the BiOp stemming from a formal Section 7 consultation with the Service under the Endangered Species Act. Through the findings and recommendations contained within the 2000 BiOp as amended (2003), the Service identified mechanical habitat manipulation as part of a Reasonable and Prudent Alternative (RPA) that the Corps could implement to avoid jeopardy to these two listed species. This Programmatic EIS will tier from the Missouri River Mainstem Reservoir System Master Water Control Manual Final EIS (Master Manual, March 2004), incorporating by reference the general discussions and the affected environment and will evaluate the mechanical maintenance and creation of nesting habitat for the piping plover and interior least tern. Within the Master Manual Final EIS, the Corps acknowledged the need to implement actions to ensure protection of interior least tern and piping plover, but deferred detailed discussions of how these protective measures would be implemented to a future NEPA document. This programmatic EIS is that lower tiered document.